EveGoPlayOn's Evgene Ponomarev has shared a breakdown of the Y.R.S. "Turtle" project, told how the weapon was modeled and textured, and discussed the peculiarities of creating an asset for a game.
Greetings. My name is Evgene Ponomarev. I am the CEO and art director of the outsourcing studio EveGoPlayOn.
First, I would like to say, It's a great honor for us and our team to be able to do this article for 80 Level.
Like most of us, every artist in our studio got into 3D through their love of games. Even before game dev became mainstream, it was already a choice for us for the rest of our lives. Most of us started out in small indie teams that set the goal of creating a"dream" game. Gradually, year after year, gaining experience from each project, we became what we are now.
Members of our team have accumulated experience with a large number of different projects: Escape from Tarkov, World of Tanks, Halo, Star Wars, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Call of Duty: Mobile, Caliber, Anthem (if we're talking about weapons and vehicles), New World, The Elder Scrolls Online, Lord of the Fallen, Madden NFL (if we're talking about props, wears, characters) and a big quantity of mobile projects.
Let's just say the experience of AAA projects gave us a large layer of knowledge, which became the foundation of our studio.
Concept and References
It is important to mention the fact that the Y.R.S. "Turtle" was made for World War Heroes, the mobile FPS project set in WW2. Our asset is a custom version of the Young Repeating Shotgun but the Alternative WW2 version as content for the Halloween update.
Earlier for the same project, I oversaw the making of a simple version of this gun, so we already had the base for the rifle.
Material from Evgene Ponomarev's library
The customer also provided a concept created by their concept artist and game designer.
Presented material for work
Note 1: This is the most important criterion for the customer to be satisfied, and at the same time with minimal feedback.
Note 2: Never be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem stupid to you. Key point: the more specifics and clarity, the greater the percentage of hits to the point.
Note: In any work, even novice artists, sometimes you can see an interesting idea that you can develop using it in your asset.
No need to collect Pure Ref for 500+ MB, only the most necessary accent places
The following software was used to create this model:
- Blender – modeling elements, changing the base mesh;
- ZBrush – work with details/chamfers on high poly;
- RizomUV – mapping and package;
- Marmoset Toolbag – bake and final renders;
- Substance 3D Painter – texturing;
- Photoshop – post-processing final renders.
The final platform for which the model was created is a mobile game on the Unity platform. Therefore, it was necessary to strictly follow the pipeline and technical documentation. The model had to be optimized in accordance with the standards of the mobile project.
First of all, it was necessary to understand what would remain of the base gun mesh, what we could leave with the preservation of refinement, and what we had to do from scratch.
Comparison of the basic version of the rifle and the custom ones
Further, according to the sketch, the existing geometry was changed – this was the main body and stock. Handguard and bolt mechanism were made from scratch.
The coils and wires were created using curves in Blender. However, in the case of the coils, all of their detailing has been baked and accentuated in the texture. Since this is a mobile project, we were quite severely limited by the poly count of the game-ready model. The basic shapes and recognizable silhouettes were enough.
Comparison of detailing with high poly and on textures
Note: Because the game is set in World War II, it is more difficult with modules than in modern or sci-fi shooters – here you have to create modules based on the same rifle, only of different years of production.
The mesh and texture have been optimized for this. The geometry was planned and cut in such a way that the elements would fit together without gaps when they were replaced, and tech artists could integrate and customize the asset without any problems.
Modular Customization of the custom version of the rifle
Modular Customization of the basic version of the rifle
Topology and Unwrapping the Model for Texturing
In terms of mesh topology, we had to constantly think about the poly count allotted for the gun, therefore we were guided by the following principle: everything that does not affect the silhouette should be baked on a plane. There were minor difficulties with wires and copper tubes – I didn’t want to see kinks on the mesh, so we tried to make the silhouette as smooth as possible. In order not to exceed the allotted polycount, the grid was simplified as much as possible on details that were less noticeable to the eye.
As for UVs, logical sweeps must be guided by the angles of view presented in the game. In our case, it was the first-person view. This means that we needed to avoid, if possible, the seams on the upper surface of the weapon, which would be closest to the game camera.
In addition, in such places, the texel is set x1.5-2 and more. And in inconspicuous places, it decreases. This way we can show the best quality without changing the resolution of the textures.
Similarly, overlaps are used to save space. Usually, this is the left and right parts of the weapon, if they are symmetrical. As well as repeating identical elements – in this case, these are coils.
Textures are the main part of the final result. The player notices them first. And it is they that set the visuals and the first impression of the player.
At first glance, it may seem that texturing in Substance 3D Painter is a very simple and almost mindless process because there are so many generators, masks, and filters that seem to do all the work for us. But unfortunately, this is not the case. If we just threw in a few generators, this would not be enough. The work would look monotonous, boring, and too simple. But the skilled artist can immediately notice the procedural generators.
It doesn't mean that you need to abandon them, on the contrary, they are present in almost every layer. But they are only a base and a rough outline of the final result. On top of this, you need to manually detail the texture emphasizing interesting places and cutting off the excess. We mainly worked on roughness and base color.
Some of them are already in the standard Substance package, some are from the artist's personal library, and some are made from photo references. If you look closely, in real life we are surrounded by a huge number of interesting textures that can inspire you and be used in work.
This is how the scratches and scuffs on the metal were made.
Gradients and Light
The attractive texture is the varied texture, the texture that you want to look at. In order to make a simple object more interesting, it is sometimes necessary to deviate slightly from PBR principles, even for PBR projects.
For example, long and monotonous surfaces can be diversified with gradients on base color and roughness. This can be done on the barrel, stock, almost wherever possible. We avoided monotonous colors and tried to work out areas of interest.
Base color with and without gradients
Also in the base color, there is a baked light. The upper surfaces are lighter than the lower ones. This does not correspond to reality, but emphasizes the shape of the model and makes it even more voluminous. This is the case when it is necessary to choose more artistry than realism.
Since the project is mobile, in addition to the general light, the light from the bulbs was also drawn on the textures.
It was made with a regular soft brush.
Naturally, all of the above effects should not be conspicuous, they are an addition to the overall picture. Someone will not even notice them, but they will still give a more interesting result. The devil is in the details.
A feature of this work was the electric discharge inside the receiver. It was made using a trim sheet consisting of four frames. Later, we used custom shaders – we planned to make an animation cycle of 4 frames + VFX.
Otherwise, everything is done according to standard methods. Including a voltmeter on the stock. There is no transparency or other complex shaders here. The most important thing is to choose the values of the roughness corresponding to the glass and add smudges. The arrow and the scale inside are made on the base color.
Setting up the Final Scene and Rendering
The final renders for publication were made in Marmoset Toolbag 4. The lighting scheme and render settings are almost the same in all similar works – they are made in such a way as to create a grim atmosphere with twilight by highlighting accent areas with Rim Light spots.
Sky + Rim light 1 + Rim Light 2
I didn't overcrowd the scene with lights, effects, etc. I needed to make a quick, simple render highlighting the focal points. Then it only remained to block the camera and use the Rotate and Move tools to look for an interesting angle and view.
Note: The key to this process was choosing the angle so that the asset didn't look too dark or overexposed – a balance had to be found.
Because emissive and baked light did not give the desired visual effect, I additionally illuminated all the LEDs with Omni light.
Sometimes it happens that the view looks good, but there is not a sufficient result, in such cases, I render one view with different lighting, and then in Photoshop, through the Overlay and Mask options, I combine several passes. But this happens very rarely.
I usually do 10-15 renders and then... go to sleep. In the morning with fresh eyes, I take a look at what I rendered yesterday. I usually leave 4-5 renders that turned out the best and prepare them for publication.
Basically, post-processing is adding a vignette and working with a template for rendering. That's All! I mean absolutely all. Sometimes there is a need to change the level of contrast and brightness, but according to the situation. I can also adjust the sharpness in places.
Advice to Prop Artists
It was actually very interesting to make this asset since in reality there is no prototype of this gun. We wanted to fully convey the concept and idea, even when the functionality was in doubt. For ourselves, we noted the fact that in the absence of reference models, we have more opportunities to turn on fantasy and put it into practice – this was very exciting.
Creating a 3D model from start to finish is a complex process that requires time and attention. Oddly enough, the most important thing, in the beginning, is to develop the habit of structuring and putting things in order. Both in the project folder and in program scenes, whether it's a Blender or a Substance 3D Painter.
This will let you easily find the necessary elements and navigate the project as well as will allow other people to understand it if there is such a need. It will be even easier for you yourself to remember what is going on here if you decide to return to your old project after a couple of months.
Regarding the pipeline, there are no bad pipelines, but it is always necessary to give preference to what speeds up your work without sacrificing quality. Scripts, export\import bridges, project structure. I often give our artist a choice of which software to use. I know that he will choose those programs in which he feels more confident and capable.
And of course a few words about references. References are the basis of all further work. The more responsible you approach this stage, the better the final result will be. When looking for weapon references, especially WW2, auction sites for the sale of items from past eras are a great help. Such sites very often exhibit photos of lots of weapons in very good quality and from all angles.
In addition to pictures, it is worth paying attention to the video. They often allow you to look at the object from non-standard angles, as well as show all the moving elements.
Thank you all for your attention and for the opportunity to share the asset creation process with the community!
Evgene Ponomarev, CEO and Art Director of EveGoPlayOn
Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie
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