July 24, 2015 Patrick Walsh

Dev Blog 3 – Highpoly Hijinks

Its a long way to Tipperary

Editors note: The following post is best read in an Irish accent.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Patrick, the lead 3D artist on P.A.M.E.L.A. and when not cursing due to software crashes and baking errors, I’m making the games cool props, characters and materials. Join me, in a journey through time as we explore my varied and at times unhealthy experiences on the P.A.M.E.L.A. development team.


My quest begins as a young boy, last September or so. I found myself in the enviable position of having been invited to work on a top secret project. Ssssssshhhhhhhh. They’ll have my thumbs for revealing too much. Anyway, as the only 3D artist (at the time) (and not including Adam, the environment artist whom you have met already and is definitely a nice guy) I rather unknowingly, had quite the adventure beckoning me from the soft, cosy, marshmallowey goodness of going home at 6 O’ clock .

My tasks?


To create some kick ass models of course. But oh, naive and foolhardy reader, that was not all. I also had to try to define a pipeline, learn a whole new software suite, get to grips with PBR (which wasn’t that hard to be fair) and try my hardest not to end up with scurvy from the terrible dietary choices I was about to make.


As I touched on above, we now have a 2nd Artist, Matt, but at the time I was all on my own. So I pulled up my socks and dived into some Substance Designer. Oh and Substance Painter. I’ll go into a little more detail on those in a minute but for any 3D artists out there (even hobbyists) who haven’t used them I implore you to give them a go. They’re great fun, fast, flexible and very rewarding overall to use. Most importantly however, they’re a great addition to any art pipeline and can genuinely increase your workflow by a great deal.


It was a bit of a challenge undertaking such a drastic overhaul of my normal workflow and I ran into quite a few setbacks with both programs. In fact, you might say I had a bit of a Substance problem…. Eh? See what I did there… Anyway, it didn’t take too long to make decent progress and the small amount of time spent learning has already paid off ten fold.


Below is a rough outline of my pipeline for creating the average 3D props and characters for those of you interested:


Its a relatively standard pipeline with both Substance Designer and Painter slotted in for added rockstar appeal. It goes as follows:

Step 1: Modelling

High and low poly models are created in both 3ds Max and zBrush. I also unwrap my models in Max. Check out some fancy shmancy screenshots:

High Five!


Can you guess what this mystery object is?

High poly mystery item

Step 2: Baking


Baking can be a complicated and rather convoluted affair. From this point onwards I may be going between various programs to bake maps I need until the textures are completely finalised. I use a combination of xNormal, 3DS Max and yes even Substance Designer to bake the maps I need. Substance designer has quite a robust baking functionality that produces great results and its super quick.

A typical baking scene:


Step 3: Texturing


As you can see I still actually use photoshop. Quite a bit in fact. I clean up my bakes, create alphas, tileable textures and things. I generally use substance designer for hard surface texturing because its great for things like dirt, edge wear etc, stuff you don’t normally get on organic models. Substance Painter is great for character work. Its got some awesome brushes, you don’t need to worry about UV seams, you can paint normal details using some really powerful and flexible tools and its also not limited to characters. You can generate a lot of the same effects as substance designer from inside painter too but with added control over unique details. My overall workflow between the two programs consists of a lot of switching back and forth. I might be making my main textures in Designer but need to add a few bolts or seams to the normals so I’ll switch over to painter, do so and bake out a normal map with the new details added. Or I’ll need a colour ID map to apply the various materials I’ve created in designer to the appropriate places on my model. This can be done very easily using painters painting tools.


Heres some texturing I did in Substance Painter:

Low Poly Hand


And here’s a really super close up look at a Substance Designer material on an object that we haven’t actually revealed yet:


Christmas came around and after some super late nights, and sucking down dominoes pizza like it was going to be outlawed any day now, we were in the final stretch of our first major deadline. Shortly thereafter, and even though the snow refused to acknowledge it, the spring had arrived and come early March it was time to mount the great iron winged beast and fling ourselves at San Francisco, where great opportunities, an awesome booth, tons of even more awesome people and a truly memorable time were waiting.


Unit Event GDC


I had such an amazing time meeting the endless faces that came to tell us how excellent our game was already, ahem, I learned a lot, I ate a lot and I went home knowing our little secret project was shaping up to be really cool. But seriously, my tasks were manning the booth, meeting and conversing with the many convention goers, journalists and industry people who came to have a gawk at our wares and going to check out the other vendors for useful stuff.


Along the way, as Christian mentioned before, we poured ourselves into some mocap suits and despite the fact that we probably looked like garbage bags full of yogurt we hurled ourselves at the job at hand. Another memorable experience for all the right reasons, as I’m sure you will agree when you see the results. Mocap is a rewarding but very challenging task. Not only was it physically demanding but, of course, it requires some degree of acting talent but great fun nonetheless.

Blue steel:

Blue Steel


That about wraps up my experiences on the project so far. Its been a great ride and I can’t wait to see whats next for the P.A.M.E.L.A. team. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing my slightly troubled inner thoughts and thanks for reading. Be sure to check out next weeks post from Ian in…


Dev Blog 4 – Assuming Direct Control


Take a look next Friday! And if you’d like to receive monthly updates as well as important news…