3D Modeling for Games: What Do You Need to Know?
The terms “game development” and “3D modeling” go hand in hand. Even though animated movies from Disney and Illumination are a huge deal, people still associate 3D modeling with the gaming industry. And there’s a good reason for that, or rather, reasons. 3D modeling helps game developers create the virtual environment and the assets within to give the game a realistic and cinematic feel. Join ChicMic, and let’s find out more about 3D modeling for video games and the process behind it.
What is 3D modeling for games?
Let’s get our basics straight! 3D modeling for games creates 3D digital representations of environments, objects, and characters that populate the game world. It involves using specialized software to sculpt, texture, rig, and animate these 3D models, bringing them to life. 3D modeling is crucial for game development since it helps developers create immersive and visually appealing gaming experiences for players.
Here are some critical terminologies associated with 3D modeling:
- Sculpting: Sculpting is the process of shaping 3D models using digital sculpting tools within the 3D software. Artists can manipulate the model’s vertices, edges, and faces to create intricate details and refine the overall shape.
- Texturing: Texturing involves applying surface materials, colors, and textures to the 3D models to give them a realistic appearance. Texture maps, including diffuse maps, specular maps, and normal maps, add surface detail, reflections, and shadows to the models.
- Rigging: Rigging adds a digital skeleton, a rig, to a 3D model. It consists of bones, joints, and control points that allow animators to realistically pose and animate the character or object.
- Animation: Animation involves creating movement and actions for the game’s characters, objects, and environmental elements. Animators use keyframe, skeletal, and procedural animation techniques to bring 3D models to life.
- Optimization: Optimizing 3D models is essential for game performance. Developers use level of detail (LOD) modeling, mesh simplification, and texture compression to reduce the memory and processing power required to render 3D assets in real-time.
- Integration into Game Engines: Once the 3D models are created and animated, they are imported into game engines such as Unity, Unreal Engine, CryEngine, etc. Game engines handle various aspects of the game world, allowing developers to create interactive and immersive gaming experiences.
Some Key Types of 3D Modeling services for games
Modern games require 3D modeling to create highly detailed game assets, characters, and the environment. These assets, such as vehicles, weapons, and furniture, need poly-count optimization and mesh rigging to animate them within the game environment.
3D character modeling
3D character modeling involves building game characters using modeling methodologies like rigging, animation, and poly count. Game developers use designing tools like 3D Max, Blender, and Maya to create highly detailed 3D character models. The whole process combines mesh optimization, prop design, animation, and UV mapping to create these characters. These techniques ensure fine details like facial expressions and human body proportions. Since game characters are essential in several games, character modeling helps elevate the gaming experience.
3D environment modeling and texturing
3D environment modeling consists of two types:
- Architectural modeling involves creating 3D models of man-made structures, buildings, interiors, and other architectural elements within the game environment.
Characteristics: Architectural models typically feature straight lines, precise angles, and geometric shapes that reflect the design principles of real-world architecture.
Use Cases: Architectural modeling is commonly used to design and construct buildings, cityscapes, urban environments, interior spaces, and other built environments within the game world.
Examples: Skyscrapers, houses, bridges, landmarks, roads, and other human-made structures are often created using architectural modeling techniques.
Organic modeling involves creating 3D models of natural objects, living creatures, characters, plants, terrain, and other organic elements.
Characteristics: Organic models feature smooth curves, irregular shapes, asymmetrical forms, and intricate details that mimic the complexity of organic structures in the natural world.
Use Cases: Organic modeling is commonly used to design characters, animals, creatures, foliage, landscapes, terrain features, and other natural elements within the game environment.
Examples: Animals, humans, monsters, trees, rocks, vegetation, terrain features (such as mountains, valleys, and rivers), and other elements of the natural environment are often created using organic modeling techniques.
How to 3D model for games
The process of 3D modeling for games remains, by and large, the same, irrespective of whether it’s an indie game or a AAA project. Here’s a brief overview of the complete process:
3D modeling begins with initial 2D sketches prepared after a close exchange of ideas among the team members. These concept arts and other details regarding color gradients, textures, materials, etc., help ascertain the direction of 3D modeling.
Unless the game requirements specify it, 3D game designers will create 3D assets in the highest detail. 2D blueprints of models and assets help in creating proportionate models. Poly-modeling is a highly complex process and experienced 3D modelers can take weeks to create a single detailed model.
Sculpting allows game designers to add finer details and add to the highly immersive gaming experience. Depending on the designers’ work, they can either polish their model or add rough edges to provide a rustic feel.
UV unwrapping involves flattening the 3D model to create a 2D image and adding the ‘seams.’ Similar to poly-modeling, UV unwrapping is tedious, and creating smooth seams around the model is challenging.
Texturing involves mapping the 3D model to simulate its surface and adding more details such as depth, color, etc. Popular 3D modeling software offers textures for most natural objects and other materials.
Experts will explain how rigging is necessary if you want to animate the 3D models. In most cases, animals, characters, and plants require rigging, but if the project dictates, you can also rig other assets.
3D modeling is an intricate process that requires attention to detail and patience. Depending on how complex your project is, there is a fair chance your team will spend significant time on 3D modeling for video games. Or, you can contact us at ChicMic to direct and bring your project to reality.