Here's some more information about the last 3 high poly assets I created using 3dsmax and substance painter.
As part of my project my goal is to improve my portfolio and experience so that I can demonstrate the ability to make useful assets and apply for different job roles as either a 3D Generalist or a Character Artist. This is just the first part of my project and I intend to polish my portfolio so I can also apply for Games Animator and 3D Artist roles. To that end, I have been producing some high detail characters so that I can make useful character assets.
Soldier - 16,179 polys
Spaceman - 14,986 polys
Assault Rifle - 10,722 polys
This part has been a continuation of the hard surface modelling and texturing I started with the Assault Rifle. Using the skills I learned with the gun, I then applied those same techniques to create high res models in 3dsmax and Zbrush.
I decided to use zbrush for the soldier high poly because she has many organic surfaces like skin and clothes which I though would be better created using a clay sculpting program. I learned a few new tools in zbrush to create hard surface panels for the armour and also practice skin modelling and cloth. I also wanted to improve on the shape and design of the original character and part of that involved improving the boots to make them realistic.
Because the spaceman was all hard surface armour I decided to do the high poly in 3dsmax. This meant I had some variety in the skills I learned and improved my understanding of the 3dsmax tool system. This model took quite a long time and I wanted to focus my work on each part of the character individually, making sure that each bit was at the right level of detail and had interesting appropriate greebles to bring the character to life and make it look realistic.
After unwrapping I then textured both characters using substance painter. I had to do a lot of work defining the masked areas of the spaceman so that I could give the individual panels in the normal map a separate texture. I also tried out several different colour styles because I wasn't happy with the initial concept design of the spaceman and needed to tone down the use of colour and make it more appropriate.
After texturing I rigged both characters using the CAT system in 3dsmax so that I could create a nice posed render in marmoset toolbag for the final piece. I wanted to polish the characters as best I could and make sure all bells and whistles are on so that I have the best presentation and ability to impress potential recruiters.
I am very happy with the result, it was definitely worth it. I still have some more work to do on the other characters for this project and I hope they will all turn out good when I get around to animating them.
Over the last 6 months I have been applying for games jobs to get myself back on the career ladder. This has involved applying for 3D Generalist jobs at small games studios which I would like to work at. In November I was asked by Legendary Games Studios in Nottingham to complete a 3 day art test and create a Dreg character from their Warhammer game, Mordheim. I had to produce a low poly, hand painted character using templates provided and an art style brief.
3 days is a very short amount of time to create a character and I did it in a frenzied rush. The good thing about this task was that I learned about hand painting characters better in zbrush. I decided to model and UV unwrap the character in 3dsmax before painting it in zbrush. This method was good because I could paint over the seams to avoid any mismatch of the uv shells which would happen in photoshop. I will definitely use this technique on low poly characters in the future.
In January, after an initial video call interview with Reach Robotics I was asked to rig and animate a robot character for their mekamon game. This was an interesting challenge because the robot is a real world toy that could only use its legs to move in certain axis, so I had to design a rig that wouldn't bend or break while being animated and observed real world constraints like gravity.
I then did several animation loops demonstrate my animation abilities and practice using the rig. The shots I chose were a Sneeze animation, Trying not to be seen and a Lethargic wake up, which can be seen in the above video. I think I did alright in creating useful, expressionate animations but I still need practice and more in depth look at game animation if I am to successfully apply for animation jobs.
It was good to try my luck at these jobs. I really enjoyed the challenges set by these companies and definitely would like to get a job as a generalist in the future. I will keep applying for games jobs and believe that if I remain motivated and dedicated I will eventually get a job that's good for my skills and progression.
Recently i've been working on an assault rifle for the soldier and spaceman characters. This has allowed me to practice hard surface modelling in 3dsmax and also try out Substance Painter for the first time. This is a concept designed by myself using some reference images as inspiration. I wanted to create something that looked high detail and realistic.
Starting out in Photoshop I blocked out a few simple weapon shapes as silhouettes. After deciding which shape I liked best I then detailed and added features to the shape to create a unique look that I wanted to work on. Rather than just creating a low res model like usual I decided to see how professionals create hard surface assets by following a tutorial which I found on youtube.
The tutorial is a step by step demonstation of how to create an AKM model that would be suitable for a game. By applying the techniques in the tutorial to my own model I learned a great deal about the modelling process and how to get the best results in the finished asset.
I put a great deal of time into the high poly asset which ended up being about 2.5 million tris. As well as many tools that I'd never used before I also learned about how to create a quality uv map that would give me good results when baking the normal map and designing textures.
The tutorial also allowed me to get to grips with substance painter for the first time. This should allow me to create more photorealistic textures and will hopefully improve the overall quality of my work.
I have decided to re-work some of the characters a made over the last few months to try and get them up to standard. I hope that by having lots of detail and realistic textures I will be more attractive to employers looking for junior artists.
The characters have now been reduced from millions of polygons to just 3000 each and have also been unwrapped and textured using Photoshop and xNormal. They are now setup in 3dsmax and are ready to be rigged using the CAT system I used for the Heroes Realm project in Germany. I want to use this system because I feel it is better for animation instead of using the old biped rig which I usually choose. This should allow me to expand my skillset and learn new techniques when it comes to animation.
Retopologing can be very time consuming so to speed things up I decided to use Topogun instead of the standard Zbrush tools because I find it tedious to adjust the zspheres for every vert. Topogun was much faster because the vertices cling to the outer edge of the reference mesh and it is easy to quickly join up the polygons and draw topology.
To get the high res sculpt into Topogun I needed to experiment with the decimation master tool. This was so that I could have a working reference that didn't cause the software to lag which I found slowed me down when drawing polygons. Using the decimation master I reduced the polygon count from something like 30 million to 2 million polygons in Zbrush, whilst still preserving the shape and details. This worked much better and Topogun worked correctly as I recreated the low res mesh.
For most characters it took about 2 full days to retopologise. It was very exhausting and repetitive work but I finally managed to get all my characters with correct resolution and neat edge loops into 3dsmax. Unwrapping was fairly straight forward which only took 2 hours for each character. Using the full 30 million polygon sculpt from Zbrush with polypaint attached I imported the sculpt and finished low res mesh into xNormal to bake Diffuse, Cavity, Ambient Occlusion and (for some characters) Normal maps.
The 3 characters that didn't have Normal maps were the hand painted characters like the Soldier, Mage and Cowboy. These I wanted to keep as simple textures for their style as a mobile game character like the ones I worked on at Goodgame Studios. These turned out alright I think and should be suitable if I ever try to gain a character artist job for a similar game studio.
The character I spent the most amount of time on was the Spaceman because I wanted to add full Specular and Reflection maps to the material so that this character could stand out. I used several tutorials to experiment with creating a metal texture and I think the result turned out okay. I will just need to see if later on I use the character in Unity where I may need to recreate the material.
The characters are now ready to be rigged, but before I do that I am going to work on several weapon assets that some of the character will use in poses and animations. These include an assault rifle, a pistol and a staff which I intend to fully concept and design as interesting props for my portfolio.
Taking the 3d templates I created in 3dsmax I have been developing the models in zbrush to increase resolution and add details based on the drawings I did previously. 3dsmax is quite expensive to have installed so I made sure that there was no errors in the model for each of the characters before starting work on each one. This way I only needed to work in zbrush and managed to save money.
Because I developed the models as a drawing which was transferred to a 3d template I didn't have to spend vast amounts of time trying to get proportion and features correct. I only had to practice anatomy to define muscles and draw details like the lions face.
I had a play with the fibermesh modifier to experiment with fur but couldn't get it to look right as I needed fine hairs for my muscly characters. I therefore painted fur onto the model using a texture map which I think looked better.
I decided to lose the face for the space suit and just have a helmet to keep the model simple and I thought it looked better. I drew lots of panels onto the suit using the chisel brush and decided to go for a shiny metal texture which I will need to replicate in 3dsmax.
For the human characters, the ones with faces, I decided to go for a hand painted style to simplify the texture. I don't have time to create a super high res model and these characters would suit a mobile styled game with regards to resolution.
This was my first female character and it was interesting trying to define the more slender body and face which I used photo reference to get right. I think this is one of the best designs and it turned out alright.
I now need to retopologise the characters and begin getting them ready for texture mapping. I intend to use Topogun to achieve this because I wasn't happy with the topology tools in zbrush last time and hopefully it will be easy using the industry standard software. I still need to add ambient occlusion maps to add some grime and tone to the characters. This will be my task for the next month or so.
I've decided to expand my portfolio with a range of art assets that I can demonstrate in a demo reel to gain a job as a 3d generalist or 3d artist. After thinking about what job role best suits me I believe that this is the best route for me to focus my skills. The project I am undertaking will be extensive but should be the culmination of many skills I already have, giving me a chance to make something I will be very proud of and should ensure that I have plenty of employment opportunities in the future.
To begin with I have decided to make a range of character art assets using photoshop, 3dsmax and zbrush. This will give me a chance to practice my character design skills and develop a character artists portfolio. I will then rig and animate these characters with some game ready loops and export them into the unity game engine.
To design the characters I initially did a range of rough ideas against a t-pose silhouette to experiment with styles and clothes. Then after deciding on what characters I liked, did a more accurate template drawing that I could specify features, which could then be inserted into 3dsmax to create 3d models against a flat plane.
Recycling the old naked male template from the companion cavalry character I scaled and re-proportioned this model against the drawn template to create rough 3d models that I can use in zbrush. My next task will be to practice my sculpting skills and paint the characters in zbrush ready for retopologising.
For the past year I have been busy with my first job in the games industry at Goodgame Studios in Hamburg, Germany. This was an extremely exciting role for me because it was a job where I felt I could use all my knowledge of games development to do the thing that I really loved which is build new characters and get them ready to be put into a game engine. Whilst I consider myself a bit of a generalist and have done many projects before where I design my own characters this was a chance to focus all my effort on some professional art assets given to me by character artists.
The game is called Heroes Realm for Android and iOS which is a free to play hero collection game featuring a number of interesting character types spread over a variety of different battlefields. Your objective is to maintain and upgrade your heroes, improve they're stats and use special powers to defeat hordes of mobs and minions that stand in your path.
As well as developing the vast majority of the characters rigs using the CAT system in 3dsmax, I was also responsible for developing renders of each of the characters to be used in cut scenes as well as the hero icons. I had a large role in the implementation of characters into the game engine and needed to solve technical and organisation issues to streamline the pipeline and set each of the characters up in game.
My demoreel features a range of some of the characters I rigged using a standard range of motions animation to test out the deformation of the limbs and setup some of the more unique weapons and clothes. Whilst I learned a great deal during this job and grew very confident at producing rigs in different styles for many expressionate characters I still felt that I was limited only to 3dsmax. Whilst the pipeline focused on 3dsmax and I could use all the knowledge I'd gathered previously I still felt that I needed to improve my skill set and learn Maya so that I can apply for professional jobs using both pieces of software. This will be my task over the next year as I pad out my showreel and continue Slight Turbulence to increase my employability.
For my next project i've decided to continue work on Slight Turbulence which is a concept idea I started at school several years ago. The characters have already been thoroughly fleshed out so that gives me a good foundation to start from. The intention is to continue to develop my animation skills and experience by creating some game resolution characters that can be quickly produced and let me focus on some quality animations.
The trio of characters i'm going to be working on are called Bunny, Squeak and Claws. As well as some concentrated work on game ready animations I'll also be preparing the characters for an animated short so I will be adding a fair amount of detail to each of them. To save time i've decided to box model them in 3dsmax then hand paint the textures on in photoshop. This will cut out the long process of sculpting, polypainting and retopologising that I usually do in zbrush.
For each of the characters i've already developed front, back and side views so I will be able to quickly transfer the designs to 3dsmax and get modelling straight away. Similar to Pygmy Panic I don't expect to have to spend too long creating the topology and should be able to model each character within a week.
One of the props I will need for the animated short is a stylized airplane that can be seen on the page banner. This should be a fairly simple vehicle to animate and should allow me to focus all my effort on the characters and camera shots.
Rather than having a flat shaded art style like i've done before in the past, i've decided to embellish the characters by hand painting each of them in photoshop. This should bring the characters to life and allow me to develop their personalities and characteristics which will add to the animation.
For the last 2 months i've been rigging the characters ready for animation. This has been a very long and complex task for which I have needed to learn some new techniques and solve many problems to get the characters to work. I wanted to put in loads of detail for this part to bring the characters to life in the most realistic way with all bells and whistles turned on.
I decided to use the standard biped rig for both characters because this is a rig i'm familiar with, it is highly flexible and easy to use. After this project I am considering reusing the characters and rigging them up in maya which is one of the most used animation software in the games industry to expand my skill set and make me more employable.
To rig the cape I have been learning a bit about rope simulation to try and animate this part procedurally to save time. If I had to animate the cape by hand it would take me forever and I could never get it to flow like cloth. By using several chains of bones linked by constraints I will be able to focus on the character animation and bake this part afterwards. I did consider using cloth simulation but thought it would be more relevant to games if I used bones.
For the horse rig I needed to look at references for the anatomy of a horse to get this part right. Because it is a mammal and has all the same bones as a human, the biped can be used to rig this character by simply rotating and scaling the bones into the right position. I also swapped some of the geometry out for more horse like features to make it look more pleasing and match the horse mesh proportions better. Similar to the cape I set up the reins using a chain of bones linked together that will be procedurally generated.
For the rope simulation to interact correctly with the characters I have needed to cut up and position collision boxes that are attached to the individual bones so that reins and cape have something to bounce off of when physics is applied.
What has taken the vast majority of my time to rig has been the face. This is a highly complicated bone rig predominantly set up using position and rotation constraints referencing point helpers. Each shape the face can create is saved out with a list of position and rotation constraints linked to a GUI using reaction manager. The bones and helpers are set up in a hierarchy with a root bone linked to the biped head. Furthermore, I have designed this rig to be scalable, with each bone and helper editable so that it can be skinned to another mesh. Because the animation is saved in the GUI, it can be transferred from one mesh to another by saving out an XML file. I don't plan on testing this out for this project but next time I do an animation project in 3dsmax I will reuse this rig to save time.
The rig can produce many different facial expressions and lip shapes by combining the GUI controls. Aswell as all the main vismemes that Jason Osipa describes in his book Stop Staring, it is also capable of making basic expressions that will I will be incorporating into my animation to give the human more personality. I am also considering finding an appropriate audio clip that can demonstrate this rig more effectively in my showreel.
Finally, I have been testing out lighting in 3dsmax. I want my showreel to really stand out and display my work at a high quality so I am prepared to spend some time rendering out quality lighting after I finish animation. This video demonstrates ambient occlusion using the light tracer, with the character performing some of the test poses I have been using to skin the mesh to the rig.
I now plan to spend the next 2 months animating both characters together in a range of different scenarios. I need to put in the most effort for this part as I am an animator, this is my chief skill and needs to be at a high standard. I expect to finish the project towards the end of May.
Hi, I am a 3D Generalist from Teesside University. This is my blog where I update progress on some of the projects I work on as I practice the skills for a job in the games industry.