Q: What are the steps to making an item?
A: Here are broad steps involved in making a 3D item:
- Concept: Come up with a good idea in words. Trust us, this is the hardest part.
- Design: Draw in 2D or 3D what it will actually look like.
- Model: Using a 3D program, create the clean polygon model that will actually be in the game.
- Pelt: Unwrap the 3D model like a bearskin rug (UVs) so you can texture map it.
- Paint: Using your UVs as a guide, pick a color. Paint a color. Repeat.
- Skin: Bind the model to a joint for articulation.
- Compile: Use itemtest and don’t forget to make an LOD!
- Test: Load the itemtest map and look at your item on the character.
- Publish: Upload it to the steam workshop!
Q: How does the item publishing process work?
A: Like this:
- You create an item that meets the submission requirements.
- You test your item using the in-game 'itemtest' map.
- You publish your item to the Steam Workshop through the in-game item publishing tool.
- We review your item and potentially select it to be added to the game.
- If selected we contact you then integrate the item into Team Fortress 2.
- We test your item.
- We add it to the game and split the money your item generates in the Mann Co. store with you.
Q: Where can I find good tutorials to learn 3D modeling?
A: Search for “speed modeling” on YouTube and visit the source developer wiki. There are a lot of digital art communities online with great information. Here are a few that we like to visit.
Q: What are some guidelines for matching TF2’s art style and improving the chances of my item getting in?
A: This is a tricky question we grapple with daily. When we started, the game followed an idealized 1950’s-60’s Americana look. Nothing too modern, hyper-realistic or overly “cartoony”. Clearly the art style has evolved over the years, but here are some guidelines that you should keep in mind as you create your items.
- Hats should maintain the personality of the character (heavy's boxing Gloves, Scout's batter's helmet, etc.)
- TF generally has realistic proportions, with slightly exaggerated aspects to emphasize certain areas.
- Try and avoid fine surface details. No scales, skin pores, fabric textures, super detailed normals, etc. Take a look at giant size of the TF characters hands and imagine what they would build.
- Try and use flat colors that are close to the TF color family that the base game uses. Try and avoid full black, full white, or fully saturated colors.
- Use a subtle vertical gradient and a subtle ambient occlusion layers multiplied over the colors.
Q: What software tool should I use to make my item?
A: It varies depending upon the project, but this is generally what we use:
- Maya (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
- Photoshop (textures)
- Zbrush (detail models, morphs and textures)
- 3Dcoat (models and textures)
- Mudbox (models and textures)
- Wings3D (models only, but it’s free)
- Modo (models and textures)
- 3DS-Max (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
- XSI (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
Q: I am a 3D artist, how do I get started?
A: First, you’ll need to install the Source Developer Kit (SDK).
Q: What are the polycount limits on my item?
A: Keep the polycount similar to what's already in the game. Try to keep hats under 1,000 polygons, and weapons under 6,500.
Q: What resolution should my textures be?
A: Texture sizes should not be larger than 512x512. For hats, 256x256 is usually large enough.
Q: Any tips on creating textures?
A: Maintain the same texture density of other models in the world (Nothing higher res or lower res than what's next to it. For hats, maintain team colors, if not - neutral colors. Character textures are less noisy/detailed than everything else in the game. Character items/hats should match that style.
Q: Where can I get the models of the existing characters so I can build my item in context?
A: Download this zip file which contains the reference head geometry for all the classes on the right locations.
Q: I've made an .obj file and .tga, how do I test them in game?
A: Use the itemtest wizard.
Q: I know how to work with source, do I have to use itemtest?
A: Since we tend to recompile items from the published source files, it's a good idea to use itemtest at first to setup all the directories and file locations. This makes it easier for us to review your item and increases its chance of getting in. Source power users should feel free to add additional .smd or .dmx files as well as edit the .qc and .vmt files as needed.
Q: My item just got rejected. Why?
A: Chances are that it didn't meet one, or several, or possibly all of the guidelines listed below:
- Obscenity: We will automatically reject any obscene items. (Don't even bother.)
- Copyright infringement: Even if you made the model yourself, if you used an existing likeness, it’s copyright infringement. We can't and won't put other people's intellectual property in our game, for the simple reason that we don't own it. They do. We will automatically reject any items based on existing intellectual property.
- Overall Tone: We may reject an item if we feel it deviates too far from the tone of TF, either by being too cartoony or too photorealistic.
- Gameplay: TF's characters have distinctive silhouettes that help a player differentiate between classes in the heat of battle. Consequently, we tend to avoid items that overtly obscure or confuse these silhouettes.
- Noisy Details: We tend to reject items that utilize a lot of fine surface details (scales, skin pores, fabric textures, super-detailed normals, etc.). We prefer items that utilize flat colors that are close to the TF color family used by the base game. Items that are fully black, fully white, or fully saturated tend to read poorly and clash with the game environment. Most TF items use a subtle vertical gradient with a subtle ambient occlusion layer multiplied over the top of the colors.
- Technical limitations: Items that require changes in character clothing or facial animation might be considered too costly to produce. Note: This does not mean that we will always refuse an item based on technical complexity. But nine times out of ten, it probably isn't helping your case.
Remember: Except in specific no-go areas (obscenity or copyright infringement, for example), these are not hard and fast rules. They are guidelines. We may select an item that breaks one or several of these guidelines, simply because it's too awesome not to include. However, these guidelines do dictate our selection process. Following them can only help your chances of getting your item in the Mann Co. Store.