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[WIP] Need Critique on My Machine Gun (M2HB)

Modeled in Blender3D and textured in substance. Want to make sure before I send it into Blender to render it that its looking good. Here is a few snapshots of the model in Substance Painter viewport (using different environments also):

Excuse the large bullet in the back of the first shot, I instanced it in Blender but had to scale it up to see it better in substance.I don't plan to show any close ups so for the bullets the polycount is fairly low. It is also going to be animated, as of now I have a few animations that occur but nothing really done yet. But for the most part, I'm pretty happy with how it came out and am looking to see if I can improve it further.

I also don't know what to do for rendering. Make a small scene or just a dark grey background and studio lighting?


  • ImsumDave
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    ImsumDave polycounter lvl 9
    Can you give an overview of your workflow so far? Are you doing a hard surface high poly in blender, then retopoligizing, creating a low poly model?

    You mentioned rendering in blender. Are you going to use the offline renderer or the realtime eevee renderer? You can render good quality higher res images using the eevee renderer in blender. Renders are a bit low res at the moment and the background color isn't helping either. The details are hard to discern.
  • teodar23
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    teodar23 polycounter
    I see a lot of places where you could have used more polys to keep the shape better. Also, some areas have normal issues like the ventilated tube thing. It would help if you posted a wireframe overlay because i suspect some of the problems come from the mesh topology.
  • Oren3Ds
    @ImsumDave Starting out, I thought I might be able to get away with not making a high poly since I could mostly use hard surface bevels. Didn’t work out so I made a high poly of certain parts that needed it (the barrel, the main gun body frame, the tripod). So far I’m able to get decent shading throughout, but some areas have been tough normal-wise, had to rebake a lot.

    Im probably going to be rendering in cycles, since I’m most familiar with it, though I’m open to doing final render shots in Eevee. The images I posted are in the substance painter viewport, not renders. 

    @[email protected] Yeah I have been struggling with normals issues, I’ve been able to keep it under control mostly but some areas are very visible. I should probably be getting to optimize the topology, it’s a little messy.

    I’ll post a wireframe when I get back to my desk. The ventilated tube thing on the barrel is probably the main offender, I tried to keep topology even but there are potentially some areas that are causing issues. 
  • ImsumDave
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    ImsumDave polycounter lvl 9
    About renders: semantics. Personally, I would call a screenshot from a real-time renderer, like the one rendering viewport in substance, a render. A real-time renderer is running on the GPU, rendering an image to the pixel area of the viewport. Taking a screenshot, capturing those pixels, is a way of saving a copy of that real-time render. I believe an offline renderer refers to a rendering engine that allows saving directly to an image format in some way. Cycles has a real-time preview, but it isn't full quality with currently hardware available, so you must do a non-real-time offline render to get full quality. Technically, while being real-time renderers, eevee and marmoset toolbag have offline rendering options to output better than viewport quality directly to an image file. Whether offline or real-time. it's still a render, that is my opinion. I admit it's not really something worth arguing about though.

    What I meant to suggest was for you to use Eevee to render some quick WIP images at higher res so the details are more clear. I'm sorry if I didn't communicate that clearly.

    Can you specify what issues you're having with normal baking? In blender you can use mark sharp edges (video tut) to split normals along an edge. Doing so may cause other issues with your normal bake, requiring edge padding in your UV layout, depending on the type of normal baking tech used. You can also use support loops, and/or face-weighted normals, as well.
  • Oren3Ds
    Here are some photos with just a matcap, and wireframes:

    Eevee viewport (with basic gloss shader - no maps at all)


    And @ImsumDave, specifically for baking problems, I have been getting odd looking shadows and some places have errors. Granted, I can just paint over most of them (yes I know its bad practice), but for some areas the problem is in the normal map itself and I end up rebaking.

    For topology, there are many unnecessary edges that I could just dissolve. I'll try adding some support loops for areas that seem to be having the most trouble normal-wise, though.

    EDIT: Turns out there are a lot of ngons and issues with the main body frame and barrel, will be retopologizing both of them.
  • ImsumDave
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    ImsumDave polycounter lvl 9
    A recurring problem I'm seeing in your low poly is long polys with an adjoining perpendicular faces with normals averaged across the common edge. You need to use some method, which ever you prefer, to correct the shading in those areas (inset face, support loop, face-weighted normal, sharp edges, etc.).

    Some info on baking that may help:
    Understanding averaged normals and ray projection/Who put waviness in my normal map?
    You're making me hard. Making sense of hard edges, uvs, normal maps and vertex counts
    Skew you buddy! Making sense of skewed normal map details.
    Marmoset Baking Tut skip to "Baking Basic" section
    Polycount wiki texture baking section

    Another thing that may be causing your issues is the inconsistency of quad/n-gon triangulation across apps. Slap a triangulate modifier on that bad boy so that your mesh is consistent on import to various apps.

    Also, to re-iterate teodar23 's point, you do need more silhouette geo in places, the barrel shroud mainly.
  • Oren3Ds
    I fixed a lot of shading issues and remade the frame and barrel shroud. Added support loops to areas that weren't looking so good. Any better?

    About the only shading issue I see currently is at the tip of the barrel, some normals are darker then the rest of the barrel. I can easily fix that but im looking to see if there are any other big ones I'm missing. 
  • ImsumDave
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    ImsumDave polycounter lvl 9
    One thing not brought up yet is what your goal is with this model. Is it a mounted gun that will be viewed in 1st or 3rd person? Is it simply a general show piece of your game res modelling skills, and so will be viewed at various angles? Your model has a lot of polys in the mechanics of the gun and in small elements, only visible with a close camera view. On the other had, things like the tripod tubes, barrel shroud, iron sight protection hood, etc., have too few polys. For modern 1st person game, there isn't enough geo in areas that count. For 3rd person, there is too much. For a modelling show piece, there is imbalance of too much and too little. Pic to illustrate the areas I'm talking about:

    Many of the "less geo" areas have details that could be in your normal map. Many of the "more geo" areas, sans your barrel shroud, could have more detail while only increasing poly count by 10s or a couple hundred polys. Whether you should remove geo in the "less geo" areas or add geo in the "more geo" areas, is down to what your aim is with this piece. You need to find the proper balance.

    As far as low poly normal shading goes, whether the shading is good enough or not is down to the bake results. If no details are noticeably skewed, there aren't any unnecessary harsh gradients where there shouldn't be, and you aren't getting any visible shading errors with normal map applied, everything should be fine. What you've done is a definite improvement to your shading. There are areas where you've used support loops where hard edges would be more appropriate, but that would require modification of your UVs, which would disturb the texture work you've already completed. Support loops have added polys where they aren't necessary, but, again, removing those would likely disrupt you UVs.
    Another thread worth a look for you. Read through to the end.

    Again, I think your renders are too low res and dimly lit to accurately judge your work. Given the images, I think the textures are serviceable. The grunge/rust in a few areas seems to bridge across geo in unrealistic ways, apt to texture detail added via projection type painting. Grunge in some areas, like on the barrel and shroud, are a bit too consistent across the entire surface, with little variation at edges and crevices.

    Side note, modelling a barrel shroud highpoly:
    One method is to model it flat, then use a simpledeform modifier to bend it into a cylinder. Add a subdivision modifier before the simpledeform in the stack to increase mesh density and avoid stretch/pinch around the holes.
  • Oren3Ds
    @ImsumDave Hey, thanks for the feedback. I've been pretty busy lately but I've been focusing on the topology more as I see that its not evenly balanced. I intended for it to be just a general showcase of game res modelling skills/3rd person. I'm going to bake more of the details so I might not need some parts of the mesh such as the screws. I think I will hold off working on the textures for now until I can get the topology stuff sorted out. Here is what I have so far after making suggested edits.

    Unfortunately some screws are required to be actual geometry, as in the references I've viewed have them visibly extruding outwards, so it would be pretty obvious if it was just a normal map detail. I guess for those parts that need to be geometry I'll try to clean then up, they seem oddly too high poly but low poly at the same time.
  • Oren3Ds

    Worked a TON on the topology, texturing, and everything. Practically remodelled it after seeing several errors I made in the past. Here are some shots in substance painter. I know its dark but its a WIP and I haven't starting texturing the bottom half really, also the quality probably sucks due to auto image compression. Will try my best to get a clear visible render when I get past the texturing stages and can port to Blender. Ignore the handles also, very much unclose to working on those textures.

    As for topology:
    Significantly increased the texel density (4k maps now, hope to make a flashy portfolio piece):
    Also practically redid the UV's as they frankly had a lot of broken parts. Its not the prettiest but there is little to no stretching and my textures don't seem to have any warping issues:

    (two UV maps, the top with the handles and entire frame/shroud, and bottom tripod)

    I'm thinking of consolidating them onto one UV map, but for now since I made a high poly and already did some baking, im not quite sure.

    Here is the high poly (bullets are excluded, haven't worked on them yet)

  • sacboi
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    sacboi polycount lvl 666
    [...] hope to make a flashy portfolio piece

    There's an overall issue with this and that's proportional accuracy.

    But for now at a glance, you had better re-model the perforated barrel jacket/sleeve, (cylinder with all the holes in it which also btw the ends aren't capped either!) foresight, rear sight, charging handle plus back plate.

    Because they're especially visible up close when the object is in first person view.

    EDIT: are you actually working from multiple refs? the barrel aperture is too big, as well

  • Oren3Ds
    @sacboi Thanks for your comment/critique. I think the proportions probably got out of wack because I rotated it and rescaled it in the beginning since I intended to just render it afterwards, but then made a lot of edits and got the proportions off. I will restudy my reference and fix them. 

    As for some parts being inaccurate, do you mean the sights (two on top, rear and front), and for the backplate do you mean the part that wraps around the body at the bottom? Not the most knowledgeable with technical terms when it comes to parts. I don’t see anything wrong with the barrel shroud (cylinder with holes in it) besides the end being capped (like you mentioned). As for the charging handle, you are referring to this circled part?: 

    I think there might also be an issue with the lookdev in substance painter. In cycles it looks perfectly fine, textures look the correct res and sharper. At the same time I don’t want to export textures to cycles just yet since they aren’t finished. 

    Yes I am using references, here is my reference sheet. It’s difficult to find accurate reference when their are multiple variations of the same weapon;

  • ImsumDave
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    ImsumDave polycounter lvl 9
    In his second (EDIT: THIRD) to last comment he said he is aiming for 3rd person view asset quality, not sure if that's changed. Of course what that means in terms of poly count and texture size varies by game. For example, The Last of Us: Part II has fairly high quality player character weapon assets, but I think it's probably on the upper end of asset quality of current 3rd person games (Video with some semi close-ish looks at tLoU:2 weapons).

    I'd like to get this out there before I go on. I'm only giving suggestions. If you disagree on some point, disregard it.

    I think you've improved the LP model quite a bit. I think there is more you could improve, but re-doing work in pursuit of perfection is a passion killer.

    You have used chamfers at some edges. Are you using face-weighted normals (WeightNormals modifier in blender)? Give it a try if not. Also you could also try using sharp edges at some of those locations.
    You need to enable autosmooth in blender to see the results of face-weight normals and/or sharp edges:
    select object => object data properties tab (green triangle) => normals category => autosmooth enabled => change angle if necessary ::
    Set sharp edges:
    edit mode => select edges => right-click => mark sharp

    Those barrel shrouds look better but they are a poly hog, although, I think it's necessary unless you get tricky with it (cylinder with transparency at holes with floating intrusions). The edge loops around the shroud intrusions are a prime spot where sharp edges could improve the shading.

    You are getting a lot of skewing in you normal maps. The threads I linked earlier in the thread have information about how to minimize that as best as possible.

    You've done a good job with the texel density of you UV's, everything is fairly consistent. Although nice and tightly packed, I do think that how close your UV islands will give you issues with padding. I'm not certain on this, but I believe that UV padding is important due to texture mipmapping. Mipmaps are lower res versions of you texture that are either created at texture load or packed along with the texture when saved. That is if the image format supports and the option is selected. Simply, mipmaps are texture level LODs.
  • sacboi
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    sacboi polycount lvl 666
    Oren3Ds said:
    @sacboi Thanks for your comment/critique. I think the proportions probably got out of wack because I rotated it and rescaled it in the beginning since I intended to just render it afterwards, but then made a lot of edits and got the proportions off. I will restudy my reference and fix them. [...]
    In another life had trained with this weapon so honestly didn't read well from personal experience however since you're nearly done just a few points worth keeping in mind. Parts I'd mentioned or the four I think still need minor revision are characteristics that have relatively remained unchanged since WW2.

    - Backsight guard has beveled corners
    - Forsight guard has vertical sides with a rounded top
    - Charging handle has a uniform shape
    - Muzzle has a .50 cal rifled bore

    The Mother of All Machine Guns Browning M-2 slaughters enemies makes   by War Is Boring  War Is Boring  Medium

    May seem like nitpicking but browse through content authored by top industry weapon artists posted on ArtStation as a benchmark.
  • Zi0
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    Zi0 polycounter
    sacboi said:
    [...] hope to make a flashy portfolio piece

    There's an overall issue with this and that's proportional accuracy.

    This, the front and rear sight, charging handle, all look wrong proportion wise. The shape of the front sight is also wrong. If you want this to become a portfolio worthy piece I would advise to revisit these parts and do a overall scale check on the weapon. The image below might help a bit.

  • Oren3Ds
    Zi0 said:
    sacboi said:
    [...] hope to make a flashy portfolio piece

    There's an overall issue with this and that's proportional accuracy.

    This, the front and rear sight, charging handle, all look wrong proportion wise. The shape of the front sight is also wrong. If you want this to become a portfolio worthy piece I would advise to revisit these parts and do a overall scale check on the weapon. The image below might help a bit.

    Thanks for your critique/comment. I will adjust proportions and some of the shapes as well. Also will try playing with the weight normals modifier which @ImsumDave mentioned.
  • Oren3Ds
    Update: So far have remodelled the charging handle to be more consistent, as well as the rear sight and foresight. Also changed the size of the rifle bore to be small enough for a .50cal to get through (was originally super large).

    In terms of texturing, I had to rebake anyways so I figured I would change the UV's a little to not be so densely packed as to avoid UV padding issues as @ImsumDave mentioned. Alongside that, I also fixed up some parts of the tripods' UV's, as I had forgotten to mark some seams when unwrapping, resulting in artefacts in those areas.


    (Enabled shadows for better AO)
    Main Frame:


    I've been working in my spare time on texturing it in SP. Here is a quick render in Iray (note that they do not currently support my AMD GPU so rendering takes a while) at 500 samples:
    In the viewport (last two are with different HDRI):

    I think I will focus on improving the textures now, then I'll port it into Blender and see how it looks in Cycles.
  • Oren3Ds
    Snapshots in cycles viewport at 32-64 samples:

    I notice that the overall quality and looks of the model depend on the HDRI. With basic studio lighting, it's decent but not at its best. With certain HDRI's, it looks much better. Other HDRI's make it look worse..I don't mind this too much unless every single HDRI looked horrible.

    Thoughts on textures? I am going to texture the bullets procedurally instead, as using textures with them didn't look good with its low poly figure.
  • Oren3Ds
    Ammo box looked crappy and was not modeled properly, so I scrapped it and remade it using more references. Current WIP shot:

    Will fix the dimensions soon, currently, I am just adding the main parts before I revise and make a high poly for baking.

    Still working on this on and off whenever I can, have been pretty busy. Gun still needs several edits and I need to fix some errors on it before I think about rendering.
  • Kanni3d
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    Kanni3d sublime tool
    Great progress, and nice work on tackling the proportion issues, seems to be a bit more in line now.

    In terms of the HDRI lighting, I wouldn't stress too much on choosing different HDRI's from another, since most of your lighting work should come from independent light sources (hdri's help, but shouldn't do the bulk of the work). Get some nice strong rim lights to make the silhouette of the barrel/receiver pop :smile:
  • Oren3Ds
    Thanks, @Kanni3d . For lighting, I learned a little while ago that relying heavily on HDRI's won't give you very good results. I just recently purchased Marmoset Toolbag, so I'm hopeful my renders will come out looking even better.

    Just playing around with texturing atm, trying to see if a wet material would look good. Baked from a high poly already.

    In SP:

    In TB4:

    Still very new to toolbag, so Im probably unaware of some really cool options in the render and viewport modes.
  • Oren3Ds
    Some minor edits on textures. The environment I plan to put it in for the final render shot is a wet autumn forest with fog, so I think a rained-on material would fit well.

    Probably the bottom half/quarter won't be visible, as it will be sunk inside some mud or ground. I don't plan on using this as my official material, this is just for the environment its in. I'll be removing the bottom dirt and the rain drops for the portfolio shots. Any suggestions?
  • Oren3Ds
    Think ill call texturing on the ammo box finished, unless someone has input on what could be done better.

    Rainy material:

    Normal material (still figuring out how I want the roughness on this one):

  • Oren3Ds
    Once again instead of just rendering, I went ahead and made a slew of edits.
    Added more pronounced screw details.
    Remodelled the trigger area as it was inaccurate.
    Added details overall.
    Rectified some UV's for more efficient UV space usage.
    Decided on a material for the handles.
    Chamfered some edges.
    Exported certain parts to Marmoset Toolbag to bake as Substance Painter wasn't giving me desired results.
    Remodelled the bullets.
    Remodelled the bullet belt links as they were inaccurate.

    I'm calling it finished, for now. The only thing I haven't decided on is the texturing for the bullets, but those will be simple procedural materials as that wasn't my main focus when making this project. Time to do some rendering and post-processing magic.

  • Oren3Ds
    Working on some animation sets.

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