Would this work to save on poly's? (images)

I’m making an animated prop for a game and I’m trying to keep the poly count as low as possible so it wont sacrefice performance. Anyways, its a minigun with 6 barrels but the mending sections of the barrels is the part im not too sure about.

Heres a real world pic of what I mean

Basically I need to know if the mending plates need to be connected by vertices or can they just be plopped right within the barrels of the gun?

example:

Plates stuck right in without being connected by vertices

Barrels being chopped up to allow the plates to be connected by verts. But the fear I have with this is it might make the polycount too high.

So would it be safe just to stick the plates over top of the barrels without them being an actual part of eachother? I mean the model wont fall apart in a game engine will it?

I appreciate any help thanks.

I would model it like that unless I had a good reason NOT to, and I don’t think a game engine would have a problem with it. The only thing I’ve even heard is that stuff like that can cause Z-fighting at large distances where your Z buffer has lower discerning power. If you’ve got LOD meshes available you could always make a super-low-poly one where the whole barrel assembly is a cylinder, maybe with 12 lines so you can put some basic approximation of the shape and maybe with some extrusions to represent the plates, depending on how detailed you want it. (If it’s only taking up 4x9 pixels onscreen, you probably only need a cylinder and a few blocky bits for the whole gun assembly. Also try to find out what the maximum distance your game engine will bother drawing the mesh at is.)

when you say Z fighting, do you mean the flashing that occurs between 2 faces when they cross paths but arent connected at the seams?