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Need advice on 3d-modeling

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Hi smile.png I need some expert advice on 3d-modeling.

 

I'm a lone game dev, aspiring to do this professionally. I do game design, programming, and 2d art. I don't do sound/music. Up until now I've mostly used free 3d models for my 3d projects. I'm developing using Unity.

 

  1. How much work does it take to create 3d-models? Depends on the level of detail I guess, so here is an example of the detail I'm thinking of. Workload is also relative. What I'm afraid of is that I'll spend 50% of the time on designing the game and implementing the game logic, and the rest of the time creating 3d-models... That would be totally unacceptable. Efficient development is very important to me, and "wasting" too much time creating 3d-models that a professional modeler could do much better in 1/5 the time would not be good.
  2. How steep is the learning curve? How much work does it take to get to a "decent" level of proficiency using Blender? I'm not totally "art-illiterate" -- I have at least a past-beginner artistic eye.

 

My impression right now is that 3d-modeling is time-consuming work, requires years to reach decent proficiency, is best left to modeling specialists, and that I'm better off buying finished assets. However, if that's not the case, I'm definitely eager to learn.

 

You don't need to be an expert modeler to share -- if you've got any kind of experience in modeling I'd be glad to hear :-) I hope you can share some insights. Thanks!

Edited by HatakeK

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Thanks Gian-Reto for the incredibly thorough and helpful response! biggrin.png My idea of what makes up a finished 3d model was vague, but you explained it very nicely. You also made my decision very easy -- that is, to not get into modeling right now. While I have great respect for 3d modellers, what I want to be doing is designing games and be able to implement them as efficiently as possible. We're doing 3d modeling with 3DS Max in school next fall, so I think I'll wait until then to give it a go. The list of tools for the different jobs will give me a head start :) Thanks again!

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Thanks Gian-Reto for the incredibly thorough and helpful response! biggrin.png My idea of what makes up a finished 3d model was vague, but you explained it very nicely. You also made my decision very easy -- that is, to not get into modeling right now. While I have great respect for 3d modellers, what I want to be doing is designing games and be able to implement them as efficiently as possible. We're doing 3d modeling with 3DS Max in school next fall, so I think I'll wait until then to give it a go. The list of tools for the different jobs will give me a head start smile.png Thanks again!

 

Well, see, if you are looking for a possibilty to start dabbling in 3D Modelling, just start with some simple projects.

 

You know, a barrel, a chair, a table. Make sure you understand the basics, hand paint some simple textures, leave away normal maps for now. You will have a nice looking scene in no time. It won't be AAA, but it will be all your work. And actually even simple 3D Objects can look good.

 

 

If you are looking for a general run-down of topics, I will try to list them for you:

 

  • Boxmodelling: basic polygon modelling. You create models by starting with a simple polygon object (cube, pyramid, whateva), and model an actual object out of it by extrusion, vertex translations, and so on. Good for Hardsurface models and simple Cartoon style models, needed as base for most sculpting tools.
  • Sculpting: This is the step where you take your base model, and add high frequency details to it. Think adding skin pores and wrinkels to a face, wood structure to a table, and so on. The toolset is usually geared towards organic sculpting, and its often used also to refine the basic shape defined in the boxmodelling step. Some tools might give you options to ommit the boxmodelling step and start with the sculpting tools (VoxModelling in 3D Coat, ZSpheres in ZBrush).
  • Retopology: This is the step where you take your sculpted highpoly model (which might consist of millions of polygons now), and create a lowpoly mesh (usually some 100s to 100'000s of polygons) for it, OR map your highpoly model back to your base model. The Workflow will depend a lot on the tool used, 3D Coat for example give you automatic options (altough they are more geared towards non-game applications). The process of mapping the highpoly to the lowpoly model and extracting a normal map out of it is called "baking"
  • UV Mapping: Can be part of the retopology process, still important enough to deserve a special mentioning. Here you unwrap your lowpoly model to a 2D Space, you create the "UV Coordinates" which will later be used by all other tools and engines to decide where to map the pixels in your 2D Texture unto your 3D Model. This sounds simple, but its an art unto itself. Too many "seams" (parts where the 3D shell is cut apart to fit unto 2D UV Space) and they become obvious and ugly looking, to little seams and your 3D models Texture will look distorted as textures get stretched and squashed to fit the 3D topology into 2D space. 
  • Creating Textures: Nowadays there is a multitude of texture maps used. The usual ones used by many of the common legacy shaders are:
    • Diffuse (Color Texture, basically the colors used by the shader to render your model)
    • Normal (the bump map, used by the lighting engine to fake high frequency details not captured by your low poly mesh)
    • Gloss (only needed for shaders using a specular lighting model, this map is defining the strength of specular highlight at the given pixel
  • Depending on the shader an engine, more maps might be used. some of them are used just for creation of other maps (for example, the baked AO values often get put into the diffuse color map), or for special texturing tools (DDO uses a curvature map for defining where to put scratches on your objects textures for example).
  • Some time ago, Physically based shading became the big thing for next gen shaders. This lighting model uses some additional maps for the specular highlights, and also now cubemaps for environmental reflections seem to become standart were reflective shaders were not that common before.
  • There are many, many ways to create textures. Some artists prefer to paint them in PS in UV Space still (2D Space, basically the flat unwrapped model), while other like to use the many tools that support painting the 3D Model directly now. there are tools and ways to generate the textures for you as explained above.
  • LOD Creation: This is a step where you either redo the earlier steps to get lower resolutions versions of your model, or use a tool to reduce the polycount. There are many options for this nowadays, so you don't necessarily need to redo everything from scratch. Also, your game might not need LODs at all, its important for Openworld games with large viewdistances, but might not be that important to games with smaller performance footprints.
  • Rigging: Only needed for skinned meshes (meshes that should deform during animations, organic creatures). During this process the mesh gets a "skeleton" of bones assigned that can later on be used to deform the mesh during animation. All the mesh polygons are mapped to this bones by "weigh painting", which will tell the 3D Package which polygon should deform to what extend if a particular bone is moved. Also, some special helpers are added, for example for Inverse Kinematics (which helps for example planting a foot on a collider (the ground for example)
  • Animation: here, the rig created before is put into motion. There are multiple ways of animation, and frankly, I am no that expierienced with it yet. Suffice to say you can either do it "manually" by moving your rig in your 3D Package and defining animation keyframes and morph targets this way, or you can record an animation from a live actor by using Motion Capturing (which has come down in price significantly thanks to some low cost alternatives in the last few years).
Edited by Gian-Reto

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If you are looking for a general run-down of topics, I will try to list them for you:

 

Again, incredibly helpful! Not only for me but for any modeling noob. This is definitely worth a sticky! Maybe I'll download Blender after all and try out some simple things when I have some spare time

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What I forgot in my post yesterday:

 

  • NURBS Modelling: This is a special case of Boxmodelling and something tools like Blender or 3DS Max borrowed from CAD Programs. Here you basically work with curves and lines to define the rough shape of a model, and then use some functions to create a shell out of it. Another set of tools let you create a polygon mesh from this, which you then can use as base for boxmodelling or sculpting.
  • Hugely useful for hardsurface modelling, creating the aerodynamic outer appearance of a modern car is very hard to do without NUBS... another case is creating a Ships body.
  • All the full 3D Packages will give you some kind of NURBS tools, but there are specialized tools like MoI that make NURBS modelling easier.

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Gian-Reto

 

Great feedback and I agree with you 100%. I have been Modeling/Texttures/SoftwareDev and in VFX for 15+ years and was a creator of Mudbox you mentioned. Modeling is a deep field for sure. Now days there are a lot of tutorials on Youtube but Im sure for beginners its difficult to understand where to start.

 

Hatake don't forget there are sites to help you get free models or models you can add to your game. Check out indiedungeon.com as they are new and have some cool stuff.I hear they will have more free stuff soon as well.

 

Hatake Im curious what confused you most about the work involved with starting in 3d? Or you just did not know where to begin? The reason I ask is because Im putting together a bunch of free tutorials showing process from idea to complete game so was curious of your perspective.

 

D

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@skykastle

 

From-idea-to-complete-game tutorials are awesome, there are too few of those! :-)

 

From studying some of the other fields of game development, I've picked up as mentioned the notion that 3d modeling is a very complex subject and is time-consuming work. Other than watching a few short Blender tutorials (to get an idea of what 'these modellers' are actually doing! I really knew nothing at all about workflow), I've done nothing to improve my knowledge or skill in the subject.

 

Because of my preconceived notions and lack of knowledge in the subject, it seemed a bit daunting. I knew there was a lot to learn, but I didn't know what I needed to learn. So after reading Gian-Retos replies and doing some more reading, the subject borders are more defined -- I have a better overview of the subject. Being told by someone with experience that "this is the extent of the subject, these are the main concepts" is very helpful because it saves me hours of research, fumbling in the dark and doubting that what I'm currently learning/working on is useful.

 


Or you just did not know where to begin?

 

When I do get the time, I'm still not sure where to begin. After downloading Blender I'll probably spend some time googling beginner tutorials, picking out some that I like and then dive into it.

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When I do get the time, I'm still not sure where to begin. After downloading Blender I'll probably spend some time googling beginner tutorials, picking out some that I like and then dive into it.

 

Good idea. While its a vast topic and to create a realistic high poly mesh that can be rigged and animated can be a very long laborious process, the basic operations are as simple as they can be:

 

Create a simple geometrical object, and move around vertex points (the corners of the polygons) or polygons/faces (the whole polygon with all its vertices). With this knowlege alone you can start to create very simple shapes. Add in functions to split/cut/subdivide polygons, rotate/scale Polygons, and the ability to group multiple meshes, and you have all you need to create a lot of shapes. The only limit now is your imagination (And your patience / time smile.png )

 

I am pretty sure a good beginners tutorial will show you these commands and how to use them.

 

From there on its just expierience, and picking up new stuff from time to time, always tackling bigger and bigger projects, and soon you will be a pretty decent 3D Modeller.

 

 

Be aware that Blender has a very unintuitive and weird User Interface. Almost everything can be done with key shortcuts, not all of it is reflected in the drop down menus (some stuff is in the context menu, but its all quite hard to find).

There are many pages on the web devoted to listing the blender commands. Bookmark at least one good reference page for the blender interface, and maybe keep it open while you start with blender. You will need the reference very often.

 

Also be aware that the key shortcuts have changed quite a lot over the last few releases of Blender, so make sure you get a reference for the newest version (or whatever version you use).

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Hi. I do both. I'm not sure what lvl I'm at but I enjoy it.

How I started was with 3ds max and its help files I first did the still life and from there just started doing more and more stuff copy other objects then start your own from scratch. I can put out some mesh objects in about 20 to 30 hours there not that good but its a hobby game.

 

It also helped with 3d programming heeps more then you would think.

 

heres some I have done there ok to me. What you Can Do.

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to answer your question on how much time and work does it take to make such character that you linked. it really depends on the person's skill and how quick he is, my estimation would be it would take around 6-10 days, maybe even more. again it depends on the person and how good he is.

 

characters are much more difficult because you have to know anatomy well to be able to produce a realistic character.

 

i've noticed with artists that on average it takes them between 3 to 5 years to reach professional looking models. (i'm talking purely about characters here)

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