Thanks to the quarantine, I’ve watched dozens of videos on 3D modeling with Blender, and despite having watched dozens of videos on the subject before the quarantine, I feel that I’ve got a better grasp of about 75% of the basics that I had before. I realized that this morning, not because 90% of beginner videos tread the exact same boards, but because I’ve come to the realization that there is no one Swiss Army Knife to apply to a given situation.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been obsessed with Best Practices for a long time. As a programmer, I’m always beset by people screaming about Best Practices (usually the assholes on Stack Exchange who post only to question a question, and not to answer a question) and that usually leads me to a place where I start to doubt that I even know what I’m doing. Am I “doing it right”? Is my app’s performance the best it can be? Is my app as secure as it needs to be? My apps work, but is my lack of understanding the Best Practices resulting in a piss-poor implementation? When I attempted game development, this was only magnified because I had no idea about anything I was getting into. What’s the Best Practice for loading and saving state? What’s the Best Practice for character control? With all of the games in all of the world over the span of time since video games have been a thing, surely there’s been a reduction to one or maybe a handful of Best Practices for any given task…but what were they? Not knowing always left me afraid that my projects were just loosely coupled messes of code linked by logical assumptions, and was otherwise total garbage.
What I’ve come to learn (about 3D modeling in Blender, at least) is that circumstance dictates the Best Practice. Many beginner videos I’ve watched on the subject have focused on basic tool use like extrude, loop cuts, insets, and so on. These get a lot of screen-time because they are important, powerful, and useful tools 75% of the time, but in that remaining 25% of the time relying on those tools gets dicey. I need an edge, but a loop cut is too “heavy”, so what to do? I’ve got faces in weird places, so what to do? There’s a lot of ways to screw up a 3D model especially when I don’t know what I’m doing (i.e. a beginner), so it makes sense to want to have Best Practices to fall back on to be secure in the knowledge that I can solve my problems, but in cleaving to close to that desire for a Swiss Army Knife of know-how, I’ve modeled myself into a dead-end that has actually been the source of that 25% of “how do I solve this problem”.
I’ve now seen videos on modeling using primitives, looping and extruding into shape. I’ve seen videos where every bump and deformity is modeled as a different object. I’ve seen videos where edges are outlined by placing vertices in 2D. These are all different techniques and none of them are Best Practice…until they are. The circumstance dictates the Best Practice, not the other way around. Letting go of the idea that there’s a right way to do something as a means to stave off all of the wrong ways to do something ignores the fact that what’s wrong for one problem is absolutely correct for a different problem.