Character Modeling Pipeline
published Wednesday, 3 June 2009, 16:50 by Bokaja
Welcome to a basic insight into creating characters for Interstellar Marines.
..and games in general.
There are many ways to approach this subject - this is the current workflow at Zero Point Software.
An initial and final concept drawing or painting is created to establish the look and feel of the character.
The initial concept is the rough layout and ideas are tested at this stage. The final concept is ready to be handed over to the next step in the process.
The 3d artist starts to block out the 3d model. This step is about keeping the geometry simple and getting the proportions and shapes right.
This simple object shows a fast technique to block out advanced shapes. In 3dsMax simply create a box - delete the upper face - use Border Selection to select the open gap - now simply SHIFT and DRAG the open edge.
When the 3d blockouts are approved the various models are improved with finer details. This is a very time consuming task and is done in Maya or 3ds Max for hardsurface objects and Zbrush or Mudbox for organic objects.
On the simple object close the gap using Cap (in 3dsMax) and start adding extra lines along the edges. Also add extra lines in general on the object surfaces - this helps the Turbosmooth modifier make a nice and crisp subdivision. Avoid selecting the edge-corners and add Chamfer - this can create odd results. Apply your Turbosmooth modifier and subdivide the mesh.
Keep the edges soft and round so they still capture the light when later baking the normalmap - dont make them too sharp.
During or after the process of creating the highpoly the 3d artist now create a lowpoly edition of the character - covering the highpoly like a shell.
This is the model represented IN-GAME that the player controls.
It is not necessary for the lowpoly to cover the highpoly 100%. What matters is that you capture a good profile and shape from the polygon budget you got - think smart.
Use few and larger polys around big flat areas and save the extra for faces or more complex objects.
After or during the making of the lowpoly model the UVW map coordinates are laid out.
This is done using 3dsMax unwrap modifier and other 3rd party applications such as RoadKill etc. Parts are unwrapped separately and then assembled into one unique map.
These UV map coordinates will serve as basics for later baking out color, specular, normal, ambient occlusion map etc.
In Maya prerendered material shaders (PRM) is assigned to the various highpoly objects of the character - to give them unique reflection, glossines, color etc.
This can result in 30-40 shaders for a highpoly character if needed. Texture is then applied on top of those shaders.
The highpoly model surface is baked onto the lowpoly model using the Unwrap coordinates. The maps are imported into the game engine along with the lowpoly model and applied to a premade shader. This shader is then applied to the lowpoly model.
The Valuemap holds the info on all the specular, reflective and glossiness from the highpoly surface.
When applied to the premade shader-setup in the engine the same values are transfered to the lowpoly ingame model.