How to make 3d video game models - an overview of the process

A 3D Model is a three dimensional object you put into a video game. And by three dimensional I mean that you will be able to see it from all the way around in the game. Think of it as a thing rather than a picture of a thing. If we put a 3d model of a tree in our game we would be able to walk around the tree and see it differently from all angles. 3d models can be anything at all you can imagine from normal objects like desks, walls, pencils, swords, people, and houses. They can also be anything you can imagine like flying pigs, floating houses, dragons or well anything you can imagine.

When you make a video game most of the design is done the same way an architect would design a city or a building. It is all very static. You define the shapes of the objects then you insert textures and colors. But this is just the static world that everything happens inside. The real adventure of a video game comes when the models are inserted into the game. And if you are learning how to make a video game using some of the more common software like Reality Factory you don’t have a whole lot of options for making models. This is where 3D modeling software comes in.

To Make a 3D Model you need some 3D modeling software

There are many different modeling software applications and most of them are very suitable for making models for games. Some of the more popular packages are:

  • Maya – A high end 3d modeling package, which is used by professionals and often, used to make movies. It also has a scaled down version which is more affordable
  • 3Ds Max – Another high end modeling package that is very popular within the game making industry
  • Lightwave – This is a professional package at a reasonable cost. If you are serious about 3d modeling this is a good option
  • Blender – This is a free open source software package that has some amazing abilities. If you have no budget this is the way to go.
  • Milkshape 3D – Very inexpensive and easy to use 3d modeling package. They have a nice 30-day free trial period which gives you then chance to learn and test before you buy.

How is a 3D model made?

There are a few different paths to making a model for a video game. Here is a generic overview of the process steps.

skeleton of a 3d model1. You design a skeleton of your model. Think of this as the bones and joints underneath. You won’t see any of this when you play the game but these bones and joints are very necessary because they tell the game how the model moves. Exactly the same way your bones and joints define how you move.




fleshing out the model2. You design a colorless and texture-less skin around the bones and joints. This is how your model will look in shape.





Coloring the skin3. You color in the skin to get the exact look of the model. This is the details of the model. You make the final look here by putting in eyes, clothes, or anything else.
4. You define how your model will behave. You tell the model what joints will move in what directions. This is a big time saver with modeling software because you just tell it the beginning and ending locations and the software draws in all the middle steps.
5. You export the model into a format that video game design software understands. 3D modeling software has this export tool built in and most programs will export to a wide variety of formats for lots of game development software.

Making 3D video game models is not a really hard process and in no time you can make some nice models for your games. But, modeling is a profession that some people devote full time efforts to. If you want to get really good at modeling you are going to have to put in many hours of practice and you are going to have to develop your talents as an artist.

If you want to learn more I have a tutorial that teaches you the basics of 3d Modeling using Milkshape


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