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getting a cast of character models for a game?

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Hi all! My game design project, Xenallure, is ready to start the design phase where we create our 3D character models and their animation sequences. But I realized I have no idea what the best procedure for doing this is. We are aiming for anime characters. My tentative initial idea is that we should buy or make a basic human model with good anime proportions, have it rigged, and develop a library of standard animations for it. Then we should take this base model and edit a copy to look like each of our characters. Like Sims2 only we would actually be editing the polygon mesh, not only the skin. Also like Poser, only with fewer polygons and anime proportions. So is this a good idea or a horrible idea, or what? What steps would you go through in order to get a cast of anime-style character models and a library of animations for characters with pretty diverse body shapes? One other thought - would it be helpful to a modeler to have a free quake or UT model with appropriate proportions to look at when creating a model for us?

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Hop onto TurboSquid.com and search for free "anime" models. I know of at least one in the Maya format, there are probably others as well. Create a skeleton for that one and then just base the other models off of that one and use the skeleton you already created and just modify it a bit for each other model.

Beyond that, I can't think of an easier way to do it. There are tools like MakeHuman that lets you control body shapes pretty easy, but it isn't really set up for anime proportioned characters. There is probably at least one "character set" that you can buy with a multitude of anime models, but it is going to be really expensive.

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Look for any anime/manga drawings that you can use as reference and then you could create an 'average' character base model. Using this base model you could then change different proportions and details to create different characters without having to create an entirely new model each time.

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Zer0wolf - Thank you for the link! Didn't find any acceptable free stuff there, but did find one gorgeous (expensive) example I could at least show my modeler as an example of what we want.

Boronow - Yeah, this is what we're working on right now, we took the art of our whole cast of characters, picked the most average character, and are currently doing a blueprint for an undetailed humanoid with those anatomical proportions.

Anyone have any suggestions/tips for software, file formats, rigging and animating? Is there a diagram of a standard humanoid layout for bones and joints floating around the internet somewhere? We're looking for something like the set-up used in Sims2 (with an additional joint at the ball of the foot, they had very unrealistic doll-like feet).

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Having seen your concept art, I wouldn't really recommend trying to do a set of standard animations before differentiating your models. Besides the changes in proportion, there's the issue of stylistic differences. Do you really want Kitten's walk cycle to look like Lion's?

It looks like you've got some neat character designs. Slapping a generic cycle on all of them isn't worth the time it will save, IMO.

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I know this isn't right on topic, but as far as I can tell it might help your workflow...

If your modeler/animator has access to one of the more powerfull 3D Dev tools (Max Maya) he will be able to streamline the process of animation a fair bit. I'll talk about max.

- Firstly it doesn't take much effort to rig a standard biped, assuming character studio is installed. If not it takes longer, but still do-able.
- Next, create your range of animations to fit an average model.
- There is no getting around having to rig each model individualy.
At this stage, you can either look to the programmers to 'apply' the generic animations to all bipeds, or go with a little more detail...
- In max you can use animation modifiers (controllers), to quickly make unrestricted changes to animations based on any number of inputs. So for your cat like biped you should be able to make a generic change to all her animation sequences to make her posture more cat like, througout all of them.

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