What 3D Modeling Software is Used for Video Games

3D Modeling Software for Video Games

3D modeling software now provides incredible opportunities for game developers. These programs are almost weekly updated, optimizing by acquiring new or improved modeling tools. But what is the best software for 3D modeling? We will try to answer this question in this text. Let’s dive deeper into this topic!

Benefits of 3D Modeling

Before we look at different 3D modeling software, let’s have a look at its benefits. It truly opens up a new world of design possibilities. Moreover, it opens up new avenues for creativity and innovation. This technique provides the following two major advantages:

  • Speed

In brief, 3D modeling allows you to produce a design or plan in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional approaches. This means that production times may be reduced. Furthermore, a corporation can increase its efficiency and productivity.

  • Accuracy

3D modeling eliminates inconsistencies in measurements and provides an exceptional level of precision. You can design items down to the smallest detail. Furthermore, you may alter parameters, scales, and measurements in an instant without having to re-create the entire model/design.

Zombie Run 2 3D Modeling Character Design Igor

3D Modeling in Game Development

The most well-known application for 3D modeling is, of course, game development in the video game business. Motion graphics artists employ models to create 3d character designs, environments, props, and entire worlds in video games. Immersion is essential to every excellent game, and 3D modeling is a terrific approach to creating engaging content.

3D modeling is especially crucial in the field of virtual reality gaming, which is a very interesting industry. Virtual games reality completely immerses you in the game experience, allowing you to explore entire three-dimensional environments.

Maiden Assassin Female 3D Character Real-Time Modeling Rigging Animation

Workflow of Creating a 3D Model

This section will be useful for those who just want to start or are starting their journey in 3D modeling. Our experienced specialists at RSG have collected for you the main steps, after which you will receive quality work.

  • Visualization

Beforehand, think through your 3D model as thoroughly as possible, seeing it in your thoughts first or finding a good reference on the Internet. If you, your clients, or even your art director knows exactly what you want, the result will be quick, and the workflow itself will be quicker.

  • Sketching

If you can precisely depict what you want in 3D on paper, you will achieve 98% of the output (always leave room for errors). Inexperienced 3D artists skip this phase and begin constructing a model right away. We allow for this scenario, but we still recommend using at least game concept art services. This will make the modeling more specific.

  • Modelling

Just now we can get into the technicalities of 3D modeling. Box modeling is the most basic approach for improving and changing an object, and it is simple to master even for a newcomer in this field.

  • Texturing

When you’ve determined the shape, proportions, and overall accuracy of your object, it’s time to apply colors and materials to give it a genuine appearance. This is known as texturing in the 3D community.

  • Lighting and shadowing

Without this, your models will be as flattened as 2D, and your efforts will be futile.

  • Rendering

We are almost there! Now the CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) get to work. At this point, your 3D software should read and commit all of the data that you have gradually loaded into your object throughout the previous five steps.

What 3D Modeling Software is Used for Video Games?

Once we have enough information about 3D modeling for games, the most important thing is to find the best software. There are a huge number of programs, but not all of them are really good and will help you create exciting models that can compete with the works of other game artists.

Beginning with 3D software may appear daunting, and this is not far from the truth. The learning curve for powerful 3D applications is notoriously steep. It requires appropriate software and some experience for a user to start feeling at ease. There is a wide range of modeling software available, and each one is more suited to certain modeling tasks than others. Some 3D design software also offers a higher return on investment than others due to greater industry relevance and transferable skills learned.

Game artists and specialists in RetroStyle Games have extensive experience in creating 3D models in the form of game characters, icons, objects, and 3d environments modeling. This list of 3D game software is based on the recommendations of our colleagues, and we therefore hope that it will be useful to you.

We will do captivating cinematic trailers, 3d game trailers, 3ds max animation

How to Choose the Best 3D Modeling Software

3D modelling software allows you to create models of the character design for the game and objects from scratch and take them to the level of being photo-realistic.

Starting with 3D software may seem intimidating, and that is not far from the truth. Powerful 3D software is notorious for having a discouraging learning curve. It takes suitable software and a fair bit of practice for a user to start feeling in their element. There is a great variety of modeling software and each one is a better fit for some modeling jobs than others. Some of the 3D design applications also have a higher return of investment than others due to higher industry relevancy and transferable skills you receive while learning it.

A Comprehensive Checklist to Selecting the Perfect 3D Modeling Software for Games

  • Compatibility
    • Compatibility: Ensure that the software is compatible with your operating system and hardware specifications. Some programs may have specific requirements.
    • File Formats: Check if the software supports popular file formats used in the gaming industry, such as FBX, OBJ, or Collada.
    • CAD Import: Determine if the software supports importing CAD files, which can be useful when working with mechanical or architectural designs.
    • Integration with Game Engines: Determine if the software integrates seamlessly with popular game engines, facilitating the transfer of assets.
    • Dynamic Linking: Consider if the software provides dynamic linking capabilities, allowing you to link and update assets across different scenes or projects.
    • Version Control: If you collaborate with a team or work on multiple iterations of a project, check if the software integrates with version control systems to track changes.
    • Workflow Integration: Determine how the software fits into your existing workflow and if it can seamlessly integrate with other software you use.
    • Non-Destructive Workflow: Look for software that allows a non-destructive workflow, enabling you to make changes without losing your original work.
  • Cost and Support
    • Cost: Evaluate the pricing structure of the software. It may range from free, open-source options to high-end professional software with subscription or one-time payment models.
    • Community Support: Look for a software with an active community, as it can provide helpful resources, tutorials, and forums for troubleshooting.
    • Update Frequency: Check if the software is regularly updated and supported by the developers, ensuring bug fixes and compatibility with new technologies.
  • Learning and Customization
    • Learning Curve: Consider the learning curve associated with the software. Some programs may be more beginner-friendly, while others require advanced skills.
    • Plugins and Extensions: Explore the availability of plugins and extensions, as they can enhance the functionality of the software and streamline your workflow.
    • Customizability: Consider if the software allows customization, such as hotkeys, scripts, or plugins, to tailor it to your specific needs.
    • Scripting and Automation: Some software provides scripting capabilities, enabling you to automate repetitive tasks or create custom tools.
    • Scripting Languages: Determine if the software supports scripting in popular languages like Python, enabling you to extend its functionality.
    • Visual Scripting: Some software offers visual scripting systems, allowing you to create complex animations or interactions without coding.
  • Rendering and Visualization
    • Rendering Capabilities: Consider the rendering capabilities of the software, including the quality and realism of the output.
    • Render Farms: Consider if the software can integrate with render farms or distributed rendering systems to speed up rendering times for complex scenes.
    • Background Rendering: Some software allows you to continue working on your scene while rendering happens in the background, improving productivity.
    • Photorealistic Rendering: If achieving photorealistic visuals is crucial, ensure that the software has advanced rendering capabilities.
    • GPU Acceleration: Consider if the software utilizes GPU acceleration, which can significantly speed up rendering and viewport performance.
    • Stereoscopic 3D Support: If you plan to create games with stereoscopic 3D effects, ensure that the software supports this feature.
    • Lighting and Shadows: Evaluate the software’s lighting and shadowing capabilities, as they play a crucial role in creating atmosphere and realism in games.
    • Global Illumination: Evaluate if the software supports global illumination algorithms, which can enhance the realism of lighting in your game assets.
    • Image-Based Lighting (IBL): Evaluate if the software supports image-based lighting techniques, which can enhance the realism of your rendered scenes.
    • Depth of Field: Check if the software supports depth of field effects, which can simulate the selective focus of a camera lens.
  • Modeling and Sculpting
    • Sculpting Tools: Some software offers sculpting tools that allow you to create detailed organic models. Determine if this feature is important for your project.
    • Virtual Reality Sculpting: If you prefer sculpting in a virtual reality environment, verify if the software supports VR sculpting tools for a more immersive experience.
    • Boolean Operations: Determine if the software provides Boolean operations, which allow you to combine or subtract objects for complex geometry creation.
    • Retopology Tools: If you need to optimize your models for game performance, ensure that the software offers retopology tools to create clean, efficient topology.
    • UV Mapping: UV mapping is crucial for applying textures to models. Verify that the software offers efficient UV mapping tools.
    • Parametric Modeling: Consider if the software supports parametric modeling, allowing you to modify models by adjusting parameters rather than manually editing geometry.
    • Non-Uniform Scale: Verify if the software supports non-uniform scale transformations, allowing you to stretch or squash objects along different axes.
    • Subdivision Surfaces: Check if the software supports subdivision surfaces, allowing you to create smooth, curved surfaces with less geometry.
    • Tesselation Support: Verify if the software supports tesselation, which allows you to add more detail to models through subdivision.
  • Texturing and Materials
    • Texturing Tools: Evaluate the software’s texturing capabilities, such as the ability to create materials, apply textures, and generate realistic shaders.
    • GPU Texturing: Some software provides GPU-accelerated texture painting tools, allowing for faster and more responsive texturing workflows.
    • Parametric Textures: Check if the software supports parametric textures, allowing you to modify textures procedurally.
    • Real-time Feedback: Look for software that provides real-time feedback, allowing you to see changes instantly without delays or rendering times.
    • PBR Workflow: Evaluate if the software supports a physically-based rendering (PBR) workflow, which has become the industry standard for realistic material representation.
    • Material Libraries: Evaluate if the software provides a library of pre-built materials, textures, or shaders that can enhance your workflow.
    • Baking Tools: Check if the software offers baking tools for generating ambient occlusion, normal maps, or other texture maps required for game assets.
    • Advanced Shader Editing: If you require advanced shader customization, ensure that the software provides shader editing capabilities.
  • Animation and Rigging
    • Animation Tools: If you require animation for your game assets, ensure that the software provides robust animation tools.
    • Physics-Based Animation: Some software allows for physics-based animation, where objects interact realistically with each other based on physical properties.
    • Time-based Animation: Consider if the software allows for time-based animation, where you can set keyframes and interpolate between them over time.
    • Animation Retargeting: If you work with different characters or rigs, check if the software provides animation retargeting tools to transfer animations between different rigs.
    • Facial Animation Tools: If you need to create facial animations, verify if the software provides dedicated tools or systems for facial rigging and animation.
    • Rigging and Skinning: If you require character animation, check if the software offers rigging and skinning tools to create realistic skeletal structures.
    • Rigging Auto-Weighting: Some software provides auto-weighting tools that can assist in the process of assigning weights to character rigs.
    • Parametric Rigging: Some software offers parametric rigging systems, where you can define rigging setups using parameters and sliders.
    • Rigging Constraints: Check if the software provides rigging constraints, allowing you to define relationships between different parts of a character’s rig.
  • Simulation and Dynamics
    • Physics Simulation: Evaluate if the software supports physics simulation, which can add realism to your game assets.
    • Cloth Simulation: Determine if the software offers cloth simulation tools, allowing you to create realistic cloth behavior for characters or objects.
    • Morph Targets: Verify if the software supports morph targets or blend shapes, which are used for facial expressions, character customization, or shape animation.
    • Motion Capture Integration: If you work with motion capture data, verify if the software supports importing and retargeting motion capture files.
    • Crowd Simulation: If you need to create crowds or large-scale simulations, check if the software provides crowd simulation tools for realistic population behavior.
  • Level Design and Game Development
    • Level Design Integration: Consider if the software can be used for level design, allowing you to create environments and landscapes for your games.
    • Game Asset Management: Consider if the software has built-in asset management features to organize and manage your game assets efficiently.
    • Game-specific Templates: Some software offers pre-built templates or presets designed specifically for game development, making it easier to get started.
    • Virtual Reality Support: If you work with virtual reality (VR) games, check if the software has VR support, enabling you to create VR experiences.
    • Virtual Production Tools: If you work on virtual production or mixed reality projects, check if the software offers dedicated tools for these workflows.
    • Procedural Generation: Some software offers procedural generation features, which can speed up asset creation by automating certain tasks.
    • Multiuser Collaboration: If you work in a team, check if the software supports multiuser collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously.
    • Modularity: Evaluate if the software promotes a modular workflow, making it easier to reuse and modify assets for different projects.
  • Other Features
    • Industry Standard: Consider if the software is widely adopted in the gaming industry. This can be important for collaboration and compatibility with other software used in the pipeline.
    • Polygon Limitations: Determine the software’s ability to handle high polygon counts, which may be necessary for complex models.
    • N-Gons Support: Check if the software supports N-Gons (polygons with more than four sides), as they can be useful for certain modeling techniques for mobile games.
    • Stereoscopic Viewport: Some software offers a stereoscopic viewport, allowing you to view your models in 3D without the need for additional hardware.
    • Concept Art Tools: If you often create concept art for your games, check if the software offers dedicated tools for sketching and painting.
    • Auto-Save and Recovery: Consider if the software has auto-save and recovery features to prevent data loss in case of crashes or power outages.
    • Color Management: Evaluate if the software supports color management, ensuring accurate color reproduction across different devices and platforms.
    • High Dynamic Range (HDR) Support: If you work with HDR content, check if the software supports HDR workflows and rendering.
    • GPU Caching: Some software offers GPU caching, which can improve the playback performance of complex scenes or animations.
    • Look Development Tools: Evaluate if the software provides tools for look development, allowing you to fine-tune the appearance of materials and textures.
    • Weight Painting: Check if the software offers weight painting tools for character rigging, allowing you to define how joints influence the deformation of the mesh.
    • Wireframe Overlays: Determine if the software provides wireframe overlays, allowing you to visualize the underlying geometry while working on models.
    • Sound Integration: If you work on audio-intensive games, verify if the software supports sound integration or has dedicated tools for audio implementation.
    • Sound Waveform Visualization: Determine if the software provides visualization tools for sound waveforms, allowing for synchronization with animations or events.
    • Hierarchical Modeling: Check if the software supports hierarchical modeling, where you can create parent-child relationships between objects for easier manipulation.
    • Particle Systems: Consider if the software offers particle systems to create effects like smoke, fire, or explosions in your game.

Choosing the right software for the task is essential for saving time and achieving the best results. Below you will find a brief overview of the applications you might consider learning for your career in 3D modeling. We included one free option and three paid (high-cost, in fact) ones. It is always a good idea to get a free trial and test several expensive applications before investing in one.

Blender — The Best Free 3D Software Tool on the Market

Simply explained, game studios that use Blender consider it the best open source 3D design software on the market. It provides you with a myriad of tools for the full cycle of 3D modeling and animation. And the most incredible thing is that it is free, which makes it the best app for someone who is just learning 3D in any case. It also enjoys an active and helpful community of users that works continuously to make the app better by sharing their feedback and pushing for usability and feature set improvements.

You might have heard about the unfriendly and tedious interface of Blender but these times are long gone thanks to the continuous development of the app, and now has a convenient and straightforward UX/UI.

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Completely free, including for commercial use Not regarded as an industry-standard
Can be used for almost any 3D game art, animation, and 3d model rigging tasks. Not a specialized application
Plenty of learning resources Might be challenging to learn but easier than Maya
Procedural modeling workflow Node Editing is difficult to get a hang of
Great sculpting toolkit Limited performance on weak hardware
Continuous upgrading and support Sometimes can be buggy
Huge online community Not the best animation performance
Runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS
Blender for 3D Modeling

Maya — One of the Most Useful and Flexible 3D Modeling Software

If Blender is perfect for indie studios and individuals, Maya is a choice of big 3d animation companies with a bit more old-school set-up. The main advantage over Blender is that it is the industry standard, meaning that there are plenty of Maya 3d modeling jobs in big organizations, and if you are intending to work for big companies, including AAA game development studios, this is the software you will need. It provides a complete toolkit for the full cycle development in visual effects, animation, and game dev. It is complex and takes time to master.

The subscription plan is mind-blowingly expensive which probably makes it not a good fit if you are just starting learning 3D modeling or even setting up a studio. It is also notorious for being slow at adopting advances made by its competitors, and slow in development in general.

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Industry-standard High cost: $1,785/annual subscription (a 30-day free trial available)
Can do just about any 3D-related task Challenging to learn, especially for beginners
Superb at animation Slow on improvements, few updates
Top-notch sculpting Sometimes can be buggy and crash
Easy to create scripts and plugins Node Editing is difficult to get a hang of
Runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS
Maya 3D Modeling Software

3ds Max — the Best 3D Modeling Software for Windows

3ds Max is one of the best software for 3D game artists along with Blender and Maya. Like the previous two, it is an all-rounder and enables you to create characters and objects using 3D design, modeling, animation, and rendering. It is excellent in modeling just as Maya is excellent at animation, and has a huge number of plugins and libraries. It has, however, an even steeper learning curve than Maya and comes with a hefty price tag.

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Can do just about any 3D-related task
High cost: $1,785 annual subscription (a 30-day free trial available; free for students for the first 3 years)
Superb at modeling
Rather difficult to learn
Easy to create simple scripts
Poor collection of educational materials
Huge library of different modifiers
Poor inbuilt rendering
A large number of plugins and libraries
Small online community
Fast and lightweight
Runs on Windows only and does not work on older PCs
3ds Max 3D modeling software

Cinema 4D — Excellent for VFX and Simulation, Easy to Learn and Use

Cinema 4D is a professional 3D software developed by MAXON Computer. Just like the other three applications on our list, it has a wide span of functionality and enables you to do pretty much anything 3D-related: procedural and polygonal modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, texturing, and rendering. The main point of attraction here is that Cinema 4D has a shallow learning curve which means that contrary to many other 3D applications, you will start making nice stuff pretty early on in your training. And after that — it is famously intuitive to use. It is also integrated with After Effects, the industry-standard Adobe animation suite. And finally, Cinema 4D is known for its stability, so crashing is… rare.

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Can do just about any 3D-related task
High cost: $999 per year (a 14-day free trial available; a free education version for students and teachers)
Easy to use and get nice results quickly
Poor UV editing and weight-mapping
Superb at special effects and simulation
A well-organized UI
A great community and plenty of educational materials, including the training site Cineversity with free membership
Integration with After Effects. Compatible with many plugins and render engines.

Cinema 4D — Our Experience

Our artists are engaged in an in-depth exploration of the use of Cinema 4D in various creative and professional fields, with a particular emphasis on its use in game development. Below is a comprehensive summary, organized around key findings from our team:

  • Visual Effects: Cinema 4D excels at creating visual effects (VFX), and environmental visual effects, offering robust tools for motion tracking, animating geometry and cameras, and integrating VFX into live-action movies. Notable films such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Inception, and Pacific Rim have used Cinema 4D for their VFX-heavy scenes. If you are into games, this tool is perfect for creating VFX destruction effects for games.
  • Advertising: Its capabilities in pre-visualization, modeling, animation, and especially motion graphics make it the first choice for studios to present their conceptual work to clients, including the much sought-after NFT Promo Video hype.
  • Architectural Visualization: Designers and architects turn to Cinema 4D for its easy-to-use interface and powerful modeling and rendering tools. If you are interested in games, this tool is perfect for architecture simulator game creation.

Game Development: In response to the specific question about game development, our team clarifies a common misconception about Cinema 4D’s applicability in this field. While industry standards may favor software such as Maya or 3DS Max for game development, Cinema 4D is actually used by artists, especially in mid-budget indie game development and for personal projects. It supports a wide range of game development tasks, including game VFX outsourcing, modeling, UV mapping, rigging, animation, and level design. Although it may have certain limitations compared to the aforementioned industry standards, Cinema 4D allows creators to work effectively on video games, especially when working within small studios or as freelancers contributing to larger game projects.

a website page with a bunch of different colored boxes, Cinema 4D

Professional 3D modelers do not limit themselves to a single software package and frequently use supplementary software to improve the quality of their works. Besides, jobs with 3D modeling usually require the candidates to have the knowledge of a few 3D applications so that the specialists could take on various projects and use the suitable tools. Software programs like Zbrush, Modo, Marmoset, Substance Designer, and Substance Painter are used to perform tasks like sculpting, texturing, and baking.

Game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine also offer advanced 3D modeling options, the ultimate objective of which is to create a 3D asset and test it within the game engine.

It is also recommended to learn about 3D rendering software solutions because professional 3D modelers utilize these packages for rendering purposes. Vray, Corona Renderer, Arnold, and Redshift are some of the most popular rendering engines. Our team prefers Corona Rendered because the software package offers outstanding rendering quality, speed, and interactivity.

Advanced Unity Features for Isometric Games

When working with isometric sprites in Unity, there are several advanced 3D modeling options that you can use to create dynamic and engaging gameplay experiences.

Firstly, Unity’s Tilemap feature allows you to create isometric 2D environments quickly and efficiently. You can use the Tilemap to create and paint tiles directly in the Unity Editor, making it easy to design game levels and environments.

3D Modeling Software Unity Tilemap

Additionally, Unity’s 2D Sprite Renderer component enables you to control the sorting order of your sprites, which is particularly important when working with isometric sprites. With the Sprite Renderer, you can ensure that your sprites are sorted correctly based on their position in the isometric plane, creating a more realistic and immersive gameplay experience.

Unity Sprite Renderer Software

Another advanced 3D modeling option in Unity is the use of 3D models to enhance your isometric environments. You can import 3D models into Unity and use them alongside your isometric sprites to create a more detailed and dynamic environment. By combining 2D isometric sprites with 3D models, you can create unique and engaging gameplay experiences that are visually stunning.

Overall, Unity’s advanced 3D modeling options provide a range of tools and techniques for creating isometric games that are visually engaging and immersive. By taking advantage of these features, you can create unique and engaging gameplay that will sure to delight your players’ user experience.

Important Criteria for Game 3D Tools

As you can see, there is a wide range of high-quality 3D modeling software freely available that is just as excellent as professional solutions. In that scenario, you should familiarize yourself with the software by downloading the limited time and/or limited capability version that most providers offer.

Find 3D modeling software that is relevant with your OS (Operating System), as not all packages are designed to be used by every OS: Windows, Mac, and Linux. Finally, select a 3D modeling program based on your age and level of skill. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user, a 5-year-old child or a student, you will find software that is tailored to your needs and profile!

Beautiful 3D Interiors for Zen Match Scripts Tools Render Automation

Ways of 3D Modeling in Games

While it needs a high level of skill, 3D modeling has transformed the way video games are made. Here are three examples of how developers use 3D modeling nowadays.

  • Characters creating

Games would be far less intimate without the characters. These personalities and experiences you see on screen are the results of 3D modeling. As with any creative form, it’s critical to understand which aspects are most important. Finally, creators build distinctive characters who feel totally integrated into the plot.

  • Texture

Because textures might seem like squares, they are sometimes repeated. Consider how long it would take to painstakingly texture every block on the walkway in a game.

  • Measuring Scale

Real-life images can be converted into 3D models for use in video games using 3D modeling. These real-life photographs can serve as inspiration for video game settings. These locales and things must be appropriately scaled in order for the characters to feel like they are a natural part of their environments.

Fantasy Warrior Dwarf 3D Modeling Rigged Skinned

Final Words

You can definitely be called a daredevil if you decide to take up the study of 3D modeling. Along the way, you’ll be lured by treacherous lighting, intimidating sculpting, and breathtaking coloring. But the result that you get during the rendering process will show you that all your efforts and hours of work were not in vain.

Each member of our team of artists has already gone this route, although even now in our work we are faced with new tasks that require more detailed study. But we love such challenges. They make us even stronger and prove our professionalism. And also, we hope that you will not turn off the chosen path of 3D design and modeling. And may this journey bring you only pleasure and a lot of new useful knowledge!

Frequently Asked Question

a woman with a red background and a question mark, FAQ questions

Which software is used to make 3D models for games?

Maya is used by AAA companies all over the world to create the best video games on the market since it provides a nice balance of what game development artists require such as modeling, UV unwrapping, bakig, rigging, animation, and so on. Although Blender is not part of the AAA video game industry, it is an important element of the indie game production scene. Don’t forget about 3ds Max, either. Because it is most likely the only 3D Modeling Software for Video Games that can compare with Maya.

How is 3D modeling used in video games?

3D modeling for video games entails developing all of the assets that comprise a scene. Characters and mobs (short for “mobile objects,” moving non-player characters) are examples, as are their textures, lightings, environments, and settings.

Which is the best software for 3D game development?

Our personal picks as outsourced game art teams are Maya, Blender, and 3ds Max. It is this golden set of 3D modeling software that allows us to work daily with the many objects, characters, and other details that make up the games that our users and customers love so much.