Modelling in Blender

This week I’ve been looking at Blender. I’m away so using my very old laptop (from 2009!) meaning rendering is out of the question, so apologies in advance for the lack of lovely rendered images. Using reference images and research of sizes / shapes and “real world” features is key to making reusable and useful objects that merge together seamlessly into a scene. I wanted to model a chess set (a 3d modelling classic!) but wanted to make a complete scene, so I’ve decided on the following objects:

  • Each chess piece
  • A board
  • A chess clock
  • A table
  • Walls
  • A picture frame
  • A wall clock

I remember doing a chess set back at Uni with 3ds Max, although we never really built a scene, it was just a couple of the pieces to show scaling loops and extruding (we did a rook and one other piece). The process is pretty simple for the most part. Start with a cylinder, add some loops and contour them to match the reference images in the background. The knight is the one that will be a bit more of a challenge, but for now it’s just the basics.

Setting Limitations – Low Poly

A low polygon count was an important consideration for this project. What “low poly” means is quite subjective, maybe worthy of a full post to itself one day. Anyway, I modelled my first piece – the pawn – which hit 222 tris (113 vertices, 224 edges and 113 faces). From this number I decided to set the limit for each piece to be an absolute maximum number of tris to be 400 for each piece. This was calculated by rounding twice the amount of tris the pawn has just to give a bit of scope for more complex pieces. That means that the pieces alone would be an absolute maximum of 12,800 tris (32 x 400). This gives some flexibility but should also test out my low-poly skills when it comes to more complex pieces such as the queen, king, and especially the knight. It also makes sure that I’m able to meet criteria and keep below a target.

My low poly pawn. 222 tris. This set the benchmark for the rest of the project.
(It’s red/brown as I was testing out the clay “MatCap” lighting mode)

Workflow

The workflow for this mini-project is important as some tasks rely on others, I decided to model the basic chess base first, then develop pieces from there. I started with the pawn, scaled up and developed the bishop, basically the same shape with a binary modifier (366 tris). I then decided to mix things up a bit and just used similar basic tools (loops, extrusions, modifiers and scaling) to make a table, chess clock, wall clock and picture frame.

Research

If you are trying to model the real world (or something similar to a real world model like a pegasus), research is key. Finding out the sizes and dimensions of objects is key to making models that are reusable and allow an efficient workflow. Having to scale objects and reset origins etc mean that time can be wasted, so it’s worth putting the time in to begin with.

An example of a hybrid model (not mine) – a horse reference image would be used with dimensions would be used along with a reference image for wings

Reference Images

The temptation is to dive straight in a start modelling, but instead I did some research on chess pieces. The first thing I found was a picture of the style that I wanted. Adding an Image -> Reference and scaling it to the right size means that tracing it means it is at least the right height / width. Selecting loops with Alt+Click and extruding then scaling them to make the shape itself is simple enough. I also removed / dissolved some faces and edges and also joined some basic shapes when required using Bridge Edge Loops (such as the top of the bishop). Boolean operations allowed me to quickly take a chunk out of the bishop (I ignored the reference image for this step).

Using a 2d plane as a reference to trace the bishop

Summary

So obviously I’m not writing this as a tutorial, The Internet is full of them. It’s an ongoing public journal showing my progress and thought processes whilst learning all about the different elements that make up games development.

At the moment it’s still quite overwhelming how much there is that goes in to games, and Blender is a piece of software that has an unbelievable amount of possibilities, the mind boggles. Remembering the tool names, options and applying them correctly takes time, patience, skill and practice. I feel like I’m getting there, but am fully aware that I have so much to learn still. It’s exciting times.

I’ll have to update with a new post showing my scene progress when I get the chance. Hopefully with some lovely rendered images and full materials / textures. It’s a struggle on the laptop so will have to postpone this until I get back on to the PC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *