Baleyg - Dracolich
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Baleyg - Dracolich

Alexander James Wood
by AlexJWood on 31 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Game ready 3D Dracolich model - "Long dead and banished to Shadowfell, Baleyg has plotted his return for 2000 years. Deep in the earth below Mount Vegr, in the abandoned dwarf hold of Durthane's Deep, Baleyg returns with the assistance of Duergar, fallen Norriener and fire giants."

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This project was created for my 3D Production Methods module last semester. This was my first large 3D production project, with initial sculpting in Zbrush, including creating custom alphas for the scale textures, retopology in Maya, baking in Substance Painter with rendering in Marmoset Toolbag.

I really wanted to challenge myself and so concepted the villain Baleyg, a dracolich and the custom antagonist of the DnD campaign I ran for my friends over the last 3 years. I wanted to display a skeletal core, with layers of muscle and scale, degraded wing membranes, and ornate amour.

Baleyg - Final

Baleyg's eerie internal glow from his head and torso, helping emphasise his magical origins, was produced by adding Omni Lights within Marmoset Toolbag. I deliberately constructed the skull and ribcage to be completely hollow to allow such lighting.

A mask was created to allow subsurface scattering for the wing membranes. This allowed me emphasise how thin they are, much like bat wing membranes.

The designs on the golden armour were directly inspired by real-life Norse knotwork - linking the fire giants that forged the armour with the J├Âtnar of Norse Mythology.

Process

Concept

In order to plan the various "layers" of the dragon, I created a rough 2D concept. Many components changed during sculpting (such as the horns and armour), but this laid the groundwork for the sculpt.

ZBrush - Alphas

I created ZBrush Custom Alphas and 3D alphas in order to add varied detail to the scale sections, which also enabled the creation of the large ridge down the spine. 

ZBrush - High-poly Model

I built up the high poly sculpt in phases using ZBrush. This began with the skeleton, which was created with reference to dinosaur fossils throughout to make a "believable skeleton". Secondly I added muscle,  these were limited to areas where they would be visible beneath the larger scale sections. The scale areas were particularly enjoyable, utilising custom alphas with reference to crocodiles for the various scale types. The wing membranes were a challenge, beginning as a plane before being cut to shape, thickened, and holes added. Finally, the amour was added, complete with large leather straps to hold them in place.

Maya - Retopology and UVs

The retopology in Maya was time-consuming. Due to my high number of subtools to maintain detail between components, most of the retopology was undertaken manually.

For UV mapping, I opted for four texture sets, one for the Skeleton, one for the Muscel/Scale, one for the Wings/Eyes and one for the Armour/Straps. Along with ColourIDs this made for more ease of texturing between components in Substance Painter.

Substance Painter - Texturing

For the texturing I put extra effort into the wings as they are such are large part of the model. Earlier iterations were very simplistic and as a result felt flat and plasticky. To rectify this hand painted the wings rather than relying primarily on bitmaps masks. I painted dark areas to indicate rotting around the holes and tears, and hand painted veins with reference to bat wings. 

I really enjoyed this project as my first deep foray into the 3D pipeline. It was ambitious in scope, but I am pleased with the final result. Given the time I would go back and separate the low poly model into different stages, in order to have a game ready skeleton, then with muscle etc.

Thanks for taking the time to look through this submission!


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