Soooooooo……yeah. I did a thing…..and it’s exciting, and I wanted to share it with you.
Those who have been patrons for awhile know, I’m always trying to push this project as far as it can go. I am a relentless learner and I’m always looking to explore that next level of perfection.
It has long been my dream to one day take my games to the next level using Maya and the Arnold Renderer. But a Maya license is crazy expensive and that was more of a long term goal. Something to aspire to in another year or so if I can really get enough support to work on the project full time.
But in the meantime, my explorations for improvement haven’t ceased, and I’ve been exploring alternatives software packages (read: less expensive). One thing I’ve learned is that in the world of 3D modelling, the fundamentals don’t change. The biggest difference between software packages is interface, specialized tools, and render engines. But the parts are pretty much the same. Modelling, UV Unwrapping. Texturing, Shading, Rigging, Animating, Rendering.
It was with the knowledge of these fundamentals in mind that I decided to toy around with Blender because, hey, it’s free. And despite the low cost of implementation, a lot of developers shy away due to the overwhelming complexity of it’s interface and the sheer depth of it’s tool set. But I am neither shy nor intimidated and so I said what the hell, and dove right in.
I’ve been cranking on the game solid for the last three weeks and I decided this weekend I needed to take a little breather so I could dive in again fresh on Monday. But as is the curse of someone passionate about a project, I couldn’t stop thinking about the game. So Saturday morning I thought I’d kill a couple hours in the morning downloading and toying around with Blender just to see what all the fuss was about.
That started a journey that has lasted until this very afternoon. And so, after watching about ten hours of tutorials and just playing to my heart’s content, I decided to import one of our characters into Blender and see what kind of results I could achieve.
Once I had Cassie’s model in the software, it took another three or four hours of modifying and adjusting surface nodes to get her skin to render properly but it was a tremendously good learning experience.
And so, I present to you my first forays into photorealistic skin shading in Blender. Now there is still much more to learn and much more to perfect (including the skin) before she is usable for anything. So don’t get too excited about seeing Cassie HD in the game anytime soon. But for a self taught amateur with about two days of experience, I don’t think the results are bad at all*!
Now tomorrow is Monday, at which time I will be shelving Blender to work on the game once more during the coming week. But I have every intention to break it out again next Saturday morning and continue my learning.
That’s Awesome, So What’s it All Mean?
Let’s take a quick minute and talk about the future. Moving the game out of Daz and into a full 3D software package would be a big deal. It completely frees the process up from the Daz store, allows greater customization, and would open up the ability to do real animation in a fraction of the time or cost of doing it in Daz.
It’s improved quality all the way around. And while setting and rigging the initial models might take a little more time than it does in Daz, just like Daz, you only have to do it once. At that point, you have everything saved and you’re importing your pre-built assets into your scenes. But to do that, I have to be working on the game full time.
So while this is an exciting advancement, it will still be some time before we can use this new tech in the game. I still have to learn proper rigging and animation, as well how to make, model, and rig hair**. But I know how to model in ZBrush, I now know how to build groups of shader nodes and we have sufficient hardware (Each of the above renders took less than a minute to produce).
Clearly it’s all very attainable. We just have to wait patiently to get there. So hang in there, help me continue to build support (maybe we’ll put a dollar value on this goal). And know that when the time comes and we are prepared to make this leap, WE ARE NOT STOPPING DEVELOPMENT FOR A REBOOT. When the time comes I plan to handle it just like the upgrades we’re doing now. Each future release will have a bunch of new material and a little bit of remastered old material. And little by little the old material will eventually catch up to the quality of the new stuff.
Anyway, that’s all I got for now. I’m going to put this away and enjoy the rest of my weekend…all six hours of it.
*As good as it came out I’m still not 100% satisfied. I want to increase the resolution of the textures to enhance surface details and continue to experiment with the surface nodes to achieve an even more life-like quality.
**Which I am super excited to learn because I’m sick of Daz’s static, stiff, lifeless fucking hair.