As mentioned last week, this entire week has been dedicated to the creation of the sleeping stone dragon in my scene. it was a good job I gave the whole week to this task too; it was practically the perfect amount of time that I needed. I told myself to make some shrubs this week too, but I haven’t got round to those yet and that’s not the end of the world. Also, the dragon’s wings, spines, and various other sections are not yet finished and I will work on them tomorrow, rather than taking my scheduled day off *sigh*.
Apart from the obvious addition of a dragon into the scene, I have made very few serious changes beyond procrastination and finnicking. I copy-pasted another tree in there. I added another ‘waterfall’ (trickle, more like). I downsized the grass meshes and upscaled the trees to better reflect the scale I want, though I still need to work on that.
The background is now a flat purple, generated by a sphere with an unlit emmisive material on it. I prefer the gradient generated by the skybox in last week’s screenshots, however to have that breaks the lighting and makes the shadows become too desaturated after building the lighting- the skybox colour influences the shadow/indirect light colours. I’ll probably texture the background at some point to have a gradient, and give the background in the Fool’s Room a similar treatment (I had similar lighting issues with that scene too, it was just less obvious). I’m glad I’ve worked out a resolution to a long-standing issue.
For the dragon I did a fair bit of research trying to find the best technique for creating, in particular, the scales. I considered techniques such as hand placing scales in 3dsMax (too time consuming), fibermesh in Zbrush (scales were too irregularly distributed, like feathers), Zbrush micromesh (confusing, beyond my skill level), Zbrush Insert Multi Mesh (didn’t want the stress of learning such a new technique in scary software at this point), Zbrush Alphas/Stencils (don’t like the look it gives). I ended up just going to hand-sculpting the scales, and I’m pretty happy with how it looked. I much prefer the control I get from hand painting the scales- I can change the size, position, and orientation of each scale however I want for the desired effect.
Sculpting was probably the smoothest part of creating this asset, if a little tedious. I set the bar quite low for what I wanted to achieve- I didn’t intend on creating a full anatomically correct and beautifully designed/sculpted dragon, otherwise I would have spent 5 weeks on that alone (and probably still done it badly). The dragon will ultimately be quite concealed by shrubbery, flowers, leaves, ivy etc. so I didn’t want to go too overboard. A week was definitely enough for this asset in this particular project.
I ran into a few annoying issues with baking and importing into UE4, where something in the mesh seemed to have corrupted and so importing into UE crashed the editor. Exporting as a .obj and reimporting to Max fixed that, but then the smoothing groups didn’t seem to want to work properly; I wanted the back spines on a separate group, but it wasn’t affecting the mesh in any way. This weird problem in turn made the bakes on the spines go wrong. Detaching and reattaching the spines sorted the problem, because 3dsmax is stupid, but the normal map bake on the spine still had some annoying artefacts I couldn’t ignore. I decided to just abandon the subtle normal map for the spines. I didn’t want it anyway.
I’ve been jumping in and out of watching Jonah play World of Warcraft recently, as opposed to caving to this horrifying addiction myself. He takes screenshots to show me sometimes, and today I walked in and really liked the area he was in and asked him to take a shot of that too (top).
I find the woodlands of WoW so inspiring and depressing. I particularly like the top screenshot which shows the lovely texturing of the tree with the lichen on it, and also the incredible ground textures. It’s inspired me to go back in and have a go at painting some more detail such as lichen onto the rocks, which will hopefully help improve the scaling of the scene. It’s also given me some ideas for how I can clutter up the floor of my diorama. Looking at the grass in my work, I’m happy with the texture I made but really disappointed with how low resolution it is after imposing it onto the large base island. It looks a bit (very) shit, but I’m not sure what to do about it. Vertex painting the grass texture in would make sense if the model had more verts to support that… but it would go way over the specifications I’m ballparking. I don’t know. It’s made me sad looking at the screenshots of my work and the WoW art. My work really isn’t good.
I wish my work was better.
I am sad.
See you next week when I’ve hidden my ugly dragon and ugly grass behind more ugly assets.