Game developers like Epic save time scanning rocks into 3D models
I’ve spent years using free rock assets from the Unity Asset Store and Unreal Engine Marketplace, but I’ve never given too much thought to where those assets come from. I just needed stones in my games. Vox recently posted a video on how game developers create photorealistic rocks, and I was absorbed.
The camera followed several Epic Games photographers, who had traveled to Utah to film rocks in the canyon. Tons of rocks from all angles. Video game photogrammetry is the process of using multiple photos to create three-dimensional elements. These digital resources can save artists the time to generate personalized natural and environmental resources. Real rocks also provide that touch of realism that only natural weathering can create.
Watching an Epic producer take pictures under the scorching sun added a certain physicality to game development, which I saw primarily as digital work. I was even more impressed when I saw one of the team members photographing and scanning a stone with his phone. Obviously, you don’t even need a lot of expensive hardware to create photogrammetric scans. You just need enough quality photos and enough software know-how to put them together.
I’ve seen a lot of weird online controversies around assets that weren’t handcrafted. Photobashing (a process in which photos are used to ensure realism in concept art) is such a maligned practice that the concept artist for Horizon Zero Dawn had to write a demystification station about that. But personally, I cannot distinguish most of the rocks from each other. What matters most is whether a game that I anticipate (or create!) Can release in my lifetime, which is exactly what digital assets can help accomplish.
And it’s not just independent creators who are using digitized assets to reduce development work. Video game studios such as EA DICE and Ubisoft Toronto used photogrammetry to reduce the amount of work required to create realistic game objects. All of your favorites use scanned rocks. Do with it.
Beyond the development of video games, tons of museums are starting to 3D digitize their collections. The websites of the Smithsonian and the English museum allow you to browse these scans, which can be an interesting way to view their collections during this global pandemic.
Or you can drop a Greek statue into your video game project, even if you don’t live near a museum. As a video game developer who uses tons of predefined assets, I think photogrammetry is a wonderful technology. This makes video game development even more accessible to the average person. I just want nice rocks, and I don’t want to have to carve them by hand.