The Mad Dash to GDC 2012

It’s no secret that the almost-a-year since graduation hasn’t exactly been one of the best times to be me. Depressing statuses about the 3D Art equivalent of Writer’s Block are all over my Facebook when it’s not deactivated to prevent me from writing more of them, and a quick survey of activity on this blog will show a steady drop-off and a whole lot of WIPs without anything new being finished since school. Now, though, I think I’ve hit a turning point, and I’m ready to get back in the saddle.

I’ve given myself the deadline of GDC to make the deli presentable and finally spend some time polishing the assets that are currently in my portfolio. I’ve still got some practical things to work out with actually getting to GDC and having a place to sleep while I’m there, but in the meantime, I can certainly get back to work on trying to prove that I can be and want to be a professional artist. Plus, a big, unmovable deadline should be good for me. I always work better under those than the nebulous, easily ignored deadlines that I set for myself.

This post will serve to document the progress of the Mad Dash to GDC so that all the things I’m actually working on are front and center of my blog rather than being hidden back in the annals.

Day 1-2 of the Mad Dash. I wanted to try and knock out a quick practice asset to shake out the cobwebs after so long away from 3D, and the old version of the Butcher’s Block from the deli had always bugged me, so I went back to attempt to do it right. I underestimated how obvious certain seams were going to be, so I’ll need to re-UV before pressing on with the textures.

Day 3-5 of the Mad Dash. Improved the UVs on the block. I’m not entirely happy with them, but at least the way it’s currently positioned, all the seams are hidden by the rest of the scene. Took a stab at improving the door to the back room. Someone said it was bright enough to be a colossal distraction, and, on another trip to Scordato’s, I noticed just how grimy and disgusting their flag-as-a-door had gotten. Took a stab at some folds as well. Also started some new packaging to hang out on the shelves. Other than the sardine can and some of the olive oil bottles, I wasn’t really happy with the packaging I made before (well, and the boxes. Those were almost spot-on!).

I’m planning to re-rearrange the deli in the near future, shrink it down to A) be closer to Scordato’s, the miniscule corner deli that’s become my inspiration more and more and B) shrink the list of assets that need to be created/fixed before I can call the deli finished.

Days 5-11 of the Mad Dash. Reduced and UV’ed the new food items. Re-UV’ed the old packaging. Now I’ve got all my bottles doing the Nuka Cola thing and having an outer model with the stand-in glass material and inner geometry with a transluscent material on it. Beginning textures on the packaging (it’s amazing how much of an improvement you get just by adding labels to these packages….). Shrank the deli as planned. It’s now down to a scale that should be manageable if I can just avoid getting conscripted to help any more newbies make character sheets in D&D (one of the few vices I’ve allowed myself during the Mad Dash).

I also spent, probably more time than I should’ve, letting myself get impressed (in the 17th-19th century British Navy sense of the word) into concept sketches for my best friend’s D&D game. As long as they got me drawing again and I’m not wholly unhappy with them, they’re over in the Digital Sketchbook. Hell, it’s what it’s there for, right?

Day 11-17 of the Mad Dash. Added a garbage can. Experimented with adding a fake tree (needs work, probably won’t make the final cut). Replaced the scale with a digital version. Added some images to the empty frames. Fixed up/replaced some architectural assets to better suit the new scale (replaced corner molding with big, fat pillars. Resized the storefront).

Day 18, 21 of the Mad Dash. Added material to back wall. Added decals (grunge on back wall, mud on floor). Added wood to hide transitional edge between wall and ceiling and remove need for rafter-decals. Computer is chugging for no good reason, so I may not get to light shafts tonight as intended…

Day 22-23 of the Mad Dash. Quick and dirty sign on the cooler, worked a bit on the textures. Worked a bit on the ticket machine as well, since it’s sharing UVs with the coolers. It cuts into my already-tight schedule, but ignoring the problem is only going to let the loss of productivity compound. I need to troubleshoot and try to figure out why I can’t run UDK and Photoshop without massive lag anymore. Neither booting up UDK every time I want to see if my textures look right nor leaving Unreal up and waiting a second after every brush stroke to see if it’s registered are options. Just a couple days ago, I wasn’t noticing any chugging, but now I am…

Day 24-27 of the Mad Dash. Was getting frustrated with the bake and UV’s of the cooler and the counter, so I went back and remodeled them from the Hi-Res, trying to avoid any serious re-UVing. Ended up not able to fit the ticket counter back on the same texture as the cooler like before, so I decided to go back and polish its Hi-Res as well. Much happier with the bakes that I’ve gotten off these new versions, though I’m still finding myself stymied by the textures…

Day 31-34 of the Mad Dash. Polished textures on the counters. Went back and polished the models, UV’s, and textures on the food in the counters. Finally started Shader R&D and replacing Unreal Glass with my own simple glass shader.

And now, as with every artistic endeavor, there comes a time where you just have to say “Well, I’m out of time. I guess it’s good enough.” Is there a lot I’d still like to do? Absolutely! Do I still have a bunch of stuff to do before GDC and only one more day to do it before I’m airborne? Yep. I may get to putting a tiny bit more polish on the deli, though I think if I have free time between putting together a 16:9 portfolio PDF and improving my resume, I’d rather spend it on anything else in my portfolio that I never got around to than this. We’ll see.

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