FSU Year 03: Art Creation for Games (ACG) (and Physical Science)

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This month kicks off my third academic year at Full Sail University and it also marks the beginning of my core classes that revolve around game models, textures, pipelines and techniques.

Many fundamentals we learned in years one and two are now exactly that, fundamentals. The new things we will be learning from now on are packed above the basics or different altogether. I’ll get into more depth on this today.

As always, here is my ArtStation project page, so you can follow along! 🙂

Art Creation for Games (ACG) with Professor Wergin is one of the best classes I’ve taken in the 2 years I’ve been with Full Sail University. Not only is the class organized very well, the online lecture recordings are conducted wonderfully. The excess parts of campus lectures are cut out and edited for online students and the audio and visual clarity is top notch.

My instructor was very informational, professional and approachable. She knew what and how we needed to learn.

Coming from 2 years of disorganized classes all over, I’m glad to say that ACG pulled all the pieces together and tied it all into a nice package. If there’s one thing that I can say was taught well in this class it would be: Workflow and Pipeline. Okay, that’s two things…


Basically, ACG is a pipeline class. We are to do sets of small excercises in order of progression in the pipeline, and in the final week pull all those steps into one final project to turn in from start to finish.

We cover reference choosing, blocking out our prop, modeling them in high res, learning to model mid and game res, exporting them as an OBJ for zBrush, exporting from zBrush back into Maya, baking the high res into the game res, exporting the FBX file for Substance Painter, learning Substance Painter and finally implementing and importing all moving parts into Unreal Engine 4 to present in a showcase level.

It was, honestly, a blast!

I was anxious at the start since I’ve always felt very under-equipped after 2 academic years of learning all of these things. Coming into ACG, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to pull my weight in class.

After touching bases with my instructor, I felt relieved that all the students who come into year 3 are of varying levels, and that ACG was meant to tie in all the loose ends. And that is exactly what it did.

Week 1: Modeling

The first week was scary. I did not know what to expect and how the progression will look, but after speaking to my instructor, I felt capable to going through the month with confidence.

The first thing we needed to do is block out and model our Macbook adaptor in high res. This was where I felt like I sucked again. Like modeling was just not my thing. But I kept going, repeated as needed.

Next assignment made me feel even worse. We were to pick out, from the provided reference images, a subject to model. I chose the bearing. I had a rough time here due to the detail and how to cut in holes without the whole thing collapsing on me. Nonetheless, I powered through, almost broken inside, feeling all the pity the world can offer. So, I decided to reach out to and bother my instructor once again. I asked what I could do to cut holes into my model without worrying about forming n-gons. (As you recall, we were trained to model with faces that have 4 vertices 98% of the time). To my relief, she tells me that n-gons and tris aren’t as worrisome as it used to be as long as the prop does not bend. I was able to cut a hole and not mind the gaping face of an n-gon, so long as in smooth-mode, the model does not collapse. The high-res model is only there to be able to bake into the game res as a texture. This lightens my spirit. –This is also to take in consideration that zBrush will have issues with n-gons nonetheless!

The main idea here is that the game res model’s silhouette matches the high res silhouette to the T. Otherwise, the texture will not wrap appropriately. That being said, game res models are over simplified models that use tris and quads as a basis and are simplified to only hold shape in ‘1-mode’. So, no holding edges, no faces that won’t be seen. This is where we learn to be efficient and frugal with tri space. Future classes will provide a tri budget to consider.

Moving on, the last part of the week was to model a high res and game res pillar of our choice. This was tricky as we were to export this to zBrush and sculpt on it from there and return it into Maya (and bake later on).

Week 2: UV mapping and baking

The following week, we learn to map UVs to tell the texture how to show itself on the mesh. This is done with the help of a simple exercise that upped the challenge per prop in the provided project. This was fun, since it started with a simple cube, no bevels, and became harder as the props got more complex.

We also learned to use the UV tool unitize, which is how you get a texture to follow the contours of the mesh, a la tree roots with a bark texture. What it does is separate all the polygons selected and stitched together in a manner where they are to be seen properly. A very handy tool to learn.

The main subject this week was the proper and efficient uses of UV tools. Cutting seams, UV mapping by shape, Moving and Sewing, Layout tool, and unitize. These essential tools made my UVing life so much easier! I no longer fear UV mapping like I used to.

The pillar from last week, which I redid for posterity, is getting another time to shine. We bake out the game res and high res using Transfer Maps in Maya to get a normal map and an ambient occlusion map. This was cool because later on this will allow the flat pillar to look textured.

We honed into the unitize tool by UV mapping an archway and some rings. This was a great intro to advanced UV techniques.

Week 3: Unreal Engine and Substance Painter

Our third week emphasized 2 new programs: Unreal Engine and Substance Painter.

Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is the program where games are made. It is the engine that will pull all assets together to make a final playable package. As artists, we learn how to pull all we do in Maya and texturing and create actors in UE4.

We are given a showcase level (compatible with UE4.13 and UE4.16; UE4.13 does not work with High Sierra at the time of writing this) where we plug in 10 spheres and create 10 materials for them, 9 of which are given and one to be decided by us.

The process of creating materials in UE4 was very intuitive and user-friendly. It did not take me long to grasp how it all worked.

Week 4: Pipeline Competency

This week is straight forward. We summarize all we learned this month and pull it all into one final prop.

I chose the oil drum. I knew I was going to have minimal time to complete something this week due to life, and so I chose what I thought would be easiest on the roster. Nonetheless, it still tested my understanding of the procedure.

This whole class was great fun! y instructor had also allowed me to contact her for any future critiques or advice I need for future classes and beyond, so yes, I really enjoyed this class. All the chaotic knowledge I had swimming in my head for 2 years all summed into one understandable and substantial class in Art Creation for Games.

Physics is Physics!

Straight forward class like the math and art history class before. I enjoyed this little sideshow. We learned or refreshed our knowledge on many physics topics and ventured from anatomical proportions to the universe! I’m not sure if I can pick up anything here that would make sense in game art, but definitely cool to study, fun to learn and easy to apply in many future stories and the such! 🙂

Stay tuned next month as I tackle Texture Painting and Sculpting! We’re going to hand-draw and learn to sculpt textures for our models now! 😀

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