Creating graphics for games can be quite technical at times. A game artist needs to keep in mind that there’s a finite amount of memory available for graphics in the game. In essense the less an individual art asset takes memory, the more of them you can have which results in visual diversity. Basically that means more varied wallsets, monsters, items etc.

Textures are real graphics memory hogs. That’s why in game art we use all kinds of tricks to keep texture count and sizes low. In this post I’m going to be talking about a method of using the same pieces over and over again to create multiple different assets without any new textures. Sometimes this is called kitbashing.

Exhibit number uno: Wooden supports for the mine environment


(click on the pictures to enlarge them)

I was tasked to create a wooden support structure for our mine wallset. The environment required multiple kinds of configurations ranging from a fence like wall piece with support pillars and beams to a bridge piece for connecting over chasms.

It wouldn’t have made much sense making every asset unique, meaning that every asset has it’s own set of textures, since that would have taken a lot of memory. The assets needed had also pretty big surface areas which means that to keep texel resolution (size of texture pixels in the 3d world) consistent, the textures would’ve had to be big. In grimrock we’ve aimed to keep our texel resolution 1024×1024 pixels per 3x3meters. (our grid size)

So with these limitations in mind I set out to design the assets needed. First we made a simple sketch of what the assets and the environment might look like with Antti. Antti described requirements from a gameplay standpoint and dished out some environment artist wisdom from his Alan Wake days. I also looked at some reference pictures of how supports like these are usually built.

Next step was trying to figure out what kind of pieces I’d need to create them in 3D.

I tried to keep the number of pieces to a minimum, and to figure out how to accomplish that I used a technique we call whiteboxing. It’s essentially just another type of a sketch, but in 3D and placed in game. Using this technique has the advantage of seeing very early on how the asset might appear in game and what kind of dimensions it occupies. Later after the high detail modeling is done, it’s usually difficult to make changes if problems like intersecting with other objects in the environment arise. For example, some of our bigger monsters might intersect through the asset while prowling through the caverns of our mines if the assets are not carefully measured. This technique also helps with making sure the pieces have correct proportions. It’s easy to make planks, nail heads, etc. too big so that they appear cartoonish in game compared to the surrounding environment.

My solution to making multiple mine assets from a single set of textures (diffuse, specular and a normalmap) was to make a collection of different sized planks, beams and some metallic binders I’d use to attach the wooden pieces together. It’s probably what you’d get from a trip to the hardware store in the grimrock world! To create the textured assets I took the whiteboxed pieces to zbrush and sculpted them into what I needed and then created game resolution meshes and textures from the sculpts.

After that it was just a matter of assembling the pieces into what I needed.

When I was finished with assembling the assets we could let Antti off the leash and create our exciting environments!

The added benefit of this techique is that these pieces can then be used elsewhere also!
… and in the case of this collection of hardware store material, everywhere. :)

Aaaand that’s it. I hope this was an interesting read and if you have questions just post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
- Jyri

 

It’s time to shed some light behind the dusty curtains that cover the massive art department of Almost Human and take a look at some behind the scenes action. A lot of new shady creatures have been creeping around the studio walls and this time we’ll try to catch one of them. Be very, very quiet, we’re hunting Zarchtons. Zarchtons are one of the first monsters you’ll come across in the beaches of the Island. At first you’ll hear their croaking calls and before you know what hit, you realize you’ve been ambushed.

Zarchtons are amphibious creatures that are as home on dry land as in water, but they never leave too far from water, because they are dependent of water and need to dampen their skin from time to time. That’s why Zarchtons are usually seen around water, but that doesn’t limit to natural water sources. Overflown dungeons are also perfect environment for them too…

The origin of Zarchtons is highly debated topic in the Natural Science Department of the Nothampton’s University. Some say Zarchtons have evolved from fishes and some say they we’re originally land creatures that have moved to live partially in water. Sometimes Zarchtons are seen far in the open sea and they are often mistaken for mermaids. Being amphibious creatures, Zarchtons have both lungs and gills, so they can breath air and in water. Zarchtons have primitive culture system and they make use of resources from the sea to create clothing and accessories from shellfishes and other small creatures they hunt. Swimming in water and walking on land have developed Zarchtons’ leg muscles to enable them to take long leaps to help them hunt their prey and attack anyone coming to their territory…

What goes to actual development of the Zarchtons, the process was pretty standard stuff. We thought of some features and characteristics we needed in a monster and based on that data I started roughing it out. And this is what I ended up:

 
Then it was off to Zbrush to create the high resolution model using Zspheres as a base and just dynameshing the living crap out of it.

 
After the high resolution model was done, it was decimated a bit and exported to 3dCoat, we’re I retopoed and unwrapped it ending to around 6200 polygons. High resolution data was baked into normal map and rest of the textures were painted in Photoshop.

 
And finally, here’s a final posed model for Zarchton. I bet you’ll end up peeking under his skirt.

 

Let’s talk a bit about designing and concepting our tunnels. Before we had fully planned our little project I started thinking what it would look like. At that point I only knew that we were going to do some darkish fantasy dungeon crawling game. All the options were still hanging in the air. Was it going to be some kind of open world game or tunnel runner? Is it in 3rd person or 1st person? What about the movement? Does player play single character or a group?

I tried not to think too much of the open questions or restrictions and just decided to let loose. It’s kind of hard because in back of my head I know that whatever I draw or paint I have to translate into 3d in some point. So every time I’m painting awesome giant statues pouring magma over some ice sculptures of little kittens in dense forest, the 3d artist inside me is crying big sad tears. Anyways, I started to concentrate on the mood, feeling, colors and scale of the dungeons, not trying to think too much what kind of gameplay the concepts would depict. Obviously the images doesn’t resemble the current game that much, but they helped a lot of finding out what would work and what was cool and what was total shite. With these images our team got a grasp of the feeling and style of the dungeons and we started to “talk the same visual language” which is really important in every game project.

Enough with this typing. I think I’ll go back to Zbrush sculpting our new cool monster. Maybe I’ll do another post of it someday ;) nudge nudge wink wink. Go on and check out bigger images by clicking the pics.

Bam! Behold. Images.
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