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Introduction & Career
My name is Dmitry Bezrodny, I am a 3D Artist from Minsk, Belarus. For almost 10 years, I worked at Wargaming.net, most of the time on the World of Tanks project. Half of that time I was the Environment Art Team Lead. In 2015, however, I realized that I was completely burned out and tired, and I needed a change.
So, I left Wargaming and arranged a vacation for myself. Suddenly, I had a lot of free time which I devoted to both playing recent video games and improving my professional skills. My skills were outdated and worn-out because of the six years of working in a management position, so I began to study Marvelous Designer, Substance Painter, and also improving my ZBrush skills in the process.
A while later, I accepted a job offer from Wargaming.net again - this time I worked in a team developing a game prototype. This new team was very small, so I was responsible for all 3D art presented in the game. I had to place objects in the maps, set up lights, create FX, and model the characters.
Around that time, my project “MechTech Girl” was created. It turned out that Character Art was the direction that fascinated me the most and I really wanted to grow professionally and work in that field more. After this discovery, I left Wargaming.net for the second time and began the career of a Freelance Artist. Freelancing appeared to be much more dynamic than office work. Plus, I always could get some time to work on my own projects. It suited me perfectly, not to mention the fact the process of creating characters literally had bewitched me. When you take a certain concept from your head or someone else’s sketch and give it an additional dimension and colors… this is magnificent! I have been doing this for 5 years and have never ceased to admire the process.
Scavenger, Seeker, and Jaeger (done for Post Scriptum)
Scavenger: About the Project
The project “Scavenger” is a part of the work I was doing in 2019 for the indie MMORPG Post Scriptum. The game takes place in a world that looks very similar to our Medieval Europe, in which an apocalypse occurred. In my portfolio, you can also find the project “Champion” made for the same game. Both Scavenger and Champion's names refer to clothing/armor sets that are worn on the base female avatar. The Scavenger’s armor set is one of the very first armor sets a player can get in the game, so it has to be a bit ugly and hobo-like. Doing these models, I used concepts and reference boards prepared by an amazing 2D Artist Julia Leonkova.
My main task was to translate the concept into a 3D model with a variety of torn, shabby, dirty and roughly sewn fabric pieces the Scavenger’s set was assembled of. The initial requirement from the game designers was to use only fabric and a few more ropes and sticks without any leather or metal due to crafting mechanics.
Creating the Body
Making the body and the face used as the starting female game avatar was one of my first tasks in the project. I used a basemesh based on a 3D scan which I have been using since the “Vampire Hunter" project. No extra athletic features were required, so I changed almost nothing in it.
Everything turned out to be more complicated when I started working on the face of the model. I made a mistake when I worked on the high poly model connected with the likeness to the reference, but I noticed it only at the stage of texturing. The deadlines were running out so I fixed it by making adjustments to the low poly and the texture. Of course, in an ideal scenario, I had to edit the high poly and do a rebake, but I couldn't do it time. This did lead to some artifacts in the Normal Map, but it saved some time and I was pleased with the result. Also, it wasn’t planned to use complex facial animations in the game, so this made the task easier.
The hairstyle was created in Autodesk Maya with the help of the great script Hair Grabber 2 by Alex Sizov, which provides an extensive grid control and neatly organizes objects in the scene. I used the hairstyle that I had previously made for my project "Porte-Oriflamme” 3 years agо - I just took the old mesh base, made some adjustments, then lengthened it and added bangs. After that, I had to create a new texture, - the method I chose is quite common nowadays, I used the XGen + Arnold workflow.
Since the Scavenger is an armor set, I had to clarify its structure according to the gameplay. The character has five slots for clothes\armor, there are legs, a torso, arms, a head, and bags. Each of these five elements can be upgraded, an upgrade adds new items of cloth\armor for the character.
At the initial stage, the concept sketch assumed great differences between female and male avatar’s clothes, but after spending about two months on the male set, it became clear that it was very time-consuming. So, I decided to make only a few items of clothing unique and simply fit the remaining items in proportion to the female avatar. Doing the opposite wouldn’t be so convenient, because compressing the region affects the texture quality better than stretching.
Now, closer to the pipeline. The base of the clothing was created in Marvelous Designer including the large items such as pants, a jacket, a bag, a hat, a hood, and a collar.
Smaller things, such as knee pads, shoulder pads, belts, shoes, gloves, and ropes were made in ZBrush. Each item went through several stages of detailing.
In the final part of the high poly modeling, I added small details like damage on fabric, hanging threads, medium and small folds, seams, and stitches. Various brush sets helped me a lot with this. Among them, I can point out a wonderful set of stitches from JROTools, DragRect brushes based on scans from SurfaceMimic.com and custom IMM brushes for large stitches. Ropes and knots were also made using IMM brushes.
Retopology & Baking
When the high poly is ready, the pain is coming - retopology. The process itself is not so complicated, in many respects almost mechanical, but it takes a long time and it's too boring. The number of audiobooks that I listened to during the retopology of my characters has long exceeded a hundred. I’m doing retopology in Maya using the Quad Draw tool. It’s very convenient because I like to have the ability to use Maya polygon modeling tools during the retopology process.
I also ran into a few inconveniences during the process, and I will list them in the form of a problem\solution.
Problem 1: The larger the polycount of the high poly model is, the slower the tool runs.
Solution: I export two versions of the decimated model from ZBrush, one for retopology - with smaller polycount, and the other for baking with maximum details.
Problem 2: The larger the polycount of the low poly model is, the faster history grows and the slower Quad Draw tool works.
Solution: We need to separate already completed parts of the mesh from the working part so that the polycount of the working object could be lower than 2-3K tris. Well, and you have to use a hotkey to clear history more often.
I do the entire mapping process in Maya, using standard tools. Everything is quite simple and does not need any special tools or features.
After the mapping is complete, I add high poly models from ZBrush to the scene in Maya, the ones that were decimated for baking. Then, I assign various materials to them to bake the color ID map correctly. After that, I put separate items farther apart to prevent various artifacts during baking.
I bake textures in Marmoset Toolbag. I think the result of baking in MT is more accurate, especially the curvature and AO maps. And I like the dynamic cage tuning abilities too. All maps except the position are baked in Marmoset. The position map should be assigned to the assembled model and baked in Substance Painter. Otherwise, there will be a big problem with the tri-planar projection.
I use Substance Painter for texturing. A perfect texture for me is the one created with minimal aid from the Wacom Tablet, although the first step in creating a texture starts with a pen and a tablet. What I'm talking about is finalizing the color ID map. As I need to add an ID for different types of fabric on the model, I create a separate Substance project with solid color layers and paint masks. When this is ready, I export the new ID map and start the texturing.
I will skip the detailing process of working on the skin and the face because 80 Level is full of much more talented examples of such work.
As for texturing the clothes, as I mentioned earlier, we had rather tight restrictions concerning the types of materials used in this armor set. Most of them are different types of fabric. To create them, I used 3 types of base materials but with a different scale and hues. On top of the base materials, there are dozens of layers that added scuffs, color noise, lighting effects, etc. Below are two GIFs that show how I added the groups of layers in the texture of the dress and hood.
Preparing the Render
When all the textures are ready and the model is skinned up and put in an epic pose, you can do the finalization. I use Marmoset Toolbag to render all my models because it's a great and easy-to-use tool for rendering models in real-time.
The arrangement of the light sources for the Scavenger scene looks like this: