In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hi there, my name is Eric Maki. I am an artist that has been working in the game industry for quite a few years now. Usually I focus on characters but at positions like my current one at Gree, I get to wear a great variety of hats and work on environment assets, vehicles, buildings and characters.
These guys were done for the Polycount Riot Art Contest. One advantage of working on a contest asset like this is you have a very hard deadline so you have to budget your time really well. I budgeted one week for the concept, two weeks to sculpt the high poly models since they were optional, three weeks for low poly models, UVs and textures, one week for rigging and finally one week for posing, rendering and putting together all my final images.
So first up was picking a character and coming up with a concept. I really like Annie and Tibbers and thought some of the existing alternate skins were pretty fun so the character design lent itself to some fun themes. I liked Winnie the Pooh a lot as a kid and thought something along those lines would be interesting. I started out with a rough concept of what I wanted to do. In the end I ended up changing the proportions of things but used this concept as a starting point.
Next up came the high poly modeling. I did all of this directly in Zbrush with the exception of the zipper and backpack straps which I modeled in Modo. So to start out, I created the character “skeletons” using zspheres. I like doing this as it’s a very quick way to start playing around with proportions as well as scale between the two characters. This is similar to creating an armature in traditional sculpture. Once I got the zsphere “skeleton” roughed out I generated an adaptive mesh from the zspheres at a low resolution.
From there I broke up the resulting mesh into multiple parts that make sense to sculpt separately. These low resolution pieces I then convert to dynamesh models that I can start sculpting on without worrying about any sort of design limitations. As additional pieces are needed for things like the hair, I use the exact same process but use fewer zspheres.
Once I’m pretty happy with the basic forms I duplicated the dynamesh subtools and use zremesher to create better topology to finish sculpting on and project the dynamesh detail onto the new clean mesh. The LoL art style is pretty clean looking without a lot of high frequency noise since the characters have to read well from a distance and from overhead. I didn’t go too crazy with detail. Once all that was done, I have a high poly model that looks something like this.
At this point, I brought the high poly assets into Modo to create low poly game friendly meshes. I read that in general, League of Legends characters fall in at around 12,000 triangles so that was my total goal for both Annie and Tibbers combined. I used the topology tools in Modo for this task but any decent 3D package has tools that allow you to make your low poly assets.
Once this is done comes the wonderful task of unwrapping. This is not my favorite thing to do but it’s worth taking your time to work out distortion as well as pack UVs as efficiently as you can. I decided pretty early on to make these characters symmetrical so that I could mirror their textures to maximize the resolution across two characters. I used Modo for the UV process but again, you can use your favorite software.
Next up comes baking the high poly model to the low poly texture space. I used Modo for this step, and of course you can use any tool you like. I used a global AO, AO and the green channel from a normal map to get as much detail as I could from the high poly model to serve as a base for my texture. I also generated a cavity map from the normal map to help pop out edges and details.The final goal was a 100% diffuse only material with no normal map or shading so all that information has to be done in the diffuse map.
Next I added some gradient maps in Photoshop to get a base color to paint over. So in painting the textures, I focused on getting any shading and material looks I wanted painted directly into the diffuse texture. I made some final color adjustments and fixed some texture seams in Mari.
Once textures were done I moved on to rigging the characters. I wasn’t able to finish all the controls for the characters but I at least got controls done for the lower bodies which helped a lot in posing the characters. The rest of the posing I just did by rotating joints.
For the sketchfab version of the pose, I tweaked some geometry once it was in pose to give it some final polish and make it look good from any angle. I was happy to find that getting the assets into Sketchfab was the easiest part of the process. I really like that it’s a one click function from your 3D software and you are then setting up your final presentation right on the Sketchfab site. It’s been really great to be able to show people the final project in 3D from anywhere!