Stylized Material Production for Games
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by Constantine Medvedev
4 hours ago

Great work and breakdown! Thanks for sharing :)

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Stylized Material Production for Games
31 May, 2017
Interview

Scott Stadick did a beautiful breakdown of his Deep Hovel, talking about the ways he creates stylized materials and divides the production in bite-size bits.

Introduction

My name is Scott Stadick, 28-year-old art student hailing from beautiful and rainy Oregon. My journey towards an Environmental Artist might have begun with K’nex, but certainly found a more solid foothold in the Warcraft III era of PC gaming. I only really played Warcraft III’s actual campaign mode about 3 times. My usual strategy was to begin as a night elf, then immediately uproot my main base so I could eat a secret path through the trees, then wait for the other players to get bored of looking for me. Custom games were more my speed, usually Line Tower games or Life of a Peasant.

The true love found in custom games was busting them out in the map editor and learning as much as I could to develop my own maps. Eventually, I began a professional path towards Architecture and discovered the 3D functions within AutoCAD, it wasn’t until then that I found a practical outlet for creative design as well as a career ambition. I graduated with a BFA in Game Art and Design (huge props to Aaron Sturgeon and Dennis Larsen, two amazing instructors in a profession I have tremendous admiration for!). Currently, I work in Blizzard. All images in this article belong to me and do not reflect any processes of Activision Blizzard.

Deep Hovel

For “Deep Hovel” I wanted to brush up on a few things that are important to me as a technical artist, I am still a student so I have a lot to learn, and always will! But I wanted to utilize stacked UV’s in a way that the design would almost be dictated by them, for the ship alone in this case. I wanted to advance my own techniques in stylized creation as well as going about that in a way to make iterations very easy, which is something that’s always been interesting and mysterious to me on stylized productions.

Finally I just wanted something interesting to build the scene in. Marmoset Toolbag 3 was a really fun choice of engine, as I would have something anyone could interact with on ArtStation once completed. As a secondary goal I always like to have some element of narrative which will help to direct my concept and composition, this is something I keep in mind for all environments, as one should. My favorite narrative usually deals with dwellings, as architecture was my first love.

Modeling

The modeling process here is very referential to a few Blizzard artists I admire for their art and willingness to share process! Zbrush and Maya are bread and butter for me in most cases. Maya of course handling the technical aspects of the project, while Zbrush gets the sexier portion of the job. As for Zbrush, the following artists are monumental to the style I’m trying to hit, I highly recommend checking them out – Seth Thompson, Michael Vicente, and Fanny Vergne. A few of Michael Vicente’s Orb Crack’s brushes come into play for my scene very frequently, as well as Trim Dynamic, Clay Buildup, Pinch, Layers (sometimes) and a couple of my own alphas.

As for aesthetic I like to lean towards complexity, having too much to look at is a comfortable place to sit for me. Though it’s also a sort of trick that has to be reigned in before readability is lost, and little details are only as good as the silhouette they sit on. Complexity is nothing without a solid foundation, so each high poly element is baking to around a 2 to 200 poly counterpart that has had about as much time tweaking as the high poly. The aesthetic of the ship overall isn’t complicated but is still tedious, as the only goal was to reduce the amount of straight lines wherever it felt necessary. I just wanted something that pushed form in a slightly extreme and whimsical way. This overarching theme is usually complementary to stylized scenes. Curvaceousness is key I think, and the only perfectly vertical assets in the scene are hanging ropes for a little break from the curves – not much though! In fact one of them is the hidden(ish) swing set. Good place to take a break.

Texturing

I’m a big fan of stylized environments because the look offers a sort of timeless beauty, and allows for a bit of painterly freedom as well. I also tend to make a lot of pixel art for the same reason. Nostalgia is an easy thing to attribute to both art forms, I just find it enjoyable because it’s hard for me to not love it.

So a big part of the older stylized medium is the absence of a normal map. In my workflow (and most from what I’ve seen) the diffuse map has the normal map baked in, and the final result would be painted over. The paint over the stage was a sort of stretch goal for me in the case of the Deep Hovel, but I have about 20% of it painted in certain stages. As for the normal to diffuse bake, I do the following.

If your normal map is baked into the diffuse correctly, then applying it over the diffuse should show almost no new information. As the case with the ship, some slight new specular highlights will show up, but not nearly enough to warrant the file size in the final product. In the secondary lighting setup (Marmoset Viewer) the normal maps actually have no effect at all, as it is built without any specular information and only diffuse.

(as a side note, check out this link)

Modularity

Modularity is of course a big feature in my environments, from material creation to physical assets. It is especially important when it comes to competition, as I can go about easily modifying composition. One thing I focused on as a time saver was building modular assets out of unique assets. It saved a lot of time building in this fashion and that is the case for the central platform, the rock arch, and the holographic navigator. I’ll explain in the pictures below, along with a little bit of AutoCAD! You never know what will come in handy.

So objects like the arch rock end up building other formations, such as the arch surrounding the door in the background. This worked out pretty well for the sake of speed in this competition, as the ship took the majority of my time tweaking.

Thanks for viewing!

Scott Stadick, Environment Artist Intern – Blizzard Entertainment

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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2 Comments on "Stylized Material Production for Games"

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Ninjin
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Ninjin

When I read the introduction I knew exactly I want to work at this guys company. Then I realized it’s Blizzard and my hopes went down (because I’m not good enough for them… yet <3)

david
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david

amazing culmination of raw art and digital ingenuity ,excellent example of appropriation of tools and technique ! bravo

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