KKamjang returned to share a new project – The Combat Robot. Check out this extensive breakdown of the artist's workflow in Unity with UModeler.
Hi everybody! It’s me, KKamjang. You might remember the last time I shared the making of a cyberpunk background, namely the “Neon City". This time, I decided to use Unity’s UModeler like last time to draw a mech robot by not only using modeling and UV unwrap functions but also through Surforge, a Unity asset enabling texture work within the engine.
I have written the working procedure of using Unity from modeling to texture and made a video of the work so I hope this helps many of those who are interested in it.
The project I decided to work on is a mech robot. Mechs have a variety of types, and I downloaded some images and divided them into groups. I thought I’d listen to some opinions from acquaintances and determine which one to work on subsequently.
I personally classify mechs as below according to size, purpose, and human resemblance. Plus, it can also be divided by determining whether it is a human-boarded robot or not.
- The size matters as it determines the details and the frame or design of mechanical parts may alter as a result.
- The purpose of mechs differs according to what they’re used for such as medical, battle, industrial, etc.
- Mechs can be grouped by human resemblance level whether they are humanoid, bipedal, or multi-pedal, etc. and the shape of arms may also be taken into account.
- Classification of mechs can also be done whether it is human-boarded, worn as a suit, remotely controlled, or controlled by artificial intelligence.
Anyways since I was told it’s okay to choose whatever pleases my tastes, once I grouped the mechs, I decided to create a humanoid combat robot the size a little bigger than a human. It is to be designed like the robot from the movie Chappie just only bigger and suited for battle.
As there needs to be no trouble with moving, I manipulated the posture by playing around with the parts.
After starting the design, I was told “How about designing a gigantic bipedal robot-like Jaeger from Pacific Rim?” This was also taken into consideration while I was working щт Neon City. As a result, I decided to come up with the design again. When the settings of the design change, one must have to start all over. Additionally, the change in size regardless of similar settings still requires a reset of the design. Come to think of it, I remember the experiences of rethinking a design really gives me a pain in the neck.
Just like the Neon City, naming is essential. The massive size and numerous weapons reminded me of a battleship so I named it Dreadnought
Dreadnought refers to a battleship loaded with heavy cannon and as this mech project is not intended to create a speedy small-scale type, this name suits the gigantic weapon and huge size of the mech.
As the mech was resized, each part was enlarged. The result ultimately came to be a design befitting the name Dreadnought so a thematic adjustment to gigantic robots helped harmonize the theme and design.
Initially, I wanted to design on top of the redesigned 3D model but since I was more familiar with the method and designing large-scale objects I started drawing on an A4 sheet. I decided to focus on details during the modeling stage, a slight change of plan.
The head was designed to allow transformation. Although the initial plan was to draw a simple-shaped head, giving a heavy feeling by focusing more on firepower, I thought why not let the head transform? This might actually give an aura of robust firepower so I did it. The additional cost for the animation wouldn’t be too costly, but this would do the trick.
This project focused more on large shapes instead of precise details. The design of the mech shall differ according to the purpose which in this case is combat. Among them, mechs featuring firepower shall be designed having their weight centered downwards so that they won’t look unstable. Furthermore, I decided to design large-scale shapes rather than concentrating on precise details to give the mech an impression that it can endure any heavy firepower artillery.
There are a total of five weapons mounted: shotgun, minigun, chainsaw-like blade, rocket launcher above the shoulder, and rocket launcher loaded inside the shoulder. The original plan was to have an ultrasonic wave knife other than the five weapons. But imagine: wouldn’t it be hilarious if a giant robot was merely holding a knife? So I decided not to go with it.
During the planning stage, the two rocket launchers were to be attached for each shoulder but the modification of shoulder design – I will explain this below – made me decide only one per shoulder. Regarding the opening of the hatch, at first, the opening movement’s axis was located at the center but as the animation revealed some awkwardness, I changed to let the hatch open facing upwards.
The minigun’s grips were designed to allow a wide range of movements because the robot’s size limits its posture. The grip behind the gun can spin around so even the arm with limited operating range is able to hold the gun.
Extra Rocket Launcher
The small rocket launcher, in theory, may be attached to many parts, but I just can’t imagine where to so I altered and installed it so that it is lodged inside the shoulder.
The mech design I referred to while on this project was Heavyarms Custom, a model of the Gundam series.
This model also is heavily loaded with firepower, and as shown in the image, missiles are installed everywhere; not only on the shoulders but also on the upper and lower body.
By the way, my first plastic model was this one, model HG 1/144, exactly the one shown in the image.
The Shotgun was designed so that it has a different vibe from other weapons. As mentioned above, the head can transform between open mode and closed mode. The main weaponry during the open mode is shotgun.
When designing the chainsaw, Shader was applied for adjusting color, shape, and movement.
The texture seems dimly applied compared with other models and maybe this is because this is the first instance of using Surforge for texturing. The Shader does the job here as it gives life to the chainsaw, solving the dim texture problem. The above video shows the beam of the blade’s outer rim and using Shader’s Switch, it visualizes the change in shape from sharp tooth to strip like a tank tread.
I thought about designing the fingers as if they were replaceable but come to think of it, it might look better if the finger joints were all designed and so I did.
The hands can perform rock, scissors, paper, and many other actions. There are multiple designs enabling hand movement of mechs though the palm differs in many cases even though fingers are similar in most of them.
Although using a ball joint solves the problem, they don’t quite harmonize with big-sized models so I decided to adopt another method. I chose to apply a method from one of the suitable techniques I apply whenever drawing robot hands.
This is a tool for texturing in Unity and it is available for purchase at the Asset Store. It is quite peculiar compared to other texturing tools as it utilizes 8 textures plus 2 luminous textures to mask the meshes in the Unity scene.
Double click the UV using Suforge’s Lasso tool then a mesh will be created with a shape adjusted to the UV. This will give a texture to the mesh or modify the mesh’s shape to generate a Normal Map.
If you press the spacebar button, the current UV’s placement and settings will apply and create a texture that will be displayed on the right side of the Surforge screen. When exporting, the texture could be extracted at the maximum size of 4096.
Surforge is a well-made tool and I won’t explain all its functions as it consumes too much time.
For other future projects, I personally plan to use Surforge when working on modeling which uses tools that don’t utilize UModeler (such as Blender, ZBrush, 3ds Max, etc.). Sure Surforge has its flaws but it possesses an advantage that other tools don’t so I’ll probably stick to this until a similar texturing tool with better function is released. I’d say I’ll use it for themes like sci-fi, weapon, modern civilization, etc., and specifically when generating a Normal Map for extra details.
Unlike last time, I used Built-in RP on HDRP to work on rendering this time.
This is because Built-in Render Pipeline is widely used. Also, when uploading to Unity Asset Store, too much setting is required if implementing all Render Pipelines so I chose two RPs for the job: Built-in render pipeline and URP.
The Dreadnought project was challenging as it had to be done in a restrictive manner, i.e. only via Unity. Nevertheless, I believe some, though not many, may have preferred this method.
Proceeding all the steps of the project using one tool is often done but doing it all in one engine was merely thought of. This project made the thought into reality. Felt like a small dream come true.
When I was searching for tools available for use within the engine like UModeler and Surforge I was surprised to find out there were more than expected. Mostly the tools uploaded to Asset Store were for game prototyping, planning, programming, small modification, etc.
It is predicted that graphic designing tools in Unity or Unreal Engine might someday integrate into one or undergo functional differentiation, which can ultimately turn into tools more useful to graphic designers and artists, or maybe diversify in function. If that happens, working time can be minimized, which permits a greater opportunity for cooperative work and allows efficient use of time, and also grants more relaxation and confidence when working with things that may have been given up due to lack of time.
That’s it for my thoughts and experiences earned during the making of the Dreadnought.
Many people are asking me about career portfolios and reminds me it’s the time of year when people are looking for jobs. They are not my students but I can strongly relate to them since I’ve been there and I know it’s stressful. Hope anyone who’s stressing about recruitment or job transfer earns what they deserve, and I hope you the greatest until you achieve your goal! I’ll see you again next time with improved project work and review! Thank you for reading!
KKamjang, 3D Artist
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