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Art style.

April 14, 2020 Shade, lots of questions
More research.

I don't recall exactly when I saw John Kearney's 'Monk' on Twitter.
There's something in that little voxel scene that makes me instantly happy ...
It made me want to create a game, set in a castle, in that (chunky) voxel style.

John Kearny - Monk.
'Monk' - John Kearney (@HuntingFluff).

I spent quite some time thinking about voxels, trying things out in Blender, MagicaVoxel, and Krita, but sadly, in the end, I had to give up on that style. It's just not a good match for a puzzle point&click game.
The environment would be too noisy to spend a lot of time in, looking for clues.

Suddenly I was left with a whole lot of decisions to make about the style of my game : low-poly and stylized, or, fairly low-poly but more realistic ? Should I use textures or limit myself to vertex colors only, ... ? Aaargh.

And just to show you the importance of 'style' and what impact it has on 3d modeling, look at these 2 examples :

StoolFeather Games - Stylized low-poly.
Stylized low-poly - StoolFeather Games.
BlackTorch Games - Low-poly, more realistic style.
More realistic style - BlackTorch Games.

Stylized low-poly games have a fresh, clean look. Modeling should be doable, and not having to uv-unwrap and texture game objects is a huge time saver.
On the other hand, I can definitely imagine a puzzle game in the settings of Skullstone ... But, texturing takes up a lot of time, and it is definitely somewhat of an art to do well.

So many questions.

In the past weeks, I have spent a lot of time looking at modeling tutorials in the hope of finding answers to the many (beginner) questions I have.

For instance, it is still a bit of a mystery to me how one models the indoors of a large building.
Should I model everything as one big scene, or should I split up the building in several floors ? Or should I model all walls as separate objects ? Or should I maybe split up each wall in repeating wall chunks ... ?
Should I make the walls double-sided (cubes), or is it better/easier to use planes ?

Also : what are ambient occlusion maps ? How do I make them and when do I need them ? And what about normal maps and blend maps ? What about diffuse, specular, and uv maps ? And what are light maps and height maps ? What is texture painting, and what are stencils ? How do I create or find good textures ?

And these are just the questions for modeling and texturing ...

Some answers.

If there's anything I've learned, it is that it's difficult to find good tutorials if you're not even entirely sure what it is you're looking for.
Just try these searches on Youtube and see what results you get : "how to model and texture a brick wall ?", "How to model a castle ?", "What is modular design 3d ?", "How to bake in Blender3d ?"

I also tried to find good overview books, but so far I've found nothing that I can recommend.

First attempt.

I've spent about a week modeling walls in Blender, trying different approaches (using sculped blocks, using a single plane with bevels, ...) and working out how to bake maps.

The result is ... not great, but it is a start.

Wall, version 1.
The resulting bake of a wall modeled with loose bricks.
Wall, version 2.
The resulting bake of a wall modeled as a plane with bevels.

The first wall used smooth shading for baking. This resulted in a normal map with a nice 3d 'feel', but I don't like how puffy and rounded it makes the bricks look. It makes the wall look plasticky and fake.

The second wall used a combination of smooth (mortar) and flat (brick) shading. It seems the normal map bake didn't go very well, and the wall has lost all 3d info ...

It seems I still have a long way to go.

List of relevant tutorials.

  • MarkSchipper :
    The 3 videos on level design were interesting to watch : "design and purpose", "composition and balance", and "texturing very large surfaces". The topic of the tutorials is a cathedral for a fps game.
  • Arrimus 3D :
    Many useful tutorials for beginners ! Some examples : "game assets - uneven brick wall", "game assets - basic tiling brick wall Normal map", "3D modeling tutorial #61 - Normal maps part 9 - floating geometry", "game assets - non-uniform environments part 1 - floating details", "game assets - damage decals", ...
  • Warren Marshall :
    Warren covers a wide range of topics. The most interesting ones for me were : "anatomy of a Normal map", "texel density", "modeling for different LODs", "modular mesh set", "lightmapping", and "anatomy of an asset pack".
  • Grant Abbitt
    Good tutorials, also many that are beginner-friendly. My favorites : "create a low poly well", "make game assets by sculpting - stones", "making simple game assets" (terracotta pots and texture stenciling), "baking perfect texture maps using a cage", and "Baking Cavity + Ambient Occlusion Texture Maps".
  • stym
    Great tutorials on modeling and texturing. Sadly, the last video is from 5 years ago ...
  • cgvirus
    Explains how to bake maps in Blender 2.8 and import them into Godot. Very informative !
  • GDQuest
    PBR materials in Godot : intro.
  • Engineering Models :
    This one is just for fun : "How were Gothic cathedrals designed and built?"