Jeremiah asked to see some low polies. Well, here’s a comparison:
The low is the one I started from, and I didn’t adapt it to the changes in the high poly yet. It originally suffered from “skinny handle syndrome” and the proportions were off. It was overall too spindly to read well. The high is still thin for a videogame sword, but should be more readable.
The secondary guard was broadened, the blade curvature was much increased, and a ton of control loops were added on the blade and hilt.
You can see how many more edge loops the blade has in the hipoly. The geometry of the tip had to be changed to allow for clean control loops.
This is what subdiv does to the blade when it’s first enabled. Tip and edge are completely gone.
The basic thing to do with high-poly modelling is to insert additional edge loops (“control loops”) wherever you want hard edges (the subdiv modifier will initially “bloat” your mesh and you’ll need control loops to get hard edges and pointy shapes back.) The distance between edge loops determines how sharp the highlight will be in the render (softer highlights often look good on game objects because the highlight will be more visible.) In Blender, edge loops are inserted with Ctrl-R (loop cut) or sometimes the knife tool. You have to be careful here because the loops don’t always turn out how you wanted them. For example a loop might look perfect from the front, but unwanted edges might have looped around the back! Some checking and undo-redo is required to get it just right. This depends on your mesh geometry; you might have to change it to be able to get the kind of flow you want, as was the case with the sword tip. I think I still had to resort to the knife tool there, though.
The opposite of loop cut is X -> “dissolve edges.” This will remove an edge loop without damaging the mesh.
Edge slide comes in handy too if you want to adjust the control loops, but sometimes you’ll have to resort to vertex pushing if nothing else helps. Or you’ll have to manually create or terminate edge loops by joining vertices, for instance.
The greatsword has not been retopo’d yet, mostly because SJ currently has no engine. The lowpoly of the machete looked primitive, I basically completely redid the model by tracing it (similar to a retopo but from low to high.)
You can begin with a lowpoly, or you can retopo a highpoly, both approaches work. Matter of taste. Some fudging back and forth is always required.