Game Studio Spotlight: 3lb Games

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Hello! I’m Cordelia Wolf, Lead 3D Artist and Designer for 3lb Games. We are a small studio, with a core group of five people: a programmer, a musician, an artist, a narrative designer, and a graphic designer. Because we have such a small core team, we’ve had to branch out and discover different roles in game creation. We can’t afford to specialize exclusively on a particular discipline, and we find people to help us out when we need manpower or specific expertise. We’re passionate about creating games and we enjoy working together on them – we learn from each other and improve each other’s work with honest evaluation and careful critique.

Space Dragon began as a quick weekend project, originally intended to test our newly created VR movement system. The dragons the player uses were the first pieces created for the game, and they have been the unchanging centerpiece through all the game’s iterations. The movement system we designed allows players to fly freely in space, with none of the discomfort that’s so common to free-locomotion VR movement systems.

As we played our prototype (which began as a fairly simple tube shooter), we realized we’d love to use these dragons to fly around solar systems and blow things up. From there, our scope expanded, adding full levels and boss fights. The original tube shooter still remains in the game, acting as a warp stage between levels. We plan to update the visuals still further, and are in the process of adding more levels and more content.

Our Process

The Mecha Dragon was created to be the final boss of the game. Originally conceived as a mechanical dragon, we updated the gameworld’s lore and made the armor a cage for a full-sized space dragon.

The inspiration for the piece came from a variety of places. The dragons are inspired by dragons, and so we drew from the same sources to create the larger dragon’s armor. The Cyber Dragon by Infernal-Feline (left) provided some cool conceptual ideas, and I dug into my own portfolio (right) for a piece I had begun turning into a 3D model as a side project (bottom). The model worked well as a starting point for this piece, and became what we’re showcasing today.

The piece began as a blockout in Maya, starting from the piece above and then reworked into the current form to fit over the space dragon mesh. It then went to Zbrush for sculpting, to 3D Coat for retopology, back to Maya for UVs, into XNormal for map baking, and then the maps into Photoshop for painting and adjustments. The end goal for the model was Unity, so we also rigged for the animations in Maya. We created a special shader in Unity to give the model some extra detail effects, with a detail texture by Marvin Tischler. We created an animated glow map to give the feel of massive amount of power in the armor.

The model is composed of 16 distinct components: head, jaw, armor segment top, armor segment bottom, tail tip, and the various components in the arms and legs. Because of the dragon’s long body, we could mirror and repeat the armor segments down the whole length, allowing for a very efficient UV map. While the game is for PC, it is a VR title, so efficiency is still crucial for the art. Because the model is mechanical in nature, most of the texture focus was on getting the metallic material to look right, and because it is huge in the game, the fine detail was left mostly up to the detail maps. I made the sculpt appear very segmented for the glow map, with the glow emerging from between the segments. We wanted to give this mechanical construct a fluid, organic feel, letting it radiate menace and invulnerability.

We took advantage of the PBR materials in Sketchfab to give the piece its metallic appearance. The environment-based lighting, depth of field, SSAO, and bloom gave it the vibrancy and atmosphere it needs to really shine. While the shader is different in the Sketchfab and game versions, the Sketchfab version shows the model off admirably.

How We Use Sketchfab

Throughout all of our games, Sketchfab has a been a source for inspiration, direction, and promotion. To promote our mobile title FPShark, we posted the “fish of the week” using Sketchfab. These posts were links to viewing one of the game’s fish via Sketchfab, and discussing little factoids. These social media blasts were distributed though Twitter, Facebook, G+, and LinkedIn.

In our work process, finding examples of different art styles has been crucial for deciding the art direction for our games, and it makes the guiding process for interns and art helpers a snap.

Our marketing website, artist portfolios, and Unity Asset Store submissions have all benefited from using Sketchfab to display models, and we feel it has become an important part of our process.

You can learn more about Space Dragon for Oculus and SteamVR here.

Thanks for reading.

Our Team

Robin Moulder – Production, Music, Audio Engineer
Colin McComb – Production, Story, Narrative Design
Chris Castaldi – Programming, Game Design
Cordelia Wolf – 3D Art, Animation, Level Design, FX
Christina Irwin – 2D Graphics, UI, Marketing Design, Website Development

About the author

Michael

Michael

An artist in the pursuit of dopeness.


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