Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Look into the Mirror, Part 1

It’s been a while since I last posted a screenshot of any 3D model in the works. That’s because I am currently making a very complex placeable, the kind that should have players realizing that this is no ordinary object when they first look at it. As can be seen from the concept art to the right, the placeable consists of a fairly ornate mirror held by a couple of angel statues. I had to craft and assemble several meshes to produce the high-poly version of this piece. In the process, I came across some new challenges for me to hurdle.

Firstly, there is the matter of the mirror frame, the design of which is inspired by art nouveau and the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. It may come as a surprise to some people that Lovecraft and art nouveau go very well together. One of the main features of art nouveau is the presence of vine-like tendrils that curl about in a stylized way. Well, it doesn’t take much tweaking to replace tendrils with tentacles, the appendage of choice of Lovecraft’s famous creation, C’thulhu.

Heretofore, I had been using only ZBrush to make all but the simplest meshes. The mirror frame, however, consists mostly of planar shapes that are often curved along the edges. ZBrush isn’t really suited for constructing planar shapes, so I turned to 3DS Max instead. I used splines to build the meshes, something that I had never done before. It’s actually a pretty cool technique once you get the hang of it. I later refined the wings, tentacles, and curlicues in ZBrush, but even before then, these shapes, which I first built in 3DS Max, were already somewhat complex. The only part of the mirror frame that I did not create with splines was the cherub’s head, which I sculpted in ZBrush from a sphere.

Like the cherub, the angel figure that holds up each side of the mirror was sculpted in ZBrush. As can be seen in the screenshot to the right, I put in a lot more detail in the figure’s dress than what I am accustomed to doing. It seems to me that each time I create a new model, I push the boundaries of my knowledge and skills. I see this as a good thing, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post an in-game screenshot of the entire mirror in my next blog post.


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

This is yet another incredible piece of artistry on your part. I hope you continue to make objects that can be used in a module and release them to the Vault ASAP. It's always good to have a little something different to the standard.


nicethugbert said...

You just might have to make some RL models of this stuff. Ever thought of designing stage sets, toys, or furniture sets?

Frank Perez said...


Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm planning to release the models that I'm making for Shattered Dreams as separate hak paks shortly after we release the module. If the other modelers agree, we might release all our content in the same set of hak paks. If they prefer to release their own hak paks separately (or not at all), I'll leave that decision to them.


To be honest, the thought of making physical counterparts to these digital models had not entered my mind, although a couple of decades ago, I once entertained the thought of making ceramic figurines. Back then, 3D models were done in specialized supercomputers, and animation was mostly limited to experimental short films by computer scientists. With today's hardware and software, digital modeling is many times easier than physical sculpting, so I'll probably stick with digital for now.

nicethugbert said...

Until you can afford a CNC machine?

Frank Perez said...

Ha ha, not even. Those things are huge.