field report (including adventures with Substance Painter)

So I have already written about my discovery of Jeff Vogel’s Spiderweb Software games, and since they are really more text-based than anything, I thought that fanart is in order. And it’s not going to be _that_ perfectionism-triggering as my older fandoms are (since those are either visual-based, have a huge body of established lore, or both).

Before I plunge into a lengthy description, though, let me share a tip.

This is one of the Optitex dynamic clothing items for DS that I took into Substance Painter because Substance Painter is this awesome tool that does a lot of stuff I need (like weathering effects) automagically, via (extremely customisable) “smart materials”.

What you need to do to really optimise your workflow is: before you import the mesh into SP, merge those materials that are on the same UV tile and are logically the same (you can do it in DS via “geometry editor” or in a modeler app). Optitex dynamics have a gazillion cloth panels aka mat zones, and SP will generate a separate texture set for each, even if they all fit on the same UV tile. You don’t want it, really. It slows down the painting; you wind up with a gazillion x 3 (or more, depending on what you paint) textures for each zone that you will need to merge later manually in an image editor if you don’t want to waste disk space; and – the biggest issue – you cannot paint across those sets.

Which makes painting continuous detail kinda moot. Just look at this robe that is supposed to have been burnt in a fight. Apparently it’s been sewn from pre-burnt fabric because there is just no way to make the particle brush transcend the texture set boundaries.

So do not repeat my mistakes =)

Tip over; self-indulgence incoming!

I’m almost through with my first run of Avernum: Escape from the Pit, and I’ve grown fond of my gang of four. This is how far I’ve progressed with Kadwell who is the party’s mage and the only dude.

I guess I am finally happy with how the eyes look – basically, there is no SSS on the eyewhites, because with the way the DAZ model eyes are built, you either need to use oldschool SSS or cuss your way from here to, well, the other side of the Multiverse. So it’s diffuse+reflection and varnish coating on top – and an opacity map to get that soft transition effect between the eyewhite and the cornea (a small but crucially important detail – I never used this technique before, trying to make SSS do this job, but without SSS it works perfectly). I took one from Surreality’s eye collection from the DAZ store (same as all the eye maps here actually), but there are other characters coming with their own sclera transmaps. And if anything, these are easy enough to make or alter.

…wonder now if this will work on Arki’s EyeDeaz – they may be built to expect this transition to be on the cornea material… but I digress.

As always, hair is the weakest link. I just don’t feel like going full-on LAMH before the devs release the build which allows custom curve materials to be saved within the scene, so it’s a transmapped model. And an old one it is. A “Blunt Cut” freebie for Apollo Maximus. The only one from my whole runtime that looked right. Of course the diffuse, spec strength and bump maps come from OOT’s “IrayPair” hair texture pack, but maps alone cannot solve the problem that most transmapped hair models have… the parting (or, like here, a complete lack thereof).

I messed with the transmap for the top layer and added a deformer to make the parting look more or less not-that-jarringly-unrealistic.

Guess the unhealthily healthy lustre of his hair doesn’t look too realistic on a dude either, but, well, I like it.

The character is based on M4. Yes, M4. With the default M4 textures, even (but the hi-res versions).

The fiber eyebrows and beard are obviously not made for M4 – the eyebrows are the Oh My Brows for G3M and the beard is an old Mec4D beta item, a precursor to the Unshaven sets. They are simply parented to the head and will need manual adjustment for various expressions, but the result is worth it IMO.

A rather specific tip: if you are using the 3Delight RSL raytracer (like with the “progressive” DS mode or via my scripts), it’s best to always use DoF (even for test renders) because then you will be able to break up the roughness of specular/reflection correctly through bump/normal/displacement maps alone. It gives you no-fuss highligts on transmapped hair, among other things. No fiddling with anisotropy settings! Automagical. Undocumented.

These textures were generated in Substance Painter (took an evening or two, yeah, that fast). I’m basing the look on what I think the items should look like from their names and/or magic properties. Yes these are magic pants – leather greaves actually, but it’s the closest I managed to get using just the models from my runtime.

Which brings me to the dilemma I’m facing ATM: good-looking leather armour. To scout the web or to model?


4 thoughts on “field report (including adventures with Substance Painter)

  1. The magic pants from Balfour!

    Eyes do look great — very lively. I’d say they belong on the party’s only mage.

    Hair like this reminds me every time of how mine looks when I experiment with a comb and mess with my parting accidentally, putting a thin layer or a few locks of hair to the other side where they won’t go naturally. So it’s kinda arguably might pass as unexpectedly realistic? -ish?.. xD

    “unhealthily healthy lustre of his hair” — he’s a mage! Prof perks xD

    The glove fingers are fantastic. I can feel the texture and smell leather. So good.

    “To scout the web or to model?” I’d say do ass you would with purchasing leather clothing. Which should be tailored only.

    1. Hey thanks!
      Yeah, the “messy parting” is what I was trying for… it’s as far as models like these can be taken. And they keep on getting made like this. Check out a not-that-cheap and recent release:
      If you look at the “clay” (untextured) render, you’ll see the geometry just densely overlaps when the parting should be. I find it very annoying. It just doesn’t happen IRL.

      Guess you’re right… and there doesn’t seem to be any non-ugly yet believable leather armour models on the web, anyway. I think that something like this:
      – is First Expedition enough: it’s a vest and it’s magic. Whaddaya say?

      1. I say I’ve seen vests almost exactly like that one in many web-stores, made by modern and not very exquisite artisans, while looking for “authentic” clothes. Distress it enough, gonna be fine. But I don’t think anything other than a vest will work.

        Hell, there’s always a thing or two or ten that’s really, really obvious, yet people keep getting it wrong even after the thing is pointed out by other people. Meanwhile, hair that looks like a wig is one of the most glaring giveaways. In really bad instances it’s uncanny valley all the way, even.

        1. Great =) and it should be a vest cuz da game explicitly says the piece I’m using for Kad is a vest) )) the in-game icon is more of a sleeveless doublet, but it’s just a generic shape indicating leather armour, so I don’t think it should be seen as “art direction”.

          Too true. I don’t get it how the whole “photorealism” craze seems to peacefully coexist with this sort of mid-2000s style models that effectively negate any effort to suspend disbelief. This particular vendor is capable of much more actually, I honestly don’t know why this model was even made, how it got through QA and why anyone ever bought it. There are even way better outright toon models out there:

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