Descent Mining Drones

This probably isn’t the place for this - having read the sticky at the top I doubt my skill with blender is up to the standards this forum wants. However, I’m posting here after realising that the Work in Progress forum is mainly for displaying work, and not so much for critical feedback and suggestions.

The models are very low poly (literally spiky box-shapes), with subdivision level 3 covering up for that. The textures are several cloud-type procedurals applied haphazardly to different channels of the material (if ‘channel’ is the correct word? The buttons labelled ‘Col’, ‘Spec’, etc.) Am using red Lamps for the ‘eyes’ and lilac ones for the engines. At the recommendation of iliketosayblah I turned ‘Ambient Occlusion’ on, which was a good start.

In time I’d like to replace the current attempt at metallic shinyness with a weathered, scorched and dusty metal as befits a mining droid. Possibly also remodel the bots so they look more industrial and hefty (although I’m sure how I would go about doing this.)

The most pressing problem at the moment however is the background, as can be readily observed. It’s supposed to be a mineshaft. How would I go about fixing this?

Many thanks to anyone kind enough to reply. Please bear in mind that my modelling skills extend as far as extrusion and subdivision, and my knowledge of texturing, materials, lighting, etc. is virtually nonexistant so explain any technical terms^_^.


And here’s the Class 2 Drone: exact same setup, but I edited the mesh and changed all the colours around.


Item One: The standards do not speak to skill, only willingness to learn and cooperate with the learning process. You have displayed an understanding of this and thus, your work is in the proper place.

Item Two: a. Spiky box models with Sub-D are alright. But would you like to do better? I can prepare a simple tutorial that overviews the basics of mechanical modeling if you would like me to do so.

b. See the blender wiki for a beginning on this. Other than that, I’m no help.

Item Three: Directly influenced by the previous. Don’t jump in too deep now, but, like above, take a look at it and learn.

Item Four: I take it your background is a 2D image? If you are feeling gutsy you could UV map that image to the inside of a cylinder to make it appear more real (I’ll include an explanation in the mini-tut mentioned above?).

Item Five: Your modeling skills are plenty and will grow with practice. Thank you for being kind enough to provide the verbiage that explains everything you want, think and need. It’s nice to see some-one who cares enough to write something.

PM me or say something here and I will prepare the mini-tutorial walking through your options (the ones that I know) in mechanical modeling.

They need more surface detail, other than that, they’re very fluid, semi-organic looking “vessels”. Good job, keep going.

zog34: A mechanical modelling tutorial would be invaluable, thank you very much. I had a look at something called blendercad, but it’s pre-alpha at the moment and looks like progress has stopped. I’m particularly interested in how you’d go about assembling separate machined components into larger components into final models. That said, anything at all you have to say would be greatly appreciated.

The mineshaft isn’t an image- it’s a cone set behind the droid, with the ‘fractal’ button used and Set Smooth selected. Having looked at some reference pictures I’m in the rather frustrating position of knowing how I want it to look but lacking both the knowledge to implement it and the vocabulary to describe it. All I know is the surface texture should bring to mind rocks and ore and it doesn’t. I do apologise for this vagueness.

After this mineshaft, I’d like to model a hangar, from which the droid is deployed into the mine. Are the principles of architectural modelling reasonably similar to those of mechanical?

An aside: Another thing I’m curious about, which presumeably is going to become a concern for large, mechanical models, is how do you go about getting the viewport accurately lined up square to faces that aren’t at 90 degrees to the front, side or top views?

Hundred: is surface detail down to modelling or texturing? Texturing is a field I intend to address shortly, right after I’ve finished tinkering with materials. Any pointers in either of these directions would be welcomed. What I feel I still need to develop is an eye for settings, lightings, compositions, etc.

Many thanks for both your responses.

Thought you might go for that. Give me 24 hours and it shall be done. I will provide a link when I am finished.

Item One:

The mine-shaft should come second in my opinion. The reason I say this is that I generally focus on one thing at a time (that being said, I can’t usually stay focused for very long so I end up jumping around). The best thing you can do, however, is look at how other artists do it and emulate it until you feel confident enough to do it on your own. Also, hunt for lots and lots of reference.

No need to apologize, you are experiencing something all artists run into. Some times a lot.

Item Two:

Modeling architecture is something that I am not familiar with, though I can see elements of mechanical modeling applying to it. I’ll include a short section on this as well (now that you bring it up).

Item Three:

You can’t. I’ve tried. There are work arounds for issues like this, though none of them ever met my needs. Blender, at this point in time, is lacking proper snap-to tools. With clever use of the cursor, however, you should be able to do most things. I am guessing you want to add holes or panel lines to a solid mesh? (The retopo tool is useful in this case, and while not accurately placing verts on a plane, or planes, does get the verts into the neighborhood.)

Item Four: Not addressed to me, but I’ll answer anyway. Detail is where it needs to be and how it needs to be. Your end product decides how much detail you will have in a given area of a vehicle.

Arighty. I have a tutorial to write. I’ll be back when I’m finished. :P!

[edit]Oh, yes… I forgot. For exact mechanical modeling see this tutorial (actually, just scroll down for the tutorial, but also read through the page the link leads to, lotsa good info) on modeling a bearing. Please keep in mind that the writer of this tutorial is a professional engineer and technical writer and I am not. (I will try to keep myself to his standards. Probably the best tutorial written for Blender that I have ever seen.)

And, his approach is an engineering method, meant to actually build what he models. What I will cover in the tutorial is a different approach (meant for the screen).

Just posting this quickly on my way to bed. Had another stab at a mineshaft.

zog34: thanks again. I shall read through the link you provided tomorrow, and eagerly await this tutorial ^_^.


I think in Descent all the lamps were on one side of the mineshaft. Also, the sides had mounted lasers coming out the front and were smaller in relation to the body.

Overall pretty good though.

Edit: The first drone isn’t supposed to have lasers, but instead has a pair of pulse rock cutters. These fire what look like plasma balls out of tubes.

First of all… they all look like they are melting… secondary… read first. No seriusly. Try loosen up the subdiving and allow some more detail to come in.

My apologies. A distraction of the feminine persuasion was the theme of this evening and she took a lot more time than I thought she would. Again, my apologies.

This is the tut so far. It might help, but probably not as it is only half finished. (It will be done. Just… I gotta sleep some time. On the marrow… Today, really, it will be done in its entirety.)

Basically I have, so far, set up the panel lines and the next section is the execution of said lines. Tell me what you think so far, so I can adjust the style to fit your needs.

Good to see you have continued working on this.

shadowbane: they were, they were, and it does. However, since I now run Linux and so haven’t played Descent for going on 10 years, this is all from foggy memory. I figure those sorts of details are probably unimportant as this is mainly an ‘artistic’ piece.

I did briefly experiment with creating those orange fireballs they shoot using particle systems, and shall revisit this idea when I move on to animations.

However, Eradicor, you’ll be thrilled to know I’m intending on doing an ‘artistic’, very metallic, glossy image with these models (I personally quite like a simple, uncomplicated form when modelling (and no, it’s not just down to laziness^_^)) and then, taking into account zog34’s tutorial (which looks perfect so far, zog34, and ends on quite the dramatic cliffhanger) and the other link he provided, do a much hencher, ‘realistic’ model, wherein I’ll probably be redesigning the ships to a great extent (as they’re already higher poly than the reference.)

The first setup aims to look glossy and sci-fi, the second will be more grimy and dusty and indicative of actual mining conditions.

Descent is old enough that it should work under WINE. If not you could try This Alternate Engine which has a Linux Version.

Latest update. Same old models. However, I’d like to draw your attention away from them onto the backdrop. The scene is now becoming properly reminiscent of the game, I feel.

Sadly, as the game is ten years old, this is no stunning achievement. Any tips for improving this? The cloud textures are mainly to blame and I welcome any suggestions on how to replace them.

shadowbane: I had a quick look at d2x but couldn’t work out how to install it. Didn’t have time to muck around, sadly, as it would have been a welcome piece of nostalgia.


I know nothing about Linux, so I wouldn’t be able to help. This looks pretty good. Only crit right now is that the walls need to be more rough or have a smaller texture applied.

Pretty cool work.

Just to confirm that I’m still working on this and haven’t abandoned it. Still working mainly on the background and waiting on zog34’s tutorial.

Have discovered the Blender Open Material Repository, which makes a perfect substitute for care and attention. However, as you can see, much work is needed.

A few questions:

The marble material was horrendously stretched when I first added it, and only began to look semidecent once I’d faffed with the sizeX, Y and Z settings. It is my understanding that these somehow relate to how many times the texture ‘fits in’ to the model. If that is the case, how do I go about setting the material so it renders like it does now no matter how much I stretch the model? ie, so later on I can apply just the one ‘steel’ to objects of all different sizes.

The join between the bracket and the mine wall looks terrible: does anyone have any suggestions here? I thought maybe if the bracket could cast a shadow against the wall it might look less like it was floating - how do I tell the thing to cast shadows? (It was my understanding that would happen automatically.)

This might be an optical illusion, but to me the side of the bracket that faces the camera appears to be showing a different texture than the other faces. I only have the one texture applied, and in the materials Preview panel it doesn’t really look like either of them (although it resembles the side facing up much more closely than the side facing the camera.) I’m Mapping Input to ‘Flat’. What would cause this?

At the moment the light is a group, consisting of a mesh and a light. Blender doesn’t want to let me array groups, so every light is a new instance. This wasn’t to much trouble for just this scene but if anyone knows a better way to do it, that would be appreciated.


The specularity is what is throwing off the texture on your beams You need to increase the “hard” value for it. Turn on “Shadows” in the render buttons window to get shadows. (“Ray” may also be necessary.)

I think some AO “subtract” or “Both” would help this scene.

shadowbane: good call on the AO. Possibly it’s a bit too bright at the moment; that’s with ‘Both’ - I’ll do just a ‘Subtract’ tomorrow.

The rest of the problems are still unsolved. From a different camera angle, the marble texture still looks wrong. I’m going to do a little background reading and try to get some general idea of how it all works, and so maybe will have fixed this by next time (ie, set the material up so that whatever object it’s applied to, and whatever angle it’s viewed from, it doesn’t appear stretched.)

The AO seems to be hiding the problem nicely, but the previous render was done with both ‘Ray’ and ‘Shadow’ selected and they didn’t show. Do I need to tell the material that it’s allowed to have shadows cast onto it or something?


By default materials can receive shadows, but you could have accidentally bumped the button. You need to lower the spec on the walls. If you had the Piro (the main ship) and not a drone class 1 you would have the prefect escape scene right now. Also, your pillars look too much like rock. try making them (slightly) reflective (ray mirror)


Item One: “Section 1 - Paneling” tutorial is finished. Find it here. Section 1b - Paneling Complex Shapes will come in a day or two (when I find time… these things take a lot more time than I thought… whoo… :P!)

Item Two: It depends on the light you use. There are, I think, five types? And only three of the five (maybe six?) actually cast shadows.

Item 3: Maybe scale down the texture? Find it here.

Make the circled values smaller to scale down the texture.

Umm… Aright. Nice work. Good night. :P!