Creating 3D art is so cool! Okay, I had to get that off my chest because it’s the truth! Turning a flat 2D painting into an object that you can walk on, interact with or marvel at as you run by is truly rewarding.
When a concept is given to a 3D artist, or at to least me, I am flooded with so many thoughts that are usually instantaneous. The main thought is, “How will I create this thing?” I begin to break down the shapes that I see in a given concept and ponder how I will translate that given asset into the third dimension.
Creating the Forge for Dungeon Defenders II was an exciting task to complete. I thought to myself, “I get to create a cool design that opens up, emits cool VFX, has glowly parts, and the Council helped design the concept!” This asset had a bit of pressure for sure, but a little pressure never hurt anyone.
Like any model, it all begins with a primitive geometric shape. I usually start off with either a cube or cylinder. Who would have thought that in high school I would literally work with geometry all day? It’s a good thing the math is behind the scenes; I just work with the shapes. A given triangle count limit is given. This is the max limit of how many Tris (cool people say Tris instead of triangles) that can be used to create that given model. I try to not think of it as a restriction, but rather as a nice number that I have in the back of my head that will sometimes whisper to me: “Hey Zack, your Tri count is getting a bit high! Try lowering that number, okay?” I’m always happy to oblige to myself. Creating models efficiently as possible is one of the many factors that help regulate how well a game runs.
When creating the Forge, I broke the model into different parts. It was easy enough to do because the great design has very distinct landmarks that made it painless to figure out shapes and spatial relationships. This is crucial in my thinking process to get the model to look as close to the concept as possible.
Before the process of painting the Forge, I had to completely lay out the model to be flat. This is the process of creating UVs. The letters U and V are just the axes that a texture will be placed. Creating UVs is like unfolding a cardboard box completely flat. To save as much space as possible, UVs are overlapped and flipped in all kinds of ways to be snug tight. The better the UV layout, the easier it will be to paint the model’s texture.
Texturing is one of my favorite parts. This is when the model really starts to come together. About 98% of my painting is done in 3D-Coat. This program allows me to paint directly on the geometry. Photoshop is used to do any minor clean-ups or color adjustments. The Forge involved painting lots of metal. The first part of the painting process involves putting down those nice base colors. Once that is done, I begin to paint the overall form a bit more. Little nicks and dents are added to give the overall piece an interesting look. Unlike realistic textures, not every minute detail is put into the painting. Implied paint strokes can be just enough to let the viewer understand what the material the model is made out of. We also do not want the model to become noisy with detail.
After hours of painting, the model is done. I do a quick visual sweep of the model to make sure I’m satisfied and to ensure there are not any technical problems before it’s checked by the 3D art lead and art director. After critiques are given and changes are made, it’s handed off to rigging and animation!
Are there any other models that you’d like to see from concept to creation? Tell us in the comments below, and you could win a pre-alpha code for Dungeon Defenders II! You have a full week to leave a comment. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner next Tuesday. Don’t have a forum account? It takes less than a minute to join!