TheFriedturkey showed us the workflow behind the Securitron project, told us about a useful DynaMesh side effect, and talked about staying true to the original in-game model.
Hi, I’m TheFriedturkey, I'm a self-taught Character Artist. I've worked on various nonprofit mod projects for Fallout 4, mainly Fallout 4: The Capital Wasteland & Project Mojave. I've been learning 3D modeling through modding for about 6 years, I've never done any work on actual games, but I make a lot of assets for Fallout 4 mods. I mainly focus on organics for character art, like creatures, but I also enjoy making robots and armor. I also like to do work in other areas, like environment art, animation, level design, and weapons as well as lighting for interior and exterior locations in some projects I work on.
Fallout and The Elder Scrolls are my two favorite game franchises, but Fallout, in particular, is the best one to work on since the worlds made by Bethesda and Obsidian are amazing and always have something fresh and different to work on. Plus I just love making grungy old and worn stuff really, which the wasteland is full of. The engine they use being the Creation Engine is something I really enjoy working in because I've been playing BGS games since I was a kid and have tinkered with the toolsets they give us for years.
The Securitron Project
For the Securitron, I first started by studying them in Fallout NV and sort of breaking down what they are made of and what parts are required for them. My main goal for remaking the Securitron was to make a faithful yet current-gen version of it to go into Fallout 4's version of the Creation Engine. I then looked online to see if there was any concept art for them I could reference, which there were a few bits here and there. It was very important to me to make sure that I kept the original look and feel that the artist who made the original at Obsidian was going for, while taking advantage of better hardware and better tools. To maintain accuracy, I also opened up the model in NifSkope and took some front and side images to get a general shape to reference when making the blockout, so the proportions are correct.
I modeled the blockout of one piece of the mesh mostly in 3ds Max which was a case of modeling the base shape from a box to roughly match the original dimensions. I then put it into ZBrush, cleaned up, and retopologized over the blockout sculpt to have decent edge loops ready to make a finalized high poly to detail. The reason why I decided to make it in smaller individual pieces is that it made it easier to spend a lot of time detailing each piece as its own thing. This may seem strange but it saved me a lot of time in the long run and made it so it would come out in higher quality.
So once I got my base high poly mesh, the first thing I did was DynaMesh it to soften the edges and give the creases a less sharp and more welded look, which is just a side effect of DynaMesh. This may seem like an odd thing to do since technically a sharper, neater high poly should be better, but in this case, I wanted to give the bake a soft and imperfect look, otherwise, the model wouldn't feel organic and would almost look no different from me using smoothing on the low poly geometry.
Then I started to detail the mesh in ZBrush. This part was pretty simple since it was mainly just adding in various little things, like dents, scratches, and chips to show general wear from 200 years of being in use, for this I had to get a balance of looking worn and old while not looking like its been directly out in the Mojave since the New Vegas Strip is very pre-war in a sense that it was untouched by the bombs. The end result was something that looks old but not destroyed, it looks very subtle because of its small details, which make up the bigger image.
Here is an image of the full high poly exploded once all the sculpting was done. The process was largely the same for all parts with the exception of tires.
I retopologized each piece after the final high poly sculpt to make sure that I'm getting a decent balance of geometric detail while keeping it low poly since this is designed to go into a 2015 game engine. To do this, I used Topogun 2, which is a fantastic software I use for the majority of my projects due to its ease of use and being able to get good results fast. The only exceptions to this would be things that are cylinders since I made sure the topology was finalized from the get-go.
For the UVs, I used 3ds Max and TexTools, I decided to give this mesh two UV sheets on the whole due to its size. Plus I tend to keep it in a 2k texture resolution, and I didn't want it to look too low resolution since you can also talk to Securitrons in the game and it would be distracting if it looked blurry. To make it easier to texture, I made sure to make the UVs work with continuous seamless textures in Substance 3D Painter.
For texturing, I always start with base metal materials to essentially get a general idea of which materials each part should be made of. In this case, I used a combination of Steel Painted for the main painted part, Steel Rust and Wear for the metal parts, and all the rest is made up of just Fill Layers. At this stage, it ends up looking like this:
After that, I set up overlaying Curvature Maps, AO, and various Grunge Maps for noise, but I always make it subtle, otherwise, the effect can be too overpowering. Next up is the dirt, which is actually really simple on this model, although it requires a lot of hand-painting in places.
To start off with, I create various Fill Layers, mainly one dark Base Color which is multiplied, with a higher roughness value overlayed, and a white Base Color which is blended using Soft Light. Then I go in and add some basic shading and highlights to make the model ‘pop’ more. Then comes the rust, which really starts to tie the whole thing together since it gives the model aging, so for this, I just use the Rust Fine material in Substance 3D Painter and apply a Grunge Map mask on various different duplicate layers to add a bit of variety and so I have something I can fine-tune once I'm done with texturing.
After this, we still have something missing, so we have to move to some manual drawing and texturing. This, for me, is the most fun part of texturing since you can really take control of the look of the model and mold it into something special. Using a mix of Fill Layers and rust materials, I paint them using various Dirt brushes. A Wacom tablet really helps with this part of the process. Once all that is said and done, I now have textures that are pretty close to the final thing, so to finish it off, I add little touches, like doing some basic color correction and adding a subtle Sharpen along with some Metal Edge Wear.
I should note that stuff like the tires was actually detailed and modeled in 3ds Max using a really high poly cylinder which I did some rotations on and extruded, nothing too fancy does the trick.
For the screen artwork, it was really easy, all I really had to do was redraw the original faces from Fallout NV for the Securitrons, then overlay them onto a noisy gray texture, which was used for both the Emissive Map and Diffuse.
Once I had them made, I made a 3-layer mesh of the screen, which consists of one layer for the artwork/face, one layer for static, and one layer for the shine. These were then animated in the game to give them a more lively look.
After we had everything working in the game, I then decided to make some renders in Marmoset Toolbag. For this, I just exported the idle animation from the rig in 3ds Max. I should note that the actual rig for the Securitron was made by my friend HcGxGrill, he was responsible for behaviors and rigs, I made the artwork and animations.
Once I had it in Marmoset, I set up the materials with a basic Metalness template, and that worked just fine. So I made sure to turn on Ray Tracing for accurate shadowing and reflections. Most things are left at default in terms of render quality, other than setting the render resolution to 4K and ramping up the Denoiser. For the camera, I set my Tone Mapping to the new ACES preset, added a subtle vignette, and added some DoF to focus on the actual model.
For the lighting setup, I did a basic setup, which consists of using simple effects, like having a Backdrop Light to highlight the edges of the model from behind, alongside that I have a Front and Top Light to make it visible from the fall angles. To add a bit of contrast, I also added two colored lights – orange at one side and blue at the other – this also shows the model's materials under different lighting.
To finish off the whole scene, I added a fake image backdrop of the remade New Vegas strip, this slightly contributes to the ambient lighting of the scene and makes the presentation look better. All of that combined makes a simple and effective scene for rendering the Securitron.
All in all, this project took about a week and a half, including making all the in-game artwork, movement, attack, and idle animations. The main challenge with this one was figuring out how to upgrade the model compared to the old 2010 Fallout NV model and stay faithful to the original, which I think I achieved. My biggest advice to anyone making models is to keep things simple, it's easy to overcomplicate 3D art, and one thing I’ve learned is some things can be made simpler than what they seem on the surface.
You may find these articles interesting