Below is the work of Crazy Knife, or Vasily in the real world. He's another regular of the Garry's Mod forum, and another scenebuilder whose work completely blew me away.
His obsession lies in bringing the real world into Garry's Mod, turning real rocks into in-game backdrops, remaking real-world frescoes, or tweaking architecture into impossible shapes. He's worked on builds that could be a snapshot of a real world street, but has also crafted surreal structures, sci-fi brutalist landscapes, and more. Like Vioxtar, his answers are as illuminating and impressive as his art, and I really enjoyed hearing about how he turned mashed potatoes and Renaissance symmetry into Garry's Mod art.
Garry’s Mod was first introduced to me by a Russian friend when I was 14. We played one of the first versions of it, smashing the G-Man against the wall with the physgun. We thought it was the best thing ever. A few versions later, the camera tool was introduced. I instantly took advantage of it and started taking pictures. By posing a series of ragdolls, I realised that I could tell stories with them, and began making comics. I would start writing short stories, but I was constrained by the limited Half-Life 2 props available in Garry’s Mod. This changed with the introduction of the Steam Workshop and the network of friends I’ve made over the years on the Facepunch forums. If I wanted to tell a story about medieval knights on an adventure to invade an alien spaceship with AK-47s, I could make that happen in a manner of days whereas drawing it by hand or creating the models myself would take months. The only constraint is my imagination and time.
In the very beginning, I would just load Garry’s Mod, spawn a bunch of random props, and let my imagination run wild. In fact, some of my famous pictures and comics came from this process.
The result of some random fooling around:
A more recent one with my models:
Nowadays, I always jot down a concept on paper. I would draw where I want what object positioned, the angle, and, if necessary, create new models if an alternative isn't found in the workshop.
Here's a sketch for a giant fox statue I made for a client, next to the final result:
If it’s a comic, I would write the script first and then create the images to accompany it. Today I have way too many ideas for pictures and comic scripts, but not enough time to make them a reality, so I compromise by selecting only a couple of concepts. Comics are taking a back seat because they take much more time to finish.
Pushing the bounds of realism would be a simple answer. From time to time I would discover that some props are just absent or you need a particular shape that you can’t just make out of available props. At first this is where the stacker tool came in handy: it would allow me to duplicate props in a very detailed manner to create new props. For example, suppose you want to make an arched ceiling, but have no arches. Well, the stacker tool could let you spam a flat plane with each consecutive plane bent under a slight angle, resulting in the appearance of the arched golden ceiling below. You could also make perfectly spaced columns, brick walls, ladders and everything that would architecturally require a symmetric relationship:
You could even create some incredibly abstract props with it, such as Woodbai here, which is a reference to Dubai’s skyscrapers and how they occasionally have fire problems:
Surprisingly enough, the skyscraper is just one prop from cs_militia and consists of a wooden frame carefully stacked in an upward spiral over 100 times.
Additionally, new abstract architectural interiors could be made with this tool, such as the carefully spaced walls, steps, and even the brutalist looking cube in the middle here:
You can even make abstract subjects:
Yet I soon realised that there’s no nature going on here, so I started making nature props. I mainly created terrain, cliffs, rocks, or uneven walls at first using displacement geometry. Here's how: take a picture of a terrain with your camera, turn it black and white, use the black and white as offsets for your vertexes. If a spot is too bright, push that vertex up, if it’s too dark, push it lower. You'll wind up with an incredibly detailed terrain. Those were originally my first props, but I’ve recently learned to bring actual 3D objects from the real world into Garry’s Mod using photogrammetry by watching one Russian guy’s tutorial on Youtube here.
He wound up using three programs to transform images of an object in real life into a 3D model. I took it one step further by then porting my photo scanned 3D objects from Blender into Garry’s Mod. At one point I actually photo scanned mashed potatoes I made and added a stone texture to make it look like rocky terrain in Garry’s Mod.
I would also model props for Garry’s Mod just to learn how they could fit in my future scenebuilds, such as my French collection below. The vases ended up in my Ruby Hand picture:
The 3D models I create through photogrammetry actually involved gathering small, three inch rocks found during hiking and resizing them to create big cliffs and mountains:
The entire canyon below was made with just one rearranged and resized rock I photoscanned. In reality, these rocks are 100 times smaller in real life:
I also make gifs. In this one, I played around with the dynamic textures present in Garry’s Mod and combined it with flashing lamps:
Additionally, I figured out if you combine an alpha pass from Garry’s Mod, which incorporates information about distance (taking a picture by disabling all lights and enabling white fog), with a regular picture you can create an interactive hologram, allowing you to shift the view by shifting your mouse.
The School of Garry’s Mod took me a while to make since it involved posing over 50 characters into a 3D modelled scenebuild while looking at references of the actual fresco from the original School of Athens by Raphael in the Vatican.
I would say the Brutalist Renaissance picture. I first had to build all of the architectural components of the classical doric order using Blender before making anything in the game.
After the components were done, I would construct the building in Garry’s Mod. My main inspiration for the building was Buckminster Fuller’s concept of how the triangle is the most stable of all shapes. You can observe this concept with bridges, cranes, and ceilings everywhere if you look closely. Here's an example from underneath the Golden Gate bridge.
All of the metallic civil infrastructure that we see today, such as warehouse ceilings and bridges, are connected in a triangular fashion to ensure stability when excess stress is present. My idea was to extend this concept of the triangle as the most stable of all shapes further into the realm of the aesthetic and to show how a classical architectural order can inhabit stability inside it as well, so that when an earthquake hits, at least the front of the building will be able to resist complete collapse.
Many people don’t really see this, but in some of my most popular images I use symmetry based on an old Renaissance technique. I use this overlay layer when viewing a picture through the camera:
Whenever I am working on a big picture, I make sure to use that symmetry, especially if the picture’s subject is in the center. I first grasped the power of this technique when I made this strange abstract picture below.
You can see how most of the diagonal lines intersect perfectly at certain spots. You can also see flaws in it: the interception of the beam in the top right does not match with the three white lines in comparison to the metal beam on the top left. This picture resonated a lot with the audience, for some reason, despite being so abstract. I kept wondering why and I boiled it down to color contrast (orange to blue), the symmetry, and the contrast from rigid geometric (triangles and squares) to fluid arabesque (the dangling curved ropes) shapes.
I decided to put this concept of symmetry to the test, this time with an interesting story to go with it. I was working on the concept of a tiny man working hard to get rid off all the stuff that you dump into your recycle bin. You can see in the outline below in orange, where I try to place props that explicitly try to either follow the lines of the symmetry or intersect right at it, as well as the arabesques in the background as a contrast to the rigid geometry.
That was one of my top rated pictures, which further confirmed my experiment of how important symmetry actually is. I also hid a face on the right: the red cloth is the mouth, and the round yellow cloth is the eye.
The main trick I use is taking the same picture in Garry’s Mod with multiple lamps from multiple angles then merging these pictures together. You can much more easily control lighting that way. In the real world light behaves like a wave so the illumination of an object occurs from all angles; Garry’s Mod illuminates objects from a single side. The solution here is to take multiple pictures with lamps shining from different angles, or use the soft lamps addons which allows one to merge multiple pictures with the lamp shining from slightly shifted angles.
When I first started chatting to both Vioxtar and CK, it was one interview with both guys at the same time to make sure I had something for the blog. I imagined both set of answers going out as a single article, but as the answers came together it was clear they had different stories, unique takes on what I was asking. I'm incredibly happy that I've been able to cover their work, and I hope you enjoyed it.
I hope to do a few more of these. There are others out there working on scenes, add-ons, game modes, and more who have different stories to tell, both in game and in the real world. I have a list, and I hope to bring you more of those stories in the coming months. Thanks for reading.