Behind the scenes: How are Spy DNA weapons made?

Hey everyone, and welcome to the second part of our introduction to the workflow for creating the assets. If you haven't read the post about who I am, you can check it out first. Today I wanted to talk about my process for creating the assault rifle for Spy DNA.

Conceptualizing the weapon

The first thing that needs to be done before any actual modeling is the concept. This phase of the project is quite important as it will set the dynamic of the work follows.

Another very important thing when creating a model that doesn't exist in real life is to make it appear functional.

Creating the concept for this weapon started with the basic choice of ammunition feed system. For this gun we chose a bullpup design, which means the clip feed is integrated in the stock.

The next thing that was to provide places for the attachments, such as scope, holo-sights, etc. This meant we would be using threaded rails on the gun for the actual attachments.

Modeling the weapon

So now that we have the concept, or the guidelines for our weapon we can proceed to the modeling phase. This is the phase in which we need to be careful on how our concept will come together. Also this is where we need to make our model scale be in line with a realistic model. The reason why this is important is because we want to make sure the weapon animates well in-game, and that the characters using it will look good doing so.

For the actual modeling I used 3ds Max, and basic polygon modeling techniques. The main goal here was to keep the design guidelines in mind and make it into a complete weapon. After a few different versions and going through a few failed designs I ended up with a base model that the team and myself were happy with.

Now that the basic shape was achieved it was time to add in the fine details like little screws, bolts, rivets, threads and the barrel threading. Once all of this is done, we basically have the high polygon count (high-poly) model for our game.

If you are curious as to how all this works, go ahead and check out my YouTube channel.

Getting the model game-ready

Once we have the high-poly model, we need to make a game-ready (low-poly) model. The process of creating a low-poly model of an existing high-poly model is called retopology.

This is one of the more time-consuming parts of the asset creation. Here you basically need to make the 3D model that can be used in the game engine. This means that you will have a polygon budget that will limit how much detail you can put in your model. If you aren't careful of your budget, you can end up putting a strain on the player's computer, and their framerate will drop, and nobody likes that.

This is how the low-poly model of the SR100 looks underneath the textures.

This is how the low-poly model of the SR100 looks underneath the textures.

For this project I did most of my retopology in 3ds Max, but I also used Topogun and 3d Coat. When you're done, you get a low-poly model that has the basic shape, but not the surface details of the high-poly model. Next, we'll need to unwrap it so we can apply textures.

Texturing the model

Once we have an unwrapped model, we can continue to the texturing phase. In this phase first we bake the surface details from the high poly to the game model. This way in the game the weapon will look as if it still had all the little screws, buckles, etc., even though the low-poly model has none of that. 

After this is done we go with the actual application of the materials. I used Substance Painter which is an application for texturing to do the textures for the weapon. With the model done, unwrapped and textured we have the finished model that will be used in the game.

What's next?

If you're still with me, then you were able to get a little taste of what it takes to create a game asset from start to finish.

As we make progress developing Spy DNA, we'll be making more posts like these, so you can look over our shoulders in a way. You will get to hear from the other team members, each talking about their aspects of creating this game.

So for today that would be all from me, and remember to come back and check on our progress often!

-- Denis Keman