Making the Fire Troll from God of War in ZBrush & Substance 3D Painter

Montassar Nahdi told us about the workflow behind the Fire Troll project and talked about redesigning the character while staying true to the original concept.


Hi, my name is Montassar Nahdi, I'm a 3D Character Artist from Tunisia. Since my childhood, I have been passionate about traditional and digital sculpture, 3D modeling, and the creation of real-time video game characters. I knew then that I wanted to start my career in the art field. I studied sculpture at the Higher Institute of Fine Art in Tunisia and in 2010, I obtained my Master's degree in Plastic Art at the same Institute, specializing in sculpture. In 2012, I obtained a Master of Research degree in Plastic Art.

During my 5 years as a 3D Artist and a Digital Sculptor with many video game companies and production studios in Tunisia, I had the opportunity to create visual elements for games, such as characters, monsters, fantastic creatures, statuses, and other 3D assets. I'm currently working as a Principal 3D Character Artist for Nuked Cockroach Studio, and we are working on a free-to-play game project.

The Fire Troll Project

I was impressed by the graphic quality of the famous God of War 4 game, in particular, the design of the fire troll boss, and as I am a super fan of Raf Grassetti, I decided to recreate it. To start, I made some research on the troll concept and looked at several gameplay videos with this beast to understand the general form and to have a 3D vision of the model.


I started this fire troll right after seeing Raf Grassetti's original work published in his personal account on Artstation. Grassetti's style is very touching to me personally, I really like his way of working with shapes and details, and especially when he starts the sculpture from a simple sphere. I immediately imagined what my character would look like.

I use ZBrush all the time in my projects, actually, I use it in everything from organic to hard-surface modeling, so I just open ZBrush and begin sculpting starting from a sphere and using DynaMesh. It allows you to create a whole character from a sphere without any uneven geometry. In the beginning, I concentrate on sculpting the general shape, then, I sculpt the anatomy of the model, and finally, I look at the details. In the sculpting part, I tried to go further in ZBrush with the level of details and micro-details to have a rich high poly.


When working on various models for games, I use a wide range of packages. I always start sculpting in ZBrush and once the high poly is ready, I take it to 3ds Max for retopology and UVs. Sometimes, I use ZModeler Edge Extrude to create retopology.


The challenges of this project were to create a good style of texturing that represents the nature of the character and the identity of the model. I prefer to work in Substance 3D Painter to prepare the maps because there you can easily create many layers and masks, which are needed for complex surfaces like metal, leather, and rocks. For this project, I combined many smart materials to get different surfaces, and for the skin, I used hand painting.


As for the animation, there is no magic, it's very simple and easy. I used Mixamo to organize and animate my low poly model automatically, with Mixamo you can apply animations and idle poses of your choice.


As for rendering, I always prefer to present my work with Marmoset Toolbag. I put everything together in Marmoset: my low poly model with idle pause animation, Texture Maps (Normal, Gloss, Albedo, Subsurface Scattering, Occlusion). Then, I start adjusting the lights – 3 or 4 key lights, the materials, and everything else to get beautiful rendering for the final presentation. I try to approach the graphic aspect of God of War, so to enrich this video rendering, I decided to add some transparent effects, like the fog effect and the snowfall, using Adobe After Effects.


Redesigning a major character from a game was a challenge in itself. I only had myself to compare the original work presented in the game and my own work, so I had to do my best and make an effort to show my qualifications, especially since I am at the beginning of my career and aspire to develop by striving to become a professional in one of the largest video game companies in the world.

Montassar Nahdi, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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