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Project Phoenix is a JRPG with a squad based RTS game design, brought to you by veteran developers and creators from the East and West.
Project Phoenix is a JRPG with a squad based RTS game design, brought to you by veteran developers and creators from the East and West.
15,802 backers pledged $1,014,600 to help bring this project to life.

A Word From Lead 3D Modeller Steffen Unger, An Upcoming Google Hangouts Session

Posted by CIA, Inc. (Creator)
59 likes

Steffen Unger on Building Models

Week in week out, Steffen Unger and his team of talented 3D modelers have been hard at work creating assets that will truly give Project Phoenix a well-polished shine.  As each day passes, we have more progress and more lessons learned.  Seeing as how much of the raison d'etre for Project Phoenix came about because the need to create said 3D models, we figured now would be a good time to let Steffen Unger speak to you in his own words about the modeling efforts for Project Phoenix thus far. 

So here's Steffen Unger:

When creating art assets, one thing we keep in mind is to stay focused on the budget, so we will not get bogged down in details, polish only one asset at a time, and thereby wasting valuable resources on one single asset.

Furthermore, as long as we stay with an unlit character, we can get away with a lot of technical tricks, but as soon as we add shading, it will result in a very messy looking model, no matter how cleanly we model it

Now, in general, you will need quite a lot polygons to create smooth shaded low-poly objects in games, or use normalmaps to correct the crooked shading of a lowpoly.  Although hand-editing the normal isn't out of the question because of its smaller memory footprint, it adds the possibility of human error, which will result in more handiwork as you fix possible bugs.  As a result, hand editing should be avoided as much as possible.

But we need smooth shading even if it is subtle due to the nature of the art direction. We will need nice rimlight effects or maybe a soft outline, metal shading, speculars, maybe even skin shading to create nice and lively characters, which look better than the average 3DS JRPG. The only way to achieve this is by using normalmaps. 

As attractive as that option is, the generation of normalmaps is very expensive in terms of man hours; you need someone to create a highpoly model and maybe even sculpt it. You will need someone to set up a baking scene to render those sculpted or handmodelled details down to the lowpoly character.  All this can result in errors, so it's a big time drain. No matter how much you automate it, in the end you will have to sculpt a highpoly model.

Obviously, we don't have the time or budget for this; we need a lightweight solution that creates highpoly models and normalmaps for us on the fly, so we can concentrate on polishing the diffuse textures and materials later on. As our work has progressed, we've came up with a way to generate these maps almost instantly.  All we need is one click to create the highpoly and another click to bake the information down to the lowpoly.This will allow us to do far more advanced shading than we thought before.  

Below, you'll find the results of our work and we'll talk more in depth about it at a later time.

Our Upcoming Google Hangouts

In line with keeping the communication lines as open as humanly possible, we'll be running a Google Hangouts session on Saturday, October 12 at 8pm PDT Pacific Time (-700 GMT), which will be at noon JST.  Once the Hangouts is up and running, we'll be posting a link here, so feel free to take the time to join us, and ask us whatever questions come to mind!

Because of the Google Hangout, we will not be running a dev diary next week.

Meanwhile, this week's dev diary with Koya Takahashi is still in progress and he's been busy, so stay tuned just a bit longer for his responses.  Thank you for your patience!

Comments

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    1. Gustavo Loureiro dos Reis on

      Steffen, thanks a lot for the thoroughly answer!
      It really means a lot for me to see such a dedication for a single question from a random backer, so thanks again!

    2. Steffen Unger on

      Hey Gustavo,

      the polycount for the highpoly is pretty irelevant, as it is exclusively used to grab detail from and put those detail into the textures of the lowpoly. The lowpolies will be somewhat round so they can hold up in character selection screens or maybe even artworks without much work needed to be put into them.
      So the lowpolies for the PS4/PC version will most likely be around 4-8k triangles dependent on the characters complexity.
      though with the introduction of normalmaps to the workflow we might be able to cut our a lot of polygons and still have nice and smooth shading.

    3. Gustavo Loureiro dos Reis on

      Hey, aweeesome post!
      However, I have a question: when you talk about the lowpoly and highpoly models , just around how many polygons are you talking about (for both of them)? Forgive me if it's some kinda of a dumb question, I don't know much about the subject x:

    4. Vince Vazquez
      Superbacker
      on

      Super awesome talk Steffen! I myself have worked on projects that run into the exact same problems you described when changes to the engine were made, so I enjoy hearing about how you & your team are getting around it :) It's helpful, and is getting me even more hyped to see more of this game! Thanks for the update!

    5. Daniel Iron Skill Gonzalez on

      @Steffen: i have no idea what you're talking about lol with that being said, Its great that you're always aware of budget restrictions and you seem more than capable of making the best of it. You're level of commitment to this project is evident. Can't wait to see more

    6. Trypetide on

      Keep the good work Steffen, and come to Irc sometimes when you can ;)

    7. Steffen Unger on

      William:
      I'm glad you like the results. We will elaborate more in a later post. But the pipeline is far from done, we have one small part of the workflow figured out, there is plenty of more we need to think about. But yes the highpoly is done with one click/shortcut right now, without the macro it would need... uhm... 9 clicks
      I will prepare a bit of that workflow later once it is sure how we proceed. Tons of testing to be done.

    8. Xero_Omega1 on

      Looking good! :D Im glad I backed this project. :D

    9. William C Crawford on

      It's too bad you can't go into more detail about your exact process because I feel it could revolutionize Indie art pipelines. The images above are simply stunning if you managed them with just a couple clicks after you modeled the lowpoly.

    10. Steffen Unger on

      Min'rocheem Lungelow:

      I don't know how far into detail i could go with my explanations...

      the approach for the creation of normalmapped assets that became pretty much the indutry standard is:

      To create a highpoly, this could be made of a few steps like. blockout model, sculpting the details, or using techniques like dynamesh to create the highpoly from virtual clay.

      Once that highpoly is done, you will need to create a lowpoly from it.

      Once that is done you need to set up a baking workflow, either by using raydistance to capture the detail from the highpoly or using something called a cage, you need to handedit that cage to avoid overlaps and get the best results out of it.

      then you bake the detail down to your lowpoly and the result will be plenty of maps, including normalmaps.

      All these steps eat time for breakfast, we developed our own tools to speed this up in the past, some of them are public others are not, but you an only go so far. It will need a different approach for project phoenix, we just don't have the luxury of puting days, to weeks into individual characters (story characters are a whole different story, but if we have a solid base they can profit from that as well).
      So our aproach right now is to prepare the lowpoly in a way in generates a nice and clean enough highpoly as well and transfer these details from the UV position of the lowpoly. This means we will not have to fiddle with ray distances or handmade cage models.
      So overall it will speed up our workflow a lot and create nice enough shading for the assets.
      Not as detailled as we would do for plenty of other production, but as said this project is indie, the budget is limited, we better spend it wisely.

      cheers

      Steffen

    11. Steffen Unger on

      thanks for the replies guys and girls. Sorry that we can't update you with a lot of nice and shiney polished art yet. I want a solid workflow to be the base of this project, so we do not get lost in single asset creation too much. So yeah finding out these workflows is what most of the time now flows in.

    12. DamnCatOnMyDesk
      Superbacker
      on

      Very interesting. I would definitely like to hear more technical details in the future. ;)

    13. Micky on

      loving the updates guys!

    14. Andrew Matthews on

      Excellent Update, If you guys could have more development based updates (I'm a game programmer myself) that would be excellent :)

    15. Min'rocheem Lungelow on

      That looks incredible! how does this method differ from the slower one, though?

    16. Raül Meroño Pericas on

      Sounds great, again. I'm looking forward to seeing more stuff like these. You guys are awesome!!

    17. Michaël Wilkey on

      Lowpoly Normalmaps is pretty solid! Keep up the good work!