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Recreating Death Stranding's Delivery Bot in 3ds Max & Substance 3D Painter

Jérôme Bussat shared the working process behind the Delivery Bot, explained how the dirt and damages were done, and showed the rendering process. 


My name is Jérôme Bussat and I live in Geneva, Switzerland. Studying towards a Game Art bachelor's degree at the local SAE Institute, I work part-time at a studio that creates official DLCs for the video game Minecraft. While unusual, it introduced me to valuable concepts such as silhouette crafting, detail ratio, color interactions, color values, and so on. Moving on to proper 3D modeling felt like a natural next step in my career.

When it comes to hard surface, I noticed how much easier it is to get close to perfection, as opposed to soft-surface modeling where that line keeps shifting. That really appealed to me.

My first sizable project was a Swiss army knife. One thing led to another, and I took a liking to rifles and their shape. With that said, I did not want to shroud my horizon by solely focusing on them. That is where this fan art of the delivery bot came to be.

The Delivery Bot Project

I am fond of scenarios that involve unique problems, outside of our own, that had to be circumvented at some point through otherworldly contraptions. Death Stranding (2019) by Kojima Productions features a vast array of them.

That led me to Death Stranding’s official concept art book, where I stumbled upon a side drawing along with a ¾ view of the delivery bot. It was invaluable considering this character does not have much screen time. Despite that, I was able to jump in-game and take screenshots of it along with its other variant, the buddy bot.

Finally, and most importantly, I hand-picked three different types of cargo to load on top of the bot. I made sure that they all had unique dimensions and colors to make the end result more varied and appealing.

I compiled all of my screenshots into a simple folder and moved on to modeling.


It all started out on 3ds Max, where I placed the delivery bot’s concept art in the background to stay true to its original silhouette as I model. I always start out with the big shapes (the thighs in this case) to make assembly easier. At first, I begin with glorified boxes before adding a bit more detail to define the curves. To do so, I usually bevel sharp corners or do simple boolean operations. I make sure to use the symmetry modifiers when possible, make instances, and, most importantly, work non-destructively. The goal, ideally, is to be able to reuse the blockout and build onto it. In order to make the armature that holds the cargo as well as the ropes, I relied on splines and fillets.

High Poly

I begin by subdividing my basic shapes using the TurboSmooth modifier with the “smoothing group” option. Once all my shapes have been further defined, I move on to the boolean operations. I am very generous with the definition of my curves to ensure they will properly be smoothed out later in ZBrush. Both the cargo armature and containers proved to be challenging based on the number of operations they required.

The boots were made quite late in the process. I started off by sculpting a foot-shaped blob. Then, using retopology tools, I was able to outline the individual leather parts of the boots, solidify them and subdivide them.

At this point, my mesh can still be reverted back to its blockout state and is ready to be transferred over to ZBrush. 

Over there, I started off by dynameshing most of my assets with the exception of some bolts that I smoothed out in 3dsmax to ensure they would remain somewhat sharp and contrast with the other parts. The last layer of intricate details, such as paneling and other similar details, was added during this stage. Those were achieved through a combination of Breky Thor’s hard-surface brushes, custom alphas, and traditional masking paired with extrusion.

Finally, I used the polish deformation slider to essentially melt my geometry and reveal some nice bevels.

The rocks below were acquired through Megascans. I chose these in particular for how well they reflect the Icelandic look of Death Stranding’s environment.

Low Poly

With the high poly out of the way, I was able to go back to 3ds Max and rewind each part back to a more manageable polycount. To do so, I got rid of the Boolean operations that had no impact on the silhouette, meaning most of them, and lowered the number of subdivisions within my TurboSmooth modifiers. Now, all it took was for me to clean up the remaining Boolean operations. This proved especially demanding for the cargo containers. After the cleanup, I reached about 90k triangles.

Then came the unwrapping. I have yet to have tried out specialized software so I stuck to 3ds Max’s built-in system. This gave me full control over my seams and islands. 


For every unique material, I would follow the same approach. First, I start with a simple base color layer where I define the tint of the surface. Then, I add a base roughness layer in which I set both the roughness and metalness. Now comes the variations. For the albedo, I tend to create a new layer set to black or a contrasting tint and mask it with some grunge set to triplanar. I will then lower the opacity of that layer to make it less noticeable. The same happens with the roughness/metalness. I tend to also add in some edge variations to break up the surfaces a bit. 

Throughout all of these steps, I do my best to stay close to the reference material though I know that I will later cover these surfaces with all sorts of grime and damage. Overall, the base materials remain fairly simple.

Most of the work lies in the masks themselves. I usually start off with a grunge or one of my baked maps and build onto it through multiplications, subtractions, and so on. I finish it off by manually painting in some extra details.

Wear & Tear

In the context of the Death Stranding scenario, the formation of rust reflects the rain’s unique ability to greatly accelerate the effects of time upon impacting a surface. I, however, took the freedom to manually add in some scratches and dent decals from Andrey F. to echo the treacherous and slippery terrain featured in-game.

In terms of reference, I looked into the real-life robot Atlas from Boston Dynamics. That poor fellow often falls over as it navigates obstacles, leading to some fitting wear and tear. 

To recreate that peeling effect, I masked in a recessed brushed steel texture (in areas most likely to be damaged) while using the blur slope filter. This ensures that my brush strokes look like angular chips of missing paint. To sell the look, I add a bit of bump on the very edges by using a highpass filter along with a level. This exposed steel is now likely to start rusting away so using an anchor and some grunge masks set to subtract, I was able to sprinkle some here and there.

As for the dirt and grime, I try to picture what my props will go through in life. In this instance, the bot will likely fall over, squeeze through boulders, step in puddles, and see little maintenance. 

As always, I also make sure to bring as much variation to my maps as possible to add credibility to my surfaces.


Before moving over to Marmoset Toolbag, I first had to pose the bot to give it some life and context. To do so, I set up a basic hierarchy to help with moving the parts. Once exported, I set up a slightly cloudy HDRI to soften my shadows. Three directional lights were then used to highlight the cargo and better contrast the values produced by the lighting all while staying true to the original HDRI. For every new angle, I moved these existing lights and rotated the HDRI to achieve the same goal every time.

To make post-production easier, I made sure to keep the overall scene dark and increase the brightness later. This ensured I would not overexpose any sections. To highlight my renders, I rely for the most part on Photoshop’s RAW camera filter. In there, I usually am pretty generous with both the texture and clarity slider. They both allow the wear and tear to really stand out. This also gives me the ability to adjust the luminance and saturation of specific tints.


This took around 6 weeks of semi-frequent work. Unlike my past projects, the delivery bot involved curvier surfaces, which posed a new challenge and had me use ZBrush a bit more than usual. Other than that, I’m happy to have noticed my confidence increasing as I both model and texture.

In terms of advice, I am still a student and lack the crucial knowledge that comes with working in the video game industry. However, I have learned to be picky about anything and be real with myself. If what I am making looks uncanny, then that means I have got to keep going at it. On top of that, I have grown oddly fascinated by the small things in the world around me, be it the shapes it features or the grime that accumulates around them. This helps feed my inner eye and builds my confidence when I work.

Jérôme Bussat, Hard Surface Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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