Tomb Raider fans never cease to find creative new ways to celebrate their fandom and pay tribute to the games that inspire them and Jason Chester is no exception. For the past few months, Jason has designed and created low-poly models of each of Tomb Raider I’s levels, all which can be found in his ArtStation portfolio and on his DeviantArt site. From the ruins of the City of Vilcabamba to the Cistern, from Croft Manor to The Great Pyramid, Jason has poured his heart and soul into recreating some of the franchise’s most iconic scenes and locations.
I got in touch with Jason to ask him about his models, how he went about creating them, and what inspired him to embark on this ambitious project. Here’s what he had to say:
“So, back at the start of last November, I decided it was time to jump into some 3D work. I had always felt overwhelmed by the ultra-realistic renders I had seen others do but eventually found models on a YouTube channel called Polygon Runway. They create small 3D low-polygon models in Blender, which is the software I use to create the pieces and is completely free by the way! That inspired me to start learning how to use that program. I used tutorials from another YouTube channel, Chocofur, to learn the essentials and, then, if there was any specific thing I needed to learn for a model, I’d just look it up.
I always knew that no matter what kind of digital art I was going to get into, be it 3D modelling or 2D digital painting, I was going to use Tomb Raider as a base to build off of.
After about a month of spending every evening and weekend learning about 3D modelling, I took the plunge and made my own model based on the classic scene of Lara entering the caves in Tomb Raider 1. A huge amount of my inspiration came from games like Lara Croft GO and Hitman GO.
When I posted that first render on Twitter, I got such an amazing response from the fans and it just spurred me on to create a model for the next level. It was around then that I thought I should turn this into a full series of models. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to practice and apply the skills I’d learned and I’m now at the point where I’m pretty confident with my model making.
Initially, I wasn’t going to put any creatures or any other characters in my scenes. But everyone seemed to like that they were included, so this presented another challenge. I had to build my model of Lara completely from scratch, which took two evenings’ worth of work. Not only that but I also had to create and rig the Lara model with a skeleton so that I could move her into any pose I needed. That took another week or so of messing around with the techniques involved in creating that.
I’ll be honest and admit that in my latest models, which feature male characters, I’ve used some of the low-poly male figures that Polygon Runway was offering as free downloads. This has made my life much easier! Since I’m much more interested in the environment art than human/creature art, I don’t feel too guilty about using someone else’s models as the base of my characters.
All of my models began with a very basic sketch, followed by more detailed sketches of location-specific architectural elements such as types of pillar or door. I’m fascinated by ancient civilisations and ruins, which is another thing that helps drive me through this project.
Going forward, I’ve got quite a few options, the first being to create environments inside a game engine like Unreal or Unity, which would include animated elements such as waterfalls, moving grass, and trees. That feels like the natural next step. Besides that, I’m hoping to create some original models in the same style as the Tomb Raider ones. I’d definitely like to work through the levels of Tomb Raiders II and III but I’m also hoping to create some fan art from game series such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Hitman, and James Bond.”
Tomb Raider Horizons would like to extend a huge thank you to Jason Chester for taking time out of his day to talk about this incredible project. You can find more of his low-poly models over on his ArtStation portfolio and DeviantArt site, and if you’d like to see how he created these models, check out the time-lapse videos over on his YouTube channel.
All of the images featured in this article are property of Jason Chester and have been published here with his permission.