Hello, everyone I'm fairly new here and I'm currently learning about Game Asset creation using Blender, as well as game art overall.
I wanted to know if it is "Mandatory" to model a game asset with Quads and then triangulate it after the fact.
Because I'm working with a lot of Ngons when modeling a sci-fi weapon game asset or similar. (Something really complex to deal with quads) I'm using Blender as my go-to tool for modeling, And I'm using Hard-Ops and BoxCutter (That's a paid Add-On/Script) which involves a lot of Ngons because It's a complete boolean workflow for hard surface. I've been told to model a game asset with quads because it would triangulate much better, however, That's not the case with some artists as they can just triangulate the Ngons after they finish working with the game asset.
I wanted to know if it matters that I model with Quads or Not. Because I'm heavily relying on a Boolean workflow for my designs.
Just becareful, it's not hard or problematic once you know what to look out for to work with boolean workflows, and you'll be fine. As long as the triangulation isn't really bad on the low poly (lots of long thin acute angled tris etc) shouldn't have too many issues. Any highpoly stuff usually matters even less as long as the surface is shading correctly, that's 99% of the time all you want out the mesh for hardsurface highpolys that get baked to a low poly.
A few things :
• A HardOps/Boxcutter model can look fantastic, but it will not be a "regular" game asset (in the sense that it will not be suitable for clean/regular UV and texturing). Meaning that anything that you read online about game assets and good practice to build them/bake them/texture them will not apply.
• If you want to embrace a HardOps/Boxcutter workflow (which indeed can look fantastic), you absolutely can, but you will have to forge your own path embracing all the limitations of the technique. The issue is not about tris or quads, but about what you can and cannot do with the assets. For instance you won't be able to give them subtle textured wear and tear carried by regular UVs, because clean UVs require models with each and every vertex and edge carefully crafted by hand. Which in turn means that you likely have to embrace a certain hyper clean/synthetic look (typical of HO/BC models shown without clever rendered materials) without regular UVs.
• Now all that said, you can also treat your HO/BC models as pseudo highpoly sources, and create "regular" lowpoly models (with traditional UVs) to bake them down to. But in that case you have to be ready to spend hours/days/weeks working on these models and it will likely "feel boring" in contrast to the speed of creation allowed by the boolean workflow. But on the plus side, it will make you familiar with the asset creation pipeline that any game like Doom/Fortnite/Overwatch/The Division uses (with the difference that in these projects the sources tend to be created in full highpoly rather than mediumpoly booleans). And then there's also the Wolfenstein games, in which many of the mech/weapon assets are made by relying on the Modo round edge shader (and then baked to a regular low anyways). Blender does have such a shader/node too.
The TLDR is that you have two paths : either embracing "non-regular" assets with all their limitations (HO/BC), or, finding ways to make them work within a regular pipeline.
The answer lies probably somewhere in between with some clever compromises, but to find that you will likely need to master the regular baked workflow first. So in a way, in the context of a game art career the HO/BC workflow can add some confusing friction to an already complex topic.
If anything I'd recommend a completely different approach, which I notice is being used by Nintendo with great success. That is to say : modelling very clean "traditional" lowpoly assets (with expertly crafted geometry, hard edges where needed, and so on) with all the needed primary and secondary details, which takes longer to create than using a bruteforce boolean workflow but still 10x faster than highpoly+retopo+baking. And then texturing them traditionally, adding bump/normalmap details where needed, and so on. In my opinion this is 100% the best compromise, as shown in the Metroid Prime games, Smash4, Labo. With a bit of elbow grease you might be able to start from your HO/BC models, spend a day to merge verts/redirect edge flow/do all kinds of cleanup, and unwrap/texture such models in a regular way.
Good luck !
Usually people will mix the 2 approaches, even on a single asset, it all depends on the surface anyway. If it's all hard angles like a book shelf might be, you might just go and make the high poly with bevels and that's fine. If there are curved surfaces, you might get a better result subD. Each have uses and purposes, and both can bake without issues.