Courtesy of RealtimeUK

War Robots: Substance Painter for Cinematics with RealtimeUK

Claudia Vance on May 16 2017 | Stories, Film/VFX

With millions of downloads since its launch, War Robots is arguably one of the most popular MMO mobile games of the past few years. We had the chance to talk with RealtimeUK, a creative agency specialized in animation, cinematics and VFX, who worked on a high-quality ad for the mobile game.

Hello, RealtimeUK! Can you introduce the team and tell us more about what you do?

Hello! We’re RealtimeUK, a CG Studio with 2 locations in Manchester and Lancashire. For the last 20 years, we’ve been producing world class game cinematics for brands such as Microsoft, Hi-Rez Studios, Tencent, SEGA, Amazon and Wargaming to name but a few.

Involved in the War Robots project were Stu Bayley (art director), Jason Swift-Clowes (senior modeler) and James Turvey (modeler).


What are these War Robots we’re seeing?

War Robots features immense battle mechs fighting for territorial control in a future ravaged by nuclear warfare.


Tell us about your pipeline on this project. How did Substance figure into it, or change it?

Jason: Previously our pipeline consisted of Mari, ZBrush and Photoshop for asset texturing. Since we’ve adopted Substance and taken full advantage of being able to see in real-time how the textures and materials behave on each asset, our process has gotten even quicker.

James: With Substance in our texturing workflow now I tend to use it for a lot of the normal map details. The Substance materials do a great job with surface normals, and combining this with custom brushes gives good, quick results. The Substance Painter baking procedure helps as well; using the high and low suffixes for baking information rather than exploding our model components lets us get the texture information on faster and easier.

What tips would you have to share with artists wanting to use Substance for VFX?

Jason: A key tip I have found out in Substance is that if you have a NVIDIA GPU the painting speed can be much improved by going to the cards’ 3D Settings and turning off the Threaded Optimization option (it is on auto by default).

When creating mask generators and even painting them, I like to isolate the mask by clicking on its layer with Alt. then filling with a bright color so it’s easier to see where the mask has been applied. You can always quickly change back to the needed color afterward.

James: With a clean workflow into Substance, it’s very easy to apply appropriate base materials straight off the bat. If you need to get an approval image out quickly then this can get things going in the right direction.

How did you discover Substance?

James: I saw a showcase video for Substance a few years ago, which highlighted the simulated paint effects, specifically the effects of water damage and rain drops.

How much time did you have for this project?

Jason: Each of the Mech assets were down for 15 days modeled and textures for the first pass, then additional damage and tweaks for another 2-3 days.

Which features would you like to see in future versions of Substance?

Jason: Being able to work across multi UDIM pages at the same time would be great and faster updating of layers. A direct ZBrush bridge would also be a big plus for me.

James: I would like to see an option for independent adjustment layers in the layer stack. This would be useful for quick fixes or previews.

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