Entering the Third Dimension
Have you ever wanted to put an object into a 3D game? Have you ever wondered what objects in 3D games are made of, or how they are created? In this lesson, we will explore 3D Modeling – How objects are created and represented in a three-dimensional space.
From Drawing to Model
When you make a simple drawing, like this star, you are defining information in 2D space. You can decide how wide and how tall the star is, and how far up and down or left and right the star is on the page.
When an object is represented in 3D space, it now has depth. You can decide how thick the object is, and how close or far away the object is from the viewer. When you create an object in 3D space it is called a 3D Model.
Types of 3D Models
The first way that 3D models can be represented is a Solid Model. A solid model is represented to be very similar to how objects behave in real life. The object has shape and there is “stuff” inside it. You could cut this block of wood in half, and you would have 2 smaller blocks of wood, which each have “stuff” inside of them. You could drill a hole in the block, or even whittle it down to a more complex shape.
The other way that 3D models are represented is as a Shell Model or Boundary Model. In contrast to solid models being like a block of wood, shell models are more similar to making a cube out of paper. If you cut the cube in half, you would be able to see inside the two halves. Drilling a hole would simply poke through the shell instead of tunneling into it.
Most games use shell models to represent their worlds and characters. This is why sometimes you will be playing a game and the camera will “clip into” or go inside the model, and you can tell that the object is hollow.
Shell models are typically faster for the computer to use, and for this reason are the kind of models most typically used in games. Solid models can be converted to shell models and vice versa. Solid models are more typically used in engineering, design, and simulation.
CAD software, which stands for either “Computer-aided design” or “Computer-aided drawing”, is a type of software commonly used to make solid models. CAD programs focus on combining simpler shapes, known as primitives, to make more complicated objects.
CAD software can be used to make 3D models for games and simulations, but because it is working with solid models and real-world measurements, CAD models can even be 3D printed and brought into the real world!
Popular CAD tools for beginners include Tinkercad and Fusion 360.
Vertex modeling programs focus on creating shell models. In these programs, objects are created by defining points or vertices in 3D space, and combining those points to create the edges and faces that make up a fleshed-out 3D model.
The most popular free tool for making shell models is Blender. Even though it is free, Blender is full of professional grade tools. However, due in part to its rich feature set, it has a steep learning curve, and its huge toolbox can be daunting for beginners.
Because vertex modeling programs are not constrained to creating solid, real world objects, they usually contain tools for distorting and animating models that CAD software does not.
3D Sculpting programs are a specialized type of software focused on creating complex organic shapes. These programs allow you to create 3D models in a process that is similar to working with a ball of clay. Big-budget games often use these tools alongside vertex-modeling tools to add detail and bring creations to life.
Prepared to Digitize
Just like you can make 2D art with a pencil, construction paper, or a computer, there are many different ways to create objects in 3D. Each kind of software has its strengths and weaknesses, but all of them can be used to make content for 3D games. I hope you are ready to start making with another dimension at your disposal!