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MTG Art Team Breakdown
#1
WORK IN PROGRESS CURRENTLY!

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A 3D ART GUIDE, OR A GUIDE EXPLAINING HOW TO FULLY PRODUCE YOUR OWN ASSETS IN SWGEmu.

This is a highly detailed lecture intended to provide a more clear understanding of how MTG's Game Artists work, what our job involves, and briefly how Game Art works in SWGEmu. You also get a sneak peak at the awesome results when/if we do our job well.


Workflow, what is a workflow?

An artist's workflow is best described as the natural order of things. There are so many ways to accomplish the same task that it comes down to two key factors in a professional sense, efficiency and relativity. Using a brand new asset of Darth Maul's Lightsaber as the example of this thread, I will provide you with a general idea of how the art workflow is based around its development.

Darth Maul's Double-Bladed Lightsaber - HIGH POLY
[Image: Maul_Pre_Unwrap.png]
-Model designed and provided by Violet, MTG Lead Artist

Here you see a completed 3D high poly mesh of the lightsaber, it has no rendering issues, clean normals, clean smoothing, and there is no presence of artifacts or clipping. This is a pretty good completed mesh to begin unwrapping.

What is Unwrapping?

Exactly as it sounds, imagine taking an empty cardboard box and you had the task of laying every facade of that box out flat in a 2D form. The result you would normally find is this:

[Image: Unwrap.png]
Pay close attention to how the box is split from the top and down. When you split a face or "polygon" (4 sided shape), this creates a Seam, much like the seams used in clothing. Imagine model seams as cuts in the topology to identify exactly where and how we want this mesh to be split if we were to lay it flat.

When we combine two seams to form a solid shape or UV, this is called "stitching", exactly the same as you would stitch the seams of a t-shirt's shoulder to arm joints.


But why do we need to unwrap the model?

The UV Maps we acquire through unwrapping will tell the game's engine where to map pixel coordinates precisely. Here is an example of a texture from a human male's face.

[Image: UV-average.jpg]

If you were to apply this texture to the face of a humanoid model WITHOUT unwrapping at all, the result would look distorted as hell. You may find his eye balls inside his ears and his ears inside his neck etc. This occurs because the game engine has no information from the UV Maps that guide each individual pixel of a texture onto the surface of the model's geometry. A very distorted projection is what you would receive.


So what does that mean, can I just cut the Lightsaber up into random pieces and be done with it? Wow Unwrapping sounds easy!

Hold your horses, it's not. This is where the product of Pre-Production and Efficiency come into play. When you plan a model you are not just thinking...

"Ok, I've got this sick idea for a new lightsaber, player's are going to love this and really go insane when I'm done painting it. It's going to be long and shiny and every one is going to want this weapon!".

No it's far more than that. Just for something as visually simple as a long stick that's made of metal and emits a glowbat, there is a LOT of pre-production and planning that goes into the modeling and texturing stage. Here's an example of what factors we would take into account before we begin producing this weapon:
  • What would the in-game scale be? A normal lightsaber most likely, so we would import a reference mesh of a default double-bladed lightsaber for height, width, and length research.
  • We must consider how long the weapon is going to be in length, the Double-Bladed attack animations will position the hands of the player character near the ends of the hilt. We do not want the player holding a blade that looks unrealistic, an example being too long, or too short so they look like they are holding the actual lightsaber blade itself (you'd burn your hands  Dodgy... )
  • What textures would we use. Size, materials, shaders? Does the art style work with the team and fit in with the entire game? It's important to have an asset that looks good, but when an asset looks too out of place it can upset the mood and the theme.
  • Is it worth using 2-4K textures on a weapon so small in scale? Consider what area's of the mesh the player's will notice, figure out where the real detail has to be and put yourself in the player's shoes.
  • Technical Budget, consider what areas of the mesh require intense amounts of detail against the areas that do not. This decision is easily the most important as it defines the total polycount of the mesh (the amount of quads that make up the model's geometry). The higher this is, the more resources the game will require to generate and maintain it.
  • 3D Workflow planning, how will you unwrap it? What texture maps does it require? How many sub-tools or objects make up this entire mesh? (the more objects or sub-tools, the more texture maps are required, meaning more UV Unwrapping work) Does the model have seperate parts that must move differently from the rest of the mesh?
  • Does the model require any rigging?
  • How many smoothing groups will I need since this is a hard-surface mesh?
  • Will my workflow be based around a high to low poly, or low to high poly process? Which one is more comfortable for you and which one produces the most quality, in the least amount of time, while demanding the least amount of rendering power from Star Wars Galaxies' engine?
There is so much more you have to consider, these are just a handful of example questions that I would always ask myself before I begin modeling any asset for the game.
Lead Artist of MTG's Game Art Team

Founder of Andromeda, the other galaxy far, far away....

 
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#2
very understandable for us laymen, thanks for this and appreciate the work you and others do !
 
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