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Best practices creating and using 3d game art .

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I've almost cracked my brain lately trying to find a good set of 3d tools. With the exception of X files, it seems to me that there just isn't a standard method in the game industry for using 3d art. X files are also just a pain in the ass to actually use. I’ve went through so many different import/export tools lately and I’m sick of it. At this point I am considering asking a 3d artist to create a few starter objects for me. I’ve tried using a number of free objects, but they don’t seem to have everything I need. I’ve considered purchasing a few objects from a website, but I’m afraid they won’t be good enough for a game and I'll need to have them modified. As I understand, I need a set of articulated models (body parts), animations, 3d objects, and textures. If that is the case, what sorts of formats should I request? What formats/methods would make my life easy as a programmer? Can someone tell me what a common set of deliverables would be? I really don’t want to waste my money or my time. Ideally I would like to just plug the 3d artists work in and not have any problems loading all the resources and calling the animations.

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there just isn't a standard method in the game industry for using 3d art.

This is correct. Does this surprise you?

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X files are also just a pain in the ass to actually use.

The file format itself is pretty nice, and very extensible. Collada beats it in that department, although at the cost of becoming a tad overengineered for the typical functionality you'd want from it. Collada is also designed as in interchange format, whereas .X is intended to be directly consumable.

The fault you're finding is with the exporter tools, which is basically common to all such tools. Generally if you want it done right, or at least your way, you write it yourself. This is actually the 'standard' most often employed, since most games use proprietary formats.

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If that is the case, what sorts of formats should I request? What formats/methods would make my life easy as a programmer?

The format you know how to manipulate the most. If you're using .X files, I imagine you're using D3D, which means you have access to the D3DX loading and animation support libraries. They're pretty good; for anything else you're going to have to write your own handling code, so unless you have that code in place, I think you're better of sticking to .X and learning to overcome the problems you were having with it (which still seem tool-oriented, to me).

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Can someone tell me what a common set of deliverables would be?

No, there's no such thing. You define the art you need. If your game's protagonist is a spider, a typical rigged humanoid model isn't going to cut it.

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Ideally I would like to just plug the 3d artists work in and not have any problems loading all the resources and calling the animations.

We all would. This is actually a very hard problem to solve and generally requires good cohension between the art team, the programmers, and the tools team at a good studio, including a powerful well-tested asset pipeline and process. You're not going to get that (at least not initially) doing contract-based procurement of assets from some artist on the internet, unfortunately. You'll have to work on establishing that pipeline and supporting tools. These depend on your import requirements, which in turn depend on the support you already have, or are planning to have, in your code.

In short, it's context specific. If you want more details, you have to describe how you current process art assets in your code in more detail yourself, including the problems you have been having that led you to make the above post.

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ok... just sec... let me pull my hair out! :)

There must be something out there or some standard that most game devs have found success with.

Perhaps I should ask my question in another way.

What kinds of 3d objects do your 3d artists provide your development team? After that what do you do with those objects?

You must have a common set of deliverables. You must be expecting something usefull from your 3d artists? If not then WTF are they doing all day?

From what gather so far I need to ask the designers for

1. Body parts - (Head, right leg, chest) - one file for each
2. Articulated Mesh - (joints) - how each body part joins.
3. Animations - (how each body part movies for each frame)
4. Textures

All these should be the same for any character even it is a spider.



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It's advisable too that if you want to get art quickly, that you choose a format that is already widely in use, and already has lots of material already created in that format. That's a major reason the first handful of my 3d projects used the MD2 format [until my projects grew to be really restricted by the format]. Tons of models already exist, plenty of stuff out there to use, and it's such a widely used format that virtually everything supports the format well.

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There must be something out there or some standard that most game devs have found success with.

Nope. That's why we have XSI, 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Milkshape, Vue, Wings 3D, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera for tools. That's why we have .X, .DAE, .OBJ, .3DS, .IFS, .MDL, .MD2, .MD3, .MD5, .LWO, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera for file formats. That's why we have expensive middleware focusing on tools and asset pipeline development, that's why we have programmers dedicated to building tools and asset pipelines. There's no one way, there's no best way.

The only way that matters to you is the one that you address your needs.

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What kinds of 3d objects do your 3d artists provide your development team?

The ones you ask them to.

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You must be expecting something usefull from your 3d artists?

Yes.

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From what gather so far I need to ask the designers for
1. Body parts - (Head, right leg, chest) - one file for each
2. Articulated Mesh - (joints) - how each body part joins.
3. Animations - (how each body part movies for each frame)
4. Textures

Okay. Now you're actually getting something useful done. You've identified a set of data you think you need in order for you to process them usefully with your existing tools and technology. The next step is to decide on specific formats you'd like to use -- as the above poster said, it's best to use something common, and ideally you want to use something you already have as much loading infastructure for as possible so you aren't rewriting stuff all the time.

The next step you might want to take would be acquiring a sample of those data points and seeing how efficiently you get them into your game. Pay careful attention to the process and note the problem areas on both the artists side (did they provide a model with too many bones, too many influences per vertex, too few texture coordinate sets?) and on your side (does your importer not parse tangent vectors correctly?). Then figure out how you can address those problems.

There's no One True Way, just face it. The way you choose needs to be a compromise between your artists and yourself. If you're just working on your own, and doing contracting with artists, you have the luxury of not burning your artists time while you figure out the needs on your end. So take the time to evaluate your technology and determine what formats you want, how you want to parse them, how you want to associate other data with them, and then document it for yourself. And then tell your artist that when you hire him or her.

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