“Making Of” - Part 2
Hey, all. This is Eric - back with the second of three behind-the-scenes posts about the development of the Obduction teaser trailer. This one will focus on model creation. It’s very unlikely that anything that follows is a real spoiler for the game.... but just in case you absolutely don’t want to hear about how the sausage of video game artwork gets made:
(SPOILER ALERT: We’re going to reveal some things. If you don’t want to know anything - STOP HERE!)
Everyone happy now? Ok, cool.
So... this might come across as remedial for anyone who is familiar with how most modern game development happens... but for a lot of our backers who may not be regular gamers (especially today’s realtime 3D games), some of this might be of interest.
The first step of creating 3D assets for in-game use (aside from the visual design) is usually the modelling. In the case of the Seed-pod exterior, it was modelled in ZBrush, a type of digital-sculpting software made for creating very highly-detailed, organic objects. This technique is very much like sculpting with clay, except the clay is all fake and doesn’t smell like musty feet.
The original Seed design had a lot of flexibility in the exterior surface appearance, so I tried to incorporate different references of real-world seeds and seedpods - including acorns and pinecones - and also some more earthen rock and crystal influences, hopefully ending up with a shape that was both organic and somewhat familiar - but also unique and alien. Here are some views of the finished, high-resolution sculpt (which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-million triangles):
That’s just the start of the process for a realtime 3D game asset, though; and the methods are quite different from the “old days” of Myst and Riven where you could use a whole bunch of geometry to create a detailed object (or a whole scene of objects), hit the render button, and wait hours or even days for a finished image to appear. Modern realtime game engines need to do that entire sequence upwards of 60 times every second... and the only way that’s possible is with some good, old-fashioned smoke and mirrors. Specifically, most 3D game artwork is “dumbed down” to a manageable complexity so the game engine can load it and process it very quickly and easily... then the perceived detail and clarity is re-introduced using a series of shading tricks. Without going into the (suuuuper booooring) details, I’ll just say that the final “game mesh” for the Seed-pod is just a few thousand triangles of geometry, and the surface detail is all added with textures.
Here’s a graphic comparing the untextured, “low rez” mesh (on the left) with the normal-mapped, in-game mesh (on the right).
All right... that’s enough boring, pre-production nonsense for now... I’m putting myself to sleep over here. In the next segment, we’ll be talking a little bit about the Unreal 4 engine, and how awesome it is.
Now for some Real Talk. As if it’s not abundantly clear (it certainly is to us!)... you guys are doing a massive, stellar, awe-inspiring job of getting the word out about Obduction. I just want to take a minute to share something that was posted on the (very active) comments page this week by backer NomadMolly:
How cool is that? Keep kicking butt, y’all. Ryan has asked me to remind everyone that we only have four days left! So help us by continuing to get the word out!!! We’re in the home stretch.
‘Til next time,
“Stars are beautiful, but they must not take an active part in anything, they must just look on forever. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was.”
-J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan