What is the best game ready asset workflow?
Ok, so I've been posting this question around, might as well add it here.
So, as the texturing program Quixel Suite is gearing up to come out SOMETIME this quarter, I've been doing my best to learn all that will be needed to use it effectively, but I have run into somewhat of a speedbump. What I need to figure out is how to put a series of colors onto a high poly model and transfer those colors onto its nicely uv unwrapped low poly version. If you don't know what I mean by creating a color ID map, here is a quick video of someone putting such colors onto their high poly model: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2zs...fQjAUOJvIZ4-iA (Btw, I'm not sure as to where that person got their color ID Materials, so if someone knows, please share. Unless thats the type of thing you make yourself.)
Now, I've seen people using things like Xnormal for doing normal maps from high poly to low poly, and i've even seen it being used almost how I want to use it, but with Zbrush, and I only have mudbox. (Zbrush example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ09hkA54LY )
Of course, I could be totally wrong and it could be that the Quixel Suite will use the high poly mesh only for its calculations, which kinda makes sense now that I think about it, but then how do you get the super good detail that would come out of Quixel Suite onto a low poly model if the UV unwrappings are different (because its the low poly model you uv unwrap nicely, and not the high poly, isn't it?) I've spent hundreds of hours watching tutorials and reading material on how this will all work and I feel like the answer I'm looking for is at the tip of my tongue, but I'm just not quite there yet. My goal is to figure out the full workflow from nothing to game ready asset.
What I've come up with so far is:
Create Mid/High Poly Base Mesh using C4D/Maya
Move that Mesh into Mudbox for High Poly Detailing
Create Low Poly Base From Mid Poly using Maya Quad Draw + Regular Modeling Tools
Unwrap Low Poly Base using Maya Bonus Tools Auto Unwrap
Create Tangent Space Normal Map Using Xnormal + Mudbox High Poly Model and the Low Poly Model
Create Object Space Normal Map using Xnormal
Create AO Map using Xnormal
Create Albedo(Diffuse) Map by creating selections and painting in Mudbox. Each material (metal, wood, etc) will only show its base color that would be seen in a neutral lighting environment (meaning no scratch highlights, no AO, etc) unless the scratch itself resulted in a different color (like if some darkly colored concrete has a chip in it showing the lighter colored concrete beneath). Will add further detail to this map in Quixel.
Create Metallic Map for metal recognition using same painting in Mudbox technique (pretty simple stuff) and if no part of model is metallic, just connect a constant into the UE4 Material when it comes time to plug everything in.
Now I begin to prep for putting my model into the Quixel Suite:
Create Color ID Map ????????
Open Quixel Suite and load in (probably) High Poly Mesh, Tangent Space Normal Map, Object Space Normal Map, AO Map, maybe metallic map?, Albedo Map (I think you can do this), & Color ID Map.
Define Creation of Albedo(Diffuse) Map, Metallic Map, and Roughness Map (I believe Quixel calls it smoothness).
Start adding wear and uniqueness to the Albedo(Diffuse) Map
If able to mirror changes from Albedo Map to Roughness (Smoothness) Map automatically, great. If not, copy/perform same actions into the Roughness Map. Or, if possible, just use the masks created in the Albedo Map for defining roughness to specific areas in the Roughness Map. (Roughness map: Black areas = perfectly smooth/reflective. White areas = entirely rough/non-reflective.)
Directly in photoshop portion of Quixel Suite, add unique details (such as text, color changes, etc) to Albedo Map. Also, add unique scratches/wear areas to the Roughness Map.
Export Albedo, Metallic, and Roughness Maps out of Quixel Suite.
Plug all those awesome textures (and low poly model) into UE4 and tada, ur an awesome game stuff maker.
As you can see, I THINK I have most of the workflow pretty much figured out (barring anything that I don't know/will learn once Quixel Suite finally comes out). The only knowledge I'm not fully up to date with is creating that Color ID Map for the low poly model (if that is even necessary) and a little knowledge about what to do with UVs. I'm pretty sure that the High Poly Model can have whatever kind of UVs you want (good, bad, ugly) so long as you have good UVs for your low poly model, but I could be wrong and would love someone with some expert knowledge or just some amount of knowledge more than mine to tell me yea, I've got it right or no, I'm an idiot, this is how you do UVs and such.
In any case, if you actually read all this and can help contribute some knowledge, I'd greatly appreciate it. And for those of you who find all of this stuff confusing/interesting, or were just unaware of the workflow required for game asset production, I hope you find this post useful and inspiring (unless its completely wrong and I horribly mislead you into using a bad workflow, in which case I am terribly sorry, I didn't mean it. D: Frowny Face).
There is no correct answer to this question. The best workflow for 3D assets depends heavily on what the asset is. The best way is to just try different methods and see what works for you, but I'll give my 2 cents.
You're first video link doesn't work (maybe the video was removed), but if it's the Quixel suite tutorial then the material groups are in a maya file in the Quixel directory after you install it. To my understanding the Quixel suite uses the normal map only to create it's masks. The normal map is god for that. AO, cavity, etc are just helpful for various effects. So they are all important, but the normal map is the one you should perfect. You shouldn't be plugging in a hi-poly mesh to the Quixel suite at all.
The workflow you outlines seems alright. Some changes I would make are as follows:
Modeling - Learn Zbrush (haha just kidding....but seriously, it's awesome). You're method is just fine.
Unwrapping - Auto-unwrap blows. Project based on camera uv in Maya to get a single shell. Then select the edges you want to separate in the 3D viewport and cut them in the uv editor. Unfold each shell. Lastly, arrange them in a way to maximize space without getting too close.
Texturing - Test bake your normal map at a lower res until it's good, then bake all your maps simultaneously at full res. Color ID is simple. Just assign different colors (based on material groups) to your lo res or hi res mesh (whichever is appropriate) and bake the color map in Xnormal. Throw your LO RES in Quixel along with your maps (make sure to use the UE4 settings). Get whatever you want out of it and do the rest using regular Photoshop tools. Cleanup your maps in Mudbox using the painting tools to fix seams (caused by overlays other Photoshop magic sauce) and make adjustments.
Rendering - As soon as you have your maps 50% done, throw them in UE4. Getting your stuff in-engine as quickly as possible is the most important thing. Your model could look great in Mudbox or Quixel and then totally different in the engine. Also, you need to read up on gamma issues that could arise and lighting. Both of those things DRASTICALLY affect your model's appearance. The other reason to put your stuff in UE4 immediately is to make it easier on yourself. You can get a lot done using the Blueprint system and custom masks rather than wasting your precious hours in Photoshop or Mudbox.
Hopefully that clears up a few things or helps in some way. Don't ever plug your maps and geo into a game engine and expect them to look perfect. There is a lot of back and forth between Photoshop, Maya, etc.
Also I don't know if you're a game enthusiast, student, or professional, but here's some advice:
If you're an artist, then I would suggest learning more programs and getting plugins to help ease the pain on your workflow. Learning what each program does well can save you a lot of time. Each one has its ups and downs.
If you're a programmer or designer, than just learn to use the Autodesk suite effectively to bust out some quick models ready for your game (or just take some from the internet). Worry more about layout and lighting, you don't want to waste time on a model that is never even noticeable in-game.
Good luck and happy gaming!
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