3.0. The beginning of modelling

You can’t disagree with an opinion that games are part of the pop culture. It reaches wide range of people who are not very much into arts. Laymen eagerly express their opinions about the visual part – after all we are talking about video games. Unfortunately, the lack of specialized knowledge results in judging games on the basis of textures resolution, level of details, frames per second, etc. It’s like judging a painting on the basis of the size of its canvas.

It is the object that matters for a graphic, as it is seen as the first one. Of course, we cannot forget about details altogether. They can, however, be dealt with on further stage of work. It is the solid that should determine details, not the other way round.

The first stage in working on an object is to create a very simple object, made up of very trivial shapes. Such an object is called whitebox. Thanks to the basic cubature all necessary alternations and changes can be easily implemented.

The issues that should be determined at this stage are above all:

  • the size of weapon,
  • the dimensions and proportions of the main elements,
  • the number and position of each attachment,
  • movable elements.

Correctly prepared whitebox makes the work much easier and faster. Although it will never be used in a game, it serves as a determinant of the basic parameters in the process of an object creation.

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3.1. An object look in the FPP

The FPP perspective is very limiting. In a frame only a part of weapon is visible, and this part is the most important for a graphic. All elements should be given the right proportions and arrangement so that the cropped picture would show more than is really visible. All the uniqueness of a weapon must be expressed in this visible part. Therefore, while working on a silhouette it’s worth checking if what we can see in the FPP perspective applies to the features of the whole object.

In case of weapon in a frame we don’t see a butt, magazine or the right side of a weapon.

When a prop is placed statically, on the right side of the screen, its left side is far more important. Such assumption causes that some parts of the object are mirrored to make it more attractive in the frame.

Yaron Levi. <b>MSBS Call of Duty: Ghosts</b> [portfolio online]. 2013, <i>source: http://yaron-levi.squarespace.com/call-of-duty-ghosts/</i>
The gun sight’s knob was mirrored on the left side (in reality it is placed on the right side) in order to display it better in the frame.
Ubisoft Montreal. <b>Far Cry 4</b> [PS4]. Ubisoft, 2014, <i>source: http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Far_Cry_4#FN_Minimi</i>
In this case the whole optical sight was mirrored.
If a game has an upgrade or customization option, all configurations should be taken into consideration. Thanks to that we are able to identify problems resulting from connecting attachments at an early stage. The following are the most typical:

  • crossing the geometry of different attachments,
  • incorrect scale of attachments,
  • incoherent width of fixing devices (e.g. a rail),
  • maladjustment caused by mutual exclusion of attachments, e.g. lack of possibility to attach a torch and a grenade launcher together.

An example of the extensive system of weapon customization. In this case all the parts had to be well thought and adjusted at the stage of whitebox creation.

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3.2. Mockup animation

Generally weapon in a frame stays still. Sometimes, however, there are moments where animation is necessary (e.g. reloading weapon).

At the stage of whitebox object creation it is worth to create a simple animation (mockup). The mockup of animation doesn’t have to be polished. Its only function is to check which parts of the weapon will be visible in the FPP view during the animation. It also tells us which movable parts of weapon will be visible and to what extent.

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3.3. Perspective foreshortenings

Andrea Mantegna. <b>Opłakiwanie zmarłego Chrystusa</b>. ok. 1480. [online], <i>source: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op%C5%82akiwanie_zmar%C5%82ego_Chrystusa_(obraz_Mantegni)</i>
Foreshortening perspective on an Early Renaissance paining.
A substantial reduction in the weapon visibility on a screen is very limiting. In such a perspective parallel divisions (against vertical or horizontal edge of the screen) are very tricky and need to be manipulated in order to gain the best effect. Placing too many parallel lines has adverse influence of the shape on the weapon. It makes the object too chaotic and cut.

Too many divisions make noise, especially on the left side.

Exemplary ways to deal with that problem are as follows:

  • erasing unnecessary divisions,
  • extending an element deeper into the screen,
  • increasing spaces between divisions,
  • merging few divisions into one shape.

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3.4. Realism vs. video games

People who play the FPS games a lot when seeing weapon in reality are surprised with the small size and the width of which resembles a „plank”.

Solutions in video games are not coherent with the reality. Sizes are understood similarly to the way they are presented in comic books. Everything seems to be scaled up, huge. It concerns both the models in the world of game and the weapon put in a player’s hands. Weapons used in a game should be solid, massive and of considerable size. All the features should be highlighted in a proper way, presented cartoonish so to say.

Up to some point it derives from purely technical issues (bigger seems better) and from the need to show the power of the weapon (more massive seems stronger). Very realistic models look ridiculous, as if not in the right place.

Yet another noticeable difference between a real object and the game one, is highlighting bulges on the side. In reality weapon is pretty flat – in games we can clearly see the drive to highlight convexity, roundness, etc. Thanks to that an object has definitely better shading and the light (reflections) is better displayed.

Weapon from Brink game and its diversified construction can be a perfect example. Click for marmoset viewer

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3.5. An object significant features

The object of a prop should indicate straightaway its purpose and function. A player after taking a prop should instantly know what it can be used for. He should be able to answer the following questions: How does it work? How can it be used? What kind of weapon is it?

Ambiguity is usually caused by complexity and not clear silhouette or failure to capture the object’s characteristic features. While preparing weapon for the FPP projection one should answer the following questions:

  • What element tells us that an X object is perceived as an X object?
  • Which elements of the X object tell us what it can be used for? Is it weapon, an element of a jigsaw or an ordinary object?
  • Is player informed clearly what to expect after pulling the action button/ the trigger?

Valve Corporation. <b>Half-Life 2</b> [PC]. Valve Corporation, 2004, <i>source: http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/66747415956007380/316E8CDE48B751F8208D690D649386FBE0DC844E/</i>
In this case a jimmy is not only a kind of weapon but is used as an object to break off planks and destroy wooden boxes
Ubisoft Montreal. <b>Far Cry 4</b> [PS4]. Ubisoft, 2014, <i>source: http://guides.gamepressure.com/farcry4/guide.asp?ID=28191</i>
This prop tells us clearly that after pushing the action button, the target will be burned
Techland. <b>Dying Light</b> [PC]. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2015, <i>source: http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/23989752526160006/8D5B6C6BB61FBF78B1ED24FBEF1ED30DFD4F3A02/</i>
The battery, cables and sparks suggest that this is a live knife.
All the elements we consider important for an object should be included in a whitebox model. The key elements that are small in the reality should be appropriately scaled up and highlighted to show clearly what the object is.

While deciding on dimensions and shape of an object you should consider not only single components and relation between them but also the whole silhouette of a model.

MachineGames. <b>Wolfenstein: The New Order</b> [PC]. Bethesda Softworks, 2014
An example of weapon where details, even if in big number, are well organized and do not disturb the silhouette.
Determining the silhouettes of the whole set you should take into consideration both the characteristic features of a single kind of weapon and the characteristic features of the given type of weapon. A good solution is to choose one or a few parts of weapon and use it, or them, in all models of such kind (with adequate changes).

Revolver would be the best example. Although differences in workmanship and shape, each has a cylinder which is a characteristic feature for this type of weapon.

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3.6. Movable parts

Games treat weapon only as a prop therefore, there is no need to imitate the mechanism working inside the model. It saves the amount of tris and assets. What is more it shortens the time required to prepare a model. There are usually the following exceptions:

  • the inside of the optical devices,
  • a magazine,
  • a lock,
  • the inside of the break-open kinds of weapons,
  • the inside of pistols slides, barrel, parts exposed while shooting,
  • elements visible while reloading, e.g. the inside of a grenade launcher.

Showing mechanical elements aims only at creating a feeling of playing with a „real” thing. A player needs to believe in the illusion created by a graphic. Therefore, each movable element visible by a camera should be somehow justified, have shape and composition. The relation between them should not rise any concern of an onlooker.

Not many players have in-depth knowledge about weapon or machines’ construction. But seeing different kinds of mechanisms every day, people have adjusted some patterns and schemes, and subconsciously compare them with pictures they see, e.g. in games. If what they see does not match the imagination / pattern, they will question the authenticity of the world of game. Badly designed mechanism will not mislead the viewer.

Valve Corporation, Hidden Path Entertainment. <b>Counter-Strike: Global Offensive</b> [PC]. Valve Corporation, 2012, <i>source: http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/615041741048055148/81569A53AE4C339A123A41FA2ADC73FC662120C1/</i>
The electronic system is well thought-out. Wires end with plugs placed in sockets. Everything is connected in a logical way.
Film by Feng Zhu is worth watching. He explains what, according to him, the contemporary design is and where to take the inspiration from.

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3.7. Composition

The number of elements that make the object of weapon is set on us (after all we are reproducing a real model). Even though the shapes are imposed on us, it is still worth creating an interesting composition. The process of searching and matching detailed layers, with the rest can be started at the stage of creating a silhouette. Models of monotony structure look much less attractive. Solutions to similar designing problems could be found in, for example, nature or abstract paintings.

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