Sunday, 20 April 2014

Marmoset Toolbag - Test #01

Of late, I've really become interested in interactive experience and video games as a potential medium. I've always loved games, but in a kind of guilty pleasure way. I'd always have to justify the interest or ramble on about the potential of the art form. "No, they aren't all about killing people, there are good games about other things. Adults can play them too." It could be said that the video games industry is plagued with the problems of its audience, still fascinated with the same conventions and tropes that have been used for so long. As this audience diversifies, ages and expands, the work that comes from the industry becomes more unique, varied and ultimately more interesting. And so, in recent years, rather than turning away from video games because of their juvenile nature, they seem more and more like the area in which interesting things can be done. Whether it's the emerging, interactive narrative of Gone Home or the sublimely quiet and beautiful atmosphere of Journey, there are experiences out there that stand out as artistic achievements of a complete unique nature.

So, this potentially marks the start of something new. A new set of experiments and tests, exploring game engines and how my own work may evolve down a different route. Something interactive and experiential, rather than rendered, passive narrative. I'll also be trying to talk more about video games, both the good and the bad.  There is a lot to love concerning the art form, but there is also a whole lot of shit that needs to be talked about. Therefore, in an effort to dip my toe into the waters of video games for a CG artist, I've started with some super simple Marmoset Toolbag. Oh look, that old crying bloke makes an appearance again!

The Lost - Marmoset Test from Jordan Buckner on Vimeo.
Music by Kevin MacLeod

Essentially, Marmoset Tool bag is a real time renderer for 3d artists to test and explore games models. Lighting and materials can be changed and viewed immediately, rather than the usual render that us animators are used to. It's a rather incredible change, being able to load normal maps and models into one scene and see them instantly as a rendered image is a huge benefit from the usual Maya render wait. Obviously it's a very different approach, with an appreciation of polycount, texture size etc, but this one aspect is exciting nonetheless.

The image above is the basic breakdown of the scene setup. It's real simple, you start with a base model, add a normal map and a diffuse map and you're done. The normal map is generated from a higher polygon sculpt and in this case, the diffuse map was a Zbrush polypaint. In short, the complicated stuff is just making the model and making things look good. The next step is to start exploring Unity game engine. And then, from there, I don't really have a plan. I'm just going to make things and see what happens. You can get a 30 day trial of Marmoset or buy the software here.

Whatever happens, it'll hopefully be a break from this cycle of suburban output. This mix of worlds (animation, film, video games and contemporary arts) have collided and I look back at past work with a critical eye, so it's time to step up and make something good.

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