3D Masterclass: The Swordmaster in 3ds Max and ZBrush is a book by 3DTotal Publishing, the same publisher that brought us the Digital Art Masters series. Written by game industry veteran Gavin Goulden, the book is an in-depth tutorial at the creation of a richly-detailed low poly game character, The Swordmaster, to which the book owes its namesake. In their own words:
"3D Masterclass: The Swordmaster in 3ds Max and ZBrush offers a truly comprehensive, step-by-step guide to modeling, sculpting, unwrapping, texturing and rendering a low poly game character. Each chapter is broken down into bite-sized steps that leave no setting or process unexplained, allowing aspiring modelers to learn at their own pace and develop a solid understanding of the character creation process. The professional workflow detailed in this book is typical of the games design industry and anyone looking to produce a portfolio-worthy character will benefit from talented character artist Gavin Goulden's extensive experience in this field."
Don't be fooled, however: The final model is indeed a low poly character, but readers get there by modeling, sculpting and texturing a high resolution rendition that is only later reduced to meet deployment requirements. The days of modeling a low poly character start to finish have largely passed. The techniques in the book could also be applied to making a highly detailed character.
The book begins with modeling the base mesh in Autodesk 3DS Max. My first thought was "ewww" (I'm a Maya guy at heart), but the process is fairly high level - you could use any modeling program you're familiar with and the same steps would apply.
While there were some program-specific instructions, they're easily translated to other programs. The techniques are the same, regardless. For example, there were a lot of "loop slit this," "merge that" type instructions that are easily adapted to any polygon modeling software you're already comfortable with. There's a lot of pictures all along the way to keep track of how your own progress compares to the author's.
The book then dives in to ZBrush for sculpting all the rich details, but again, all of the techniques covered can be applied in any decent sculpting software the reader is comfortable with. Autodesk Mudbox users rejoice!
We then move to texturing and detailing in Adobe Photoshop and finally back to Autodesk 3DS Max for some very basic rigging, posing and the final render, followed by some very minor postwork tweaks (color corrections, etc.).
My only real complaint is that some of the Autodesk 3DS Max screen shots are a tad dark. Not all, but there's a few that could have really benefited from a lighter color scheme, or at least some post work to brighten them up. It's a consequence of the beloved dark color schemes we all know and love. On printed paper, however, a dark shader with a dark gray wireframe on top of a dark viewport background can be really difficult to see. This was by no means a deal-breaker, but must be mentioned.
Overall the book was of high quality, high print quality and quality content. The techniques covered are the basic bricks and mortar of creating any hero game character. They're applicable to almost any popular industry modeling and sculpting software.
As with most books from 3DTotal Publishing, you can preview a lower resolution version of the entire book:
Kurt Foster (Modulok) falls somewhere between programmer and visual effects artist. When not sifting through technical manuals, he takes on freelance roles in both programming and visual effects, attempting to create a marriage of technical knowledge with artistic talent. He can be seen helping out on the Renderosity Maya forum, when time permits.
August 4, 2014
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