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N-Gons Special - Triangles, Quads & N-Gons in hard surface modeling - 3Ds Max 2017

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Tim
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Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:40 pm

N-Gons Special: why I use them.


Hello, my name is Tim and I'm a NGON user. Welcome to the short NGON special! :)



Ever since I released the grenade tutorial I get one question asked a lot, how comes I leave NGons and triangles in my meshes, isn’t that bad? There’s the widespread belief that this needs to be avoided at all costs and that a mesh may only consist of quads. I figured I write down an aticle to talk about this topic.

What is a NGON?


A ngon is simply a face with more than 4 edges and is purely a modeling feature as we work in Max, Maya, Blender or any other modeling software. It’s important to know that at the end of the day, video game engines such as Unity or Unreal will convert your object to triangles.

If we have a look at the triangulation feature in 3DS Max you can see that any quad or n-gon is already pre triangulated. Quads are certainly nice because they convert to triangles in a very predictable way and therefore make it the number one choice to use quads for the most parts but in the end of the day a quad is just two triangles. Nothing more or less.

Low and highpoly modeling workflow

It’s important to differentiate between low poly and high poly modeling.

The highpoly will always be all quads because we enable turbosmooth modifiers on it. Turbosmooth quadifies everything automatically. If you follow my hardsurface tutorials then you know that my workflow is to create the lowpoly first, copy it and make it a highpoly. That guarantees me that my meshes match one to one, more then any retopo workflow could ever do. The lowpoly depends on the unwrap in combination with smoothing groups to get a perfect normal map bake result later on.

Working with ngons is handy, allowing you to model detail only where you need it. Using N-Gons enables me to be fast, efficient and it makes it a lot more difficult to screw the topology with needless geometry just for the sake of having quads all over the model. Once again, everything ends up the same in the end: as triangles.

When to not use N-Gons?

To answer that question it’s important to ask yourself the question what is it that you are creating. Are you working on a character? Does it bend or stretch when it's animated later on?
If that is the case then yes, avoid the use of N-Gons or else the guys who have to do the rigging and the animations will have a much harder time doing their job in Maya or any other software they use before it goes in the game.

When is it okay to use N-Gons?

Now let’s talk about hardsurface modeling. Hardsurface is anything that’s static, it can be weapons, environments, props whatever you can think of really that keeps it’s original shape and doesn’t change from it. (which makes the majority in our world and in videogames really)
In that case it's most likely a static mesh that won't deform during its animation (if it's even animated).

Bottomline:

I hope that this helps to explain why I use n-gons. If your college teacher tells you that you should avoid them then he probably does that to encourage you using a “clean” meshflow which is best to be learned by keeping things quads and there is nothing wrong with that. Or maybe like I mentioned before the organic modeling part where it’s best to keep your geo in quads for.

This article is not supposed to be an encouragement for sloppy modeling which might be what some people mistake for using N-Gons. Just because I use N-Gons doesn’t mean I don’t see my triangulation in front of me. It’s important to know how that behaves and I put my edges accordingly to avoid overlaps or pinching. Once again, remember it’s a triangle world out there and really what matters is to keep a nice mesh flow, your unwrapping and how optimized your mesh is and most importantly how well it looks in game.

Cheers, Tim !
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Kanni
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Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:43 am

Well said!

There's definitely a big notion and discrepancy in the 3d world for the longest time that n-gons are evil and should always be avoided. Really, when it comes to hard-surface modeling, I feel that it all comes down to how does it subdivide? If the n-gon displays no issues in subdivision (no smoothing or pinching errors) then it is fully good to go. In that case, in flat surfaces, there is pretty much always no issue.

My only gripe with n-gons is the final in-game model. It is true that they will always in the end be triangulated anyway one way or another, but I like to personally know how much my mesh becomes triangulated, so I tend to spend a bit of time going over my final model before unwrap and just optimizing as much as I can all over. This usually just means connecting all the n-gon edges together to form quads/tri's mostly, and seeing where I can collapse and weld edges together to save on tri-counts. :)
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LeSam_
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Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:38 am

Nice knowing that, considering that yeah, I've been told a lot of times to only use quads :D

Does that help if you convert your object into an editable patch in Max from time to time, as it triangulates it ? Just to have a preview of it
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Tim
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Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:09 pm

LeSam_ wrote:Nice knowing that, considering that yeah, I've been told a lot of times to only use quads :D

Does that help if you convert your object into an editable patch in Max from time to time, as it triangulates it ? Just to have a preview of it

If you want to see how it triangulates you can just hit that little button while being in edge mode.
Not sure about the editable patch you mentioned, nothing I ever use.

Usually the moment you move some verts around you can already see in which way the triangle goes, you can switch it around with that "turn" button that is right next to it (see screenshot).
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Domenic Wamser
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Mon Dec 26, 2016 12:13 am

Thank you for the post. My teachers also tell me to not using n-gons and all the guys in the tutorials out there are doing it with. It confused me a lot. :icon_confused: Thank you very much it helped me a lot understanding the hole n-gon stuff. :)
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Tim
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Mon Dec 26, 2016 4:12 pm

Hey Domenic, glad it helps! :)

I am currently preparing a few examples for the use of Ngons to demonstrate it in a short video to make it even clearer.
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Tim
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Thu Dec 29, 2016 11:44 pm

Just as a quick update, I finally made a short video out of that topic ;)
It's part of a mini series of frequently asked questions that pop up a lot.
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Frostie
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Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:08 am

Nice Video Tim,

i think it will help some People to understand :)


But what did i see there at the top ? Can we expect an AR15 Tutorial ;) ?
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Tim
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Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:53 pm

Thanks Frostie, that was just an older model I picked to showcase the N-Gon topic. I have no intention to redo the whole thing 1:1 for a tutorial.
When it comes to weapons I certainly have some future plans in store though. Not 100% decided yet. :)
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lewis13896
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Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:13 pm

Great video Tim, looking forward to future additions to the series! :icon_clap:
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