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