Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Deep in Development

Hey Everyone!

So over the past month we've realized that keeping up the blog and updates while developing isn't as easy as you might think.

Our workflow and overall pipeline has seemed to run smoother each week we've worked, so we decided to show you some of the fruits of our labor (well, at least the visual fruits).

John here to talk about the art pipeline.

Firstly, let's get this out of the way, we are all pretty new at this. None of us have had any specific video game art education, so going into full time development has forced us all to learn content creation on the fly. As a result, over the past year we have gone through many different workflows and methods of creating assets.

The first step, as I've preached many times before, is research. Sometimes it's great to come up with your own methods of working, but without guidance from the tried in true, you are in for a long development process. Sites like polycount and the UDK forums provide a ton of knowledge and insight into whatever it is you want to achieve, provided you spend enough time there.

The pipeline:
We use Zbrush on a remarkable number of our assets. For our characters and other heavily sculpted meshes, it is nearly a one stop shop for us. Koriel, with her background in traditional clay sculpting, has become our resident Zbrusher - if the mesh has sculpted details, Kori has probably had her hands on it.

This monkey started out as z-spheres and was converted to a few hundred polys. He is then subdivided and low detail sculpting is applied. High detail sculpting is done last. Our high detail sculpt does not need an incredible amount of detail as the material we apply in UDK provides noise and detail normals.

Once the sculpt is complete, high poly and medium poly meshes are exported. Sometimes the UV map plugin in Zbrush gives an adequate mapping, but often we have to manually unwrap the mesh. Once unwrapped, the mesh gets sent to MeshLab for optimization. The number of triangles depends on the mesh; the tablet above is 610 tris, for example. The high poly and the low poly both get sent to xNormal for their final bake. We bake out a normal and AO map for each sculpted mesh. The low poly is cleaned up and finally converted to FBX for import into UDK.

Both maps make their way into Photoshop to create the diffuse for the mesh. We use NDO2 to convert the normal map into a base for our diffuse. Depending on the mesh, we overlay photo-sourced textures and hand painted elements on top of the base diffuse as well as the AO. The normal generally gets cleaned up and softened to avoid any noise. The finished texture maps are converted to TGA and are imported into UDK.

This workflow provides a unified look to our assets and makes it easy to keep track of the progress of any mesh. Check out this sneak peak of some of the models in and out of the rainforest:



Totem Pole:

Bird Head and Floor:

That's all for now! Thanks for checking in and have a great rest of your week :)