Sunday, 24 April 2011

Low Poly Modeling

Low Poly (for Polygon) Modeling is a technique employed by 3D artists in order to create an expression of the subject using as little detail as required, or perhaps more appropriately, the attempt to include as much detail as possible while making that expression using as few polygons/triangles as necessary.

Due to a recent decision to move forward with a project nearly 2 years in the making, the majority of time which was spent not working on it, I have begun finally putting in some manpower in order to see it be done. If you think 2 years is a long time to procrastinate, you'd be right. You should also note that the story universe in which this game project takes place was up to this point 15 years in the making. 6 Episodes long, 3 scripts written, all of which will have to be scrapped or revised now that I'm long past the 2010 year milestone.

As it was my wish to have 2D graphics, but fluid movement which could only be achieved through first tracing 3D models, I elected to transfer my character designs into 3D format for rigging and animation, just so it could once again be transformed into 2D graphics! Some might say this is counterproductive, but I doubt most people know the pains involved in animating in 2D. For reference, I once worked 15 hours a day for 3 months only to have about 2 minutes of hand drawn anime done for a short film project. I wasn't that keen on human anatomy so it's usually a grueling process in making sure my characters don't look like they have Parkinson's (don't give me a hard time, I happen to donate annually to them).

Layout down the groundwork

When I first came up with the characters for E6, I wanted them to be proportioned in this mini form factor in order to make a nod to the concept of it being an handheld game. The graphics were also pseudo 8-bit but not on the extreme side of things. I like to think it was meant to look unique enough while sitting in between oldschool and next gen. All graphics for this game were done in 1080p quality so as to give it the potential for an easy port.

Of course after finishing many animations for the main character, I soon realized I was going to have to come up with a better way of creating these character sprites. It took way too long to animate every single action and there were enough characters to make that seem daunting. I immediately stopped production on that engine and began focusing on other projects. When I finally came back and made my decision to mock up my characters based on 3D models, it was due to a game called King of Fighters XIII which had employed the same tactic.

The first plan of attack was to unify the characters according to the same proportions they were given in the original concept art. This was relatively simplified once I drew up the templates for both male and female body types. All characters would be drawn based on these proportions.


I initially made the mistake of attempting to reproduce the characters in higher polygons. I figured since I was only tracing them, I could eliminate the need to ad-lib most of the details, but unfortunately, this attempt only ended up causing the character to lose its faithfulness to the original design. It also made it too obvious that the details were lacking, so I scrapped that and went with low polygons.

It made a huge difference. Not only was the character more primed for practical use, but it was so spot-on the concept drawing that I almost wish I hadn't spent so much time attempting the previous version. Much of the textures were taken directly from the 3-view concept art, and I feel it has maintained its charm.

Shout out to low-poly work

I love low polygon work, when done well. Many times, the hard work comes down to the creative use of textures. I'm not a huge fan of UV Mapping, which is how we get those lovely images on top of those dull gray shapes, but it's a necessity.

I didn't have the opportunity to do a character like this since mine is a lot different in terms of style and detail, but I will probably be doing more low poly work in the future now that I've put enough hours in. The intimidating beast for me at this moment is the whole rigging scene. I once put bones into a character I created and their ankles twisted in ways that was inhuman. Once that is overcome, the next step is advanced rendering techniques, which I will probably not ever get around to since these models are purely for reference.


  1. I did some 3D modelling in the past... It was fun but i never followed through with it

  2. I've fucked with 3d modelling and stuff during my Macromedia Flash animation days, shit was fun, but complicated to me. I'd love to get back into it, think you could make some quick tutorials? :D

  3. I will definitely follow through on some shallow tutorials seeing as I have plenty of models to make.

  4. Interesting, but I only much like the Altair work.

  5. Nice! More tutorials would be cool!

  6. If you need any help with script ideas for whatever reason give me a shout. I was a decent writer once upon a time. Really good stuff btw.

  7. that first girl looks digitally hawt