This tutorial is intended to present a method of creating a next gen vehicle asset. The difficulty level is medium, so to better understand and use this tutorial, the reader needs to have a basic understanding of the processes involved in modelling and texturing an object in Maya. The asset presented here will be a generic vehicle with a low poly count that has diffuse, specular and normal map textures. The descriptions will therefore be general, but I will go into detail to explain the particularities of next gen asset creation every time it is needed.
To make the work easier, this tutorial has been split up into five different parts:
- High-Res Modelling
- Low-Res Modelling
- UV Layout
- Texture Baking
- Texture Creation
One important thing I have to mention beforehand is that saving the scene as often as possible is a very good idea, especially when working on a complex asset such as this one. Maya's incremental save feature is good, but saving one new scene for each major step of creation will ensure plenty of back-up scenes to go back to in case you need to.
Often, modelling a vehicle is easier when official blueprints are available, but there are situations when these are not available, and so the modelling process has to rely entirely on reference photographs. There are also cases when the entire documentation of a vehicle is reduced to a concept sketch. This is the case for this tutorial as the only reference I have is this perspective drawing of a concept car I drew. To make things easier, I also sketched a simple side view to help me get a better idea of the proportions of the vehicle. I will modify some of the shapes of the vehicle as I model it to improve its shape, as it is usually acceptable to do some modifications to the initial concept.
The first step of the process is also the most important, as the high-res model defines the general shape and proportions of the vehicle and will have a major impact on the entire asset creation pipeline. Usually, modelling the entire car in high-res is not required, but for this tutorial I will model everything that is visible in the final model.
A good starting point is the wheel placement. The resulting "frame" will give you a good starting point for defining
the car's proportions.
Even though the car has not even been started yet, the wheels will help define the car's front, rear width and wheelbase, as well as wheel dimensions.
I start by placing a single polygon at the right-front corner of the car and matching it to the side drawing. Then I
extrude another polygon from one of its edges. After each extrusion, I check the newly created vertices and move them in both the side and perspective view to make sure they are in the right place. This procedure can be extended to the entire car, but I only use it for the general shape. For the details I usually use polygon primitives as a base. There is another way to build the mesh by using the so called "box-modelling", but my personal experience has taught me that the multiple extrusion method is a bit faster and easier to grasp.
Continuing the side of the car, I add the details by cutting the geometry using the Split Polygon Tool. I try to keep the polygons evenly spaced to make the mesh as optimal as possible.
After defining the cut in the side view, I move to the perspective view to adjust the vertices.
After that, I return to the side view and do some more adjusting.