Author Topic: GDR02: "Red Eye"  (Read 9064 times)

Titan Backstory:

In an alternate retro-future, Mankind has exhausted all natural resources on Earth and has taken to the stars to sate its hunger for industrial expansion. Waring goliath corporations developed the means to expand their territories into new solar systems, and now fight for precious resources on alien planets.

A burgeoning industry of excavation machines has developed in order to extract these resources, the so-called Grinders (or GDR for short). At first these were very utilitarian and constructed with the purpose of maximum extraction efficiency while protecting the pilot/miner from the harsh elements of these exotic worlds. Soon enough it was no longer merely the elements they needed protection for, but rather the other corporations they were vying for dominance over. Grinders began a gradual transformation from utility to combat, now a necessity for survival in these celestial territories. 

Titan Description:

Part excavator, part war machine, Red-Eye (Grinder class 02) was designed for heavy encounters. It was originally developed to blast Ore deposits with projectile explosives and carry materials with its retractable claw arm. Now it serves to head off enemy Grinders at the pass, using it's heavy armor to shield itself from both hazards and retaliation alike. 

Personal Background:

Hi I'm Jakub, a veteran 3d artist and co-founder of indie games company Space Bullet. We're a 2-man company where I represent the entire Art department. For the last  1/2 year or so, we have been knee deep in the R&D phase of our latest project, which just so happens to revolve around gigantic excavation robots nicknamed Grinders. We are slowly developing the tools and have chosen to heavily incorporate allegorithmic software into our processes because it helps streamline the texturing workflow. It is in this light that I caught wind of this Titan contest, and would love to be part of it. I would like to enter this contest using the backstory of our project as a starting point for a new creation. I will be starting a new Titan from scratch, and developing it entirely on my own.


I have already developed an initial substance workflow for authoring textured 3d assets for real-time rendering in Unity 4. I have about 2 dozen base PBR material graphs (mostly just solid colour values at the moment) that are being combined to form substances. These materials are currently being used on some unrelated prototype assets. I will most likely be improving on these base materials, along with making brand new materials to form the basis of texturing for my Titan entry. I have not yet worked with Painter, so that will be an entirely new aspect I hope to work into this Titan entry.

Here is the latest progress update:
Last Edit: July 19, 2014, 08:16:24 pm

Here is an initial quick sketch of Red-Eye. I hope to follow this up with more detailed evolutions as the design comes into focus.

Some progress on an Ortho sketch of Red Eye with a bit more definition. The next step will likely be a profile sketch, as I get closer to a design I am happy with.

Been a while since I last posted, unfortunately life/work got in the way, and I had to wait a week to be able to get back at this. Finally I now have the time to finish off the sketches, and perhaps start thinking more on my texturing/shading strategy. I figure I'd post a bit of the reference materials I used to get at the sketches, to give you folks better context on my process.

More thoughts on the stylistic approach to Red Eye:

The idea is a machine based around the 80's sentiment towards the future. Think about how Alien(s) and Blade Runner project a vision for the future, having not yet invented our modern comforts of technology such as cell phones and laptops. In this universe, computers are a large and expensive affair, relegated to perform single-purpose functions, and not the high-end stuff of today.

In this kind of future, tech is still very rough and tumble, bulky, hulking, and dirty. By dirty, I mean the use of crude fuels to power equipment, power, and so forth. This is one of the main reasons mankind has invented these things, to excavate the expanding demand for more resources on other planets.

Hope that provides a better idea for my approach, thanks for reading.

Here is some progress on Red Eye's Ortho sketch to show where I am at with it. I will write up a more detailed description in the near future.

I'll be wrapping up work on the legs today most likely. Hope to be starting up the modelling phase soon thereafter. For the modelling/UVs, I will be using Softimage 2013 (RIP, Autodesk killed the wrong program!). Since this is a straight-up hard modelling project I'll try my best to stick to just that program. I will post the finished ortho sketch end of the day with any luck.

As promised but a little late, here is the final ortho sketch of Red Eye. I decided to change up some of how the legs worked since there was no way the old sketch would work out with actual geometry and still function. Now it's onto the modelling phase, along with some substance work simultaneously.

Normally in my modelling process this section would have been much more fast n'loose and I would have worked out all the design issues while modelling, but since this a hard-model i figured it best for timing to work out the issues in sketch form. Hopefully this will mean less time modelling, and more time on texturing/modelling, but I've been wrong before...
Last Edit: June 01, 2014, 01:15:07 am

I like the idea of old school sci fi, similar to the Alien movie.  Do you plan to have residual excavator parts on this machine, or is it customized for pure combat?   

Also, it would be cool to see areas where the mech once had different attachments (almost like it were painted yellow when the excavator was first created, and when a new battle arm was attached instead it displays unpainted areas and open bolt holes).

Hey Tundrashift,

Thanks for the feedback, nice to hear some input and ideas from others. The idea with Red Eye is that he was a later model, so was build more with combat in mind. Having said that though, I love the idea of having like vestigial parts and connectors that are no longer used. I also agree that there should be some evidence of re-purposing with the paint job, maybe the new parts are combat grey but older grinder parts are construction colours. Most of those sorts of touches will really shine in the texturing phase i think, though I will give some more thought to the repurposing idea.

In the backstory planned for this universe, there will also be earlier MK1 models of the grinders that are more geared towards excavation, so I think those guys will lean more heavily towards what you are saying. They will also be older, and thus more rusty and frankenstein built, with things bolted on and such. I went with a newer model since this robot is more menacing, and meant as an adversary to the player (these robots will eventually be for an upcoming video-game).

Great sketches aphex_guy!
I love the mech design.
Anthony Garcellano | Environment Artist

Thanks for the good vibes! I hope my modelling work can do it justice... (I got a good feeling about it though)

Finally got some free time around to start up a shape blocking session. While it's still very rough and just an assembly of floating cubes essentially, here is an early look at the way Red Eye is shaping up:

My Substance Approach

Hi there, thought I'd take some time to talk a bit about how my substance workflow is shaping up. Since Red Eye is a character that is targeted towards real-time rendering in Unity, the texturing process is a bit different than the default within substance designer. The great thing about working with substances is that I am free to play with how I construct my texture workflow and shape it to suite my needs. I have taken time to optimize it for real-time generation within Unity with a emphasis on speedy PBR visuals with reduced file sizes.

Reducing file sizes

Normally in designer one would generate some bake maps such as ambient occlusion, curvature, and colour masks for defining materials on the character. While this a great workflow, it has the side-effect of adding file size to every substance file used to generate the final texture maps. This was not ideal for a character that may be used in the future on mobile platforms that are more size-restricted.

So I began rethinking a way to get similar results on a much tighter budget, and what I landed on was to embed AO/Curvature/Masking within the source geometry's vertex colours. This was ideal because it wouldn't impact file sizes as much, and would also stay attached to the mesh until needed. Unfortunately, designer cannot directly access mesh vertex colour information at run-time (as far as I can tell) and it still needs to generate textures offline for it to be used in the substance texture process. That's where the power of Unity's off-screen rendering was used to quickly generate the bake maps on load that are then connected as inputs for substance generation.

Material Masking

As previously mentioned, the source material masking information is generated from within Unity, based on the mesh's embedded vertex colours. Since I'm limited on vertex channels on the mesh, the mask I use is greyscale. I have set up various base materials I will be working with, and use the mask to blend between them. There are other unique things at play here, but since this post is running a little long, I think I will elaborate on this in a future post.

Finally, I will leave you with how my material graph is looking like so far. I have labelled it so it's a little clearer what's going on:

A) Source greyscale material mask input, generated at run-time in Unity
B) Simple base PBR material nodes, which are then combined in the custom multi-material node
C) Here I will layer in some global effects such as dirt, streaks, and decalling. I can mask these optionally using outputs from my special multi-material node.
D) PBR outputs for use in Unity Skyshop rendering. Outputs used are Diffuse/Normals/Spec Colour/Glossiness
E) Source pre-rendered noise texture maps. Stay tuned for a future post on this...
F) Custom multi-material blend node. Can't wait to shed some light on this in the future...
G) Source normal map generated from high detail mesh. Blended with substance-based normals.

Thanks for reading!

Here is the latest progress on Red Eye. I'm getting quite happy with the shapes now, with more of the lumbering mass that I envisioned from the outset. Some parts are still quite rough, but I have to keep it that way for the time being until I am sure everything gels and will also loco-mote well. This model will not be just posed and has to also function, which makes it a bit trickier.

I am also making some good progress on the texturing front. Got some good materials going, so hopefully I can move beyond the test phase there as soon as I get to the UV unwrap stage. Probably going to be another week before that, though.