Environment Modeling for Salvo – Athen Jakusz, Environment Modeler
The ability to create objects; man-made or natural, structures, civilizations and worlds from simple polygons has always been a primary factor in my love of environmental art. Whether it be a destroyed intergalactic cargo ship laying dormant in space or sea of tiny explosive asteroids, knowing that the environments I help create will be explored, experienced, and enjoyed by those who play our games stays within my mind with the creation of each asset.
Having utilized Digital Iris’ pipeline through the years, software tools drive my abilities further and the modern age has given me all I need to pursue any 3D challenge. Blender, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Photoshop, and Unity have been some of my most trusted resources for making video game assets.
Constructing an asset generally begins with a malleable concept, first derived from the base world we are looking to create. “Should these crates be made of wood, plastic, or metal able to resist the vacuum of space?” is a question that will usually arise at the start of the project. From the base I work through finer details, aiming to incorporate how the asset will function in the level. Asking, “will this asset hold a role in game-play, or will it just be for aesthetics? Will I need to shoot my gravitational augmenting beacon to the surface of this object?” will then give me an idea of how many polygons to allow in a final model and size of map resolution.
The starting step of an asset is my favorite part. Mimicking clay, the initial process of molding millions of virtual polygonal faces that make up a 3D model is truly reminiscent of a form of art which has been with humanity since the start; sculpting. After chiseling out each detail, the virtual sculpt will need to be formatted for the game engine. To do this, I will overlay hundreds of polygons over the original sculpt that consists of millions of polygons. Far too many fo ruse in a game engine. This overlay creates a lower resolution base silhouette which works like a shell. The sculpt’s detail will be retained, and applied through various 2D images (called maps) after the shell (defined as the low-resolution model) is unfolded/ skinned/ clipped apart (much like breaking down a cardboard box, or deconstructing a shirt at the seams to bits of cloth).
From here, the detail of the sculpt is baked onto the low-resolution model’s corresponding 2D space, creating the mapped images which will be applied to the low-resolution model within the game engine. In summary, I am capturing the information of the higher resolution sculpt without using the millions of faces needed to create the detail and translating this information onto a low-resolution model through connected maps that fake the level of detail.
Once the faked faces, contours, and crevices appear adequately on the low-resolution model, a material along with a color map is created and painted for the asset. This allows for the model to appear to be derived from its intended consistency; whether that be rock, ice, or highly valuable ore sought after by the intergalactic markets which can only be obtained in, of course, the most hazardous of conditions.
Repeating this process, again and again brings an incredible feeling of accomplishment. Seeing an environment take shape through the means of technical and artistic ability, to see a world built piece by piece through Digital Iris’ pool of creativity brings me joy. So as you, an intergalactic Salvager for SalvaCo, stream through the stars: appreciate not only your anchors, which are the pinnacle of cosmic space resource salvaging; but also appreciate the rocks and metal bits that float around in abundance as they also have an origin and place within the environment.
Let the adventure begin!