A little bit about me
Hello everyone! My name is Igor. It may sound silly, but when I received the invitation to talk a little about my latest project at Art Spotlight, it was like winning the lottery! A big surprise and a tremendous joy! The smile has not left my face yet. 😀
My career as a 3D artist and independent game developer started about 3 years ago, when I decided to leave web design aside and move on to what I really love to do: creating these alternative realities full of fantasy and giving life to the characters that are part of these worlds.
Yes, changing to a new profession was a laborious task. It took a lot of learning and research to get here. But thanks to the great amount of info on 3D modeling and game development available on the internet, I managed to get the hang of it and today I’m happy to have a game released on Steam, called Zap Zone (on the picture above), and a new project on the way. No doubt there is still much to learn, but it is great to see that with effort and dedication, dreams can come true.
I’ve always loved cartoons and games. And that’s where comes a lot of my inspiration. So my art often looks similar to cartoon or anime. And it all made sense when I was asked to develop a 3D look for Ubie and his wonderful world.
It all started when my friend Andrew Augustin asked me if I could create a 3D visual for his character Ubie, the protagonist of two 2D games developed by him (more info on this link). That was great! I loved Andrew’s art style right from the start and noticed that I could create something really cool from there.
My plan was to try to keep as much of the cartoon visual present in Ubie’s games as to bring the perfect mood to a beautiful scene that would make people very excited about the idea of a possible future 3D game.
Step 1: Sketching
I took a look at the screenshots of “Super Ubie Island” and the fallen UFO scene caught my eye. From there came the idea of creating a mysterious environment focused on the forced landing of Ubie. Something that reminded me a little of the beginning of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” movie. The whole thing began to take shape in my mind, but a quick draft always helps in the initial planning.
Step 2: Modeling Ubie
Using 3DS Max, I decided to model Ubie first and create the rest from it, so that it could have a better scaling reference. As this character’s design is quite simple, the modeling process was easy. He was born practically from a box with legs.
The UV mapping was done so as to leave the mesh ready so I could paint it by hand later. No rigging was necessary. A small adjustment in the hands’ and feet’s vertices position was enough to create the ideal pose.
Step 3: Bushes and Leaves
To capture the round, fluffy look of the game’s little bushes, the process was as follows: I created a cube with few subdivisions. Then I used the “Spherify” modifier to make them rounder. And then the “Melt” modifier to flatten them a little on the ground.
I gathered three objects of this type to form a single shrub. But the charm comes from the small leaves and fruits around. The fruits are very simple. Like Ubie’s own hands, I used Spherify one more time to round some small cubes. To create the leaf, I moved the vertices until I got the silhouette I wanted. So I replicated this leaf and manually placed them over the bush’s mesh. That completed the object’s cartoon look.
Step 4: Trees
The most complex part of modeling the trees was the top. Doing the trunk was simple. A cylinder did the job well. But the top needed to follow the same style as the bushes, like they were hand-drawn. I used a cube as a base and extruded all the sides except for the bottom. This gave me the initial format. Then each part received subdivisions so that it was possible to make everything rounder by smoothing the angles. At the bottom, I created a “skirt” to simulate the leaves at the edge. The final touch was given with the leaves I brought from the bushes and spread over the mesh.
Step 5: UFO, Clouds and Moon
The clouds are basically formed by three horizontal cylinders that were smoothed at the edges. The moon is just a plane with an applied texture. As for the UFO, I did as follows: I created a flat cylinder and adjusted the vertices of the width to provide the disk format. At the top, I chamfered a few vertices to make room for the yellow lights that complete the structure and “dug” the area where the pilot’s seat would be placed.
A few more cylinders were used to create the glass dome and the ship’s headlights. The dome was modeled as a whole. Subsequently, I cut out the area that would have been destroyed by the fall, giving it the final look. Internal details have been added.
Step 6: Mountains, Main Ground and Sky
I did not want the scene to be restricted to some models in the center of a great void. So I tried to enrich the environment with some mountain-like trees in the background. They were also created from a cylinder shaped like a funnel. There are three layers positioned one above the other. They had their lower edges cut out to create a foliage shape, similar to what I did with the “skirts” of the trees.
The sky is formed by a large sphere that surrounds the whole scene. It received a texture that comes down to a gradient and some dots representing stars. This same gradient is responsible for the fog effect that I will comment on below. Then I flipped the normals and selected the “Backface cull” option in the object’s properties so that only the inner faces were visible. For the main ground where most of the elements are positioned, a simple cylinder did the job. In it, all the details come from the texture.
Step 7: Texturing and Effects
Using Photoshop, all textures were hand painted on the UVs generated from the 3DS Max. When mirroring was possible, it was used. And as a way to keep the .PSD file organized, I followed the example of other artists who also often create folders to group the layers. Everything then gets more organized and adjustments can be made much faster when needed.
So that it did not appear that terrain and mountains were simply floating on the void, I decided to create a fog effect to give the impression that the environment extended beyond visible objects. It also helped to complement the mysterious and nocturnal mood of the scene. That’s how the sky dome’s gradient plus an opacity map in the materials created the illusion of a fog that permeates everything on the horizon.
One thing I had been aiming for from the beginning was to maintain Andrew’s art style in the 3D model. I wanted to preserve that pencil outline which surrounds the character and the elements of the scene. To achieve that I used a technique that was very well explained by Justin T Philips on this tutorial from Sketchfab’s blog. The result is this beautiful effect that further enhances the design’s cartoon look.
Setting up the Scene on Sketchfab
And finally it’s time to upload everything. I sent the scene as a single .FBX file. Then I added the textures and made the necessary adjustment so that the fog effect would appear exactly as planned in 3DS Max. Sketchfab is quite complete in this sense and offers good tuning options. I also made some color adjustments, making everything more alive and attractive. In the end, I got exactly what I wanted: a 3D environment where the user could navigate and feel really immersed in. Try it on full screen view mode! What a sight!
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I’m really grateful to Sketchfab’s staff for the opportunity to share details about my work and creative process. That was awesome! And if you like what you see, I invite you to join me on the web. I really love to share ideas and make new friends. How about taking some time to check out my Patreon? There you’ll find a lot of cool stuff like downloadable 3D models and info about future projects. I’m looking forward to your visit! 😀
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