Blog Patrol

Monday, 16 November 2009

Zbrush Practice

Generic damaged pillar. Trying to use methods learned from tutorials such as using Surface Noise Feature, new LazyMouse tools and various polycut tools.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Random : no20 'More painting'

Made variation of the previous painting and tweaked it some more.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Random : no19 'Random Quick Painting'

Working with a tiny A6 tablet here where every stroke needs a few seconds to register, I really need a new tablet. I'm still painting away, miss this style of painting (similar to Overlord).

Friday, 16 October 2009

Unearthly2009 : 'concept/blockout'

Working solo on this to give me something to do while inbetween jobs. The brief is to concept, model and texture a game environment that suits the word 'endgame'. So a setting of great setting for the entrance or part of a final level before encountering the 'main boss' etc. The area could result in the entire world being saved or doomed etc.

I picked a keyword/theme to base my concept around and this was 'leap of faith' where the hero has to run and jump into a hologram and a higher power will judge if they are to be transported to the 'end'. Seems a bit like a tacky B movie idea but it should be fun and the environment has a nice combination of modern design fused with natural ancient elements since this 'lab' was built over an powerful ancient ruin.

So far done a basic concept and used that loosely to make a blockout.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Random : no18 'Garden'

Update on Garden piece that I'm currently working on.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Education : no33 'Metal'

Some great insight into creating metal surfaces by an ex co-worker of mine, Peter Asberg.

Original source can be read on his portfolio site at

Creating metal surfaces

This is just a couple of things I keep in mind when creating metal surfaces. They are by no means set in stone, it's just a few things I've noticed might help when creating metal surfaces for next (well, current really) gen use.

The most common problem with normalmaps for metal is that it's easy to overdo it. Depending on the engine you are using, you might not be able to get sharp, crisp normalmaps unless you use fairly large texture sheets so for the most part, the fine grainy detail will have to be left to the specular. Scratches and such do work however and usually need to be in the normalmap to make it look convincing (just keep in mind that texture compression might ruin the really fine scratches, those that are just one or two pixels wide).

Below is a compilation of different types of painted metal surfaces:

As you can see, painted metal can look very different depending on what type of paint it is and what it has been subjected to. It's important to decide what type of paint your surface has been painted with since it will affect both the normal and the specular maps. Having a history in mind when you create the textures is useful since it will help you decide how to treat it. Is it an old surface with lots of scratches, new with a few dents, so old the paint has started to flake, was it painted without being cleaned up first so you have really lumpy paint, has it been polished often? Having a history will also make the object look a bit more interesting rather than "generic metal box #6". This is of course not mandatory, it's just a mental exercise that might help when creating the textures. I should add that having a history in mind works for any kind of texturing, not just metal surfaces.

A common mistake is to create a normalmap that has a lot of noise in it but this makes the surface look more like leather/elephant hide than metal. If the texture is a 2048 instead of say, a 1024, the noise might have looked more like the grainy paint above but in most cases, it won't look like convincing metal. What I would do is to tone the noise down considerably and just keep the scratches where the paint has been scratched away to reveal the metal. What we need to keep in mind however, is that scratches that are just a few pixels wide will most likely look lumpy and not very pretty once the texure has been compressed. So keep larger scrathes, dents etc in the normalmap but be careful with the finer detail.

In addition to that, a specular with fairly high contrast can work well since paint is usually fairly matte and non-reflective (there are of course exceptions, it is as always down to what type of surface you want to mimic) whereas scratches can be very shiny since the metal surface beneath the paint shows through. Another little tweak can be to make the diffuse colder. Sometimes a texture can have a fairly warm feel, with brown and almost light orange tones as a base which can make it feel slightly wooden. By simply changing the hue on the base colour layers so they are more blue-tinted it can feel more metal-y. It's a cheap trick but it works. It is also important to tweak the specular curve of your material since the way a game engine renders the light shining on your material can have a large impact in addition to your textures.

When it comes to the specular, it's almost better to put a lot of the fine detail there rather than in the normalmap for the reasons outlined above. Some detail needs to be in the normalmap and mimicked in the specularmap, such as scratches while otheres shouldn't be in the specular at all. One such example is if you have a plain metal surface that has been dented. Again, this depends on what kind of effect you want. If it's a recent dent, there won't have been time for dirt and dust to collect so it hasn't become dull yet. If it's an old dent, it will be less shiny than the surrounding areas since it won't have been cleaned as well as the rest of the surface. And just to add to the confusion, some things should be in the specular but not the normalmap such as oily surfaces, grease marks, handprints etc. This is where the idea of having a history of the objects comes in handy again. Has the object been manhandled a lot, dropped, left to stand in an oilslick etc. All these things combine to make the surface look interesting and if you put the right detail in the right map, it will look fantastic.

Of course, metals need to reflect something so having a good reflection map is the last piece of the puzzle. Here is where it can come down more to what looks good than what it would realistically reflect. Unless your surface is very clean you can get away with using a reflection that doesn't have anything to do with the setting. As long as it looks good, that's all that matters. It's also down to memory usage. If you take a cubemap for example, it's made from six separate images so the memory usage is fairly large for just a single cubemap. If you can reuse one cubemap on many surfaces you'll save memory which can then be spent on other things, such as higher resolution textures on selected objects. As always it's a trade off between what looks good and how much memory you have left for the shiny stuff. That's also why slightly dirty, painted metals is a bit easier to cheat with, you won't get a clear image of what the reflection looks like. Clean environments are always harder to get to look good and interesting in my opinion. By the way, a very good example of succesful clean environments is Mirrors Edge, it has great usage of lighting and a very clean style. Well worth a look for the visuals alone (apart from some of the fighting sequences, it's a good game in my opinion).

Since this whole text is about metal surfaces, I have to mention Dead Space. It has a very well designed look and the way they use specular and normalmaps in that game is almost exemplary of how to do metal surfaces right. The normalmaps are clean, crisp and there is very rarely any noise in them. It is a very well made game, excellent design on pretty much all levels. Great atmosphere, lighting, texturing and a good story with good voice acting. Speical mention goes to the integrated HUD and the sound design as it is, in one word; amazing. Playing it with headphones late at night was an expereince I won't forget any time soon. As an example of Dead Space texturing (and a cheap way to get more images into this post), here are two screenshots that show their restrained normalmaps and nice use of specular. It looks a lot better in motion, and the lighting is pretty much all dynamic so you'll see some really nice effects all through the game

Monday, 21 September 2009

Random : no17 'specular colour'

Was playing around with specular colour today. Not sure why, it needs a reflection map more than anything :)

Random : no16 'Personal Training / mod work

Helped out with a mod here and made a door from scratch. This is the first asset which I've successfully zbrushed so that's something cool. Hope to do more of that very soon. Since showing this door to people a few have said it would greatly benefit from colour specular but my laptop cannot handle shaders with this feature. I really miss my super powered PC in the studio :( Might try and do a proper render instead...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Random : no15 'Personal Training - Zbrush'

Getting to grips with zbrush with bricks. Half of these are 44 Tri, the others are over 200k.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Random : no14 'Personal Training - Last Gen Building'

Update on this. Managed to use the allocated alpha map for dirt decals which really helps.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Random : no13 'Personal Training - Last Gen Building'

Trying out an art test that asks to model a building from texture using under 5000 poly and texture it with a 1K texture map budget (diffuse, spec and alpha). Have done the building now and it's under 50% of the budget so will be adding and tweaking that.

About 60-70% into the texture pass now, being a bit
over ambitious since I have a really bad setup at home. 1 monitor, laptop that cannot handle both max and photoshop at the same time. A6 wacom tablet. So that along with the budget is really limiting me here but that in itself is quite a refreshing challenge. Hopefully should finish this some time next week.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Random : no12 'Personal Training - Character Modeling2'

Had a stab at creature modeling. Still need to think about the head!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Random : no11 'Personal Training - Character Modeling'

Have tried character modeling in the past and have recently had a stab at it. Everytime without fail I end up in that loophole (no pun intended!) where you go around it again and again trying to clean up the topology but in the process messing up other areas.......and that's before I attempt the ears!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Random : no9 '100 worst Videogame Box Art Covers'
My run down of what I find to be the most laughable, ugliest and most disturbing box art covers of all time. All of these are commercial games.

At 100 it's Safe Cracker 'The ultimate puzzle adventure game', not quite sure where the adventure is in opening a safe. Maybe they are dotted around the world. Check out the amazing motion blur noise photoshop effect for the metal background! Oh and the keyhole in the 'A'.

At 99 it's Arcade Pool. Join in and play with some guy in his bedroom with his invisible pool playing buddy.

At 98 it's Championship Pony. If you're going to stick a big horse head in the middle at least make it sort of correct. Seems a bit harsh insulting this illustration compared to what is coming up later...

At 97 it's the Xbox360 version of the Streetfighter 4 box. That's not Ryu! This is like one of those badly illustrated covers of the late 80's (only much much better).

At 96 it's Crabby Adventure, inspired naming skills going on here. By the way this is the first of many entries from Pheonix games, the absolute masters of bad box art covers. This cover is one of their most beautifully pieces of design work so far.

At 95 we have Ghost Recon jungle STORM! JUNGLE STORM! GO GO GO!! Apart from the 15 minute tea break in between battles that has been beautifully captured here with some kind of weirdly colour schemed cover.

At 94 we have the brilliantly named Gem'x starring a beautiful bunny girl in dire need of toilet relief. Those eyes! You'll later discover the eyes are a big factor in what makes a true disturbing box cover.

At 93 we have more eyes in Lady Cruncher. R U HUNGRY?

At 92 we have the splendid Super Bust a move cover. "I have a great idea for a design to our puzzle game. Baby, shades, baby has writing on head and red thing coming out of mouth..."

At 91 Diva Dancers. Scary face.

At 90 the fondly remembered Chuckie Egg. Not for it's cover however.

At 89 Bust a move's followup sets out to make a worse cover than the last and succeeds.

At 88 ULTIMATE Duck Hunting. Broken up on occasion with boss fights featuring over sized gigantic dog heads. Oh and aim lower mate, the duck's down THERE on the bottom right!!

At 87, the Power Ranger's grandparents in FinalZone 2?

At 86 Deal or no Deal. If it glows it means it's special.

At 85 Yellow haired Ken in front of orange background in Streetfighter EX2 PLUS. What's up with the arm and face? Thankfully the title hides all your other deformed limbs.

At 84 What's going on here then?

At 83 It's Battle Arena Toshinden. CHOP! Nice arms sir.

At 82 It's Dur Daragh! (what?) I can't wait to play it and check out that rock.

At 81 Phoenix Games with Hansel and Gretel. Banana hair!

At 80 It's Body Blows (Galactic!) Yeah, fighting game. Let's stick some of the characters on the box and leave it at that. Oh and let's stick on an absurd surreal thing on the bottom right.

At 79 Ico! The European cover remains one of the most celebrated covers of all time. The American cpver has him clench a stick in his hand with a scowl that suggests 'Back off bitch! or I beat yo ass'. Talk about missing the point of the game.

At 78 Bionic Granny shown with her two spooky children. It should be the granny running away from THEM!

At 77 Party Babyz. Who thought babies were a good thing to put on a cover?

At 76 Crescent Century hits us hard with this photoshop trickery.

At 75 Spiderman Web of Shadows indulges in some tattoos and shows them off with pride.

At 74 Galdregon's Domain! Featuring girl floating from a cup and a bare naked chest prat. The best bit however is the sticker on the right that tells us that the game is of a 'Utter Brill Quality'. Half naked males is quite a trend in early box art as you'll soon discover.

At 73 Ninja Rabbits! (more like ninja rabbit) a game about ninja rabbits that comes with free 'ninja combat'.

At 72 no.

At 71 Deeeeep Feeeear check out the spoooooky hand (and the red 'thing' in the middle)

At 70 take the eyes! Vigilante's box art made people feel warm inside for buying it.

At 69 come and party with Cheggers, you know you want to.

At 68 it's the return of Phoenix Games's box art covers. Crazy Golf, This cover was done by their best artist, at least this one will not give children nightmares.

At 67 it's the slightly creepy Ballyhoo cover"

At 66 it's Spaaace Roooogue (by Paul Neurath). Every boy wanted this game so they could feel just as cool as that dude on the cover.

At 65 we have Suspended. Now I feel bad since this was actually a creative cover at the time. It was a sculpture with depth as a cover but it's all wasted effort if it makes children cry themselves to sleep every night.

At 64 Virtual Kasparov! Yes! We have the Kasparov license! Let's stick him on the cover! Headbutting a huge horse head!

At 63 Valis 3. What on earth is that?

At 62 Phalanx. The hyper speed shoot out in space. It's a game about space so why not have some old dude with a beard playing a banjo. His face, his face screams 'This is FUUUN!!'.

At 61 Legendary axe 2. TWO. TWICE. TWO AXES. Clever stuff here.

At 60 it's time for some Magic Meanies. 'Waah, I am a wizard. I have a giant apple on my shoulder. Just because I can. The other stuff? Oranges?"

At 59 it's time for Dalmatians 4 (4?!) Another entry from Pheonix games. Now they are starting their journey into the world of hideous cover art.

At 58 it's Final Fight 2. Featuring guys that are so awesome they just have to flex their muscles while doing drop kicks.

At 57 the Sega Master System box art revolution kicks in with Secret Command. You just know from those 3 little waves emitting from the gun that this game is going to be INTENSE. Shame the artist couldn't at least add an emotional roar to the soldier, or just a mouth in general.

At 56 It's Crazy caveman. Stop hitting that big stone with the title in it otherwise it will break and we won't know what the game is called!

At 55 It's Dark Century. Boom! It has a tank or something on a shiny chessboard (The mirror ball in the background proves this)

At 54 CHOP!! (again) Buy Guardian Angel and you'll be able to chop bad guys too.

At 53 What says 'This game is action packed!' more than a guy punching through a brick wall with his fist? How about TWO fists as shown on the cover of Brawl Brothers.

At 52 KAPOW! David Duchovny is on the loose in StreetSmart.

At 51 brown and unexciting silhouettes. Can't wait to get this one home.

At 50 Bad Company cover. What the hell is that on his head?

At 49 ROBODEMONS! Glowing sex toys, glass jars attached to knees, little weird midget things. Welcome to the lower 50 of worse game covers of all time.

At 48 Cheap Skate, in more ways than one.

At 47 Space Harrier. "OOOwww my chin!". Oh and remember, 'Twice the mega power!'.

At 46 Be just like these two kool kidz from the city (check the blue building in the background for proof of this) in RIVAL TURF!

At 45 This really was the cover the sequel to Xenon.

At 44 the pure emotion captured by this guy's face in the cover for Wire Head is what makes it.

At 43 Wonderboy in Monster Land has possibly the most freakiest face in game box art history.

At 42 Steam Express! Suprised there wasn't steam emitting from this piece of crap from yes you guessed it, Phoenix Games.

At 41 Phoenix Games again with Cinderella's Fairy Tale. Don't know what's going on here, nice placement of the big logo thing in the bottom right. They should just make them a bit bigger and then Phoenix Games would not need to do so much work.

At 40 Shock and awe for the solider on the cover of Socom.

At 39 Incredible illustration skills on the cover of Burger Time. Check out the scary egg.

At 38 Pheonix Games have created two Snow White games. This cover is the not so scary one.

At 37 River City Ransom. What on earth is he doing?

At 36 it is of course Hammerin' Harry. Featuring none other than that freak out of the Goonies.

At 35 yes. Ninja Scooter Simulator. Check out the spikes on the bike and the skulls! This is hardcore stuff.

At 34 Great Soccer. Imagine if today you got 'Fantastic FPS' or 'Brilliant RPG'. Oh and they couldn't even be bothered to do the rest of the character.

At 33 yet more breath taking character work from Phoenix Games in Legend of Camelot. Is that an egg in his crown or part of his head?

At 32 Neverworld. What?

At 31 Crackdown. Where to start? Laughable demon goat guy? Both expressions on the guys or that random out of place monkey in the bottom right?

At 30 Phoenix Games created a wonderful cover for Hot Shot, a game about a gun.

At 29 Phoenix Games with Snow White. Possibly the most disturbing cover for a kids game yet. Featuring the same castle from their Cindarella cover.

At 28, Killer Kong! Starring a gorilla that has metalic human breasts appears to have just done a rude.

At 27 Cave Fighter, you take on the role of Mr Pointy Knee as you take on some naughty ducks. Look at the unparamount expression of pure terror and fear in his little face.

At 26, Abraham Strong, Space Mercenary. Not too sure what is going on here. A giant Mercenary standing in a warzone in which a dishwasher has gone out of control?

At 24 Sorcerer Lord, oh my god one of his horns has turned into a dragon and is about to gobble a lady who has also come out of his hat!

At 23 ElfMania. I totally dig the guy in the bottom left.

At 22 Gepetto left his drugs out in the kitchen again. Check out the Pinocchio title, it has a wood filter on it. This is because Pinocchio is made out of wood too! Phoenix Games don't just make beautiful covers but are clever with them too.

At 21 we have One on One. I'm not going to say anything about this one.

At 20 another Kong game. This one manages the seemingly impossible task of being worse than the last one.

At 19 it's Suspect. Again, I really dig the bottom left character.

At 18, we have my most hated Phoenix Games cover. Street Warrior, not only does it have awful artwork but it's painfully generic. The dog IS amazing though, I'll give it that.

At 17 Command and Destroy. Can't believe this is box cover artwork for a recent game. Love the copy and pasting (flipping and scaling too!) of the alien.

At 16, Countdown to DOOM! (by Peter Killworth). They couldn't even be bothered to colour it in.

At 15 European 2 the 'Exciting Strategy Game'. What's with the hand growing out of the elbow?

At 14 The Kristal. Again, it's all about the expressions. Wonderful stuff.

At 13 Not sure what this is called to be honest. Some splendid posing for the cover though. Bless the guy being headlocked, he seems to be rather enjoying it.

At 12 Freddy Mercury and Tom Selleck's lovechild goe's awol in Joe Blade 2.

At 11 Knights of the Sky. Want to be their friend? Play this game!

At 10 Street Sports Baseball. Featuring some deranged guy trying to whack a fly.

At 9 the popular Ghosts n goblins had

At 8 you can't expect to much from a game named Blood and Guts but this is shocking. So many unexplainable things going on but of course the best bit is the guy standing on a cats tail for no reason whatsoever.

At 7 Black Belt is the worst Sega Master System box cover of them all. At least with the Great Soccer they bothered to draw a full leg and had someone over the age of 6 do it.

At 6 What the hell is this? If you're going to mirror something at least try and not make it so obvious.

5 so wrong.

4 Metro Cross has possibly the most uncool image in the history of box art.

At 3 possibly the most famous bad box art covers and from Capcom of all people. Mega Man not only has horrendous illustration but they have tried to humanize the character to make him look more cool. Liking the crazy gun perspective though.

At 2 we have Karnaaj. I can't believe this made it to the shelves. No idea why the R is highlighted or why the guy has blue hair and eyebrows. This isn't that old either!

At 1 Puzzle Maniacs. I don't quite know why I find this to be the worst cover in video game history. I'd just love to have seen the meetings that took place in coming up with this cover and how it was proposed.