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3D tribulations

3D tribulations
« on: January 25, 2012, 10:02:09 am »

I love realtime 3D. Merely being able to navigate a virtual environment is magical to me. And in realtime 3D, the feeling of being present in that space is very visceral.

But creating 3D spaces is a pain.
The biggest problem is that everything needs to be made. You can't just artistically suggest the presence of a feature in some way, you actually have to build it. Even if you're going for a vague, impressionistic style, everything needs to be built first, modeled and textured. So you end up engineering things, instead of sketching and painting.

3D is so damn clean.
I love how in 2D, you can easily dirty up things. Even a certain sloppiness can be charming, and improve the aesthetics. In 3D, everything is clean. And sloppiness only leads to models that are rendered completely wrong, texture seams, bad performance, things going haywire. If you want something to be dirty, you need to build the dirt, which takes all the spontaneity out of it.

3D takes a lot of time.
Everything you do in 3D is a lot of work. You can buy prefab objects but they are never quite the right style and they often don't go together, so you have to tweak so much that you might as well have made it yourself. By the time you're ready to judge your idea, and get a feel for the space you've created, you've had too much time to think things over.

This is not mean to just be a just a complaint. As I said, I love 3D and want to use it in my work. But I'd like to have ways to make things quicker, easier and dirtier. Any tips are welcome!
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2012, 11:03:18 am »

Voxels or similar? What makes much of the 3d requirement so strict is because the polygonal base with requires very strict math.

For examples, have 3D built on basic atomic shapes makes it a lot less prone to the error. An early example is Ballz: http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/ballz-3d-fighting-at-its-ballziest
That way you can go dirtier and less exact without everything breaking up.

Another related issue is texturing. If you skip textures and uv-mapping you can be a lot less strict with rules of model building.

When you go with voxels, objects become more like sculptures as they have an inside, and is not the fragile paper-thin representation that polygon meshes are.

All of the above have other problems though of course, but as always there is no perfect way.

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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2012, 11:19:00 am »

Look at Radio Silence. This game has simple 3d models, but it looks really good.
It is possible to create simple meshes and make them look awesome without a textures by using some methods such, in example, post effects - blur, depth of field, noise, glow - it will make game looks interesting.
Also look at Hide, this game has pixelated 3d view, and it looks awesome
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2012, 02:37:07 pm »

This was striking me as I was working on teeth, recently, and felt claustrophobic literally having to place the camera inside the character's head to even see what I was doing...

3D has its advantages, however. In terms of modelling I never feel there is much you can trust the 3d software with (I think of the 'smooth' or 'relax' tools as the 'drain characteristics' tools), but in terms of lighting there is so much you can leave it to do. There is a certain 'realness' which properly calculated (linear-space, HDR, &c) lighting can do which I very rarely see done by hand. Not photo-realness, but 'spaciousness', like Vermeer.

You have to engineer it, but then when it is there it can work automatically, often. For instance, my facial system is built to simulate a light tension in the flesh and certain features of the face moving slower than others as they are 'pulled' by lip movement. Once this is there, it can do anything. Although arguably this might as well work in 2d. Cloth physics is another that, once it is set-up, it does its thing. (Although I still have to make this, and may change my opinion on it accordingly.)

Something which endlessly frustrates me is things like having no 'touchable' cameras. I have to make changes to wobbly animation code and such, which is very annoying. I do sometimes get a 'locked out' syndrome feeling about my game world.

But in the endless bag of metaphors, I see myself closer to a set-designer or sculptor than draughtsman, and that helps me cope.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2012, 03:02:39 pm »

The challenge is that we have been investing heavily in the polygon pipeline for over two decades. Hardware is optimized for it, engines build around it, tools made on top of it, formats specified for it .. and artists made careers out of it.

Hunter ( 1991 )


Skyrim ( 2011 )


So, it's not simply a matter of questioning whether polygons have surpassed their expiration date. It takes significant effort to veer from the standard model.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 03:11:35 pm by Kjell »
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2012, 03:55:31 pm »

Though to be fair, for the coming era of engines it comes down to shaders, more than polygons. Ever since Doom III shaders have suggested more geometry than there was, and with geometry shaders becoming part of 'the standard', more triangles exist inside the shader pipeline than 3d software could handle. It sort-of comes down to textures again, at that point. I am not sure whether that will be good for sketching or just make the whole process even more meticulous.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2012, 06:01:31 pm »

Look at Radio Silence. This game has simple 3d models, but it looks really good.
It is possible to create simple meshes and make them look awesome without a textures by using some methods such, in example, post effects - blur, depth of field, noise, glow - it will make game looks interesting.
Also look at Hide, this game has pixelated 3d view, and it looks awesome

I am aware of stylization and I think such games often look pretty. But I also like to appeal to the sense of touch of the player by simulating textures. Above all, I want to create a sense of space, not any space, but a very specific space with a very specific environment. I do want to simulate, not merely represent.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2012, 06:04:39 pm »

Though to be fair, for the coming era of engines it comes down to shaders, more than polygons. Ever since Doom III shaders have suggested more geometry than there was, and with geometry shaders becoming part of 'the standard', more triangles exist inside the shader pipeline than 3d software could handle. It sort-of comes down to textures again, at that point. I am not sure whether that will be good for sketching or just make the whole process even more meticulous.

I love playing with shaders. That's definitely a plus. But you still need objects and textures to shade with. Normal maps do not reduce the amount of modeling since you need to model the complex model before you can make the bump map. And a focus on 3D textures does not allow for the same tricks and shortcuts as working in 3D.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2012, 11:55:45 pm »

Hear hear. I wish there was some easy way of adding dirt, dust, scratches and imperfections procedurally. Particles perhaps?
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2012, 08:08:37 am »

Maybe a shader that messes up the normal maps of all objects to make them look uneven and a bit crooked and that adds variation between multiple instances of the same model/material. And perhaps add dirt like we would add a lightmap (with a smart algorithm that knows that corners and bottoms are dirtier).
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2012, 10:17:13 am »

Maybe we can use prefab 3D models (bought on TurboSquid and the like) and then use post-processing effects to mess things up and unify the look.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2012, 10:40:56 am »

Side not: all this is why pixel art is so popular Smiley
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2012, 10:44:27 am »

And perhaps add dirt like we would add a lightmap (with a smart algorithm that knows that corners and bottoms are dirtier).
http://www.spot3d.com/vray/help/150SP1/examples_vraydirt.htm I think something similar could be done in a realtime environment as well.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 03:53:49 pm »

I think procedural graphics could be used more. The problem is, the mentality about how they are used. They are not seen as an artistic tool, rather they are viewed as a shortcut or something that is either used for everything or nothing.
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Re: 3D tribulations
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2012, 12:29:04 pm »

Maybe a shader that messes up the normal maps of all objects to make them look uneven and a bit crooked and that adds variation between multiple instances of the same model/material. And perhaps add dirt like we would add a lightmap (with a smart algorithm that knows that corners and bottoms are dirtier).

Interesting you should mention this, I had a phase where my character's model was too smooth and I just applied noise to her face and tried to restore her. The model has never been symmetrical since, too.

The dirt lightmap idea can be baked easily in 3d software, too, with the VRay example (or Mental Ray). I was actually planning to use it for my marble areas and have the dirt properly change the surface appearance.
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