Flintlock Rifle Breakdown
Hi, I’m Robert Berrier. I came into contact with 3D modeling about 10 years ago while following a basic 3D class at school. Back then they gave this course in 3D Studio Max 4. I didn’t know much about 3D and this industry except that some games where made using this technology. However, I was instantly hooked and spent many hours at home learning and playing around in 3D Max. Many years later it has become my job, providing my 3D modeling skills together with a solid foundation in art and style to many teams and projects. My focus is game art, but I have done other specialties like real estate visualizations and rendered CG as well.
Wherever I am, my brain is always looking for interesting shapes and scenes. This can be something big like a building, or a mountain pass while on a trip. But often it is something small like the growth of an interesting plant next to a rock. Sometimes nature can create these really interesting compositions as if designed by an artist. I collect these moments in my head and on a list on my phone. Each one of them giving me a unique feeling, a story, inspiration!
In the case of this Flintlock rifle, I wanted to create a feeling of old. I always had a taste for dry desert landscape environments found in Africa. I imagined this rifle belonging to a local tribesman. Who was giving this by a foreigner, a discoverer from Europe who was passing through. Or perhaps the tribesman found it on his body after the discoverer had died from thirst.
Having this idea on my list and in my head for a while, I created a quick concept image, using photo ref and some quick painting. Sadly the base image was very low res, but it was enough for me to express my ideas and feelings.
I soon started blocking out the basic shapes. I always find the overall shape and style of an image or asset the most important. Even though it seems many projects and people overlook this.
As you can see, some of the shapes are very simple. The flintlock pieces started as simple 2D shapes as if I’m drawing it in 2D. Doing this gave me something to play with, see if the mechanism would work and if the shape works in the overall design. Once I was happy and confident, I moved on to actual modeling.
So far I did all the modeling in Maya. But at some point, I had to move into ZBrush for fine tuning and detailing. I combined a few shapes to blend them into one physical piece. Like the barrel and the tip of the barrel. And I lightly added damage to the wood and metal edges. I decided to leave a lot of the smaller details for 2D work. Using Substance Painter or Quixel to just paint in extra normal map data.
Once the high poly was done, I started on the low and a cage. At this point, I didn’t have the beads, ropes and leather belts yet. I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to add this at this point, so I made them optional.
After all the meshes were done, High poly, Low poly and the Cage, I rendered all the map out though Xnormal. A normal, Ambient Occlusion and ID-map using vertex colors. Often I find mistakes during the baking and UV-ing process, going back and forth to fix those. As well as checking if the bake results read well and are correct. Are the shapes coming through? Does the overall design work well? What you see now is 90% of the final result. Without a good low poly mesh with corresponding normal map you will have a hard time making it all look good in a later process. For me, this is also the first feeling of result. At this point I might ask for some feedback from others.
This was my first real project in Substance Painter. I had many things to learn and overcome. However, I was amazed by how simple and effective it is. Once you get the basics in your head it’s all very straightforward. Below you can see an example of how I added some of the smaller details. I created an alpha stamp in photoshop, imported it into Painter, stamp and done. Easy!
For all the materials I first started out with those already in the program or from Substance Share, throwing it on the model with the correct mask. From there I could just tweak it as I liked, letting creative freedom flow. If I decided I didn’t like the look or capabilities, I would throw it away and find another material to start from. It’s crazy fast and effective!
Once I was happy with the result of the rifle, I was able to go into creating the extra meshes. Beads, ropes and belts. These extra meshes use the same workflow as the rest. But I found myself going into 3Ds Max to create the ropes. The spline tools in there are just so strong! I also decided to removed the fur, as you see in the concept. Even though I really liked the idea. I found it broke the overall composition too much, breaking the shape.
Sketchfab in my Process
Cleaning up all the meshes, files and naming, I uploaded it to Sketchfab for a 3D-view check to see how it would hold up. I scaled down the texture from 4k to 2k and adjusted all the viewer settings, like lighting and background. Once I was happy I showed it around a bit for some feedback. Which is easy to do since it’s on the web and it loads quickly! I also created some still shots, shown below.
Creating the entire project after work, spending an extra 3+ hours of my day working on this, I sometimes had to pace myself to prevent too little sleep or fatigue. Though it was definitely worth it and made a great learning project for Substance Painter and a perfect portfolio piece.
Here is the final piece in a 3D viewer.
Thanks to everyone who gave their feedback and helped me complete this! You can find final high res images and all the progress shots. I hope you enjoyed this breakdown and was able to learn from it. If anyone has questions, please hit me up.
There is a copy of this article up on Sketchfab.