I met Barkin when he decided to jump into the blog's discord channel, and from the very first moment, I sensed a big potential in his portfolio work.
After talking about different cleanup processes, we decided to jump in a call for our first Game Art Blog Session. His explanations told me there was a lot of knowledge coming from his side and that an article from him would be a great addition to the blog.
After thinking for a while about the right content from him to write about, I came up with the idea of the portfolio interviews.
Barkin, or how I know him better, EliteDoughnuts, was the perfect first interview, as from the very beginning, I sensed our communication was quite good, so I decided to reach out. This article shows the results of our conversation.
J. - Welcome to the Game Art Blog, Barkin. It is great to finally be able to get your thoughts here! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
B. - My name is Barkin Eraslan, and I am a weapons artist currently looking for freelance opportunities.
I have been doing 3D for about 3 years now, with a heavy focus on game-ready, hard surface assets.
Previously, I was involved in creating assets for a small community project called Star Wars Movie Battles 2, where I had to make various environment assets, weapons, and character models.
J. - I don't want to deviate too much from the main topic, but how did you end up creating assets for that community project, and how did it influence your art?
B. - I had an interest in 3D a long time ago as a kid, however, I never fully understood all of its intricacies, so I quit early after.
Many years later, I met a friend through Movie Battles 2 who was studying game design. Seeing his work inspired me to pick up 3D again, and within a year, I was at a level where I could apply to join the development team. I have been with them for about a year and a half now.
The most important things I picked up from working on Movie Battles 2 are optimizing my models and coming up with creative ways to make believable textures as the engine that Movie Battles 2 utilizes does not support modern PBR tools.
J. - Wow! I wasn't expecting that. I come from a time where PBR wasn't a thing yet, so I understand how it can be a battle.
B. - It was a battle for sure. The biggest problem that I had was trying to get the surface variations to read through as, essentially, everything had to be put into a single albedo map.
Another big problem that I had to overcome was mimicking reflections on metallic and glossy surfaces.
The way I ended up working around this was I used the blue/red channel of my WSN (world space normals), and I overlayed a gradient on top of it with many different color transitions to get the reflections.
J. - Really nice result there! Keeping in mind the style shift from your portfolio to this, I have to say you are pretty good at developing for the old workflows!
J. - Let's now move on to your portfolio if that's ok. When I first saw it, I fell in love with your AKS-74U. Can you tell us the story behind it?
B. - I had made a lot of WW2-era weapons up to that point, and I wanted to venture out towards more modern weapons. I also wanted to do something which utilized different kinds of materials as most modern weapons heavily use polymers and metals.
The AKS-74u was the perfect weapon to do this on as it has many interesting forms and great variance in the types of materials used for the gun, like the painted metal, bakelite, and wood.
While getting the forms and shapes was a challenge along with the texturing, my main focus with the AKS-74u was to improve my presentation. I wanted to replicate some of the references I had used while making the asset.
While working on the asset, I tried to find different ways of creating my materials. I used a photo to create the wood texture on the handguard and tried to get the most out of the filters that Substance Painter offers to create a believable painted metal.
In hindsight, there are things that I would change however I see my mistakes as opportunities for learning, which is invaluable.
J. - That is actually a question I get a lot on my job interviews. What are those mistakes you say you made? How would you improve your model based on those?
B. - The paint coat on the metal is too glossy compared to the references. Normally when you do game art, you would want to exaggerate some roughness details in order to make the model look interesting. However, I feel I have deviated too far from the original material in this case.
The wood grain doesn't exactly match the references, and the magazine is too rough compared to the reference as well. If I were to go back to redo the textures for this model, I would approach the wooden materials in a completely different manner. Utilizing the different projection methods in Substance Painter can get you great results for wood grain.
I would also tone down how glossy the paint is and redo some of the wear and tear along the stock. The pistol grip needs to have a darker albedo value, too, and needs to be slightly rougher than it currently is. I also believe that the overall saturation and exposure on the materials could be adjusted more to fit the reference better.
J. - I am very impressed with how close you got to the reference, and yes, I can't agree more with those changes you suggested. Great piece!
J. - Let's move on to your other pieces. I love seeing handguns. They are my personal favorites. Can you talk a bit about your desert eagle? What software did you use, and why did you think that one would be a good piece?
B. - The desert eagle was done solely to work on texturing and rendering.
I wanted to make a piece that was aesthetically pleasing but also something that didn't have too many complex forms. In this regard, the desert eagle was a perfect choice.
For the modeling stage, I used Blender and Zbrush and heavily used the live boolean, dynamesh, and polishing features that Zbrush offers. For my textures, I used Substance Painter, and I did my renders in Marmoset Toolbag 4.
I wanted to keep the gun fairly clean so that it looked dynamic and sporty while getting enough surface variations to make it look interesting.
Because of how clean the textures were, it was a challenge to get the correct light setup in Toolbag because I didn't want to overexpose anything to bring out the roughness details, which led me to experiment a lot with different lighting setups.
My primary focus when coming up with compositions was to go back to the idea of trying to make the gun look sporty.
I drew a lot of inspiration from sports car compositions to develop the color balance between my asset and the background that I rendered it on, which I think led to it being distinctive enough, which is why I thought it would be a good piece.
J. - This is definitely a great example of a non-complex gun. A great choice for those practices. You got some very nice results from it!
J. - Now for the next piece, your XDM gun. I've seen a great tutorial by Eugene Petrov doing a similar one. Did you get your inspiration from it?
B. - Eugene Petrov is a big inspiration for me for sure. I wanted to pay homage to his tutorial, but I didn't want to make the same exact handgun he did, so I went with the XDM Compact.
I was initially planning on working on the none compact version, but I didn't like the way the slide hanged over the frame, so I ended up going for this one.
J. - I can see a ton of great storytelling details on it as well. What was your thought process when adding these?
B. - This version of the XDM Compact came out last April, so it was a fairly new handgun. Because of this, I wanted to create a rendition of it that had been used quite a bit.
I had trouble finding good wear and tear references for it, so I had to resort to using references of different handguns, having to come up with ways to make them work with the XDM.
Nearly all of the surface variation on the gun was hand-painted, using filters to add variation to the stock brushes in Substance Painter. I also used stencils for very specific things I needed.
I also wanted to create a material that was dynamic in the sense that when you look at it under different lighting conditions and angles, the roughness and albedo gave off slightly different information.
J. - I love the end result, definitely one of those that stick to your mind!
J. - As one of the last questions I'd like to ask, who would you say your target audience is? What kind of attention are you looking for with your pieces?
B. - I think anyone who enjoys firearms, whether they are a part of the video game industry or not, would be my target audience.
I believe that it is important to recognize that before anything else, I am an artist trying to convey something to people through a certain medium. That being said, I am trying to chase opportunities to work with outsourcing studios as I believe that would be the next step into launching my career doing 3D.
J. - Outsourcing studios are great trampolines for those looking to get into the games industry with a strong experience.
Finally, I'd love to know what you are going to be up to in the near future. Can we expect some more great weapons from you soon?
B. - Definitely, I am currently working on multiple projects which I think people will find interesting. Soon enough, I'll have some new stuff to show the world!
J. - And I can't way to see it! Again, thank you, Barkin, for your time and for telling everyone about your portfolio and the thought processes behind it. I think this is a very strong introduction to the series!
Would you like to link your social accounts so that people can find you?
B. - I am not a big social media user, but here is my Artstation, where you can find some of my work.
Lastly, I want to emphasize the importance of being self-critical and self-aware when it comes to 3D. Acknowledging your mistakes and working towards fixing them consistently is the only way to improve.
Thank you all for reading!
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