As we mentioned in previous posts, our world will be built almost entirely from physical objects that we’ve found or created and scanned in. With this, we can create really high quality art without all of the digital fussing, and it lets us get back to working with our hands.
But you’re probably thinking that physically building an entire city with the depth and complexity needed for a video game is hard (and if you’re not thinking that, I’ll think it for you). This is categorically true, and there’s no getting around the fact that we have a lot of work ahead of us. But that said, it turns out that building a fully 3D world actually ends up working in our favor here. Typically, 2D art is vastly more straightforward to create than 3D art. An artist can build an object or scene from a single perspective and is much less concerned with what the engine is going to do with it. With 3D art that’s going into a dynamically-lit game engine, you need to take care to not ‘fight against’ the engine by putting too much lighting, highlights or shadows in your art, since the engine is usually responsible for rendering all of those effects itself. This can be counter-intuitive for the average artist who likes to have control over all of these elements. Plus, you can’t just create the object from a single perspective, since the object will potentially be viewable from any angle.
So these are all bad things for a small development team, right? Typically, yes. The complexity of building art for a fully-3D game engine can be prohibitively expensive for your average indie game studio. But, the 3D-capture process helps out quite a bit there. You don’t have to try too hard to imagine what a texture will look like in a 3D environment when you’re holding it in your hand. More importantly though, you can combine objects together, and this is where the 3D engine begins to start helping us out instead of making our lives more difficult.
So what do we mean when we talk about combining objects together? Quite simply, it means that if we want to have a house in the game, we don’t physically build a house, but instead we build all of the components that make up the house. At first this sounds like more work rather than less – and if you’re only building a single house, it is. But if you’re building many houses (like we are), you can recombine the components in fun and interesting ways to create different variations. And once you have enough components, the number of house variations that you can build is nearly limitless.
So, it sounds good on paper, but how does it work? Let us show you. The first step is to (once again) raid the workbench. We’re short on windows, but luckily our Art Goddess has been busy:
Note the green interior of the window. This is effectively a green screen. Once the object has been scanned in and post-processed, we’ll eliminate the green and replace it with… whatever we want. It could be a reflection, or a glowing light, or a view of the interior. For this example, we’ll make it reflective and also optionally emit light. Now it’s time to start putting our buildings together. Let’s start by placing a base piece in our editor.
Already looking pretty good. Good – but nondescript. It could be anything. So let’s give it a door.
Okay, it’s definitely a building now. How about we bring in those windows that we just scanned?
They fit nicely into our base. Our object is very clearly house-like at this point, but we can do better. Let’s pimp it up a bit.
Now remember those windows that we scanned in earlier? When we eliminated the green screen, we replaced it with an emissive map. This lets us turn some of the interior lights on.
Now that we’re messing with lighting, let’s put some lights outside of the windows to enhance the indoor lighting effect. We can also turn down the daylight as well.
Note that the upper window is now picking up some of the color from the environment. So what’s left? No scene is complete without fire.
Lastly, let’s throw some grass and mist around the place to enhance the mood.
And there we go! Milk cartons, pipe fittings, picture frames, and a lot of love all combine together to make a pretty compelling environment. We’re super-excited to see the rest of the world take shape, and hope you are too.