Hi, my name is Doru and I'm the 3D environment and prop artist.
This week, while some of the team started concepting the large environment this scene will be a part of, I wanted to setup a fast prop and texture creation pipeline that involves as little creation of high poly assets and baking as possible. To this end I tried the technique I read in this article: http://bit.ly/1WMKweO.
I started by making a quick generic sci-fi prop and rounded all the edges so it looks smooth. The big downside, of course, is an increase in the number of triangles needed. I didn't spend much time on the design as I only wanted to test this technique.
As you can see, in this case the number of triangles has almost quadrupled. But you save a lot of time spent in creating the high poly, cage, baking and refining the low poly.
After the geometry was finished I unwrapped the model. I kept the uv's as straight as possible, but in retrospect I could have done a better job as there were a few issues I noticed when I started the next step.
I brought the mesh to Photoshop and the Quixel suite, where I detailed the flat areas with masks, shapes and selections which the program transforms into a normal map. This was a lot of trial and error, but in the end I tested as many types of shape, textures and techniques in getting them, as I thought necessary.
This is the result.
The last process was the easiest one for me. I created a few masks and brought the whole thing to Substance Painter where I textured it, using a mix of generated masks and hand painted details.
I was pretty happy with the end result and I think this technique has a lot of merit and will certainly find a place in my workflow. I will need to spend a bit more time on the design though.