It has been quite a while since the last entry. I won't be able to show you something new, but made some adjustments to the Bolitho and 'finalized' it a while ago. Even thou that ship was already in the game, the debris meshes were missing and there were a couple of other things I was able to improve.
I know there are quite a few developers around here who might be interested in how the models for Diaspora are made. I won't go into detail, so it won't be boring.
You also get a first look at the Bolitho debris mesh.
You can always PM me if you have any further questions.
(Each picture can be viewed at the actual size.)
Step 1: Creating the basic shape of the ship. No detailing yet. I started out with the front part.
Step 2: Creating the basic shape for the engine part.
Step 3: Adding the more noticable details. I'm starting the this detail, because I'm working with a concept sketch and not accurate CAD data. Proportions of details often become a problem, especially when the concepts from different perspectives do not match up each other. In order to maintain the original look of the concept, I decide which details are visually more important than others. Some details can be scaled up or down and nobody will notice it.
Step 4: Now I started adding the plates to the primary hull. It's a secondary detail, so it had to wait until this point. i also tried out the wings on the engine and how they might look when the mesh is complete.
Step 5: I added some more details and some quickly made turrets for a preview of the ship. I wasn't too fond of the wings of the engines and the side-mounted turrets looked too heavy.
Step 6: I removed the side-mounted turrets and our concept artist gave me a good idea for the new wings on the engine. I also added better turrets to the top and the bottom. This version of the mesh is almost complete.
Step 7: I completely replaced all turrets and added new side-mounted turrets that looked a lot less heavy and therefore more believable on a ship of this size. I also started mapping the model, which is the process of unwrapping a 3d surface onto a 2d space. It's pretty much like unfolding a paper model until it's just flat sheet of paper again. The parts with the checkers are already mapped parts. The checker map helps seeing distortions in the mapping.
Step 8: I mapped a larger part of the surface of the ship. You probably notice that the checkers have different sizes. That's because I do the final scaling at the end when I move the them into the texture square. The 2d texture map is a square, so all parts of the mapped surface need to fit into the square. The more space of the texture can be used, the sharper the final texture will look on the model.
Step 9: The mapping is almost complete. You can see the smaller mesh details in this picture. They separate meshes that are just sticked into the main mesh.
Step 10: Now that the mapping is complete. The texturing work can begin. Again Is started with the most noticable details. From here on I had some come up with my own ideas for the texture, as the concept mainly focused on the mesh.
Step 11: The texture for the fron part is almost complete. I added smaller details as well as a lot of dirt to it. Dirt makes a texture more believable. Some battle damage from previous battles can also help to make a ship look more realistic. It's easy to overdo it though. Too much dirt easily messes up your whole texture.
Step 12: Now the textures for the ship are complete. The only thing left to do are the specular normal and glow maps.
Specular maps define how the ship surface reacts to direct illumation. In the shader Dispoara uses, it also defines how relective the different parts of the ship are.
Normal maps simulate normals on a surface on a per-pixel basis. Normally a flat stufface has only one normal. Normal maps can be used to make a flat surface look more complex than it actually is, so you don't have to use many polygons in order to get the same effect.
Glow maps pretty much do what their name tell you. They glow in the dark.
Step 13: Now that the mapping and textures are complete it is time to work on the lods.
Lods or Level of Detail meshes have only one purpose. Making the job of your graphics card easier.
The last step in the 3d pipeline is the rasterization in which all the graphics are turned into pixels so you can see them on your monitor.
Before that the size of a model on the screen doesn't matter for your graphics card. Even when a model will end up as one pixel on your screen, all the polygons it has will have to be rendered.
Lods are simplified models that replace the more complex original model. Depending on the distance one of them will used.
Step 14: Then I designed the engine exhaust effects. It's a simple mesh with an animated texture. Nothing special, but it looks pretty good.
Step 15: In the end I also create a debris mesh, which will be used when the ship has been destroyed. It actaully has multiple parts which will drift through space separatly. This is just the initial position for the parts.
Step 16: The model is complete! It's time to see how it looks like with shaders, so we can imagine how the ship will look like in the game with all the maps that we have created.
Bottom of the engine:
Bottom of the nose:
Bottom of the nose with no light (to illustrate the effect of glow maps):