Update - 25 Nov 2022
Hello! I'm Rob, a first year Games Art Student at the University of Portsmouth and I'm proud to introduce you to my contest entry.... Webster!"
I came to this project super late, I only had 2 weeks until the entry date and was in the middle of a Game Jam at University. The first step for me was research.
I had no idea what direction I wanted to go in when this project started so my research was a scatter shot of different technology, I was immediately drawn to the older tech especially the warm "tobacco stained" creamy beige that I (only just) remember from my childhood.
I did have some initial ideas around Lucas the Spider and his overall design, as that was very cute. I wanted to create a tech-spider hybrid which become the direction for the rest of the project.
Initial concept work focused very heavily on the spider concept and almost entirely ignored the "Old Tech" vibe I had wanted to capture, after some rethinking I was able to create something that was a little more old-new tech hybrid that also kind of looked like a spider. To give me some idea of scale and form i did a very quick block out prior to starting the HP
I was really proud of my initial high poly work; however, it became obvious that nothing about this was cute or lovable, which was another factor I hadn't really considered. So, with 1 week left till deadline and some really nice high poly work that I was emotionally attached to... I had to decide to either scrap what I had and do a redesign or try and rework what I had done. I made the decision to redesign the concept
Back to the drawing board! my new designs felt a little cuter and i made some decisions that would guide me through the rest of the project. Firstly, sharp edges are not immediately cute, so I need to keep my edges relatively smooth or curved, secondly realism (whilst cool) is also not always cute, especially where spiders are concerned.
High Poly... Take 2
Much happier with the results here. although I would have liked to use ZBrush I was able to create the final designs in Maya with enough detail to provide a really nice and (hopefully) clean game ready mesh and bake... the main struggle here was keeping things realistic enough for the mechanics to make sense, without making them look too overwhelming, i could have had pistons and wires and other dangly bits but I felt this took away from the face / head of Webster which is what would be used to communicate with the player, I wanted to eye to be drawn naturally to the face. the extra geometry got in the way of this. I also didn't have a tonne of time left
Focus with the low poly was to create a really tight match to the High Poly to make baking as easy as possible, nothing massively difficult here for the most part I was able to re-topo to the HP geo I only had to model the ports from scratch, just to keep the optimization good since people probably wouldn't spend any time looking at them
Marmoset Tool bag was used for Baking. I have found that using Marmoset provides some benefits over other applications, most notable of these is the ability to preview bakes on Low Poly Geo as well as giving me the ability to alter bake skews which I had to do with the ports. I normally used substance painter for baking but have found being able to only "normalise" parts of the bake is really handy.
Texturing - Substance Painter
I used Substance painter almost exclusively for texturing. For me substance painter is an amazing piece of software and I'm so grateful its now free for students again. Thank you.
Now before you give me a lecture about layer naming. You are correct i should label my layers, but I had 2 days left till the deadline!
Texture inspiration came from the Commodore 64, The colour banding and mix with the old shades of beige plastic felt really retro so that was my focus during the texturing, I also wanted to make Webster feel capable so gave him some metal leg parts, after some feedback i removed some of this metal and blended this with the plastic. I kept the modelling modular which means texturing Webster was nice and easy. I used Material IDs to help break up Webster into texture clusters which made applying textures much easier.
It may be Cliché, but I couldn't help but include stickers. as an artist I spend a lot of time with other artists who splatter their tech with stickers, often from some obscure anime. I settled with the rookies and substance painter / designer stickers. along with 1 or two others. see if you can spot them.
So, it's deadline day! and I need and environment and a final render. no pressure. Firstly environment. I knew I didn't have time to craft a vast wasteland to capture the threatening and powerful essence that webster naturally has in this environment, but I also didn't want to just do a turnaround, so I compromised and created a UI type of environment to make webster feel more at home.
First step here was creating some sprite like UI assets that I could place onto planes inside stager The rules were clear and very little post process was allowed so this was crafted in a modular fashion to help with placement and resizing etc inside stage.
Importin g Webster was easy, I just sent it to stager from painter, which was very sooth it took all the textures across however it didn't keep any of the emissive power info so I needed to tweak this.
Scene setup was pretty simple, I had the assets from earlier and Webster next step was to create a good composition adding additional cameras here was useful as I could set one camera to be my main view and use another to move assets and make changes etc.
I managed to finish in time. I really proud of what I managed to create here. almost a weeks' worth of work (4days) from the rework to the final renders, it feels like a lot longer. I have learnt loads.
First lesson really was taken from the re-work, stick to the initial concept direction. I drifted away from the lovable spider robot I wanted to create and ended up with some high poly Atari themed monstrosity I created on my first pass and although this was a massive waste of time it was worth doing because it really solidified the design language moving forward, curves curves curves.
The most valuable lesson I have taken from this process is how fun these contests are, I nearly didn't enter as I had so little time left, and I had loads of Uni work to complete but I'm glad took part. I also had to deal with my son being Ill and not sleeping and the general misery these things combined can bring a parent! I'm so glad I finished. I hope you like it!
Thanks also to my wife for allowing me to focus exclusively on this and providing feedback every 2 seconds, I wouldn't have finished without you! thank you! <3