One of the great benefits of SketchUp is that it is a very versatile program and it can be used for a great many things. One of those things is game modding (modifying games). From the very first model I made for a game mod, I realized that SketchUp has great potential. Today I want to tell you about how I use SketchUp for game modding, so that you can see how easy it is to create compelling 3D material.
Let's start with the very basics. Before I start with a model, I always use an idea. This can be a sketch made by a concept artist, a description of what it looks like, or an idea that is already in my head. It can also be a photo of (for example) a real-life object, such as a military tank. The examples on this page are models which were created using either type of material. Sketches or ideas can be very rough, although often details are easy enough to fill in at a later stage. What follows are a set of five images with models in them and an explanation of how they were created.
Figure 1. Industrial Building - from Photo, to SketchUp Model to Game Content.
Figure 1 shows an industrial building that is modeled from a photo of a plastic model. The plastic model is used for scenery in a so-called board wargame. The 3D model I have modeled in SketchUp will be used for a computer game, or actually a modification (or short "mod") for an existing computer game. The plastic model is on the top left, the SketchUp 3D model on the right and the actual model in-game bottom left.
SketchUp allows you to be very flexible when it comes to using scale in a model. The model in Figure 2 was measured entirely from the image which I imported into the actual 3D model. From there I was able to accurately measure distance between points in the model, thus creating the illusion of an existing building that looks and feels realistic. Figure 2 was made from an original sketch made by a contracted concept artist of Westwood Studios, a game company that creates so-called RealTime Strategy (RTS) games.
Figure 2. SketchUp Lets You Scale
The model from the sketch was never used in the game it was drawn for, but I decided to model it for a game. Note that image is copywrited and that the mod was for personal use only.
In Figure 3 you see yet another building modeled from a sketch. This time the sketch is a bit more simple and details appear a bit vague in the sketch. However, they can easily be modeled with great accuracy in SketchUp in the same way one would normally draw with a pencil. SketchUp allows this kind of flexibility because it lets you add in details in 2D and you instantly turn these into 3D extrusions using Push/Pull technology, among other tools.
Figure 3. Push Pulling from 2D Orthographic Sketch to 3D Model
SketchUp can create both simple and basic models, but also create complex and highly detailed looking models. The technology in SketchUp allows for this flexibility so that both novice and advanced modelers instantly feel at home in the program. Whether they solely use SketchUp, or export to other formats and work onwards from there. Figure 4 shows two models. The top model is a very basic model consisting of a low amount of faces. The model below it however contains many faces and is very complex. Yet both models were created in SketchUp.
Figure 4. A Simple Model and a More Complicated One
Two more examples of models with actual game footage can be seen in the fifth image. These models were also modeled from photos containing their plastic counterparts (not shown). The details in the damaged versions were added in by someone who specializes in creating damage effects. The great thing about SketchUp is that it exports to various major 3D export formats, so that people who are comfortable in for example 3D Studio MAX can add more details as they see fit. For this very reason SketchUp is the tool of choice for any game designer that wishes to be able to create compelling 3D models, yet be fully able to exchange material with fellow designers.
Figure 5. Exporting via 3DS.
As you can see, SketchUp is the right tool for the right 3D job. Although I'm always open for new ways to improve my work, I can't imagine using any other tool than SketchUp for modeling anymore. SketchUp even allows for organic modeling, even though it was never intended for this purpose. Using FollowMe technology SketchUp has opened new ways to creating fluent models that are far from being angular.
Although on this page I have demonstrated only buildings, SketchUp is perfectly able to create vehicles and even 2D material. The entire game Graphical User Interface (or GUI) for example, was entirely created in SketchUp. It will be exported to 3D Studio MAX for rendering and finalization to ultimately be programmed into the game. SketchUp can do it all!
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