In Inside Gaming, we invite Sketchfab game developers to talk about their work. We asked Matt Andre from BitGem to talk about his inspiration, and share some advice.
Hi my name is Matt! I want to tell you a little about BitGem, who we are and how we got started. BitGem is a small team working first and foremost on building a high quality, style consistent and comprehensive low poly model inventory for game developers looking to kick start a new project. BitGem got started about 5 years ago now under a different name because I wanted to build up a passive income and free myself to work on the projects that I really wanted to work on. I had no money to invest into starting a business myself and no programming skills to make a game on my own so I knew I had to put in time and work hard to build a 3d model product range to start the ball rolling.
To make a long story short I worked in the games industry, started freelancing, worked on setting up 3DOcean at envato and even build some car part models for the automobile industry. All the while I kept on making 3d models for game development in my spare time. It was a hard few years with very little time for anything other then work but I eventually managed to build a 3d model range that threw off enough for me quit my day job and only freelance occasionally. I could put more time into building my own models and that was the beginning of BitGem. There are now 2.5 of us (because of part time work). We work together with amazing artists from different corners of the globe to build the BitGem models and I hope that we will one day have the budget to start making our own little games too! :)
My biggest Inspirations and influences for my 3d models were Blizzard entertainment and Warhammer. I just really love that chunky, hand painted art style as its ideal for low poly game development. But many older games like super mario, castlevania, metroid, bubble bobble, street fighter, zelda and many more have had a huge influence on me also and I think the way Nintendo designs their games and characters is brilliant on many levels. I really love retro games and sometimes I experiment with making sprite sheets or combining 3D models with retro style visuals. In this experiment below I tried to make a level set where each unit in 3d space uses up 1 pixel in UV space. So each object in there has a consistent resolution and is based on a 1x1x1 unit grid which creates the illusion of a voxel world at first glance. Btw. this is also how I discovered Minecraft because a colleague at work looked over my shoulder during break time (of course) when I was working on this and said: “Hey that looks like Minecraft!” So I googled it and yeah… it did look like Minecraft… so much for my original idea -.-
Another facet of BitGem is hopefully going to be a 3D printable figurine section at some point. We have been experimenting with that for a bit now but thus far the printing tech has been either too unreliable to deliver consistent results or too expensive for people to be interested in it yet and so we only have a few experimental models such as Kyoshi and Aleysha.
However our focus remains on hand painted low poly models for game development and we are very lucky to be able to work together with extremely talented artists to create not only the concepts but also the 3D models and textures as well as the animations for our characters! Skeleton Grunt, Zombie Boss are examples of such a collaboration. You can also find these and more original concepts on our dev blog.
I think the tools used for making models and textures are to a certain degree irrelevant. It’s more about the artistic skill and eye for things like color, proportions and silhouette that determine the outcome. I happen to use Maya, Photoshop and Zbrush, but I have seen other people achieve similar or better results with other tools.
How browser based 3D previews are helping me
When it comes to selling products, presentation is everything. If I am buying a 3D model from someone else to use in my project I want to know exactly what I am getting. Looking at pre-rendered images of different views of a model and wire frames is a good way of showcasing a model, but it might not truly represent the actual thing as renderings can be manipulated or cherry picked to hide the not so pretty areas and it would take a lot of images to really showcase a model comprehensively. Sketchfab provides the perfect way to preview models inside the browser in 3D so people can truly see what they are getting! Explore every angle and detail and see how the silhouette reads at a distance as well as close up and view the wire frame as well! Being able to look at the actual models like that inspires confidence and is very reassuring for people looking to invest money in a model made by someone they don’t know, it also eliminates false expectations.
A few tips for beginners
If you are looking to build up a passive income with stock models for games, my advice would be to keep it simple! Stay away from animated characters in the beginning. The more complex your items are, the more unhappy your customers will be for various reasons and the more support work you will have to do. Build up volume first. Textures and simple props are a good starting point because you can make many of them quickly and once they are done, they just work in any engine. ;)
Thank you for reading! :)
- Matthias Andre