Monday, October 5, 2009

Growing Skills: 3D Modeling

Have you ever sat down with a bucket full of legos and made a small town or tower? Its a lot of fun! I spent a whole summer just building things out of legos with my friends. We made a bunch of boats, buildings, robots, and airplanes and played around with them for hours! Its really not too much different from making 3D models. The biggest differences are that you can't run out of pieces and you decide how all of the pieces are shaped. Oh and your fiendish friends won't recycle them for parts when your not around.

My first experience with 3D modeling was actually in a game called Blockland. Its a game where you and a bunch of people online can create a game room and build anything you want in it with a bunch of lego like blocks. After you make a scene you all can go to war in it too if you want. Blow up everything and everyone with missile launchers and watch the blocks fly! Honestly this game has seriously improved since I played it. It now has physics plus more weapons, bricks, and options for game play. I played it when it was still in a free beta stage, but now you can play the demo or buy a key for $20.

Totally Awesome Blockland Gameplay Video

Some time after playing Blockland I wondered into someones project for improving upon some old 2D game called Crossfire. The new and improved version was called Deliantra and it was fairly fun and interesting. I never played for too long but it did have some unique gameplay mechanics for an older game being remade and revamped with better 2D graphics. I talked a wile with Deliantra's creator Schmorp, after a wile he described how they were improving the graphics. What they were doing was creating 3D models of all of the items and buildings, taking a picture of them from the correct angle, and replacing the old sprites with higher resolution images. I thought it was a neat idea so I whipped out Blender and made a building, then it crashed and burned my house down. After a little research I found K3D and remade my building, and it turned out great! I exported it in the right format and emailed it to Schmorp. A few days later my building was in the game! You can see it in the picture below, it is yellow with a white roof and shows up twice in the left hand side.


Generally this inspired me to set out on a journey to get some more experience in 3D modeling. I was inspired to make something more and improve my skills. The next game I got into was Sauerbraten, the sequel to Cube. In Sauerbraten several people could get together on a map and have a fragfest, otherwise known as a death match. Or everyone could collaborate on making a new map togeather. Every map in Sauerbraten was made completely within the game with its own editing tools. It was usually done by pulling new geometry out of existing geometry and then moving the faces of it around to get the shape you want. Its kind of like how Wings3D works, except Wings3D isn't as restrictive. After spending a couple weeks on maps with a bunch of noobs building random stuff, I learned enough to make my own map from scratch. RemixedCat and I spent a week working on our own map called Joro's Retreat. Co-operative editing really made it easier to make the map, but my biggest complaint at the time was there was no way to copy my geometry and paste it somewhere else. I think that was fixed since I played though. Anyway I submitted Joro's Retreat to Quadropolis, Sauerbraten's 3rd party map site. To my suprise it hit #1 of their top 10 list and stayed there for several months! The map still works with the latest version of Sauerbraten, but there are a couple textures missing out of the library because the bookcase texture and a rug texture was later removed from Sauerbraten.

A Great Map, Completely Full of Details

I spent most of the next year deciding what to do with myself and I didn't do too much 3D Modeling. I did occasionally look into different game engines and 3D software looking for a good process to make a game with. I eventually decided to make a game after I found all of the tools I needed. Look at my first post "Making a Game: Tools of the Trade" to see what software I decided apon. And after about 3 months of making a few models a week, my modeling and my project is coming right along!

Really the best way to learn how to make 3D models is sit down and start making a bunch of stuff. Expect everything you make for the first week to be junk, or if it does turn out good, it will probably have too many polygons to use in a game. That awesome looking reptilian head in my first post was one of my first models. It looks great but I used the smooth tool on it a couple times to make it look good. Now when I make things in 3D I try to make it without using the smooth tool at all. The reason? Because the smooth tool just about doubles the number of polygons in your model every time you use it.

After playing around in my preferred 3D modeler for a month or two I knew what just about all of the tools were used for. Plus in Wings3D they add new stuff to it a lot. In the experimental version they have a new tool called Ambient Occlusion. Its their version of a technique often used in games these days. It darkens wherever there is an area on your model that is always going to be in shadow. It makes the lighting look more realistic and it does a pretty good job. I used it on the Georgian Townhouse in my earlier post, and on the pillar in my last post. Oh speaking of my last post, here is a picture of my current progress.

Catacombs, still missing a floor...

I have about half of the level done. Fortunately my idea of modeling several walls and putting those together like this works quite well! I still have to put floors in yet but I'll do that after I get all the walls up. Also the black parts of the walls are supposed to be black. The background is going to be black and I will have large black blocks put up between the walls so the player can't see further than the room they are in. It should create a good view for the player when I'm done.