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Game Modeling Using Low Polygon Techniques
Author: Chad and Eric Walker
Publisher: Charles River Media
ISBN: 1-58450-055-7
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com] - RRP US$49.95
Reviewed: 6th September 2002

Front Cover Shot:

Overview

In the last few years PC's have been increasing in power extremely quickly, and one area in which this has been dedicated is graphics and multimedia. The ability for programmers to create lifelike real-time (and non-real-time) imagery is now very advanced, BUT it has now become extremely important to have high quality art assets.

A programmer and designer can go as far as they like when it comes to designing cool new engines and concepts, but without a decent artist to make their creations come to life, and to take full use of the technology. One key area is real-time artists - it takes a great deal of skill to create believable models on an often very tight polygon budget.

This is where this book is aiming itself - at those want-to-be artists interested in this challenging sector of the industry.

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

This book is aimed at beginners - or an intermediate level 3D modeler new to low-poly modeling. However, it's only aimed at the beginner in terms of 3D modeling - any prospective candidate for this book really needs to be a 1/2 decent artist full stop - to understand the theory, to be able to draw sketches and most importantly to be good with photo/texture manipulation.

The latter part is likely to catch some people out, the book (in chapter 9) does go over the tricks-and-tools of the trade briefly, but it's not going to be much use if you're completely new to the game. If you're a complete 'newbie' to computer graphics then you'll need more than this book - a decent book on Photoshop (if that's your program of choice) would almost certainly cover any holes in this aspect.

It's also an assumption made that you can do basic 3D modeling in your program of choice (note: no particular 3D modeler is assumed in the text). The book does a good job of explaining the tools and methodology behind techniques used, but if (for example) you have no idea how to use the 'line' or 'extrude' tools in your program then you'll initially be a bit stuck. Having said that, the tools used in this book are relatively simple (compared with some available) so learning how to use them with your software's help files shouldn't prove too much of a challenge.

Writing Style and Layout

The writing style throughout this book is of a high quality, it makes for easy light reading - yet very informative and thorough when necessary. Being a book for artists, it is good to see that the authors acknowledged the need for as many photo's and diagrams as possible (they state that there are over 500 in the book, I'll just quote that as I don't fancy trying to count them all!). However, it would be nice to have had a few color plates somewhere in the book - some of the images and diagrams look a little confusing and dull being totally in gray-scale.

Included CD

As with the majority of technical computer manuals, you'll get a CD included. The CD for this book is a fairly bland affair - literally just all the files necessary for each chapter. It's great that they included these - being able to take a good look around the workspace in your own time/way is one of the best ways to learn. However, compared with some book-CD's you get a bit more of an extension to the book - you can look at the CD as being necessary to the book, instead of just a file-dump stuck on the inside of the back cover.

Given what I said about the lack of color plates in the actual book, almost all the images used throughout the book are stored on the CD - in full color, while it may prove useful it's not as good as having them printed in the actual book.

The tutorial files are all in 3ds max format, which is probably fine for most people - but any true beginner probably won't have a budget that extends to 3ds max (the latest version is reviewed here). As mentioned the book doesn't focus on any one piece of software, and the .3ds format is widely used outside of 3ds max (thus any editor you own will probably be able to view the tutorial models).

Weaknesses

One of the most obvious weaknesses is that there is no mention of animation in this book. In many respects this is far enough - if done properly it would double the size of this book, but a simple chapter regarding the basics and any important points to note would have been useful. There are certain things that are important for low-poly character animation that apply to the way you create the initial mesh (which is covered in this book). One example being the geometry around joints - which can be distorted by skeletal animation using weights.

The other problem I had with this book is that it only discusses one method of creating most objects. For example, the authors seem to love using the line and extrude method, which is perfectly valid and a good way to do this sort of modeling, but I (like many others) learnt and tend to use another method of "box modeling" to create characters. Having learnt that, it seems to me to be slightly more difficult to use the line-extrude method.

In Conclusion

This book is definitely a good resource for those wanting to learn low-polygon modeling techniques, the authors know what they're doing and you can definitely trust much of their advice. The only substantial drawback is that you'll need quite a bit of pre-requisite knowledge of the field - if you don't, then you'll be needing to get other books to cover the gaps in your knowledge. Assume that you need to be reasonably skilled with 2D-graphics/art software and your choice of 3D modeler.

 

Good Things Bad Things
Easy to read writing style that's also informative. Only explains one way of doing most things.
One of the only books on the subject. Quite a bit of knowledge/skill is needed before you can start properly.
Authors know what they're doing. Some of the diagrams look a little dull with out colour
Generalized description of using software - not tied to one piece of software (although it looks like they used 3ds max). No real mention of animation.
Good use throughout the book of diagrams and pictures.  

 

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