Concept by Kristian (INovaeSpace), Model by Eugene (INovaeGene), Textures by Andre (INovaeAndre) and Slobodan (Altfuture).
Being our first finished asset to go through the texturing process using PBR (physically based rendering), this first texturing pass serves more as an experiment than a final texture and will continue to evolve as new art tools are developed and more standardized techniques and methodology are established within our pipeline.
I’ll preface by stating it took some time to get used to our new material pipeline having used a more conventional texturing system for some years. I started by reading up on some material published by other industry professionals experience using a PBR pipeline.
Getting past my years of engrained methodology and tricks was the first hurdle to overcome when approaching the texturing process of the Hellion. My usual trial and error and more organic art style approach didn’t yield the results we were looking for, so I had to wrap my head around using different systems and our node based structure in the editor to our advantage.
Our goal with the Hellion for look & feel was to portray it as a very industrial functional ship within our Starfold faction, one that has seen a lot of service with a good amount of wear & tear, all the while feeling solid, trustworthy and low maintenance. Sort of a function over form that needed to translate into the materials used as I approached the texturing process. Image material reference included Trains, cargo planes, older military helicopters and industrial equipment / machines, as well as my huge collection of sci-fi reference.
One of the pitfalls I was falling into was trying to get too much information and contrast into our diffuse texture. When I reduced the contrast of the diffuse albedo and made sure no lighting information was baked into the map and brightened about 25%, there was an immediate visual difference and jump in quality.
In our pipeline, if a material is pure metal, the diffuse albedo is pure black with the color information now residing in the specular map. Seeing pure black in a diffuse map was counter intuitive to me, and I initially held back on experimenting with this approach in favor of having most materials dielectrics (non-metals). The main hull (beige armor plaiting) on the Hellion is now mostly metal.
To help out with getting the correct albedo, specular and roughness values, INovaeJan (Stannum) created a Photoshop swatch of materials and corresponding values after some extensive testing, that not only greatly maximized my time management but yielded good results with some minor tweaking here and there.
It was a good way to get a base threshold of quality and plug in correct values on all maps for materials like rust / aluminum / paint, that I could then play with to get even more interesting results.
The roughness texture which dictates the ‘shininess and reflection’ of materials, provided the most opportunity to get some uniqueness out of the materials. Using Jan’s range of roughness value swatches, I could get interesting looking materials intersecting or side by side such as scratches / speckles / dents in multiple lighting conditions. There were a few seldom instances where I had to ‘cheat’ the values as the mathematically correct ones just seemed off.
I believe the Hellion is in a good place now, especially compared to our initial video, where at the time the artists didn’t have any experience whatsoever with this system. I continue to tinker on it almost daily and continue to learn from it. I’m also coming to grips with what this engine and material system has to offer and it’s a powerful tool that will bring our eventual virtual worlds to life.
Our current goal now is to create a solid database of high quality tileable texture packs as we believe they will yield the best results for our target Texel density. With a mix of unique and tileable textures and multiple UV sets to overlay information on, I believe the next ships coming down the pipeline will be of higher quality and I’m excited to see this process evolve and to bring these ships to life.
I’ll leave you with some work in progress shots of the Hellion in our editor viewer.