In an effort to expand my skillset, I’ve decided that my new hobby would be to learn 3D modeling.
3D modeling has been one of my constant pain points when trying to work on developing my own game. Normally, developers aren’t designers, and vice versa, or if they are, they work within the limits of their knowledge. Since my development work has stalled, I decided that my best option was to work on the visual side.
Over the weekend, I played a whole two games: Quantum Break on Saturday morning, and Endless Legend on Saturday evening. I feel that this is a somewhat appropriate workload…maybe a bit much actually.
Story Mode, Engage!
I had some time to kill on Saturday morning before I had to head out to help @Mindstrike move to his new pad, so I tried to get as far as I could in Quantum Break in the hour or two before my wife would be shouting at me that it was time to leave. Because I’m playing for the story (on Easy level), the gameplay part took less than a hour or so. Then I got to watch the chapter’s live action episode which took me right up to the point where we had to leave. I’ve been told there are five chapters to this game, so now that I’m moving on to chapter three, I could have the game complete sometime this week if I set my mind to it. I know folks who have already completed it, but I’m not so much in a rush. I’m really enjoying the story and the mixed media presentation.
With DLC, All Legends are Endless
I bought the latest expansion to Endless Legend since the whole series was on sale this weekend. I prefer EL over other 4X games because it’s got a different atmosphere from…well, Civilization, I guess. Since Civ is grounded in reality (more or less), the fantastical presentation that EL puts forth is both a little more difficult to grasp (I know what a tank does; I don’t necessarily know what that creature with wings and a spear does) but also allows the game to take greater liberties in what it allows you to do. At the core, EL is the same as Civ, but I just like it more. I tried streaming it using Forge’s new built in abilities, but someone who stopped by the stream said they couldn’t hear me at all, despite the mic being at the position and settings I usually use for streaming. So I guess Forge as a streaming solution is kind of out of the picture.
I’m a Model, You Know What I Mean…
The bulk of my weekend (aside from moving on Saturday) was spent back on the 3D modeling project. On Saturday evening I completed the chapter on modeling the bowling pins and ball. The bulk of Sunday-day was spent working on the next chapter: modeling a chess set. The project started out with a chess board, and creating a common model for the lower portion of each piece (since they all have the same design at the base). After modeling a simple pawn, the lesson had us create a significantly stripped down, low poly version from the higher poly version. In the end, the whole thing worked, but I wonder if the methods used to translate the high poly version to the low poly version were actually useful in a real world situation. Here we’re talking about an object based around a cylinder that was simply edge-looped and modified. It was easy to remove key edges to reduce the counts across the board, but what if we had something far more complex? Although I understand the high-to-low-poly pipeline, I’m still not entirely sure how to get a complex model pared down to a less complex model without rebuilding the whole thing, but with significantly less detail. Maybe that will be addressed in a future lesson.
Mind Your Manners
After I’d put this post to bed, I thought about it again and realized that it might come across in a voice that I personally despise: that “born again” voice where the writer heaves a very public sigh of relief that he or she is finally “break free of the addiction/lifestyle/stench/grasp/pot luck from hell of video games”. There have been a lot of times where I’ve seen people proudly announce that they are playing less than they used to, or that they talk up some other hobby that they have tied themselves to, and frame it in terms that sound like all of the years they were gaming were misspent. Maybe it’s my perception of such things, but I always felt that folks who wrote those kinds of posts or Tweets were somehow “looking down” on those of us who were still enjoying ourselves with our chosen hobby, tut-tutting us for not having the fortitude to make something of our lives. I dunno…maybe it was just my reading too much into people’s sense of self-satisfaction at having dealt with something that was personal, but which I somehow misunderstood.
I don’t want this post to be read as something like that. I’m not interested in leaving gaming behind, and I certainly am not interested in making people feel like they’re wasting their lives while I ascend to some hobby-world godhood. As usually happens, I suspect that I’m just turning towards something else for a while, and at some point my batteries will be recharged and I’ll return to the longest hobby I’ve had in my life.
See, I’ve always had issues reconciling my desire to make stuff with the amount of time I spend consuming stuff. I’ve even said to myself “you could and should be using this time to work on stuff you want to get done”. I’ve finally got a fairly decent trajectory across a landscape of something I’ve always wanted to try (3D modeling), and I have to utilize that excitement before it inevitably runs out.
Here’s the inaugural post cataloging my journeys through the land of 3D modeling.
Why 3D Modeling
Actually, there’s a few obvious reasons, and some potentially not so obvious reasons.
As I’ve been spending years trying to create a video game of my own, one of the major problems that I’ve run into (aside from the Vile Maths) is the visual aspects. Despite conventional wisdom, at some point early in development I need to see something representing what I’m trying to accomplish. Sometimes I could use primitives (cubes, spheres, etc) for simple representative presence, but other times I really want to have something that looks like what it’s supposed to look like. In some cases — like animation concerns — that’s actually imperative. So being able to create my own 3D models is something that’s always interested me.
Another reason is that 3D modeling is becoming rather hawt these days, with the increasing interest in 3D printing and such. I know someone who uses CAD-like applications to help him create custom guitars, and another friend who uses it for 3D printing as well as for woodworking. While my primary interest is in designing models for games (or maybe just for rendering), learning the how and why of 3D modeling can extend well beyond the gaming realm.
Where to Start?
This is by far the biggest question I have: where the hell do I start? We’ve got several millennia of having learned things under our collective human belts, and you’d think we’d have mastered the methods of imparting relevant information, but…you’d be wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for information that I need to get started in 3D modeling, and have found a whole lot of similar info, but not relevant info.
Most of the content on the web, in print, or in video form has addressed the use of specific applications, such as “how to do X in Blender/Maya/Something Else”. I look up “Intro to 3D modeling” and I get a wealth of articles that start with “getting to know your software” which is undoubtedly important, but it skips a crucial step: 3D modeling concepts and jargon.
I have thus far found one site that covers the absolute basics by way of terminology. It’s by no means exhaustive, but what I need is the “I know nothing about 3D modeling so where do I start” guide to 3D modeling. Before we get to the software. Before we get to the act of using the terms, we have to know what the terms mean. Most tutorials I’ve come across just…skip that info. Whether they assume you know it (if I did, I would be more advanced than your tutorial, Mr or Ms Tutorial Writer), or they’re just bad at writing tutorials (which is probably more the case), I don’t know, but I need to continue to search for really low-level information on 3D modeling concepts and terminology before I can really consider making a go of it.
A Good Resource
Despite not having a firm grasp on terminology, I did buy a series of video tutorials on using Blender from the instructional site Udemy. Udemy has been very good to me over the years, and this course is no exception. It’s got over 270 short, individual videos that guide you through how to use Blender, but also which take some time to explain general 3D modeling terms through the lessons.
I have been through sites like Blender Cookie and 3D Buzz, both of which I really love and appreciate, but since they’re both subscription sites, I want to make sure I exhaust the free or one-off cost information out there before I jump into their more advanced and in-depth catalogs.
The difficult part of learning anything (at least for me) is that if I’m not using what I’ve learned, I tend to forget it rather quickly. Maybe this is old age, or just the way I’ve always been, but take something like 3D modeling that has a lot of jargon and methods, and then layering something on top of it like Blender or Maya which has it’s own set of jargon and buttons, sliders, and shortcuts, there’s not a lot of daily, practical application I can employ to reinforce those lessons.
So I’m going to have to work hard to put aside the time I usually reserve for gaming and devote it to working with 3D modeling. That is both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because my current malaise regarding gaming means I have decided on something else to fill that gap, but a curse because, well, it’s work. Work I want to do, at least in theory, but work is work, and requires dedication even when the spirit is weak.
So this page on Levelcapped.com is dedicated to the posts I might make regarding my ongoing efforts related to 3D modeling: my progress, concerns, interesting information from third parties, and so on. Hopefully I won’t jinx myself by posting here…I’m superstitious like that. Learning 3D modeling has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and hopefully now the time is right for it.