Category Archives: Outer Empires

Building the miner

As the Outer Empires mining ship’s textures are being finalised and I’m going to prepare a sprite sheet to be added to the game, I thought I’d upload a few of the screengrabs and rough renders of the build process to show how it all came together.

The first thing I did was have a skim through some of my books and online to get some ideas and these shots show how I threw some basic shapes around to help me sketch out some ideas.
The top one was my idea of a dumptruck type of shape but I was struggling to see how to take that any further without it being too sleek, I wanted a more blocky shape with a feeling of mass. The second one was starting to be too much of a Chris Foss design so that got scrapped but I did like the cargoblocks so one of those was expanded upon and taken into the next idea.

Now we start to see the final shape appear. The rods and the front would have been more clusters of antenna, used to scan for metals in the asteroids but I started to think that would be too hard to see on the model when it zoomed out in the game. To keep the whole thing symmetrical I dropped the individual objects into a null and then placed that inside a symmetry object. Working on one side and the other side being updated at the same time is a great time saver and it also means the texture is mirrored after the UV’s have been set. The only thing is to remember to convert the mirror to an object before exporting to obj format or else it only spits out one side.


Starting to bulk up the detail and adding the solar panels. Something kept bugging me with the panels and I started to think they looked like goldfish fins.


After the hell of UVing, the almost zen like calm of texturing. To work on a nice res I setup 2k textures and baked out the AO and a UV layer on each colour map. I’ve found that sometimes baking the AO isn’t too accurate, sometimes I’ve ended up with light areas that are around areas that should be dark so a bit of tidying up is needed before they get used in the diffuse channel. I also tend to setup a fairly basic light rig that covers the whole object or else the shadows won’t be in the right place. The AO is also applied to a layer in the colour channel and set the layer mode to multiply then placed above the other colour layers, this helps to add shadow and some detail to the colour map. My texturing tends to involve hundreds of layers as I work on tiny bits then I combined a few layers when I’m happy with them, this stops be from constantly working on the same details over and over again and forces me forwards.


Notice the changes? There was something that was annoying me and I couldn’t put my finger on it, then it dawned on me, it was the scale. My original idea was the cockpit area would be a huge area and the small black strip around it was the window/viewport but as you moved back along the hull the scale seemed to change. I ditched the ridge and the panels around the top then scaled up the crane arm and it all clicked into place.


Obligatory wireframe shot.


Getting towards the end I started to mess around with a background to get it into context.


Right at the very end the solar panels got dropped, they did look far to small and out of place underneath so off they went. The blue exhaust was done with a copy of the colour map in the luminance channel but it didn’t quite work so I added a blue omni light with hard shadows which is set to ignore the flame objects. The light spills out and the hard shadow setting helps to give the illusion of a very intese light source at close range.


The final version, now I just need to create the final sprite sheet for including in the game.

Outer Empires mining ship

A few weeks/months (I can’t remember when) back I was asked by Paul Hutson, creator of the MMO game Outer Empires, if I’d be able to come up with a 3d model of a mining ship for an expansion of the game which introduced budgie farming. OK, not really it’s asteroid mining, but budgie farming sounds interesting.

Somehow I’ve managed to keep my mouth shut about this all but Paul and I had a chat one evening about how he saw the expansion going and we threw a few ideas around leaving me with the slightly daunting task of trying to figure out how a small sized asteroid mining vessel would look in the Outer Empires universe. Skimming through a few books and online gave me a few ideas (planet cracking anyone?) and I set to with a few 3d sketches. It took a while to get some kind of shape which I liked, one of the first ones was something that looked like a dump truck and the shape wobbled around different sizes before settling on the final design. Even when the 3d model was built I went back to tweak it a bit while texturing and I’ll dig up some of the early renders to give an idea of the build process. In the meantime, here are three renders of the final design.




Built in a shockingly short time (for me anyway), UV’ed, textured and rendered in Cinema 4D with a little texturing support from Photoshop.

All this leaves just one burning question, how deep you have to plant a budgie for it to grow?