The Making of Mech Medic +
My name is Alex Lashko. I am a 3D Artist specializing in Character Modeling for real-time use. My industry experience includes working for such companies as Activision, Gameloft, Trigger. I have been fascinated with real-time graphics for quite some time and I am very excited to see recent advancements and adaptation of PBR (Physically Based Rendering) in the gaming industry and even outside of it. The reason I chose to participate in the Art War 2 challenge is to update my skills by applying the latest 3D character creation techniques. As in any industry, it is of the utmost importance to keep learning if you want to stay ahead. It can be hard sometimes to motivate yourself to study new tools or even work on personal projects. This is why joining such challenge as Art War 2 is the perfect opportunity to acquire knowledge and keep growing as an artist.
It has been a while since I participated in a challenge like Art War 2. Other than a chance to win the seductive prizes, the bigger value lies in pushing yourself to break out of the comfort zone and trying to create something unique and to develop new skills along the way.
When I started thinking about the character I was going to create, my immediate thought was a healer. I wanted to create a character that would be running in the field trying to support the team members using some special tools. Also the character was to be set into not so distant future, where she would use the latest advancements in technology to tend to her patients. The idea of mechanical arms is not anything new, but instead of replacing the original limbs, I wanted for this asset to be detachable from the body. One way I thought that they could be a separate entity is be a part of a backpack that she would carry.
The usual character modeling workflow would be to have a finished concept art first, but I decided to skip this step and go ahead and develop the character as I went. I did collect a few references that I thought would help me set stylistic guidelines for the character.
I used a base mesh of a male body, which I created not too long ago before the challenge, but I really liked the edge flow and I could easily isolate parts using polygroups in Zbrush.
I wanted to create a full body first, then I would create clothes and props on top of it. Having a fully detailed body would ensure that in the later stages during the clothing creation process, the outfit design would not be compromised. All body parts from head to toe were sculpted with trying to pay attention to all minute details.
This was the first challenge for me as I did not really have any prior experience in hair creation using PBR workflow. I have been admiring some of the great hair examples used in games such as “Uncharted 4” and “The Order: 1886”. Luckily, the man, who was involved in both projects had an online tutorial on how to achieve good looking hair using xGen. The tutorial “Realtime Hair” by Adam Skutt helped me tremendously to get the look that I wanted to achieve on the hair.
This was a perfect opportunity for me to learn new software such as Marvelous Designer, which is becoming the standard for clothes creation in CG industry. During my learning process I stumbled across a tutorial called “Marvelous Designer 6: Making A Jacket From Scratch” by Madina Chionidi. In this very concise tutorial, she was able to guide me through major useful tools in clothes creation with easy to follow steps and narrative. I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to learn MD or trying to pick up some useful tricks. In my design process, I started from base layers and built on top of them.
D. Hard Surface/Mechanical Arms
The arms needed to be well articulated in order to feel functional and flexible enough to use. It could be quite challenging to design a proper functional piece of mech. After watching some online videos about robotics, I started to understand the type of joints/pistons I would need to have a functional design.
Another challenge was to create proper support for the backpack. Because the backpack would be somewhat heavy (at least heavier than the regular backpack), it would require some special support to prevent it from sliding around and be comfortable enough for the wearer. I added a backplate to which the actual backpack could be snapped on and a spine which would take some pressure off the lower back and transfer it to the hips.
One useful trick that I learned in creation of the mechanical spine links is to use “special duplicate.” It offers instant feedback on both upper and lower link connections.
The texturing was probably the easiest part in the whole process. I used quixel DDO to create some basic materials and add some simple weathering. Quite standard process. One little trick that I developed was in the stitch creation. I simply rendered one stitch with a couple of different angles using the normal material in ZBrush and placed them manually in photoshop to add that sort of detail. The advantage is that you are also able to control color, spec, gloss of this part since the stitching is on a separate layer.
For lighting and shading I used Marmoset Toolbag, which is a very powerful real-time renderer. It supports PBR workflow and lighting and materials can be rendered very realistically, while maintaining a steady frame rate. A very simple environment was modeled to ground the character. Cameras in Marmoset Toolbag allow to render Depth of Field, an effect that is used in photography. This added more realism and hid certain imperfections of the far too simple environment. The character was posed with the help of mixamo, which offers automatic rigging and animation solutions. I had to detach the backpack, so that the hardsurface parts would not take part in organic deformations. I later manually re-attached the backpack and posed the mechanical arms.
It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Art War 2 challenge. I picked up a few new tools along the way, which I would otherwise procrastinate to learn. There were lots of great entries and it's quite inspiring to see so many passionate artists participating in this event. And if somebody is curious to check out the actual progress thread, you can do so by going to the following link.
Check out Alex's Cubebrush store here.