When developing a piece of 3D software, it’s essential to understand that well-designed graphics play a crucial part in the success of any project. What do we mean by graphics? We’re talking about the whole design of an application, platform or program, including the UI, environment and 3D models.
This article will focus on graphic design in AR & VR app development as that’s one of our key competencies. Good 3D models and environments are fundamental in virtual and augmented reality as their quality leads to truly immersive experiences. Whether you are developing a VR training scenario, 3D game or AR configurator, you want the models to look realistic, have good textures and smooth edges.
Why people decide to go with lower-quality visuals
Before we talk about why good visuals are so important, let’s discuss why people decide to go for lower-quality graphics. There are a few reasons.
First, they may want to use the application on hardware with limited computing power. Low-quality visuals can indeed ensure better performance most of the time. But in some cases, you can have extremely simple graphics and terrible performance at the same time. Usually, the problem with poor performance and low framerates isn’t good visuals but lousy optimization. An Art Team experienced in AR and VR development knows how to optimize great visuals and make them perform well.
Another reason some people go with second-rate graphics is that everything comes at a cost. A high-quality model of a forklift, for example, takes up to 24 hours to create, whereas the basic model requires only 6 hours. And artists are paid by the hour, so many clients figure it makes sense to cut costs. But the visual side of a project is not where you should be looking for savings. Why?
Why it’s essential to have an excellent graphic design
If your application looks like something from the 1990s or early 2000s, most people won’t give it a chance. The majority of us are more visual, so a good UI and high-quality models are of utmost importance.
An adequate graphic design and good-looking 3D models and environments are the backbones of a positive UX, especially in AR/VR app development. This article on SHIFT’s blog discusses the importance of visual stimuli in more detail.
Well-designed 3D models and visualizations are always important. But there are times and places where you especially need them. For example, your visualizations must look nice and be realistic when showcasing products.
I know this from experience, having worked in an e-commerce clothing store. Because of mediocre visualizations, we had a return rate of more than 70% for some categories, which was a massive blow. Once we introduced the necessary changes, our RR dropped substantially.
AR and VR app development visual styles
Let’s discuss four different approaches to visual design in VR and AR app development. The projects below have been prepared and optimized for the Meta Quest 2 and run smoothly on the headset. Besides being different scenes, the most significant difference between them is the time spent developing the scenery and models.
The low-polygon art style
First comes the low-poly art style. The environment is simplified, and some assets are bought from a marketplace. Key models are custom-built but lack details. This style conveys basic messages without distracting the user and takes the least time to complete. It’s a solution used for AR/VR app development on a budget.
The low-cost realistic art style
Next is the low-cost realistic style. It’s best for clients who want their application to look less cartoony but still keep the costs relatively low. Most assets are bought in a marketplace. The interactive and key models are custom built. Some details like advanced lighting are missing.
Realistic art style
More demanding clients will be satisfied with realistic style scenes. These take a lot longer to model and mix custom-built and bought assets. With advanced lighting, everything has to be heavily optimized to work on the Quest 2. It takes time, but the scene is realistic and runs perfectly on the limited hardware. This is a good approach if you’re looking for a compromise between quality and price in AR/VR app development.
Stylized art style
Finally, we create stylized art scenes. The project you can see above was custom-made. Almost every object was carefully modeled and textured by our artists. Our Concept Artists designed everything, and our UI Artists created a beautiful and complicated UI system for this training application. This complex environment was optimized to the limit of hardware. If you’re looking for the best result in AR/VR app development, this is what we recommend.
Why not buy the models from a marketplace?
As we’ve already mentioned, we often buy models from a marketplace depending on a client’s requirements. However, anytime it’s applicable, we strongly recommend creating dedicated models. Why are they better? This is what Maciej Bugajski, our Art Director has to say:
Although many objects can be bought on the internet, we must keep in mind that several assets have to be custom-built for the specific project. Every app has its optimization parameters and a particular style – some models just won’t cut it. For example, textures can be unclean or clean, small objects can have the details baked or modeled and different rendering engines need texture baking for different effects. Combining models created with various methods in one scene will look unnatural and give an impression of an amateur production.
How we create 3D models for AR & VR app development
When working on any software project, including its visual side, we first need to assess the client’s needs and understand their concept. We then create a team suitable for the project. Our team does research and looks up reference models. For example, our Art Lead conducted extensive research on creating Asian avatars in Character Creator which was supposedly impossible. Next, we begin making the assets and scenes.
We evaluate the work on each step and openly communicate with the client to ensure all their needs are met. Finally, we make necessary adjustments and optimize the scenes for the target hardware and voila – the graphic part of the project is ready. At the moment, we only work with Unity 3D as it’s the most versatile and efficient engine, especially for VR applications.
As you can see, it’s possible to create a realistic and well-optimized model. It just needs a little more time, but it sure is worth it. And with our experienced Art Team, the quality of graphics or performance will never block the success of your project.
To find out more about and contact our business development team, check out our webpage about 3D Modeling and Animation Services.
Marketing specialist with four years of experience. Having spent part of his childhood in Ireland, he's fascinated with its culture and language. Loves history, football and any form of writing.