Lady and gentleman, tonight we have with us four modellers of four mods of no small renown. First is the infamous Galactic Emperor,Galemp Hi.Stormkeeper
Second is Brand-X ...Brand-X ‘Allo.Stormkeeper
Next is Raven2001 ...Raven2001 Howdy!Stormkeeper
And last but certainly not least is the Vasudan Admiral.VA Wheee!
Okay, guys. Thanks a lot for taking the time off to join us here. You all deserve medals. So, when and what got you guys started with modelling? Galemp, why not you start.Galemp Okay. It seems like a very direct path for me. I enrolled in the New Jersey School of Architecture in 2002. This gave me access to, and training in, a variety of 3D modelling software. I had access to 3DS Max over the summer breaks as well, and thought I'd turn my attention to FreeSpace modelling. At that time I was already involved in the community, having released the first version of FSPort. I ended up signing on with Sesquipedalian to do the mods for Scroll of Atankharzim, and that mod consists of about 60% of my FreeSpace work.Stormkeeper
But you did no modelling for R1?Galemp No, FSPort R1 only had the old FS1 models that had been left out of FS2.Galemp I was helped a lot by a book on low-poly character modelling written by Paul Steed of iD software. So eventually through practice, both in and out of school, I got to where I am today.Raven2001 If I may interfere, read that one, a very good bookStormkeeper
The book helped a lot in your modelling?Galemp It gave me the essentials in real-time modelling. It focused a LOT on optimization, turning edges, welding vertices. Rules of thumb on polygon distribution. Generally I already knew how to get something out of my head and into the computer but Paul Steed helped me get things out of the modelling software and into the game.
What about before the book?Galemp I hadn't done anything for real-time applications before I got the book. That's why I got it. Everything I had done was with primitives. Still did some cool stuff, but that got me into poly mesh editing.
And -- VA? How'd you get started?VA I joined HLP just after the VBB went under, but I’d been on the FreeSpace 2 sector (sectorgame) longer than that. I was basically just downloading EVERYTHING, and I remember being continually disappointed when a 'new ship' was just a re-skin. Eventually I stumbled across the fighter creation guide on the volition watch site, and that pointed me at blender. I didn't go very far through the tutorial before I just got so excited by the fact that I was looking at a 3d tube with wings that I abandoned the fighter thing the tut was trying to build and ended up with some horrible vaguely fighter shaped thing
I've been there. Lots.Raven2001 Hey, we all gotta start in the dungeons VA The tutorial also used Truespace 2, so I learned that in tandem with blender, and at first actually greatly preferred TSStormkeeper
... But?VA Then the trial period on TS2 ran out, so my horrific little... model things I’d been trying to turn into ships couldn't go through cob2fs2 to become .pofs. I had no idea about pirated software at that point
Ah hah.VA Eventually I ..err.. 'got a hold of' TS5 and went crazy with it too. Practically abandoned blender for a short while and was using TS to build all kinds of ridiculous looking shipsStormkeeper
... Pics ?VA Oh those little horrors are never seeing the light of day again Stormkeeper
Aww c'mon ...Raven2001 Why not make a The Uglies 2 pack? Stormkeeper
You four can pull together all your first, horrible works and call it a pack. But we deviate. Go on, VA.VA Soon after I pretty much hit the limit of modelling ability in TS, and began to see its flaws as a program. I just couldn't find any way to get the geometry in my head into the model. At that point I began poking around with blender, and soon discovered that unlike TS, it didn't delete random isolated vertices and faces, so it was pretty much became a connect-the-dots in 3d. The technique I now use is a much more advanced version of that that's just been evolving ever since then - I do a concept scribble of a design and trace it out with vertices from side on and top down, and manually fill out EVERYTHING in between.Galemp That's how I did my first model, in Rhinoceros. I came from an AutoCAD background, so did only connect-the-dots modelling till I found Max.
Raven2001 You used Rhino uh? You liked it?VA Galemp, do you 'grow' your ships out of primitives?
Galemp Pretty much. I grab a sphere or a box, apply some basic deformations, then stretch, squeeze and extrude to my liking. With booleans where necessary. It's more like clay sculpting. I used Rhino for all of six months.VA There are only a couple of basic development processes for constructing models - growing out of primitives and face by face being the main two... Raven! Go!
Raven2001 Aye. I think I'm the only one here who hasn’t shown a model to the community in the last few years, but no matter, I have gifts today ^^.VA How much of your stuff would you reckon has been made public?
Raven2001 About 30%. And very old things. Mainly, my model dump, which I'm surprised that is still sought after today. My story will feel a bit like a déjà vu. I was a lurker in Volition Watch, because like we all, I loved FreeSpace and vasudan babes. Since I was young (14)= lots of free time, I decided to try my luck in modelling. I followed the same tutorial as VA actually, and got started in blender. I was still lurking mind you, so thankfully no one will see the Frankensteins I created . Later I moved to HLP coz it seemed that it was there the action was going, on May 31, 2001, hence the 2001 in my nick.
I actually have a lot to thank to FreeSpace, and the HLP community, because they were the ones who helped me decide my career. Anyways, starting to model for FreeSpace was what made me re-think my life. I really enjoy art in general, and I could imagine myself doing this for the next 40 years, unlike my other options. So I modelled like mad, and started showing my work. By then, we had just started giving our baby steps in the SCP, and I was doing ships with about 1.5k polys, 2k. So everyone was shouting that it would stress the engine... ironically, 6 months later the SCP gods gifted us with HTL. Stormkeeper
Heh.VA One of the best days of my life that was Raven2001 Aye. I had faith, and it payed off. I joined Multimedia Design in university, the closest thing to what I wanted, although they are more dedicated to graphic design. But the big jump gave itself when I took a summer course of 3dsMax, 1 month, 8 hours a day, every day. I learnt a lot about high end modelling ethics, ways of thinking, process, ethics, bones, animation. It was really worth the money, and faster than learning on my own. Oh by then I had already impressed IceFire and Ace, and got my seat on the BWO pantheon. Working with those guys, and later in MT were 2 dreams come true.
Galemp Ahh, so THAT'S why we haven't seen your work.Raven2001 Yeah.Stormkeeper
A rather exclusive worker Raven is.Raven2001 Yes I figured I wanted to be like Dark (for those that remember him), although he was more famous, so everyone was nagging him via PMs and the like. Almost no one nags me via PM... Fortunately. I’m still pumping models in BWO, took the lead in MT after Styxx was gone.Galemp Well, Dark posted renders of his models that he never actually released, much to the detriment of the community, so maybe its best if you keep to yourself, Raven. We won't know what we're missing .Raven2001 I already relegated lead to Spicious on MT, due to lack of time from my part, but am still doing stuff for them and trying to art direct the project.Stormkeeper
Alright Brand. How'd you get started? Brand-X I got my start young, very young. My dad was a draftsman, so he began to teach me AutoCAD when I was 4 or 5 years old on a 2 colour (Black and Yellow) monitor. So I started screwing around with that with the idea that I could design transformer toys or something, building schematics for toys I wanted, and then me and my grandpa would build them in his wood shop. When I hit high school, I figured being as I already had a fair bit of experience by this time in AutoCAD that I could take Drafting and learn something new. Instead, I went through the entire 5 year high school drafting curriculum in about 6 months or so. Raven2001 Christ, guess the rumours that you don't sleep are trueStormkeeper
... Thinking the same thing.Brand-X Coffee and Cigarettes, my friend. Much better than sleepRaven2001 Yeah, I use those too, but perhaps I'm not taking a high enough dosageBrand-X But anyways, after that I started screwing around with the computers and found 3D Studio R4. I basically worked out a deal with my teacher that, being as I'd already completed 5 years of drafting courses, I'd instead start teaching myself to use 3D studio and hand in just my own custom projects. He agreed and I spent the rest of High school, plus an extra year at the school upgrading my grades by learning 3DS, and then later Max when it came out.Galemp Jealous!VA Closest to that we had was woodwork with crappy old toolsRaven2001 Indeed. I believe the rest of us have a hard time conciliating our work\ui projects to our personal stuff
... I believe we are all also extremely jealous of Brand.Raven2001 Yes I'll throw him down the stairs when I get the chance!Brand-X After High school I never really modelled much until I stumbled upon HLP. I saw that the Star Wars Conversion had just had just been restarted and was looking for people, but I never really thought much of my abilities, especially considering it'd been years since I'd even touched anything in a 3D modelling program, but I started fresh and spent the rest of my time just trying to regain my old skills, which IMO I surpassed maybe a yearStormkeeper
So what was the most difficult thing for you to model? I mean, among all the things you guys have ever modelled, which one took you the longest, gave the most headachesGalemp KarnakBrand-X Hmmm, the Star Destroyer for me. It was the first thing I tried when I got back to modelling. I'm still working on it to this day. Actually its open right now in maxRaven2001 I believe it was my first high-poly robot That was a project about taking the whole process used in the industry nowadays: sketches, final concept art, High poly model for normal projection, and then low poly modelVA The wing of the Athena used in the HTL uglies. I was trying to make it into nice neat flat surfaces and it took me about an hour.Stormkeeper
Galemp, why was the Karnak so difficult?Galemp If I knew that, it wouldn't have been so difficult.Stormkeeper
... Well, where were you stuck the longest?Galemp Well, starting at the beginning, the Karnak's been through a lot of iterations. The original model, as we should all know, was by Dark and consisted of several models all arranged in formation in the mission. One of the first things I did with FSPort was merging them all together into one model. But I'm referring to the high-poly Karnak I did last year. I really don't know what the problem was, but the stupid thing would not convert in PCS. I actually managed to load the thing up in PCS, and it would save in the internal PMF format, but not export. I ended up shipping it around to Kazan and VA for help and between the three of us we got it working.
VA Oh, I remember that one. Too many polys in the one object wasn't it?Galemp I still don't know how. I do remember it uncovered a PCS bug though, a misplaced decimal point. So it would go through 1,000,000 cycles before giving up instead of through 100 or something. That's when I swore never to model anything more complex than a missile in Max for FreeSpace and started really pushing for the Collada plug-in.Brand-X And then you modelled missiles for FotG
Galemp And the FSPort MVPs Stormkeeper
Brand-X why haven't you finished the ISD yet?Brand-X Lots of reasons really. Lost hard drive, insufficient quality, inefficient polies, and difficulty in finding correct references. Stormkeeper
Tons of problems in creating a well known and well loved ship?Brand-X I've found in my various attempts that so much of the "feel" of the ISD comes from a lot of small details adding together, and I don't just mean the greebles. Little things like the smallest angles here and there or making sure certain surfaces are parallel really adds together for the overall effect.VA I blame fanboys 'Nyeerh, pipe 4638 on the middeck section C5 is too narrow for the amount of coolant that turbolaser would require for sustained fire!'Raven2001 Yeah fanboyism is the bane of the artist.Brand-X Yes, the ISD is a strange ship, from some angles it has to look sleek, others it's a towering monstrosity. Yeah, the ISD is where most of the jokes about my model proportions come from. I've literally heard that it's too skinny and too fat simply based on what angle the viewer is looking at it from.Galemp I just wanted to make cool ships, I didn't want to be meticulousRaven2001 Same hereVA Yes, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can put up with those kind of petty complaintsRaven2001 You have your share in it, modelling HTL stuffqazwsx Brand-X, how many reference images have you used for it?Brand-X Hundreds. I spend hours looking over images like this:
Making sure everything's in its place. I've started posting a lot less WIPs myself actually
Did you post a lot of WIPs, GE? Back when you were ship modelling.Galemp Well, if my work is for something specific like FSPort or Scroll, I post WIPs in the internal forums. But for doodles like the GVC Mekhet I post for public feedback, generally because it's lacking something and I don't know what. And sometimes the model just pops out fully formed, like the GVSC Nibada
VA Just for any HTL modellers listening, word of advice: release models as soon as they're ready - don't sneak it into the next MVP official release as a surprise, because nobody really notices it when that MVP release actually comes out. Stormkeeper
Alright then, let’s have a short Q&A.VA Get raven to reveal some stuff!Stormkeeper
Yes, that. RAVEN SHOW US YOUR STUFFRaven2001 I said I brought prezzies.
Galemp I have my bead necklaces ready!
Raven2001 My BWO masters allowed me to show 2 Sol models
That’s a torpedo cruiser.
That’s a carrier, still WIP.
And that’s a personal fighter. Galemp Love the subtle asymmetry on the Aegir
Raven2001 Thank you. I'm still trying to find the balance in the Aegir’s designStormkeeper
.... Wait, the last one folds up?Raven2001 Yeah. The wings open and retract. They ain’t in game yet, but it’s planned to like that in-game. I'm not allowed to show my textured babies yet though.Stormkeeper
So... Anyone else have any gifts to show?Brand-X I may have one. A WIP of a redesign of the Z-95
And a shot I particularly like of the new X-Wing
And the TIE Fighter
VA The first of mine is about a 3 years old now - one of the Aesir fighters from Twisted Infinities: Galemp Well since we're showing older stuff...
Shivan carrier, along the same lines as the Shiamak VA Ok, now I have some new Hades shots I’ve just taken to uploadBrand-X All right, I’ve got an ISD Render on the way, it'll be a few minutes VA Oh and if people didn't follow the ST:R trailer thread, the untextured Hades looks like this: Raven2001 *gasp at Hades* Galemp That's really amazing, VA. I just love the way you've worked in the old textures, like the brown pipes on the sides.Brand-X Oh, here's that ISD Render btw, apologies for the low qualityStormkeeper
Oooookay. So. Questions?qazwsx Yarp. Is transferring from making pre-rendered models to making real-time ones (or vice versa) a difficult process?Raven2001 Takes a bit to get used toVA Real-time->pre-rendered is very tricky. I keep correcting all my lazy geometry and take forever.Galemp I tend to keep the two in separate lotsRaven2001 Nowadays I do it as if it was gonna be a pre-rendered, and then optimize it for real timeGalemp With real-time rendering I'm overly meticulous, checking that all the geometry is optimized and manifold. With pre-rendered I can be as sloppy as I want.Brand-X Yeah, I went from high poly render quality to low poly game quality and its two completely different worldsGalemp Of course with the bar set where it is now by Brand and VA, worlds collide. I haven't done anything quite like that yetqazwsx What programs do you all use to model?Brand-X I use 3DS maxRaven2001 3dsMax as well, also ZBrush, although still trying to find a pipeline to implement ZBrush work into FS ships
Galemp I was a Max devotee, now I've moved to Blenderqazwsx May I ask why you moved to blender?Galemp I've been moving steadily to free software, Trillian to Pidgin, Photoshop to Gimp, Max to Blender. Will eventually go from Windows to Linux, once I get familiar with the file system.qazwsx Why? Lack of money? Do you feel it is more moral? Less restrictions? Faster bug fixes/release cycles?Galemp Faster release cycles. After all I sunk $500 into my license for Max 6, and there's been no updates since then.qazwsx Do any of you attempt modelling organic objects?Raven2001 Gimme 2 minutes...
Organic enough. VA That's one really disturbing head...Raven2001 Yeah well... design decisions Stormkeeper
So Raven HAS modelled organic stuff ... What 'bout you two ?VA Err... kindaGalemp Nope, I've done nothing like that
qazwsx Are your workflows different with organic models? Raven2001 Totally. For organic models I basically do a base mesh in max, and then sculpt away in Zbrush. if needed I do a retopology pass on the sculpted model. And then depending on what it is for, I project the detail to displace or normal maps. VA If only FS normal maps were that powerful Raven2001 They are.Galemp FS normal maps ARE that powerful, they're not just bump maps. Raven2001 The difference is that for FS ships we do the normal maps in B&W in 2d. In the industry they do a high poly model and project the detail to the low poly UV. The problem lies on how you do them. Of course doing the high poly model takes ages.Galemp That's how we generate them generally, because spaceships are not organic.Stormkeeper
What’s a retopology pass?Raven2001 A retopology pass is when you re-build the mesh, in order for it to follow the model's natural topology.Stormkeeper
So GE, you're saying the FS engine can support organids?Galemp Well there's no per-vertex mesh deformation, so no.qazwsx I know my way around blender well, but I haven't actually done anything "big" any suggestions for a first proper project?Galemp Hmm. Why not try to high-polify a FreeSpace model?Raven2001 You doing a recreation of an existing concept? or coming out of a design of your own?VA It depends on how comfortable with complex geometry you are I’d say.qazwsx Not very.VA With each project build a bit past your limit.Raven2001 Then get comfy with it. Everyone’s gonna kill me for saying this, but I believe that good drawing knowledge (when it comes to object synthesis) is key for good modelling skills.qazwsx Agreed.VA Almost agreed.Galemp I agree... however. I have no drawing skills whatsoever.Stormkeeper
Ditto.Galemp I visualize entirely spatially. I don't think in plan, or in section. I think volumetrically.
Raven2001 I didn’t mean the skills, I meant knowledge, way of thinking , which is exactly what you are describing. VA It depends on your modelling abilities a bit too I think. I can draw very well if I want to, but I don't because I’m lazy. So usually I just randomly scribble down vague outlines of ship designs, and fill these outlines in with on the spot made up geometry. If I were unable to draw well, I think I’d still be able to do that.Raven2001 Yeah me too, I prefer a "painterly" approach to my 2d work actually. I actually usually don't draw before modelling. I do lots of concept art to come up with ideas however. But the two do help each other... I use 3D proxies to help in drawing, to save time.VA Yeah. I imagine you'll have pages and pages of the stuff in fact?
Raven2001 Yeah.VA What a guess. *glances at a certain drawer that won't close*Raven2001 My calling is in the concept design field, coz that's where you have the chance to be creative in the industry.Stormkeeper
Okay guys. Sorry to interrupt ... but lemme wrap up the interview ...VA Newbie advice section!Stormkeeper
What kind of tips would you guys give new and hopeful modellers?Galemp Learn the software. Learn the interface. Learn how to move around in 3D space. Figure out the basics of setting up and arranging some basic shapes then follow tutorials. Mastering the interface is essential to not becoming frustrated. Only if you know how to use your tools, will they bend to your will. If you're in a submenu or something and you find a function that you don't know what it does, try it. Look it up in the help section.VA Anyone who's seen more than a few posts of mine on HLP would probably be able to predict that I’m about to hugely strongly recommend blender here. Blender is free, developing rapidly, has all the tools you could want for FreeSpace ship creation, an inbuilt DAE exporter which makes it a one-stop platform for creating models from scratch and exporting them almost directly as POFs out the other end. In terms of learning the software, I’d say follow some tutorials for sure, but you need to sit down and just experiment to really learn stuff. With every mesh you build, learn something new.
Raven2001 From a technical standpoint: know your tools, and what they do: you would be surprised how much time you save, and how even the crapiest tool of the world will have a good use for a certain situation. Be smart when you model. Design wise: the big shapes dictate if the ship is interesting or not, if your model doesn’t look interesting as a 800poly mock-up, it will never be interesting no matter how much greeble it will have. Also, pick tutorials about modelling theory and ethics, it will help a lot. And FS related: remember it’s a game, ships will be moving, so refrain from doing stuff with bazillion polys. *glances at VA*Galemp *cough*Loki*cough*Raven2001 Yes *cough*Loki*cough*
VA Bah, Loki is fine. computers will catch up Galemp Oh REALLY.VA Best glass evar. Raven2001 Christ.Galemp We have per-pixel lighting now, not just per-vertex.Raven2001 I'd make a model that consisted just of that glass. VA For those who are not sure - the Loki cockpit was designed for per-vertex lighting, (where it really worked well!) But that's no longer an issue with per-pixel lighting, so the Loki's glass polys are no longer necessary. Raven2001 I still remember the discussion you and me had back then! Stormkeeper
So anymore tips?VA Hmmm. Ignore useless comments in your WIP threads. Don't be discouraged by them. Because GAH do they annoy me still!Raven2001 Better yet... don’t post WIPs... just release the campaign and blow everyone out of the blue.VA If you're learning to mod though, WIPs are important. Taught me a lot.Galemp Or if you're not entirely happy with your model, post it to get feedback and ideas. Be sure to make clear whether you are 'showing off' your model or looking for feedback.VA Things to avoid:
2)Breaking up your workflow into multiple 3d applicationsRaven2001 Booleans (at first)Raven2001 Oh another tip I remembered: Always model with the texture in mind... most of the detail comes from textures. A good model with crap textures will look crap, a crap model with good textures might look good.Galemp I cannot agree enough with VA's workflow suggestion. It's gotten to the point where I refuse to help anyone who isn't working in the same program they started the model in.Stormkeeper
Why's that?Galemp There is so much crap that can go wrong when you try to go from SketchUp to 3DS Max to Blender. Ugh.Raven2001 However, I found out that .obj format is extremely stable when it comes to that, although not all software have good .obj exporters.qazwsx What would you recommend about the use of SketchUp?Raven2001 I'd recommend about learning higher end software honestly. qazwsx Blender is a tool. It doesn't replace the skills that you'll need as an artist. Your knowledge of the principles and elements of design and colour theory apply directly to 3D art in the same way it applies to everything else.Raven2001 Yes, but for instance, as far as I know, SketchUp has very poor, if any, mesh tools, which is bad. A good tool won't make you better, but will make you faster.VA Yeah - don't use SU for serious ship attempts unless you already know what you're doing. SketchUp is a weird combination of being VERY easy to learn and almost impossible to master. Also, try to learn the whole process from concept to final release. HLP has quite a lot of modellers, a few texturers, a couple of UV-mappers but very few ship converters.
Galemp In fact I think they're all in this room. VA Errm, so how many known ship converters does HLP have? There are like, 6, with a few of them being inactive.Galemp Me and you ... VA Bobboau, but he's pretty much inactive.
qazwsx Blowfish (a bit).Galemp Whoever it was that did the Action VI.Raven2001 Yeah blowfish converts. Nuke too I believe.VA The Action VI wasn't really a proper conversion. More like an experiment. Enioch I think. Firecrack when he's around.Raven2001 Nico\Venom too. VA No one in the SWC team that I know of. Who in the Diaspora team? Oh – DaBrain; kinda. I *think* he avoids it if possible. Could be wrong. Whoever did most of TBP's conversions didn't really seem to know that much about what they were doing, but they did it a lot so I’ll give it to them (IPA I presume?) But anyone trying to turn the main hull into a turret should be shot.Stormkeeper
Okay guys, sorry to interrupt, but I think I’ll wrap the interview up here. Thanks for taking some time off to show your secrets, and feel free to take chat as long as you want.
If anyone wants, I'll e-mail them the full log of the chat. Uncensored, and unedited!
Also, if you're wondering why Brand-X stops talking halfway, its because firstly, my mum pulled the plug on my extension cord, shutting down my laptop, and so Brand thought the interview was over. And he was quite tired anyway so went off to sleep, if I'm not wrong....
Oh yes. Do congratulate Raven, because before the interview began, he got a job doing concept art for an animation movie, working out of home. Congratulations again, Raven.