Chico State Game Studios Modeling Weeklies

This semester I decided to have the modeling team I lead at Chico State Game Studios submit their weekend online weeklies to a polycount thread.

You can check it out and give feedback here:

If you are not from Chico and want to know more about Chico State Game Studios you can find past student projects here:

Week 14 – The End? Or Just About

Lots of changes this semester overall. Unfortunately not much time to sit down and work on a single project from start to finish, which is a bit disappointing to me. Luckily there were a lot of things that I did accomplish this semester that worked out great.

First is getting everything ready to start my masters. A little less than 2 years ago I started at Chico State with the only goal of giving myself some time to finish a portfolio and obtain a Bachelors. I thought that since I had been at community college so long I might as well get a Bachelors for all my work. Now I face a similar point. Another 2 years to go, but this time with much more focus and knowledge.

Second was getting a start in some other areas of game development I wanted to explore a bit more, like level design, and scripting. I will continue working on modding games, as well as working on my level building application.

As for summer I have a few goals. A couple which need to be accomplished are completing at least 1 level in Torchlight 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2, UE4’s first person template, and shootmania. None of these require custom asset creation which is good, but all of them need to be accomplished for ID Tech. I plan on creating very basic maps in each, demonstrating all the things the students will be learning, and then as the weeks go on expanding each as I have to teach them.

My second goal is to finish the abandoned school project I started. This I will be diving into right as school ends and going pretty heavily at it.

The third goal of summer is to port Rocket Volley over to Unity, and get it into a much more presentable state than it has been since the end of last semester. Most of this will involve scripting but I see myself doing plenty of art assets as well.

For next semesters 493 project I think I am going to spend the semester working on a custom KF2 map mod. Unique assets and all if it is supported at that point. If it isn’t supported I will finish off my throne room scene, and move onto another 3d project or mod for the rest of the semester.

Week 13 – Tools n’ Mods n’ Games

The Abandoned School will be picked up on when classes are done, or possibly dead week. I want to go all out on that project and I just haven’t had the time I want on it.

Instead I have been working on a lot of projects that I can easily spend a half hour, hour, or so on at a time, and see a noticeable improvement.

1. Level Creator in Unity
Last week I had started on a level creator using unity’s editor scripting. After rethinking what I wanted the goal of this level creator to be I thought it would work out much better in play mode. Basically I want this to be an accessible tool to be used by modders or level designers. I want to cover some advanced features, while at the same time allowing people with little technical skill to draw out makes and generate them easily. The best way is to build this into its own executable that can be saved out and sent to unity or a game later on.

Main Features so far include a pixel drawer and a map generator. Neither are anywhere near feature complete but they will be the first two things I finish. After that I am going to work on more advanced features to add. Like selecting individual meshes and editing their properties or textures.

I also think it would be nice to put in a brush based system to lay out random props that don’t conform to a grid for more organic games.

Above is the current pixel drawer. Right now you can’t apply it to the map generate mode but it isn’t far off. Also I want to add some more controls for navigating the canvas and other things. Right now you can only use the middle mouse wheel to zoom-in and zoom-out.

Here is the current map generator screen. It has mimiced maya viewport controls since they are the ones I am most familiar with. Right now you can load in a map from its file location in your system. I want to look into doing a quick file browser type window. Right now a very temp object selection works, which will eventually bring up a object properties window on he right side so you can change parameters and other things. I also will be adding more customization into the left hand side like choosing which meshes go where based on colors.

2. The next thing I have been working on is Killing Floor 2. Not much to show here as I am just getting familiar with the game and current level design. Look out for more on this later as I want to create my own map and possibly multiple maps/mods later on.

3. The last thing I have been working on is modding torchlight 2.

This is something I will be teaching over summer, but I love the game and will probably be creating my own mods in this in the future as well.

Week 12 – Level Generator

Abandoned School Post will be Sunday. Today I will be showing off the current progress on my level generator for unity.

Basically I wanted to be able to take small images and use a color ID like masking method make a game level editor out of it.

Right now what I have is this:

1. Take a small image using basic colors

2. Throw it into an editor window made in C# in unity that will parse through and pick out the colors.

3. Insert some game Objects and hit Generate

Right now that is all it does. The next step is to give it more customization options through the meshes itself. Such as having a generic “wall” game object that can change meshes based on what side it is on. Or a Props game object that randomly generates various props using the placement I give.

I want all of that exposed in editor scripts, along with lots of substance parameters on the textures of whatever meshes I use.

Week 11 – Busy Week

Had way too much to do this week so I spent the time I did have towards lots of research of my current project and the next. I will post midweek (Wednesday) with actual model/texture updates on the project.

For now here are some things I found this week.

1. How to create your smoothness map for Unity 5 inside of substance painter from Wes McDermott

2. Super PNG, a plugin that promises to fix many of the issues found with Photoshop’s handling of PNG files. Haven’t used it yet as my use of photoshop has fallen off the last year or so, but I have some plans for something in photoshop soon, maybe i’ll try it out.

3. A video series on how to model various nuts/bolts by Mike Hermes. Which pairs very well together with Digital Tutors recent series on floaters.

4. The well known polycount user known as Earthquake, or Joe Wilson if you want his real name has a great thread on working with normal map bit depth.

5. Another post/question started by Earthquake, but solved by another user gives a great answer for anyone who wants to create an environment in UE4 to use as a cube map in something like marmoset.

Week 10 – Abandoned School

A day late, but with much more content!

First, I decided my new project will be an abandoned school. This way I can mess around with tile flooring/walls, decaying areas, foliage, etc. Lots of fun stuff I either love to play with or stuff I have been meaning to get my hands on more (foliage). The image posted above shows off what I am currently playing around with in engine lighting wise. Because UE4 uses an eye adaption setting by default I’ve had some issue getting my lighting to be consistent between sessions in UE4.

This is the lighting in the scene without eye adaption.

And here it is with eye adaption.

Also the original image of this post is what the scene looked like when I opened UE4. The reason I think this is happening is because when I opened UE4 this session my camera was already inside the room. If I had flown out of the room with my camera and come back it would have probably ended up like the lighter image above. I am going to have to keep this in mind as I move forward because it is the best way to get lighting accuracy in dark areas. Our eyes adapt to the environment so having a room that you can barely see in makes little sense when there is more than enough light pouring in for our eyes to make things out with.

The current blockout is a bit further than this but is sitting in maya at the moment. I’ll post a screen shot of that later in this post. But for now I want to go over random discoveries this week in terms of other blogs/sources.

1. This week GDC updated the vault with all of the 2015 talk stuff. This means new free talks as well. I am still going over these, but my favorite so far was Ultimate Trim which went over some cool tools and methods for creating modular assets. I really like how they did the paint brush effect with vertex colors.

2. One of my favorite things this week was the release of the Substance Maya Toolset. Being able to bake everything inside of maya speeds up my work potentially a ton. I no longer have to swap between the programs to problem solve weird baking issues caused by mesh errors. I can handle all of my baking problems before switching programs.

3. Something else to note from this week. As I mentioned last week I have been spending some time recreating the character controller of my old game prototype LITTLEbit. One of the biggest helps with this has been the Math for Game Developers by Jorge Rodriguez on Youtube. One of my biggest issues back in the original controller was being limited by collision detection. My character could only go so fast. With the help of this series brushing up my vector math knowledge I was able to recreate the detection scripting and have so far been unable to break through walls with my character even if I am going 100 times faster than I ever intend it to go.

4. Another good resource I found this weeks is A Practical Guide on Normal Mapping for Games. I was hoping it would have a bit more in depth info on unsynced workflows but there is a ton of info in here that I wish I knew while starting out. I hope I am not breaking his request of not posing the guide without his permission by just posting to his polycount thread. If I am sorry.

As for that blockout, here I am. Going to play around wit the layout and small prop placement all weekend it seems. At the same time I will be listing off what I need to model/texture/etc. Hoping to have the floors and the walls started texturing by Monday.

Week 9 – New Beginning

I know most of these blogs so far have been text, tools, and WIP stuff. But after this post I will be working on an environment. Currently researching and planning it out. Expect a post tomorrow or Sunday.

Most of my work over spring break was scripting work. I recreated most of the character controller from my previous game LITTLEbit, once I finalize it I might start working on some models for that as well.

Also I grabbed some clay sculpting stuff since I haven’t done it in years. I may not start anything on it until after the semester is over but it is awesome to have waiting to work on now.

Week 8 – Substance Designer 5

substance icon

First things first. I am dropping out of the Throne Room Challenge, at the same time I am committing to the next community challenge from the allegorithmic guys.*

*Unless it ends up falling on some horrible moment during my Master’s Project.

The reason being is that the number 1 feedback I received during GDC was to have more props, and to focus on a specific style based on the studios I want to work for and to have enough pieces so that I can mix/match my portfolio based on where I am applying. I think the first thing I will work on is my hard surface work. With a mixture of sci-fi/future warfare and some modern warfare type elements mixed in. But I am currently researching studios and their styles to find a focus. I have a ton of wide spread studios I would love to work at because I love almost every genre of game and appreciate tons of artistic styles. This will be a hard choice. For now I am going to put my next prop in the previously mentioned category though. Working on finding a concept but I really want to either do a weapon of a vehicle.

In the meantime I have been blasting through catching up with SD5. I created a node to help with the distance node. It helps you visualize where the bevels will and wont affect the original object since it only works on things below middle gray. It also has a slider that will that middle gray value.


Node in Action


Node Graph


The next node I created was a simple version of the new dynamic gradient mode that just replaces black and white. Still thinking about adding more functionality but I could see this saving a ton of time as is.


Node in Action


Node Graph

Week 7 – GDC

GDC 2015

Most of this week was spent in SF for GDC. Not really much work to show for it besides to talk about what I did there.

It was great meeting the Allegorithmic guys, pretty cool having them recognize my name, now to try and get onto one of their demo reels! I also talked to people at unreal, unity, microsoft, etc. To check out new tech.

The new Marmoset viewer is something I am really looking forward to as well.

One of the big highlights was talking to a 3d lead at Creative Assembly who thought my work was great, just that I need more assets to show off. Something I already knew but just didn’t have the time to get enough done on my portfolio. I don’t want to include any student work, and even though I have tons of work on my drives I am very picky with what I have up right now. Other critiques went similar, but overall there weren’t too many companies in the career pavilion this year. Lots of indies showing off their games instead.

One thing that was awesome was getting invited to a mixer with people from the foundry. I have really been meaning to get into modo every since the indie versions popped up an it was nice chatting with the people who make their products. They were an awesome set of guys.

Another good bonus was talking to a ton of people who are going through a similar process to me with my master’s. Most of them are also currently working in industry as well so it was cool to talk about things and compare notes.

Week 6 – The Week Lost in Time

Originally these posts started with me talking about this being my last semester. It now is and isn’t at the same time. Some opportunities came up and I am now going to be doing a Master’s. Unfortunately these opportunities came up about a week before the deadline to apply so this week consisted of me running around campus during all of my out of class time, and then coming home and writing proposals and paperwork.

This Master’s project has been a blessing and a curse. I am no longer stressed out non-stop about getting everything ready to apply to jobs in a couple weeks, I can work mainly on building connections and friendships in the industry, and I have 2 more years to work on my portfolio. The hardest part of this last year was finally getting to a point where I am happy with my own work, but not having enough of it yet to be satisfied with my portfolio. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff I never show anyone and may or may not be archived somewhere on my computer or in some random drive.

Because of this my goals for the semester have changed. The Throne Room challenge is still something I would like to do but I am still debating on finishing the full environment or not because of the deadline coming up for it. I may just take what I have and polish that out and use as a prop on my site. My new goal is to get roughly 5-10 textures, 5-10 props, and 3-5 environments up on my portfolio and regularly update those sections by taking out my weakest piece and replacing it with new stronger works.

The newest work will be the polystyrene seen at the top of this blog. I have also still been working on perfecting that wood texture. Nothing that great so far but I am getting a better idea of where I am going with it.

wd_01' wd_02

I am also working on the welds a little bit. I think I have gotten to a point with it though where I am going to wait until I need it in a project and then try to get some particle brush effect working for the burn mark stuff on the outside edges of the welds.