Whether you are an indie game dev or building a portfolio in hopes of working for a major studio, there is immense value in learning how to use the best tools available to video game developers. This is true for both software and also simply taking advantage of resources that are available to you. With the help of 3D.SK, we are going to create a AAA-quality, game-ready shotgun quickly and relatively easily. We’ll talk about 3D photo scans, how to optimize them for video games, and why this sort of pipeline can save indie developers time and money.
3D.sk is a powerful resource that is used by major video game developers such as CD Projekt Red, Bandai Namco, Ubisoft, EA Games, and Rockstar Games. If you aren’t familiar with these studios themselves, maybe some of their releases will be of more meaning here: Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption II, Grand Theft Auto V, and Star Wars Battlefront II to name a few major examples.
Even here at Daz Studio, we’ve relied on 3D.sk to help create a number of high-definition skin textures with our Genesis base models. That’s why we are proud to promote 3D.sk with our promo code:
With this code, you can get 15% off your next purchase from 3D.sk. You can sign up for discounted subscription plans, or if you’d like to follow along with this tutorial or just give one of their many resources a try, you can use this code to buy a one-time credit pack.
I’m an Indie Developer With No Budget for My Game
If this describes your situation, let’s talk about this very real constraint that all developers face. We know that most indie developers would love to be able to work with a team or have access to all the best technology. The reality is it is probably unrealistic for most developers to be able to afford everything out there, as helpful as it all could be.
If you are working on a small budget, or even a non-existent budget, you will have to be extra decisive. Just because something comes with a price tag, however, doesn’t mean you should immediately turn away from it. A few factors you should consider when weighing development solutions like the one we will discuss here include time, your skill level within the area, and cost.
Creating a 3D video game, especially if you are working alone, is extremely time-consuming. The bottom line is every hour you spend making a game is an hour you can never get back. Whether or not your game will monetarily reimburse you for that time is generally unknown. If there is an area of development that you aren’t as good at, say modeling weapons for your FPS shooter game, the amount of time it would take to create a model versus the quality of the end product, may outweigh the cost associated with quickly producing a professional result with outside help.
Within this tutorial, we are going to use a raw photo scan from 3D.sk, Blender, and a premium plugin for Blender that requires a license (outside of the free trial period). If you would like to follow along, consider using our free promo code with 3D.sk and consider signing up for the trial period of Quad Remesher for Blender.
Why You Might Use 3D Photo Scans
Back in the good old time of “ago,” developers had to create textures by hand — think early PlayStation and Xbox days. Facing major hardware limitations on consoles and PCs, artists and developers had to get creative in not only how they structured a mesh, but also how they textured it.
Today, one of the reasons games are able to create such amazing lifelike graphics is due in part to advancements in texturing and material creation. The key to creating realistic graphics is using photo scans and textures derived from high-quality digital photographs.
Photo scanning is awesome because it can not only provide a mesh but also HD textures as well. With improvements in technology, it is now possible to generate photo scans with only a smartphone. Of course, generating your own photo scans requires a relatively new model phone and access to the items you want in your game, not to mention the ability to set up studio-quality lighting for the very best results.
That is where companies like 3D.sk can help. If you are looking for scans and textures of people, then you won’t find a better choice. 3D.sk is also expanding with reference images for people, clothing, and even raw scans of military class weaponry.
For this tutorial, we are going to take this raw photo scan of an M8879 Shotgun available on 3D.sk’s website.
My Photo Scan Is 1.6 Million Polys – Is That a Lot?
This is no joke. This single shotgun contains 1.6 million polys, and even in the era of Unreal Engine 5 that is too much. Keep in mind, this is a raw photo scan. This means 3D.sk has provided the photo scan at the maximum quality. As developers, we now must take that model and optimize it for the specific platform or hardware your game is targeting.
The number of polys a model in your game has is dependent on a lot of factors. If you are targeting mobile, you really want only a few hundred per model. Whereas with a PC game this could vary more greatly. In general, you may as well make a habit of aiming for as few polys as possible so you don’t unnecessarily hinder your game’s performance.
With all that said, let’s begin!
Import the Photo Scan Into Blender
Once you have downloaded the photo scan to your computer, go ahead and open a new project in Blender. As a free, open-source 3D editing software, Blender is by far one of the best choices for indie and hobbyist 3D artists. From Blender, you will be able to then export to whatever game engine you prefer.
Within the download, you will find two folders, one containing the OBJ file of the raw scan, and another containing a series of photo images showcasing various angles of the weapon. Inside Blender, go ahead and clean the scene by removing the three default objects. Then click File > Import > Wavefront (obj). Navigate to the location of your downloaded file from 3D.sk and select the raw file scan. Due to the size of the file, it may take a few minutes to load properly within the workspace.
If the model loads but isn’t centered in the scene, you can correct this by clicking Object > Set Origin > Geometry to Origin. If you would also like to center the cursor (thin crosshair) you can do this by clicking Shift + S and selecting Cursor to World Origin.
Optimize the Mesh With Quad Remesher
If you want to skip the Quad Remesher plugin and are confident in your ability to retopologize in Blender, feel free to give that a try. It is certainly possible to do so by hand. If you want to take this route, consider looking into how to use the shrinkwrap modifier, as this could help you recreate the mesh conformed to the high-poly mesh. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. With Quad Remesher, we will be able to optimize this model in a few short clicks.
If you have never installed an add-on in Blender before, don’t worry, it is quick and easy. Once you’ve signed up for the free trial, or purchased a license for Quad Remesher, head over to Edit > Preferences > Add-Ons and search for Quad Remesher. When you locate the add-on Mesh: Quad Remesher (as of writing the current version is 1.2) go ahead and check the box to activate it.
You can access the add-on from the vertical panel found near the upper right corner of the workspace. With the model selected (A) click on Quad Remesher to open the options panel. The default settings will probably look something like this:
The Quad Count is the number of quads that you want the new mesh to have. Quad Remesher’s AI will use this as a target and will rework the mesh to be as close to this number as possible.
Quad Size Settings includes a few parameters. The adaptive size refers to how Quad Remesher will scale different quads during the remesh process. In general, 3D artists aim to have each quad in a mesh be as close to the same size as possible to avoid stretching during the texturing process. However, when high detail in a mesh is required, this is usually not possible, and smaller quads may be required where a tighter level of detail is needed. The default setting is 50%. This means that when Quad Remesher makes a decision on how to place each quad, it will have the freedom to use any size of quads within 50% of the size of each other. If you would like your quads to be more uniform, lower this number. If you are unconcerned with this, feel free to increase the number.
For more in-depth information on the other settings available, you can reference the Documentation available on the Exoside website. For the scope of this tutorial, we recommend leaving the default settings for everything besides the adaptive size and the Quad count.
Feel free to experiment with various quad counts and adaptive sizes. When you are ready to test a new iteration of the model, simply slick REMESH IT and see what happens. Switch over to Edit mode to view the mesh. It may take several tests to find the lowest number of polys to use without jeopardizing the original shape of the mesh.
For comparison, here is the same mesh with the original 1.6 million polys, 5000 polys, and 2500 polys. Depending on the style of game and platform your game will be on, you can decide how much detail your game can afford in models like this.
The best part about using a photo scan is that you already have the HD photographs as well, which you can use in Blender or another texturing program. Some photo scans may even come with materials already generated for you. Unless drastic changes are made to a mesh, retopologizing with a tool like Quad Remesher should have no effect on how the final object looks inside your game.
For more information on how to rig and animate the weapon for a video game, check out our post How to Make FPS Game Animations in Blender.
Want to Grow Your Skills in 3D? Try Daz Studio
If you are looking to increase your knowledge of 3D and your ability to create professional, realistic renders, you should consider checking out a free download of Daz Studio. The Daz community is made up of thousands of artists of all skill levels, many of whom share passions and interests just like yourself.
With Daz Studio you can create modular environments, characters, and props. You can render right in Studio to create static images and animations, or you can even use one of our free open-source Bridges to pull Daz creations into other popular programs like Blender, Unity, and Unreal Engine. Download Daz Studio and level up your skills as a 3D artist today!