In 2008 I made the basic Onslaught Juggernaut graphic to be used in Armageddon Onslaught. A time after, a skilled graphics artist by the name of SgtHK updated the model a bit and skinned it for me.
Today I seek to visit an old friend, the Onslaught Juggernaut, and prepare him for his journey into Starcraft 2. This iconic vessel is modeled off the Terran Battlecruiser, a twisted reflection of a mortal war machine engineered by demon hands. At 11km in length, the Juggernaut is three times the size of the Terran machine it was based on, the Behemoth-class.
In AO's first incarnation the Juggernaut acted as a "tank". Close ranged, it engaging with a charge-up attack that sprayed laser bolts at enemy targets with random high-damaging exotic particles. This gatling cannon wasn't terribly threatening to most units, but the splash overlapped on larger ones. It was most dangerous because of its immense health and shield pool, which made it difficult to get rid of, even with EMP. The high-DPS values were left to the Salvation artillery and Purgatory battlecruiser.
Yet, canon-wise, the Juggernaut is anything but ill equipped. Its gatling cannon fires high-velocity crystalline Hellfire shards that rip through shielding and armor with frightening ease, and boasts the capacity to transform the gatling cannon into a devastating pulse weapon. The wings have been transformed into Phazon-based beam weapons with moderate arc capabilities that vaporize unshielded ships on contact. For anti-surface warfare that requires the planet not being totally vaporized in the process, it has two Hellfire heatray guns on its belly.
I have never worked with textures or UV's before. With luck, I'll never need to change the UV's.
The problem with the current model is that Sarge has relied on 3ds Max's material options to achieve its look, apply the glows and engravings, and overall make it awesome. Of course, these materials are totally incompatible with sc2.
My job is to rebuild the textures and fuse all of their elements into SC2-compliant textures. There are four major materials to rebuild. By a stroke of luck Sarge kept his UV wireframes in the package, so it's easy for me to know which set belongs to which (The Dreadnaught is not so friendly).
The model is reasonably high poly, in part because of Turbosmooth. I reduce all of the iterations of Turbosmooth on the horns down to 1 and keep them high poly - I want this to look good, and without smoothing they are very blocky. This model will certainly exceed 100k poly when triangulated, but I'm not too concerned.
I opt to delete the old Gahennas-style bridge. It's very ugly and serves no purpose on a Demon Fleet ship. I cap the hole left behind but the UV's weren't too happy about that. Luckily I can split that face off from the mesh and apply a material to it independently.
After a few tries with the texture and blending and asking around in futility in how to set up a mask in photoshop, I run across a Google tutorial that gets me on my way.
I realize though that I am not skilled enough in Photoshop to get the textures to resemble the old ones. With a sigh of defeat, I ask HKS to send me his rip of the Tabula Rasa textures in hopes I can find some base metal texture to help me out. With luck I find one, and create a new base texture with the foundations for easy modifications should I want to change it.
One of the biggest challenges with doing anything in 3ds max is that my right hand is in a great deal of pain, pain incited by doing exactly what I'm doing right now - extensive mouse usage. There is nothing I can do to deal with the pain, so I have to try to ignore it and push on.
My new textures appear more rocky, less like metal. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and decide if I want to change that when I can get them ingame. Keep in mind the biggest reason the textures look so different is because unlike the original materials they have no specular, normal mapping, or color correction active. They are just base textures. Don't worry, I'm making the respective maps for sc2.
Content that I have a good method to fixing the rest of the textures, I turn my attention to the model itself.
This model is nearly as high poly as my Gahennas Battlecruiser, but the difference in detail is enormous.
A portion of the model is triangulated already, but the point remains - there is a ton of wasted polies. I don't worry too much about poly counts this low, but wasted polies are wasted polies and I will need to squeeze every bit of performance I can get. There is no sense in being lazy and cutting corners like Blizzard does.
The wings retain a large number of their wasted polies from the original 2008 model Sarge didn't feel inclined to do anything about. Removing them will be annoying, but largely trivial. Other polies are contained in detailed sections that I will leave alone. I won't be able to reduce the final polycount that much, but I will reduce it.
It's also worth noting that because the original model was not perfectly symmetrical that the wings are uneven with each other very slightly. This makes mass removing the edges much more tedious than it would have otherwise been. I could delete half the model and use symmetry to align them, but I don't know what that would do to the UV's and I can't risk breaking them.
Yet, at the same time, I know that I could remodel these sections and make them look far, far better. I just don't know how to UV... I wouldn't be able to rebuild their textures, and I have no hope of finding someone else who could.
This is a difficult crossroads... one I wasn't expecting to run into.
The decision is not so easy as you might think.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJbeiZzvP-Y
I am faced with a three-way crossroads.
- I can ignore the wings and leave them as-is, focusing on the textures like my original plan.
* Fastest. I could probably get this game-ready in an hour or less, given some time for tweaking the textures further.
* Wings remain ugly and needlessly high poly. Ultimately with the model's total polycount in mind the polies saved from optimization would be mostly trivial, but I wouldn't like it anyway.
- I can optimize the wings.
* I'll save polies on a high poly model. Not a lot, but they'll be gone and I'll feel better about it.
* UV's are so far unaffected by removing faces or edges.
* My hand is in great pain. Manually clicking and removing these edges will be very painful and grueling.
* Wings remained unchanged as a whole.
- I can rebuild the wings.
* They need redoing, and I know I can do it. The wings double as engines as well, and the engine exhausts are just square extrudes. I can rebuild the wing section and mirror it for the other side, ending up with a much higher quality mesh. It may or may not be lower poly, but the important part is that even if it was higher poly it'd actually be making use of those polies.
* It's an opportunity to finally attempt UV'ing after all these years of fear and no motivation. I already have the texture made, so that itself is not an issue. Though the wings will be complicated the uv doesn't need to be terribly complex, it just needs to tile the runes and engravings on it much like it is right now. In either case, the skills learned from a successful attempt at skills I will use for the rest of my life and are pivotal to improving and completing everything in my work.
* I can add Hellfire crystals or actual turrets for Phazon pulse guns for side defense that the ship badly needs.
* The overall silhouette of the ship will be vastly improved. It will look more aggressive and undergo a similar transformation all of the 2008 models I've refurbished thus far have gone through.
* I can add components for later animations that are not possible currently, and solve the potential issues of making the beams look correct coming out of the cannons.
* Succeeding here might trigger temporary confidence for the first time in many years.
* I will have conquered fear for once.
* This is the right
decision, my heart tells me. Though I reel at the possibilities of failure, even the slightest potential for success has to be reached for amidst this world of sorrow.
* This will take an enormous amount of time. I can use an existing texture, but rebuilding the cannons and then trying to learn UV'ing is asking a lot from myself.
* The time factor and tedium of UV'ing is no better for my hands.
* I've never attempted UV's before and have zero idea what I'm getting into. Everyone who looks at my meshes tells me that they will be a bitch to map, so jumping into a semi-complex engine/weapon set that I'm likely to over-detail is certainly not the best way to start.
* Failure here would kill my motivation for a very long time. I am in an extremely unstable emotional state and have been for weeks since my last effort to provoke a response from drug intervention in my psychosis and depression completely failed yet again. Ultimately, failure here may result in the death of any and all future attempts at doing this kind of thing again.
I have spent hours now contemplating this decision. I ask myself, "Will this be a success story? One amongst so many failures? Or do I damn myself to the same fate of all other such ventures? Do I lay upon my shoulders yet another impossible burden where I am too weak to hold up the last of my living days as-is?"
Maybe this project as a whole is doomed to failure like so many others. Maybe it will vanish quietly and discreetly like so many others. To think that I could succeed here is arrogant at the very least, and foolish at best. For years I have been unable to progress in anything I've attempted to do. For four years I have been trapped in a state of limbo since the death of my dog, damned to wandering the ashes of my ruin in sorrow for all eternity.
Maybe I will fail. Maybe I will succeed. In the end, it doesn't matter. No one will remember my name, not even myself.
What matters is that I tried. What matters is that I was willing to fight for my dreams.
"Are my dreams worth fighting for?"
I did not enter this quest expecting to face something as profound as this. I did not ask to reach this crossroads, nor did I ever desire to have to make such a decision. Yet, now that I am here, I feel as though this is the same question I've been asking myself all this time, laid out in a manner manifest to my eyes. No longer are we talking about dreams or concepts, no longer are we talking about what might happen in the future. We're talking about a tangible decision, a choice that will effect everything I do from hereon in all strides of life.
Do I deny this decision, do I turn away from this fight? There is no drawback if I choose not to fight. But if I enter this fight, I enter knowing that defeat here will prove that all hope is truly lost. If I succeed, there is no telling what might happen. At the very least I did something I thought I could never do, and I improved the project dramatically.
As I write these words I cannot help but weep, for I know the truth behind them. I know that this may be the last time I ever have the opportunity to make this kind of a decision, for I feel that the end of my natural life draws near. Everything that has happened... everything that could happen looms overhead in a symphony of roaring flames.
That I fought one last time would be a memory worth taking to my searing grave.Building the wing
I have a fully laid out design for the new wing in my head. Modeling it will be difficult, but doable.
I will be straying away from the original Beam cannon design and plan to give the Juggernaut a triple-barreled revolving cannon set for its wings. The rail-like upper section of the old wing will be rebuilt and come in a pair, one above and below the cannon. The intention is that these two pieces will fold and close, sealing the weapon system and protecting it when it's not in use. I can't animate that and may never be able to, but it seems like a neat idea.
I'm not sure about the engines yet, I'll worry about them when I get there.
Jaws taking shape...
Jaws separated, beginning to run into major issues where I can't model what I have in my head, especially with the engine area.
The junction between the wing and the support is a massive mess but it wasn't too pretty to begin with. I'm not going to remodel the wing, though (even though I probably should).
We actually rose 2k in polies... from the spikes and their torus bases. Removing turbosmooth cuts off 3k polies; I can give them smoothing groups in sc2 so I don't need the polies on the small spikes.
We are now ready to model the cannons. These will likely not need custom UV's and neither will the engines.
Cannons are done.
However, I do not believe the jaws could be animated to close even a small amount without clipping into the cannon base. I figured this might happen... but I'm not very bothered about it.
I have to decide if I want to add or change anything now, before I start trying to UV it.
Lavarinth suggests a program called Roadkill. It doesn't take me too long to get started, surprisingly.
The camera controls leave a great deal to be desired but I think
I know what I'm doing...
After four hours I've ported the UV map back into max and begun the processing of flipping and merging all of the pieces.
Another hour passes before I have something reasonable. Not good, not decent, but reasonable, and better than tiling. All of the important parts are ready for me to texture.
I don't know how to use photoshop, but Sarge's textures are neatly split for alpha masking and such in the old materials, allowing me to mix and match and use their elements at a whim.
The ultimate goal of this entire venture is to lay out the wing in a way where I can map runes and engravings onto it. It's a very basic, very simple concept. Otherwise I could have simply mapped by face. But it would look unusual, missing the texture details of the other portions of the ship.
I could go further, try to map detail, but I don't know how to make anything in photoshop. Simply warping the runes to the UV's is... a perplexing challenge.
Okay I'll have to play with placement a lot and it still looks silly without bump/specular/ect but I fucking did it.
It's over. 8 hours of non-stop work without pause or break, trying to bull rush a process never before attempted, and the component is ready for polish and completion. The barrels and thrusters won't need to be custom UV'd like the wing itself did. The front part of the ship still requires texture revision as well, but that will be easy.Conclusion of Part 1
I feel empty. I should be happy. No, I should be in euphoria - I did something I never thought I'd be able to do. But I know that ultimately it doesn't mean anything. It's a step, but only a minor step. There have been flukes before, where I've been able to faceroll something without ever actually understanding. I still don't really understand what has happened. The process was not exceedingly complex. Just... confusing, disorienting. My head vibrantly hurts as it often does these days when I attempt to do anything.
I just feel old and weary. Maybe if I can complete this little project... maybe then will I allow myself to feel content in the knowledge I had something special.
Remember this day. Remember the battles that were fought, and lost, to bring us here. Remember the sacrifices made, the losses endured, and the turning point at the end of the tunnel.
Remember the curse we broke.