By Christopher "shaithis" Buecheler
ell, what can I say...this writing thing can be a bit addictive. I enjoyed doing the cover story for issue six so much that when loonyboi brought up the idea of doing a bi-weekly column, I jumped on it. My reason for not going weekly? Simple, really...I need the time for research. Also, I keep myself constantly busy (I hate not having deadlines), so two weeks gives me more time to write the article. My intentions with this column are to give a general overview not only of what exactly is entailed in creating artwork for games (and yes, my focus is going to be mostly on first person shooter games, because that's what I do), but to obtain more information on newer techniques that are beginning to come into play, and presenting it here.
Today, though, we're going to start with the basics. I'll be working my way up from "what is a texture" to "how do I create a diffusion map?" (and hopefully beyond). I know that an awful lot of the people who'll be reading this column know full damn well what a texture is, and how it applies to a brush, but I'm going to start simple just the same, in hopes that anyone who decides to take a look can understand what's going on.
Please note, however, that I'm not going to do a Photoshop tutorial. There are far better resources for that than I can present here. For starters, open the manual. I've yet to find a Photoshop tip book that has a greater wealth of information than the Photoshop manual itself. Also, I use Photoshop 4. Five has some nice stuff (predominantly multiple-undo's. The rest of the "enhancements" are pretty cheesy), but it's somewhat slower and doesn't offer me any significant reason to upgrade. I have better things to spend my cash on. :)
The example I'm using in this column started out life as a 640x480 scanned photo, and was slowly worked into a 256x256 texture. How? Well, I'll probably get to that next week. That'll be my one tutorial issue, just to show what the process can be like.
So anyway, now that I've spent the past three or four paragraphs talking about textures, I still haven't given you an answer to the basic question, "what is a texture?". It's simple, really. Texture, as defined by Webster's, means, "the disposition of the several parts of any body in connection with each other, or the manner in which the constituent parts are united." This is a big definition, since in the real world texture applies to all five senses. In the gaming world, however, the definition's a lot easier to understand. "Texture" can be loosely defined as "What the surface of the object you're referring to looks like", and "A Texture" means, essentially, "A piece of 2D Art wrapped around a blank polygon, which helps the polygon to appear as a specific object". You would use a texture, then, to make a blank polygonal cube look like a wooden box, or an eight-sided cylindrical polygon look like a pipe.
Here's a basic example:
This is the flat texture I made. I like it. Probably my best to date.
This is the texture wrapped onto a cube in UnrealED (I chose UnrealED because it supports textures that have their own 256-color palettes, instead of forcing a universal palette on them. Also, I like the interface).
Got it? Good. It's not really a difficult thing to understand. Think about taking a plain wooden block, and painting each side so it looks like it's made of metal. In doing so, you've gone through the real life equivalent of texturing a "Brush" (polygon) in a 3D game.
And that, folks, pretty much sums it up. So now hopefully you understand what a texture is. Next week? I'll show you how to make one. Then we get on to the more interesting stuff, namely: what you can do to your textures before engine, and in-engine, to make them look cooler.
- Christopher Buecheler is a freelance 2D artist.
Credits: Graphic Content is © 1998 Christopher Buecheler. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, or we'll paint you white against a white background.