A hard-surface and material lead artist, Malte Resenberger-Loosmann, told us about the benefits in the updated team's workflows and discussed the mid poly creation.
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I'm Malte Resenberger-Loosmann, the hard-surface and material Lead Artist at Angelic. My team consists of 7 amazing 3D artists responsible for all kinds of props, weapons, and environment assets. In my past career, I worked on several projects, including H3VR, Halo Infinite, Suicide Squad, Valorant, Sons of the Forest, and Adobe, as a hard-surface and material artist.
My main interests besides weapon and prop production are the creation of workflow and material definition. Textures are one of the most important things for a 3D Artist, in my opinion, as with good materials and textures, a 3D asset can fail or succeed. Workflows are critical as good documentation saves a lot of time for everyone involved in a professional production. Currently, our approach is the mid poly creation which I will explain in detail. Apart from the day to day production, I like to give constructive feedback and examples on how to improve an asset or provide support on any mesh or shading issues.
Mid Poly Creation
At Angelic, we do use Unreal 5. We are able to save a lot of time in our production as we do not build the same mesh twice – high poly and low poly. We want to create amazing details and round shapes with clean shading instead of using very large normal maps and spending time on re-topology. Moving towards a CGI production allows us to spend more time on materials and textures, which is great for the overall visuals in the game.
Here you can see a few examples of what we think is most important to know when placing bevels. We use simple ones and bevels with more loops instead of supporting edges. Also, the screen size of an asset matters, so we can define where to put more bevels for most visible parts or fewer bevels for really tiny geometry.
Fortunately, we don't start from scratch, as our awesome 3D concept department provides us with pre-built and scaled Fusion 360 meshes as references which means that we can jump right into the asset creation process.
When building an asset, we have bevels and clean shading in focus. Especially with static meshes, the first priority is not poly budges but details and shape language. Therefore we can add more details such as boolean or screws as we would have in a classic AAA development with normal baked maps.
For flawless shading, it is necessary to use face weighted normals (FWN) or weighted normals. We use custom or built-in tools to edit the vertex normals to our needs.
Furthermore, the mid poly workflow allowed us to give more constructive feedback and have geometry changes or iterations without the need to re-roll on a low poly and high poly mesh, making a massive difference to our project timelines.
UV creation has changed a bit through the new pipeline as we don't have to split every 90° angle in a mesh. This is an advantage, as it allows us to layout much more connected UV shells which means less padding and more texel density and resolution.
Materials and Texturing
We have very high standards for the material definition and execution of textures. To avoid slapping textures randomly to surfaces, we think about how a material is built and collect many references to understand all layers in real life. After analyzing the references, we try to transition the knowledge to our assets in a way that we define the haptic of a material and very fine details within PBR constraints.
Also, many baked maps will be used as support maps to define edges, thickness, and dirt masks. One of our engines for a colossal spaceship was self-baked with 4k textures and a 4x4 anti-aliasing pass to be textured in Substance Painter.
Because of the very efficient modeling pipeline, we have much more time to invest in our materials.
Unreal 5 allows us to raise the quality bar much further, and combined with the mid poly workflow, we can iterate our assets quickly in our production. To take an asset to the next level, you have to take care of your materials in particular. Collect references before starting any material definition. During the process, ask yourself a lot of questions: How is this material crafted? What will be visible underneath a painted layer? Which components is the material made of? In which condition is the material? And much more during the process of layer building in Painter.
It is most important to take your time to work on textures and materials because all your hard work on geometry, shading, and UVs will only pay off with believable surfaces, details, and the right scaling of pattern and roughness variation. The cleanest shading and the best UV layout won't be selling your asset – the look and feel of material and light will.
The team is growing and looking for new creatives to join and empower the studio. You may learn more about the open positions and apply here.
Malte Resenberger-Loosmann, Hard-surface and Material Lead Artist at Angelic, Metaverse Game Studios.