How to get into the world of game assets? What will you encounter in the process of creating skins? Where can I find manuals for working with the Steam Workshop? Find out the answers to these questions in the article below!
Skins and game assets are a huge part of game industry monetization. Conditionally free games exist due to regularly producing new content on familiar characters, which motivates players to spend real money buying skins and visual effects. We also decided to get deeper into the sphere of creating skins via Steam Workshop, to understand all the underwater stones and offer our clients the service of making the content inside the game in the future. Read this article from Clickable Agency to know about all the possible problems and features you may encounter stepping on the path of creation.
The first challenge you may face is transferring a 2D image to a 3D model. The thing is that 3D models have relief items, surface bends, and irregularities. That’s why you shouldn’t draw a perfect 2D skin — when transferring to a three-dimensional model, the final result will be far from your idea. Also, it would be best if you remembered such elements as silencers and sights. They have their form and volume and can be distorted when you add two-dimensional graphics. Therefore in 2D, only individual art parts are carefully drawn, and overall basic patterns and textures are made in the special program for texturing 3D models Substance Painter. It is worth noting that some of the textures for skins absolutely don’t require 2D preparation except for drawing a sketch.
When working with the 3D skinning model, we see that the weapon has many small details, such as notches and cavities, so the work on such areas is quite laborious and requires special attention. The main part of the skin’s texture is made by Substance Painter, which has the opportunity to work on the relief and texture properties. The interface of the Photoshop program differs significantly from the Substance Painter interface, so our artists have previously redrawn some details on the 2D layout in Photoshop and then moved it to the expansion of the texture. It is also possible to draw art manually, directly on models using tools similar to those in Adobe Photoshop.
Texture baking is the process of transferring a skin texture to a 3D model and setting specific export parameters to have a full 3D weapon model with texture. There are also many nuances in the texture baking. It was necessary to thoroughly study this topic to understand what file formats to use in work and what parameters are essential to consider. For example, it has been empirically found that when creating a new working file, it is best to choose the PBR-Metallic Roughness (allegorithmic) template, and among the cards, you need to choose only Normal and ID maps for working.
After the texture was ready, we started exporting the baked textures into the file formats needed to download the game. At this stage, an additional program is added to the existing toolkit to convert the VTFEdit texture to the VTF working format. In the CS:GO workshop, you can test the texture on the skin. We may encounter numerous problems, such as the disappearance of some texture areas due to an incorrectly configured alpha channel, unnecessary artifacts display, and texture brightness problems. So at this journey stage, you often have to take a step back and work on the problem areas. For instance, when working on Santa Muerte skin — a sniper rifle with a Mexican girl — we found that texture elements were not displayed on the butt and optics when loading the skins into the workshop. The way out of this situation was found thanks to several video guides. For example, we found a lot of tips in the Kuratif-CG YouTube lessons. Since it was our first experience in this area, we had to come back again and again and refine the texture graphics at Substance Painter and on the 3D object at Blender. Eventually, of course, a sense of balance in the quality/weight of the file is developed, and similar problems will arise less.
Then be sure to test the skins directly in the game. From our experience, we warn you immediately: information about the loading of skins in the game will have to be pieced together by watching YouTube videos and reading cases and forum discussions. We want to pay tribute to Valve for the complex requirements for loading skins into the game, which demands artists to constantly monitor information and weed out low-grade works from casual artists. This allows the game to remain fresh, with a steady influx of new content, which they pay generously despite the high entry barrier.
Those who played CS:GO know that different maps have different lighting. So when you choose textures for your future skins, please consider the players’ comfort. If you have a glossy skin texture, it is worth remembering that the texture can shine in the map’s bright light, creating discomfort for players and causing unflattering comments about your skin. However, the company Valve took care of this in advance, so skins that are uncomfortable for players will likely not pass the moderation. Surfaces can be smooth, matt, and glossy so that you can experiment with a combination of textures on skins.
The last nuance we encountered was that you must create two different skins when making a skin for CS GO. One skin in 2K resolution is made directly for the player, who will see it in the first person. It is a pretty large resolution, which draws many small details that will adequately look on different screen resolutions. But there is also a second skin with 512×512 resolution. It is a small enough skin resolution that is made for third-person display in the game and presentation when choosing a weapon.
While making skins, we found a very cool manual describing all the skins’ key concepts and minute details. All the information is explained quite clearly and presented accessibly. With this manual, entering the theme of skins will be much easier, as it describes typical errors and failures that can be avoided.
Starting a new industry exploration and immediately participating in the competition is a bold decision with advantages and disadvantages. Entries get particular attention because of the very high competition. We didn’t win any prizes in the contest. But when we got the first positive feedback and assessments, we became confident it is worth pursuing further.
If you go into the technical part of making skins, it appears that we know only 10% of the existing information, which is also not on the surface. Researching the process of making skins is deep research, analysis, and application of information, reading many threads on forums, and creating discussions at the Steam Workshop.
For us as a team, it is a fantastic experience. To solve a complex equation with many unknown variables, we had to put in a lot of effort, get out of our comfort zone and prove to ourselves that there are no impossible tasks. All you need is a sufficiently strong self-motivation and the will to achieve results.
We are still working on skins, and we have new variants. Before, it used to take us 2.5-3 weeks to get the first resemblance of skin. Now it takes 6-7 days entirely from the concept and idea to sketching, texturing, and adding models to the game. We’ll keep doing this because, in addition to the creative part, there’s a technical part we’re interested in, as our guys have developed an instinct not to stop when they’re facing a serious problem. We have an individual Behance case on CS:GO skins. Also, we’ll publish new works and share impressions of the process of their creation on our Workshop page. Welcome, everyone!