Although I often bemoan my ability to stick with a project or a discipline (aptly named, methinks) for very long, I almost always return to the scenes of my past crimes whether they be game development, writing, specific games, or, in today’s case, 3D modeling.
I recently got it in my head that I needed to get a hold of the models for the ships of Star Citizen. There’s a few ways I knew how to do this. First was to find a community-authored rendition, which can usually be had through 3D printing sites. This is not optimal since these designs are usually created for making physical objects and are poor render subjects, so my second choice was to hit up the Roberts Space Industries website and scum the model from what is called the “holoviewer”. Each ship page has a 3D holographic render that allows visitors to fly around and sometimes through a ship. Using a browser’s development tools I located the 3D file name and was able to download a copy, convert it using community tools, and open it in Blender. This worked OK, but the model used for the holoviewer isn’t the best quality CIG has to offer. For that, I needed the third option: crack open the game’s massive data file, find the models, and convert them from the format used by the game to something I could actually open with Blender. Although the community conversion tools advised against converting to OBJ format, I did it anyway, with some pretty good results.
This is the Mercury Star Runner, as you might know by now. The model is actually a bunch of small pieces which I moved together to get the shape of the ship as we know it. This includes all the little greebles like the thrusters, turrets, and landing gear and missile rack doors. The goal, then, was to unwrap this beast and send it over to Substance Painter, to which I re-subscribed with the wife’s OK (considering it was a heck of a deal at $70 off an annual sub, so I asked for permission instead of forgiveness).
Problem: This is a wireframe version of the MSR:
No way in hell an amateur like me is going to unwrap all that in a meaningful way, so I let Blender take a crack at it. It did alright, but when the parts got to Substance Painter, the UV islands were so crammed together that painting details was next to impossible.
Even though I now have a really nice 3D model of the MSR, I can’t really do anything with it, as I don’t have enough life left in me to devote to figuring out how to deal with this. So on to plan B!
Furniture! I figured that maybe tackling something simple might be the way to go. Playing with the MSR helped retrain my brain in using Blender, and since I was never really good at working with Substance Painter in the first place, I was right back where I left off with my skill-set several months ago.
My first attempt was a conference table. I don’t know why; somewhere in the back of my mind I want to put together a nicely rendered scene, and maybe a corporate board room is a good, sterile place to start? Here’s the rendered result (from Substance Painter, hence the HDRI background).
Not too bad. I realize that there’s some pretty ugly issues here, but the overall design concept is OK. The structure is made of some heavy wood with nice curves. The table surface itself is bisected by a dark, glossy material which is replicated in the “racetrack” feature on the surface.
Each general seating area has it’s own network-slash-USB-slash-whatever bank of two ports, allowing users to plug in their laptops, tablets, cyberdecks, or other device of choice, presumably so someone can fumble around with the remote for the projector for 20 minutes before failing and then decide to send out a desktop share meeting request to everyone in the room.
Switching gears, I peered even further into the future, and wanted a cool avant-garde desk that would look at home in a cyberpunk corporate corner office.
This one ended up a lot better in many ways, but needs some love on the Substance Painter side. We’ve got a thick desk section that has two recessed drawers, one in the middle of the long side and one in the middle of the short side.
On top of that is a piece of glass which is the actual desk top. It’s held aloft by three steel extensions which are part of the three large legs of the desk.
I spent more time with this model for a few reasons, the most important being that I jumped way the hell ahead of myself and wanted to render something glass. The desk design itself is modeling 101, really, but getting that transparency in place was a major coup, despite the fact that I had some head-scratching trouble getting it to not completely vanish when painting out the alpha channel (the key is to paint at about 10% gray). Moving the textures into Blender, however, the transparency wasn’t translating, so on a whim I connected the base color/alpha channel texture to the Alpha input on the principal shader, and BAM! See through desktop! And because I upped the metallic and lowered the roughness of the glass in SPainter, we enjoy a little bit of reflection.
I also spent time on the corners of the desk and the curves of the legs and supports. Comparing the corners of the desk to the pedestal of the conference table, you can see the difference between a Shade Flat (conference table) and Shade Smooth (glass-desk) with strong edges.
The legs of the desk look a little striated, but I am not sure if that’s a result of being close up to the multi-faced cylinder or if it’s actually the texture I put on the object in SPainter. I’ll have to verify as I still have SPainter work to do on the desk since it’s entirely too sterile. I want scratches on the glass, dust on the desk, and some markings on at least the glass-supports of the steel legs (I can’t imagine those metal caps aren’t going to get fingerprints and scratches).