Mantis dude WIP

by Cory

As proof that I am pretty rubbish at this blog thing, here is a post I meant to write well over a week ago.

So, only a few days after my second post in this blog, in which I proudly declared my portfolio site to be complete, I decided that this was not, in fact, the case. Specifically, I’ve decided to go back and complete the Thri-kreen mantis guy, which previously only existed as a high-poly model. That portfolio page was, I felt, amongst my weakest entries, and this should give me the opportunity to turn it into what may be among my stronger pieces.

I will take it as far as the rigging stage, but will not animate or implement it. Other 3d game artists often do the same — producing work simply as an exercise, with no specific game engine in mind. The reason is that, well, animation and implementation are difficult, time-consuming, and not always as rewarding as the initial creative process can be.

In my case though, it’s a time issue. As I complete this piece, I have put my job hunt on hiatus, and this is very personally frustrating. I’ve been waiting years to go professional — to finally gain the legitimacy of earning real compensation for what I’ve poured so many hours of my life into (my family will be happy to learn that, no, this game development thing is not just one big scam that never pays out). At the same time, there’s a voice saying, “hey, you’ve waited this long, what’s another couple weeks?” You only get that one first impression after all, and perhaps having another completed character model in place of a page of unfinished assets will tip the odds in my favor just that necessary amount.

I’m trying something a little different with the diffuse map. First, I am specifically avoiding photo overlays, and shooting for a more hand-crafted look. Blending in photographs are a quick and easy way to achieve that high-contrast grungy look, perhaps best displayed in my Gatehouse textures, but I don’t necessarily want to make games that look grungy. In fact, games may even be tending away from that classic gritty photorealism, towards a more gameplay-driven visual design. Rather than simply making each art asset as detailed and true-to-life as possible, artists would be required to ask, “what must it communicate to the player? what is the visual goal of this asset?” For characters models, it’s to be distinctive, memorable, and emotive. For background clutter objects, it’s to enrich the environments without distracting the player’s eye from what’s important, gameplay-wise. Etcetera etcetera.

Getting back to the thri-kreen texture, the second thing I’m trying differently is to seperate the light/darkness shading layers from the coloration. As you can see from the render above, he’s got mottled brown stripes, significantly darker than the rest of his flesh. To achieve this without interfering with the diffuse map’s implication of form, they’ve been seperated into different layers, and this is actually working better than I expected. Here is a look at the grayscale light/darkness layer (ignore the palette and bright orange eye).

The diffuse map, as a whole, is still a bit plain and boring, and I hope to introduce some implied texture without going overboard (he also has a normal map, mind you), as well as greater richness in the coloration. The goal is for the texture to remain smooth and creamy; visually interesting without being visually busy.