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Explore the world of modeling and texturing 3D game props and assets in Autodesk Maya. Author Adam Crespi provides strong technical modeling techniques, from blocking basic forms and leveraging simple parts and reusable textures, to simulating real-world detail like dirt, wear, and grain with UV maps and ambient occlusion. The course includes workflow and integration considerations such as planning UV space for projection, and also steps into Mudbox and Unity for further refinement.
In this chapter I'll look at a workflow going between high poly and low poly in Maya. What we see a lot of times is we need a good low poly foundation, and then we'll make a high-poly version, beveling and extruding additional detail into a model, and then, finally, baking out or rendering from high poly to low poly in a Projection to produce a normal map, which makes the low poly look like it's got a lot of extra detail. These are fairly low-poly models. As an example, on this table I've modeled out the planks, and my poly count is really not bad because all the edges are straight.
What I have done to add variation is instead to disturb the silhouette by pulling the edges back and forth. To test this and really see what the poly count is doing. I'll choose Display > Heads Up Display > Poly Count. In here I'll select my table, this whole table comes in at 112 faces. The whole scene is 862, which for this much furniture is really not bad. We can view this and either faces or tris and even at 224 tris for this table I've got pretty good detail going on.
I've also got a good edge flow, a major contributor to this is building it in pieces. It's very easy to take a giant block and try to sculpt something out we can subdivide and take away pieces easily. However, this kind of thing, a table, is built in pieces and assembled with fasteners or joinery, so to build it like this gives us a really good edge flow. As an example, this is a Poly Cube I've modified it, unwrapped it, and stretched it. But it's very easy to take this and subdivide it, beveling edges, and pushing in corners to wear away at the wood.
We can take this in project those normals easily onto a low poly, and I've got a good unwrap on it. What I may see in this kind of workflow is either a different unwrap instead of stacking UVs starting to see some unique pieces in one area of my texture sheet. What I also may see is a general area of dense that I will map on to here. As an example, what I may end up doing is putting in tool marks all across the surface. Designating a piece of the texture sheet for, well, the top that's been marked, scraped down, or planed, or something similar.
For this table, what we might see on the roundtable top here are beveled edges rounding over these corners and having a more unique unwrap. This table is large enough it might be a centerpiece and need its own texture. Sharing the same wood color, but needing a different normal map. In all though, I'm striving to keep my Poly Count low, and here's why. Very quickly we can have a lot of objects running around a game, and even though poly counts are maybe not as religiously as important as in previous years.
There is still an importance in having just the right amount of geometry and maximizing our texture space. I'll show one last example here, to illustrate how quick Poly Count gets out of control. I am going to pick my chair and deselect the light. I'll take this chair and put it next to my table. It looks like I did actually model these things at the right size. I'll put the pivot for the chair centered on one of the legs, so I can rotate the whole thing. I'll make sure I'm rotating by the world axis and spin this over.
Watch what's happens to the Poly Count in the scene. I'll make sure I am zoomed out to see everything. Right now, in my overall Poly Count I am looking at 1700 tris. I'll press W for move, Ctrl+D to Duplicate, and pull this over. I'll duplicate it again, and there are three chairs. I'll rotate one to sit at the head. I'll pull this in, duplicate it, and pull it back. Rotating it one more time to sit this opposite.
I'll need to move over the roundtable, but very quickly I've added 700 more tris. This gets very big very quick, and we're going to have a lot of things in our scene because if you look around the world there is, well, a lot of stuff. And it's not necessarily special stuff it's just things, things we use in our everyday lives that we have multiples of, like multiple chairs around a table, multiple tools in the Toolbox. Whatever it is we end up seeing a lot of pieces, and we need to watch out how many polys each one has, because very quickly we're going to duplicate them and use them around.
We need a good workflow, a good low poly structure, and things assembled in parts. And finally, optimizing the amount of polys is crucial, making sure we have got the right amount of silhouette showing without breaking the bank in poly count.
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