A little bit about the project
Now that we know more about this virtual world, we can officially start.
Breaking down the project.
The Aetherian Block Museum is an ambitious project and to have a better control over the development sprints we divided it all in 3 different stages.
- The structure
This would be the over all shape and feel of the building, and included everything that cannot be moved or duplicated inside the scene, to have a real life example, this would be the job of an architect.
We define as props anything that can be duplicated in the scene and doesn't belong to the structure, a bench, a painting or a vending machine would be a prop, in real life, this would be the work of an interior designer.
- Animations and final polishing
After everything is done we will invest some extra time giving life to the scene with animations and interactions. In conclusion, the job of an in real life wizard.
Since this project it is still in development, on this post we're going to focus on the structure.
A Basic outline
When working on a Decentraland building project, is important to note that there are technical limitations everywhere, on size, on polycount, textures,... it all depends on the extend of the terrain you are going to build on.
Knowing this, when I have size limitations I usually start creating a cube that has the maximum size and use it as a visual reference to know where is the limit.
Learn from the Masters, Gather References
Never understimate the power of the references, for getting a general idea about what we want to transmit or the look we want to achieve.
I like to start by entering Pinterest and look for some references, in this case cyberpunk style, since this district does not have yet an exact design, I looked into the most "iconic technological futures", movies and videogames, like Blade Runner, Tron, Rune and Ghost in the Shell were some of the major references on this project.
Also, one thing that I tend to do, is gather different images that have some detail that I like, and I think that could fit in the project, regardless the overall style, this way I can mix new ideas into it.
Block the Idea out!
Once we have some ideas about what we want, it’s time to make some visual MVP (Minimum Viable Product), at Polygonal Mind we call this blockouts, with them you can see the overall shape of the building helping you visualize the final product, in this case of the museum. Generally, in this stage, the ideal thing is to make at least 3 totally different variations, so we can experiment with different shapes and ideas and see which one could be the most feasible.
In this case, three buildings were done, each one with a different shape, so that in the end we can reach the most pleasant form while taking advantage of the maximum size.
Seeing that the pretended design is technological, I added some emissive lights. Here the contrasting colours help visually how these lights could work.
After this first stage, we decided to post the results on the Decentraland and Aetherian Discord servers to gather some feedback.
The devil is on the Details
Once we have chosen the most viable option, in this case the chosen one was the second option, we pass on the details, on the first stages of the modelling, I tend not to worry about the number of the polygons, and I just look for the overall shape.
On this stage however I remade some of the pieces of the model, that way I can create drawings on the model far more controlled way. A good example of this are the exhibition floors.
If there is a feeling, there is a style
As I explained before, Decentraland is divided in various districts, each one with its own style, this building is destined to the cyberpunk district. However this style can encompass a lot of different feelings.
So in this project we could test different color palettes. One similar to the aesthetic of tron, another more dark and grim and the last one more natural.
As I mentioned in other articles, Adobe Kuler is a great tool for this, you can search or create your own palettes that can fit your project very quickly.
Again, we made 3 different variations and went to the DCL and Aetherian Discord servers to gather some community feedback.
Once we have the basic colors we can pass onto detailing the textures using the colors that have been selected, in this case the dark palette was the chosen one.
This was a basic outline for my process when it comes to create buildings for Decentraland, though depending of its needs this can change slightly, For example for organic objects I tend to use Zbrush.
Nevertheless, never forget the musts. Reference, Blockout and Detail.
See you in the next case study :)
Laura Usón is a 3D artist working at Polygonal Mind's in-house team.