Hello everyone, my name is Sam “RedMonkey” Olson, I’m 21 years old, from Seattle, Washington (USA), and I’m primarily a modeler for First Strike.
It All Began When...
My path towards joining First Strike started back in 1997 when I went to see the re-released special edition of Star Wars: A New Hope in the theaters. After seeing ANH, I was hooked. I went to see the other Star Wars films (the original trilogy) in the theaters as soon as they were released, and I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since. Some years later, when I entered high school, I took a summer course in 3D animation through the DigiPen Institute where I learned how to use 3D Studio Max 5 (ancient, I know). I liked it so much that I took another summer course in videogame programming, and then signed up for their full-year videogame programming and design program. After finishing up my year at DigiPen, I decided to go into aeronautical engineering and assumed that my videogame-making days were over. However, during my first year of school at the University of Washington, I decided I wanted to get into modding for Battlefield: 2. I began my modding career making models for the now defunct Russian Assault mod. When Russian Assault closed its doors, I decided to apply for First Strike, an amazing-looking Star Wars mod that I had been following for short time. The team accepted me as a developer in November of 2005, and the rest is history.
Role Playing...Not Really
My job here on the team has gotten a little muddled over its course. When I first joined, I was assigned to work with FSDev| GeneralUnCo on statics for Mos Espa, then I got to model my favorite rebel fighter, the A-Wing, then someone tossed me a half thrown-together model of the Ewok tree villan…er…village, and said “do something with this.” Since then, I’ve modeled other spacecraft, the odd building or two, thrown out ideas for new maps, meddled with other peoples’ map ideas, done public relations work, done oodles of QC work, and generally frustrated Woody with my quest to make our space battles resemble, as closely as possible, those of the classic X-Wing series…all while balancing school, sleep, and life in general with my duties here at First Strike.
Details, Details, Details
Over the course of my experience here at First Strike, I’ve come to appreciate how difficult modeling objects for games can be. Unlike making models for animated movies or CG work where it’s acceptable to use 100,000+ tris on a single spacecraft, game modelers have to deal with relatively low poly limits. This raises a very important issue when modeling for Battlefield: 2142; where do I need to ADD detail, and where can I SUBTRACT detail? Using detail appropriately can make the difference between a decent low-poly model, and an excellent low-poly model, and it is, in my opinion, the hardest aspect of modeling for the BF engine. Also, because it is our mission to create the most accurate, and true to the movies rendition of the Star Wars universe, sometimes it becomes tough deciding what details can be sacrificed when you want your model to look just like the one in the movies. The rest of the process may be mind-numbing and tedious for a modeler, but it isn’t as difficult as the initial detail assessment. The following is an example of the typical process for modeling a vehicle for First Strike:
Typical Modeling Process
1) Examine and collect the best movie images, and other lore sources for the model. Our lore department helps immensely for this task, especially for hard to find sources, but often it is best to gather source art yourself.
2) Make the third-person (3P) model, the model that everyone else sees while you are driving/flying in-game. Those darn poly-count limits and detail assessments come heavily into play here.
3) Make the first-person (1P) model, the model that YOU see when you are driving/flying in-game. The 1P model is usually a higher-poly version of the cockpit/driving area of the 3P model.
4) Make the collision meshes (also known as “physics meshes” or “cols”). The collision meshes are invisible in-game, and they allow your vehicle to interact with the other objects in the game. There are three collision meshes necessary; the projectile col0 (interacts with projectiles fired from weapons), the vehicle col1 (interacts with other vehicles, static objects, and terrain), and the soldier col2 (interacts with players).
5) Submit the model for an initial QC (Quality Control inspection) after the proportions and details have been OKed by the team.
6) When the model has passed QC, submit it for skinning. Skinning is where one of our texture artists unwraps the model and creates a beautiful texture for it, and we have some darn good texture artists (mad props to Rybot for skinning most of my models).
7) Create the multiple levels of detail, or LODs, for the model by making copies of the 3P model and reducing the poly-counts to appropriate “levels of detail”. These are the models that are displayed as you move farther or closer to a model in-game. The closer you are, the higher the level of detail will be on the model you see. Those pesky poly-count limits and detail assessments return to haunt your dreams at this stage.
8) Create the wreck mesh (the model that is seen when the vehicle is destroyed), and collision meshes for the wreck mesh. Once more, the poly-counts return for a final thrashing of your work.
9) Submit the final model with all its necessary incarnations (lods, cols, wreck, hierarchy) for a final QC, and if it passes, it should be ready to be exported and coded for inclusion in the next test build.
So that’s what I do, and it’s a lot more fun that I might make it sound. I’ll leave you with a little collage of some of my favorite models that I've made for First Strike.
I’m RedMonkey, thanks for stopping by, world.