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Making your character come to life (Part I)

Posted by Matias Goldberg, 15 June 2011 · 805 views

I come from a programmer's background. I've always been interested in 3D graphics, paying a lot of attention to the details. A description that probably fits me best is technical artists: someone who increases the quality and looks/appearance of the work by writing new shaders, doing some fancy math, procedural stuff, writing 3D tools (viewers, editors, etc)

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Therefore, I'm quite surprised to find another side of me, much more artistic than technical. It's still a far cry from experienced and talented Cg artists out there, but it isn't your regular “programmer art” either.

There's a lot of art influence in making a game look good, rather than the tech. Often an underestimated job by noobs (and not so noobs). Just a look at CryEngine 3 Licensors' showcase, they're all running the same engine, even though it doesn't look like; and none of them gets near Crysis 2 (this doesn't mean tech isn't important!)

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Well, I'm mainly modeling in Blender. Took me a long time to master, but it's the ultimate tool for techies like me. Unlike Maya or 3DS Max, Blender allows moving, rotating and scaling by input values on the keyboard, and very quickly! Hotkeys, once you've learned them, boost productivity a lot. Furthermore, it behaves more like a game engine than Maya. There are a lot of disadvantages as well, but Blender is right for me, and fits my budget (it's free!); I can't live out of free trials.

These tutorials helped me to start out with human modeling a lot. It introduced me to the concept of edge flow in Cg human anatomy.

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The images show a character I'm currently developing. Her identity is going to be kept secret, which is why her filename was removed from it. No, she's not one of the main characters. Note the first picture is a viewport capture from Blender.

The hair currently has a basic shader, and isn't supposed to be white. I'll be taking care of it later. I'm planning to use Scheuermann's hair rendering technique for rendering characters' hair in Distant Souls.

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Each model is improving over the last one (which means at least there's something I've learned!) which is why I didn't start with the main characters first.

I've modeled and rigged her with reuse in mind, the plan is to use sculpting tools, a few scripts, and poly editing to reshape her into other models, including males. Then re-texture.

This model has around 13.678 vertices, compared to the first model's 5.331 verts. Animations are a lot more fluent, running a side by side comparison in Ogre Meshy makes an astonishing difference, probably because the first model walks like a damaged Terminator from the first movie.

Also shading was finally tweaked since it was too shiny, it's a lot more matte now. The dress' material still needs tweaking as it is too shiny as well, it's supposed to look like silk, but currently looks like leather or plastic. To make it look like silk, the shader has a special feature which allows very flexible lighting tweaks, including some anisotropic.

Part I covers an introduction of the new character.

Part II will cover animation of the mesh in Blender, among with more full-body screenshots. If you have a critique, spill it out. Better hurt my feelings than having a boring game ;)

Until next time

Dark Sylinc




PS. If you're a talented 3D environment artist or animator and want to join the team (even part time), feel free to drop me an email to dark_sylinc [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] ar

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