Saturday, September 17, 2011

Botbuilding 101

I began this study when I assigned my modeling class a "Mech" project. I figured it was a more interesting way to approach "hard-body" modeling than, say, modeling from blueprints of a car or existing product. Students were asked to come up with their own concepts. This way, I could ensure that they were exercising their conceptual facilities, not just their technical modeling skills (nothing against technical modelers, but these days that skill is so easily outsourced). Since my approach to teaching involves participating in every assignment --teachers should always do the assignments so they know what the students are dealing with-- I developed my own bot. First, a doodle on a piece of paper:

As you can see, my first instinct was the old "big-guns-as-hands" approach. I changed them to hand-like clamps with the first ink sketch, simply because I thought they would make a nicer silhouette. I decided early on that this was going to be all about design, not realism or backstory. This freed me up to exaggerate design elements without concern about how "practical" they were.

For my second draft, I sought to emphasize the rhythmic quality with repeating forms.

This was developed into a front and side image plane to bring into Maya:

And a low-poly cage was developed using an image plane:

Sometimes it was easier to add it as a projected texture to a plane that I could rotate to build the offset parts:

And the resulting low-poly mesh:

Laboriously, I laid out UV coordinates for all 50+ parts, then added a procedural bump texture in Maya to see how it looked:

In Mudbox, I put down the first base layer of rust.

Back in Maya I could see all the texture stretching due to the smoothing of the subdivision levels. After refining many UVs and model parts, I returned to Mudbox for the next layer of diffuse texture:

After a couple more round trips to Mudbox, here it is rendered in Maya with Spec, Normal and Diffuse maps:

I'm all botted out for now, but to really make this production-quality would require another layer of texture for asymmetry (currently, most parts reference the same texture on the left and right sides, so this wouldn't hold up to cinematic scrutiny). There are lots of places you could go with this, rigging-wise, but this makes for a good base mesh to work from. He's game-ready at the lowest LOD, and since all his parts are swappable I just might get around to adding some big guns back in. Some day.

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