The Art of Victor Kam
Who are you?
Where are you based?
What do you do?
Artist at Blackbird Interactive. Worked on Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak.
The Fathership carrier
Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Who are you and how did you end up working in the Game Industry?
I am an avid game artist born and raised in Vancouver BC, Canada. I've always had a love for computer graphics and started doing ANSI art in the early 90's. My parents weren't too happy at the time, but I dropped out of university to study game design with a focus on modeling and texturing. Shortly before graduating, my mentor was nice enough to land me job at Electronic Arts Black Box here in Vancouver, which was my first step in the game industry.
Were you familiar with the Homeworld games before working with the team at Blackbird Interactive?
Being an RTS fan growing up, Homeworld was one of those games that really pushed the boundaries of the genre. Ironically, when the game came out my computer didn't meet the required specs, which was a bummer as a kid not being able to play one of the hottest games out there. Before joining the team at Blackbird, I familiarized myself with the original Homeworld art style but paid more attention to their first title Hardware.
What was your role during the development of Deserts of Kharak?
My main focus on Deserts of Kharak was modeling and texturing vehicles. This also included doing previz for different color schemes and looks for the units, as well as transferring existing textures to PBR.
The Gaalsien Honor Guard
What does your typical workflow look like? Any tools of choice, apart from Substance Designer for which you are already a power user?
When it comes to building a vehicle, we typically start off with a rough concept sketch that we block out quickly for iteration purposes. Usually we go through about 2-3 revisions in the block out before finalizing the mesh. After UV’s I then jump into Substance Painter to rough in some line work. This is mainly the panel lines and any other details that would look cool later on. Seeing as this line work drives how the texture will eventually look like, I spend most of my time here making sure the design looks right. Once this line work gets cleaned up, I like to do the large details first at this point. In this case it would be the team striping and material separation, as this makes the bulk of the texture. Then immediately onto decaling and emissive lighting. I always prioritize these first because they cover large portions of the vehicle and give me immediate feedback that I can show to the rest of the team. The final stage is where I do the wear and tear and add any extra normal map detail.
As for extra tools of choice I have custom scripts I wrote for 3ds Max that are essentially one-button exporters, UVW template and ID mask generators. If I had to pick one utility of choice, it would be Headus UVLayout. With the amount of iteration and tight deadlines it allows me to UV an entire vehicle and make future iterations in a fraction of the time.
WIPs from Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Assets from Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
A more technical question, is there any Substance trick you often rely on that you could share with the community?
Whenever I use any imported height maps or hand drawn normal maps, I almost always hook them up to a curvature and ambient occlusion and comp them back into the mesh baked maps. Since we don't use a high poly bake, we tend to draw a lot of our height information and having these linked in my Substance file allows me to see generators update as I create them in whichever external program I'm using. I wouldn't really call this next one a trick, but when I'm stuck or not liking how the texture is going I would work with an almost black albedo and focus on my roughness map which typically consists of several generators stacked on top of one another. I then would selectively pull certain masks and add them back into the albedo.
An even more technical question, what is your favorite pizza?
I used to live above a pizza joint called Uncle Faiths and those late nights doing renders I'd go down and get a few slices of Hawaiian with chili flakes and cover it in ranch sauce. Believe it or not, this is usually when productivity actually goes up.