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Old 04-03-2009, 03:24 AM   #1
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the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to w in or lose.
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War


So, given we have a number of days before the start of the main dominance war competition, I thought it'd be a good idea to start a "preparation thread". The idea being to get everyone ready for when the competition starts, as well as provide different viewpoints for how to approach the character design phase. We've got a lot of really talented artists here at 3Dtotal, and I'd imagine most of them go through different processes before they start pushing the verts around.

To start off, it'd be a great idea to check out the entries from last years Dominance War (I'm sure a lot of you have already):

Top 50 Finalists

All DW3 Entries (click on the forum name on the top to see the entries)

- It's good to look at last years entries, as you can almost certainly bet that the entries will be even stronger this year. Look at the designs that worked (and won) and try to think about what they are doing differently.

- A good thing to keep in mind is that this is a competition, and as a competition it's not just a matter of skill (though it certainly helps), but about who satisfies the condition of the rules the best. With that in mind, the bulk of your design should be to think of a creative idea to express what the rules require, and then to communicate that idea through your design as clearly as possible. The clarity of that design is really going to go far. So, if you need your character to possess a magic rune, just sticking a glowing orb on him at the end of the process (I am guilty of that last year) isn't going to come off nearly as effective as having a design that clearly revolves around a magic rune. Everyone needs to see and understand your design idea, not just you.

- Another thing I like to do when I think of design is play off my own strengths as an artist and stay away from my weaknesses. It is, of course, always good to learn and become better with skills too, and this competition certainly helps that. But I like to save that for my own projects and stick mostly with concepts I know I can do well. If you're great at high poly in maya/max, stick with that. If you're a great sculpter, go with that. If you can do a beautiful colour map, but the normal map always ruins things, skip the normals and create a great diffuse map. If you can't sculpt anatomically correct human for the life of you, do a crazy fantasy design. Just play off your strengths when designing.

- Along with that, play off the computers strengths. CG has it's own advantages and disadvantages as an art form that you can leverage. For one, you can do repeating forms perfectly by just copying objects....the proportion and perspective will always be 100% perfect (and you save texture space too!). Because it's going to be low poly, angular designs work great, and the flat area's allow perfect normal mapping. But, because it's low poly, you don't have the freedom to create as crazy a profile/silhouette as you want. You can make a great high poly with a hundred tentacles or arms, but if you can't get your low poly to match that shape well enough, no amount of normal mapping will save it, and all that high poly work will be waisted. So factor that into your design, that your high poly is setup so that you're low poly has the resolution to match it.

- And then some just general things. Don't rush your design. You're going to be working on this character for almost 2 months, so you've going to have to love it. Do a lot of research, just google images is great for that...try and find as much real world reference as you can to base off of. It can be very tempting, after the contest starts, to post up work as quickly as possible, especially when others start posting work. The design phase is really where you should scrutinize the most. So though it can be tempting to jump into maya/max, try to hold off until you're satisfied with your design.

- That being said, you shouldn't rush any stage of the development. I think a lot of people last year (myself included) got caught up, and by the end were in a bit of a rush to finish before the deadline. Try to break up your entire creation process, and it's not even a bad idea to keep track of dates on when you want to be finished different parts by.

- And of course, above all else, have fun with the competition, and help out lots on the forums. At the absolute worst, if you do this competition you're going to learn a ton, and that is largely because of the people around you, so be sure to participate as much as you can and lend a helpful word.

Everyone add your own idea's and tips on your creation process, so that by the start of DW4, we are all well prepared, having benefited from 3Dtotals talent pool. Armed with that knowledge we can smite down those who require smoting. Good luck to everyone!
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Old 04-03-2009, 05:23 AM   #2
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The Ultimate 3DTotal Award!: Only available in Platinum, given to select few for incredible service to the community. - Issue reason: For throwing one hell of a good suggestion out there. You suggested the sculpting challenge, and we ran with it. The community loves it. Nice one! Threedy Top Poster - Silver: Contributing to the forums with 1,000+ posts - Issue reason: Target Reached Threedy Top Poster - Bronze: Contributing to the forums with 100+ posts - Issue reason: Target Reached! The Golden Grenade IV: For participating in the Dominance War IV and successfully finishing, well done soldier! - Issue reason: For participating in the Dominance War IV and successfully finishing, well done soldier! The Golden Grenade V: For participating in the Dominance War V and successfully finishing, well done soldier! - Issue reason:  Thumbs up!:  - Issue reason: your testicles Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge ''Death Match'' Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge Low Poly Game Art - Bronze: 3rd place in a low poly challenge! - Issue reason: 3rd place in Low POly Comp #22 Washed Up super Hero 
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Good post puck.

If you havent found it already Mr Parkin was kind enough to let people download his DW3 winning model.

You can grab his zsculpt .ztl, textures and lowpoly model from his site

http://www.parkparkin.com/personal_art/imrod.htm
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Old 05-03-2009, 03:48 PM   #3
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I have a question for all you veterans out there. When it comes to doing the final render, what kind of lighting set up are you using? I'm used to creating high-poly stuff where I can use skylights and GI to get those nice soft shadows. Unfortunately I can't use GI on these low-poly chars because then the model comes out flat because of the normal maps.

So my question is, how do you get real nice lighting on low-poly renders with normal maps?
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Old 05-03-2009, 04:13 PM   #4
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The Ultimate 3DTotal Award!: Only available in Platinum, given to select few for incredible service to the community. - Issue reason: For throwing one hell of a good suggestion out there. You suggested the sculpting challenge, and we ran with it. The community loves it. Nice one! Threedy Top Poster - Silver: Contributing to the forums with 1,000+ posts - Issue reason: Target Reached Threedy Top Poster - Bronze: Contributing to the forums with 100+ posts - Issue reason: Target Reached! The Golden Grenade IV: For participating in the Dominance War IV and successfully finishing, well done soldier! - Issue reason: For participating in the Dominance War IV and successfully finishing, well done soldier! The Golden Grenade V: For participating in the Dominance War V and successfully finishing, well done soldier! - Issue reason:  Thumbs up!:  - Issue reason: your testicles Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge ''Death Match'' Digital Painting - Silver: 2nd place in a speed painting challenge! - Issue reason: 2nd place in speed painting challenge Low Poly Game Art - Bronze: 3rd place in a low poly challenge! - Issue reason: 3rd place in Low POly Comp #22 Washed Up super Hero 
Total Awards: 10
Lot will depend on your model obviously but starting with a basic 3 point light setup is always a good place to start.

Key light with a spot, fill with a skylight, and rim with another spot.
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Old 05-03-2009, 10:04 PM   #5
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Great post Puckducker. I think concentrating on getting a design that you both enjoy working on and and that fulfills the requirements of the competition is a key element. You don't want to get halfway through the competition and realize that you either think the design isn't good enough or that it bends the rules too far and will be DQ'ed.

Definitely use your strengths. Don't try to open up Mudbox for the first time just to make a normal map. You'll probably end up with a bunch of mushy noise.

Make sure your character works in the real (or fantasy) world. some sort of physics still applies even in fantasy worlds. Think about what you are puttin gon your character and make sure it has a reason. Even if that reason is just because it's cool, then it better be cool enough for your character to have kept it.

OK, that's it for now.

Great thread.
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Old 07-03-2009, 12:36 AM   #6
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I have a question for you guys using Maya. Are there any other ways other than using a Mia_Material_X shader to have two bump maps. Its the only one I have seen that has two bump maps in one shader. The reason I ask this is because i usually use one for normal and then another for tileable detail bump. If you guys know other methods using Maya please share them with me. Thanks.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:05 AM   #7
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Total Awards: 8
SR_6274: When it comes to low poly stuff, I always just like to keep it simple. You're right, GI renders tend to just flatten everything, so I end up just using a 3 point light system and then taking a screen grab. I don't even bother with a render unless the AA is a problem, then I just do a hardware render. When you've got a good low poly model, you shouldn't need too much fancy lighting, it should look pretty good even with default lighting.

grindill: Yep, that's a good point with the design and keeping everything grounded in reality. You shouldn't add stuff to your design just because it looks cool, everything should have a purpose.

Agent-X, why not just use a layered shader and assign the tileable bump shader to a second uv set?
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Last edited by Puckducker; 09-03-2009 at 04:10 AM..
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Old 09-03-2009, 05:13 AM   #8
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Interesting. Very Interesting, me and you must talk more Puckducker. Hehe. I use MSN too, I was wondering if you and I could chat for a bit sometime before the next Dominance War challenge if you are available. If not thats cool. I would like to know how you do that exactly.
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Old 09-03-2009, 12:02 PM   #9
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Total Awards: 8
Hey, no problem Agent-X, just add me: puckducker@hotmail.com
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Old 09-03-2009, 12:42 PM   #10
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Well, I've decided I'm going to give this a proper go even though I would never consider myself a character artist. Whilst I'm waiting for the theme to be announced I'm doing the following to get in the mood...

- Drawing lots of skeleton/framework characters. Nothing more than basic shapes with connecting lines but it's good practice on getting proportions looking right, especially if you are planning on stretching things out. Concept art is one of my weaknesses so I need to work on it now to be able to hit the ground running with starting the actual concept when the theme is announced

- Looking at reference art. Aside from the previous contests there are loads of references out there for character design. Inspiration is the key, though at this stage it's more an exercise in opening my mind as the theme will help to determine the style more than anything. This means looking at a variety of styles and themes to get a broad idea of what can be done with the hope that it will help with the actual design

- Looking at mesh flow, especially around the joints. I can only just remember the last time I rigged something organic and the mesh didn't deform all that well in places, so I'm trying to make sure I will build my model the right way from the start instead of having to fix things up later

Most of all I'm hoping that I remember to have fun though
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:58 AM   #11
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Posted this in the other thread, but I figure I should post it here as well:

Marmoset Toolbag/Model Viewer

This is a new standalone realtime model viewer that's currently making the rounds. Great for character/object stuff, and it even has full HDR lighting. I wouldn't be surprised to find a lot of people in DW4 will be using this for their final shots
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Old 12-03-2009, 05:21 AM   #12
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Puckducker looks intresting, thx for info
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Old 26-03-2009, 08:07 PM   #13
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yeah many thx dude!
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