(Advice) The letter I wrote to a AAA game modeler seeking advice

Here’s the letter I wrote to a AAA game modeler seeking advice. If anyone else has input I would love to hear some…

Hey “-----”

I’m working on my portfolio to be a 3D asset designer. I’ve been probably working with 3D models for about 2 years now as a hobby and I’m think I’m getting pretty proficient at it. My goal is to one day to work at “-----”. I don’t think I quite fit the experience level that “-----” is looking for quite yet so that’s why I’m trying to get my portfolio together and perhaps start working with some indie teams to gain experience.

My question is about polycount. What do you consider an acceptable range of polygons for average everyday item assets? (trash cans, computer monitors, traffic light/the random stuff you find around the map[ I love making that stuff]) what do you think the hard limit is?

I was going through the files of “-----” and I was trying to see what you guys did and it seems for the highest LOD you guys stuck around 6,000 tris on average if I’m correct?

I’m working on this model of a traffic light right now and I think it looks great it’s sitting around 8,000 tris. I think I can reduce it some maybe pull it down to 6,000 and bake some not as important details. I just really don’t want to compromise the structure of my rounded edges.

I guess, to sum up my question, at what number of triangles should I start feeling “guilty” for exceeding?

Thanks for listening

You’ll have to be more specific about the art style and supported platforms of the games from the company you want to work for.

Because nowadays if you work in Unreal 5 and use nanite, you don’t care about polygons. The only limiting factor will be your project size on disk, so you will want to be reasonable and not subdivide like crazy if it’s not needed. But it’s not insane to see 200K-300K triangles or more… Not for a streetlight, obviously, but for large organic meshes.

You might be asking yourself the wrong question as well. Good artists don’t think that much about polygons, we never have guidelines that say “this traffic light should be exactly 6000 triangles”.
You just put the polygons where you think they matter. Like triangles that would define the silhouette of the assets. Cylinders like a pole can easily be optimized by only adding subdivisions to where it meets the ground, so you get a nice round silhouette, the rest can only have 6 or 8 edges and no one would ever see it.

It’s always a balance between visual quality and polycount. If you think you can’t do less than 8000 without affecting the visual, then you can’t. LODs will take care of the extra 2000 polygons anyway in case your streetlight is duplicated many times in your map.

Sometimes it’s also for workflow reasons that you don’t want to optimize too much. Breaking edge loops to save a hundred of triangles, but that will make editing the object a pain, are sometimes not worth it.

It’s been years since I haven’t heard a colleague mention the amount of polygons on an asset, but I don’t work on mobile.

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For PC or any stationary platform, I think, the answer should be “the least number that still looks good”. Since the actual poly count per object will vary greatly depending on the game project itself. How many objects are in the scene, how many polygons on screen the engine or system supports, are there any real-time inputs in the game (so low framerate may or may not be a problem), etc. So think about poly optimization only from the perspective of not doing extra work yourself. 8 k tris is acceptable, I think

Geometry doesnt take much memory as textures does. Just keep your models clean. For nowadays it’s enough.