Zach's 3D Art and Animation
Learning how to make 3D art has been a long, and at times frustrating journey, but it’s allowed me to express my creativity in ways I’d never would’ve thought possible. My interest in 3D creation started when I discovered Unreal Engine, an extremely powerful creation engine that allows for basically limitless creativity. I started learning Unreal back before 2020, making basic structures and scenes with static meshes. Over time I learned to sculpt and paint landscapes, create stunning lighting, and use particle systems to really bring my environments to life. Things took a bit of a turn however when I started dabbling with game development.
While Unreal Engine can be utilized for virtual production, marketing and sometimes even
architectural design, its main use is as a game engine. I thought it would be cool to start
learning game development, as not only would I be able to make something that others could experience, it could also lead to a future career path. However I severely underestimated just how complicated game development would be. While making 3D environments is a rather simple process, game development introduces coding into the mix. Luckily, Unreal Engine uses a very user-friendly programming language called Blueprints, which uses a node-based scripting system rather than the traditional text-based system. This helped make the process easier to understand, since it's basically just plugging in wires to make it do what you want it to do. As long as you have a basic understanding of what the nodes do, it’s not all that hard.
Shortly after discovering Unreal Engine, I also discovered Blender; a 3D modeling and
animation software. I decided it would be a good idea to start learning how to make and animate my own characters for my games, but little did I know that learning Blender was going to be a whole new road of obstacles. I learned the basics of 3D modeling, texturing, rigging and animating, all of which were frustrating at times and took a mountain of patience. But once I got the hang of it, I was able to make animations for character actions like running, jumping and attacking to use in my games. Unfortunately my journey with game development was not a sound one.
I can’t remember how many game projects I’ve scrapped, either because I lost interest in the
concept, or it became too complicated for me to handle. But to this day I’ve never been able to finish a game, and the main reason is because I get too demotivated to continue once I get a good way into it. The main demotivator for me was dealing with performance issues. By far my biggest roadblock when making a game is making sure it has a good framerate, and not knowing how to optimize my environment makes it extremely frustrating. Generally 60 FPS is considered to be “the standard” for video games, and anything below 30-40 is considered by some to be unplayable.
Recently I’ve decided to give up on game development all together, both because it’s a very
complicated and at times mentally taxing process, and also because I just don’t think I’m as
ready for it as I thought I was. However, I still continued with 3D art in general, improving my
environmental skills and even incorporating 2D elements into 3D scenes. I even started
dabbling with full-on 3D animation with the release of my first short film, ‘UNKNOWN.’ But things really took off with the discovery of my new favorite game franchise.
In 2021, I discovered a game called ‘Ori and the Blind Forest,’ an action-adventure platformer developed by Moon Studios, where you play as a little spirit named Ori and go on a journey to restore a dying forest. I instantly fell in love with it, and the second game instantly became my favorite game of all time. It’s also the closest a game has gotten to making me cry. Immediately I thought that I should incorporate ori into my 3D art, since im really big on fantasy stuff and he would fit right in. I started making Ori fan-art when I got a poseable art doll from Etsy made to look like Ori, which I gave the name Fila. I started out by taking pictures of her and editing them by drawing on her eyes and mouth. Eventually though I started adding her into my 3D scenes by giving her realistic shading and placing her in the scene as a 2D sprite. I did this for a while until I made another remarkable discovery, SketchFab; a website where you can browse hundreds of thousands of 3D models by artists for other artists. Of course, I found a 3D model of Ori on the site, and once I downloaded it and rigged him up in Blender, that’s when things really hit the fan.
I started making Ori renders at a lightning fast pace, making some of my most stunning works ever and even recreating some of the areas in the games, and all of it was very well received.
Shortly after starting my Ori fan-art craze, I started animating my art and uploading to YouTube, which got me a ton of new attention, and helped me reach over 200 subscribers. To this day I’m still going strong, making art and animations that I can look back at and feel proud of. I’ve even started building a sense of community, by recreating other people’s spirit OCs (with their permission of course) and including them alongside Ori in my scenes.
The discovery of this game franchise has really helped me to find something I’m passionate
about, and has even helped me make online friends who love what I love. It just goes to show that the discovery of one thing can open a whole new world of opportunity. I won't be stopping my 3D art anytime soon, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll end up working with a team on larger projects. The future can lead to anything, but until then, I’m just gonna keep doing what I love to do.