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Introduction and Multiple Questions

Hey, everyone! Name's Prodigy. Been spying on your community here for a few days now, admiring some very amazing talent. A little background before I jump into my questions: I'm in my first semester at DeVry University, working towards my degree in Game & Simulations Programming. While my career will be in Game Development (the actual CODING of the games), you can probably figure out that I'll be working with artists, animators, etc. and putting their characters, environments and such into the actual games.

As such, I figure it would be a lotta help (not to mention very enjoyable) to learn a little about these processes. Also, I'm beginning the planning stages of a few games of my own as hobbies and experience-builders, and would like to rely (at least in part) on my ability to not only create the GAME, but create the objects USED in the game, too.

And... here I am. Now, to the questions.

1) Is there any program that's accepted as the best for modeling/animation/rendering? Or at least by a "majority" vote? (BTW, I'm referring to freeware.) I've used Wings3d to familiarize myself, but it doesn't allow you to rig or animate, which is something I'll need to do. So, yesterday I upgraded to Amabilis' 3D Canvas 7, which appears to be a VERY amazing program for it's simplicity. I'm happy with it, but if there are better options, I'd much rather take the time to learn them.

2) With Wings, I believe you created one UV Map for your model, period. But, I've heard of at least 3 different map-types in skimming through your forums. Could someone explain these to me? As in, the differences between them and how they work together, when it seems like you could just make one map to cover all your detail?

3) I've heard a little (very little, actually) about sculpting until I wandered here. What does it consist of, and is it more difficult than modelling?

4) Besides the generic "practice makes perfect" advice, do you have any pointers or recommendations to someone completely new to this area?

Thank you all in advance for your responses!



  • Psyk0
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    Psyk0 polycounter lvl 18
    Welcome to PC!

    1) http://wiki.polycount.net/3D_Software

    I suggest taking a look at XSI mod tool:

    2) http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryTexturing - this covers map types

    3) Sculpting is actually a less technical approach to creating game / movie assets. It's like working with virtual clay, which enables you to create details in realtime on a high resolution mesh. The most popular sculpting apps are Zbrush and Mudbox.

    4) From my own experience i'd say: don't skip the basic steps!. A lot of beginners jump right into sculpting without even understanding technical aspects of game art. I suggest modeling lower specs assets: this will teach you efficiency and form, plus it's a great way to learn the software's interface. Keeping it simple will also mean you'll be able to finish your project, once you have reached your goal, take it to the next level. Drawing, learning anatomy etc will benefit your ARTISTIC skills, it's one thing to be technical, but what's the point if it looks like crap? Well ok maybe a coder won't need to create jaw dropping art but i'm sure it would help in some aspects.
  • Richard Kain
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    Richard Kain polycounter lvl 18
    1. If you want true full-featured freeware, you will have to learn Blender 3D. http://www.blender.org It is quite easily the most full-featured free-to-use program that can be used to produce commercial work. SoftImage XSI Mod Tool is also a good option, but it is constrained in several ways that make it less flexible. I would go for SoftImage if you are looking to create models for a specific engine that it supports, or you eventually intend to acquire the full SoftImage package. If you are thinking that you will be using freeware for an extended period of time, definitely learn Blender.

    2. Different maps are used for different types of shaders and special effects. The diffuse map is the map that most people think of when it comes to UV mapping. It defines the colors that will be stretched and displayed across your model. Most additional UV maps are used to define how your model reacts to lighting. A Luminosity or "glow" map can be used to make certain parts of your model always be full-bright, even when the model isn't lit. A bump map can be used to make your model appear "rougher" in some areas when light shines on it. A specularity map can be used to affect how light wraps around your model. If you change how the light shines off of a characters skin as opposed to his clothes or his shiny metal helmet, it adds a subtle but appealing visual effect. Starting off with a solid diffuse map is the first and most important task. Once you've got that sewn away, you can play around with additional maps for adding neat new effects. Most additional maps are painted as greyscale images.

    3. Sculpting is usually referred to as Displacement painting. This is a method of modeling that focuses on displacing parts of the model along their normal vector. Using this you can push, pull, stretch, shrink, or crease the model much as you would clay. It is usually tied together with subdivision processes in order to make models with a LOT of polygons. It is considered to be one of the best ways to produce extremely high-polycount detailed models. It is not actually more difficult than modeling, although having good basic modeling skills will give you a headstart. Producing a solid base-mesh with proper edge-looping and poly flow will make sculpting a lot easier and cleaner. There are several programs that focus entirely on sculpting. If you take my earlier advice on learning Blender, it actually has its own sculpting tools.

    4. Learn basic subdivision and extrusion modeling, and always be mindful of your edge-loops and polygon flow. This is especially important with current modeling techniques and practices. Making sure that your base modeling meshes are clean and well thought out will make the rest of the process easier, from sculpting, to UV mapping, to rigging and animation. Wings3D is actually a good program to have started with, as it focuses primarily on the extrusion / subdivision methodology of modeling.
  • Prodigy
    Awesome; I appreciate the help from both of you! (More helpful than the "figure it out your fuckin self" attitude that most forums are infamous for!!!) Yea, I have blender, but it's damned annoying controls--Like using the SPACE BAR to open up the context menu--made me put it to the back for "only if I have to" purposes.

    BUT, apparently, it's gonna come to that, haha. Well, I'm going to spend a few more days getting down some features with 3d Canvas, just because I like it's design and if Blender has more features, it'll probably be best to come into it with as much knowledge as possible.

    Again, thanks for the help!
  • Richard Kain
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    Richard Kain polycounter lvl 18
    I took a peek at 3D Canvas. It looks pretty good, but the free version is severely limited compared to pay-to-use versions. If I were you, I'd try out the animation tools in 3D Canvas, and see how comfortable you are using them. How a software package handles animation becomes important as you get deeper into modeling.

    Yes, unfortunately Blender is known for being unintuitive, especially for those just starting out in it. It's interface is drastically different from most other programs. Most people who have familiarized themselves with its quirks swear by Blender. Once you wrap your head around the fundamentals of how the program is structured, it becomes easy and fast to navigate, and you always have an idea about where to find some of its more esoteric features.

    If you want the maximum number of features without paying any money, you will eventually come to Blender. As far as freeware goes, it really is the most full-featured package available. The learning editions for the major 3D packages are good for anyone wanting to learn those software suites. But for the hobbyist, Blender really is the one-stop solution.
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