Environment Modeling and Sculpting for Game Production

with Nate Stephens

Chapter List

Description

In this lecture, Environment Artist Nate Stephens will demonstrate how to model and sculpt assets to be assembled into a 3D environment. Starting with reference photography, Nate locks in on a concept for his environment before blocking in his scene layout in Maya and building reference objects that will be further refined and detailed in ZBrush. He then imports the various assets into ZBrush for detail sculpting using GoZ where he Polygroups the different pieces and defines the crease levels of the different parts of the model. Next, Nate begins roughing in his sculpt using Dynamesh in ZBrush. He begins by sculpting in some of the larger feature details before adding the higher frequency surface noise to the meshes. Returning to Maya, he generates low-resolution polygonal models of some detail pieces for his environment before taking these pieces into ZBrush to generate some high resolution details on top of the low resolution geometry. He adds further detail and refinement to the meshes using a variety of tools including trim dynamic brushes, masking by noise and then, using the Insert Multi Mesh (IMM) tool, he drops high resolution meshes onto his low res tools with simple brush strokes, creating the look of an ancient stone block wall. For smaller, repeating features in his scene, Nate demonstrates how to construct these assets in a tileable fashion in ZBrush. Finally, he moves onto designing architectural features to the columns in his scene using standard sculpt and symmetry tools before duplicating these features around his column to test for scale and prep the feature for further refinement later. He then adds more features to the columns before adding fine surface detail to the features and the columns as a whole. Once the hi-resolution sculpts are complete, Nate spends time doing some re-topology before baking normal maps and ambient occlusion maps using xNormal. To finish things off, he uses the real-time features in Marmoset Toolbag to assemble a quick scene. This enables him to fully visualize the assets by assembling the low resolution assets with the extracted normal and ambient occlusion maps with Marmoset’s real-time materials and image based lighting. Although this lecture is focused primarily on sculpting environment details for game art, it is also very accessible to film artists, concept artists, students or anyone interested in learning how to generate believable environment and architectural details for use in a 3D environment.


Duration: 341 minutes

Format: HD 1280x720

Chapter List

  • 00. Preview
  • 01. Introduction
  • 02. Ideas and Reference
  • 03. Scene Layout
  • 04. Tool Import
  • 05. Sculpting
  • 06. Masks
  • 07. Modeling
  • 08. IMM and Clip Brushes
  • 09. Using IMM brushes
  • 10. Tileable Sculpting
  • 11. Symmetry and Loops
  • 12. Sculpting Timelapse
  • 13. Gameart Conversion
  • 14. UV Unwrapping and Baking
  • 15. Real Time setup in Marmoset

Nate Stephens

Lead Environment Artist - Playstation - Santa Monica Studio

Nate Stephens has been working as an environment artist in the video game industry for the past 10 years. Through work on many projects Nate has become an expert in all disciplines including modeling, texturing, animation, and lighting. Over his career he has worked for such companies as Sony Santa Monica Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Swingin’ Ape Studios, and Cryptic Studios. Currently as Lead Environment Artist at Sony Santa Monica, Nate works to push the envelope in developing award winning games that raise the bar in terms of graphics and gameplay. Nate has been a driving force on such games as God of War 3, God of War 2, Starcraft Ghost, City of Heroes/City of Villains, and a new exciting unannounced project.

  • "It's not hard to find Nate's 3D levels and scenes in God of War franchise. His massive epic environments that were masterfully modeled and sculpted in Maya has been praised by critics and fans worldwide. I have worked closely with Nate for more than 5 years at Sony. He's truly one of the most experienced and talented 3D environment artists I've met. This tutorial will guide you through how Nate will translate my 2D concepts into 3D game assets. I recommend highly for anyone who wants to take a peek at high-end AAA game production. "

    - Cecil Kim
    Concept Artist

  • "I had the pleasure of Art Directing Nate on God of War 3. He is a very talented Sr. environment artist that has an excellent understanding of how to make professional artwork for games at a very high creative level that is technically sound. There is a lot to learn from Nate's approach to building environments, I highly recommend this tutorial."

    - Ken Feldman
    Art Director - God of War 3

  • "Nate is an Environment Artist that offers the whole package. He can model, texture, light, and manage a file with the best of them. On top of this he has the a good sense of game design, and how art can augment it. Simply put, Nate rocks. Listen and learn."

    - Stig Asmusse
    Creative Director - Sony Santa Monica Studios