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Hodgeka

3D Character Animation

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Hi, I have a basic RPG game coded with C++ and OpenGL, but currently I have no character models. As of now my characters are rendered as different geometric primitives.

I want to create some custom character models for my game using 3dsMax, but I have no experience with character animation or modeling. Art is a passion of mine, and I would find it fulfilling to create character models myself for small projects.

This leads me to ask 2 questions:

1. ) Is it a realistic possibility to learn 3dsMax character modeling and animation on the side ( I am in College, and work a part-time job) as a hobby, or should I just find an artist or use free models for my game for now?


2. ) If it is a realistic possibility, what kind of hours would I need to put in to be able to create a basic 3D Character Model and create different animations for it ? ( spell-casting, running, etc)




Thanks, Hodgeka

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1. ) Is it a realistic possibility to learn 3dsMax character modeling and animation on the side ( I am in College, and work a part-time job) as a hobby, or should I just find an artist or use free models for my game for now?

It is similar to music. First off, getting an expensive instrument makes it not easier to create good music and eventually you need to pratise a lot to get it right. When you are not studying art you should consider to get a free modelling tool like blender. 3dsMax/ZBrush/Maya etc. are good tools, but very expensive and eventually only tools which will not make it easier to learn art ! I create all my 3D art with blender and I'm quite happy with its features.



2. ) If it is a realistic possibility, what kind of hours would I need to put in to be able to create a basic 3D Character Model and create different animations for it ? ( spell-casting, running, etc)

There's no easy way. You need a lot of practise before being able to get some decent models done, but eventually you will benefit from being able to create your own decent art. But to be honest, you will only be able to do decent art when doing it as hobby. You need to get experiences in modelling, texturing, rigging and animation. When you target human like models, you will need a good grasp of anatomy. From my experiences as programmer doing some decent 3d art, I would say atleast one year practising before you produce your first fully rigged and animated, basic and decent looking model, when done as secondary hobby :P

IMHO: I've got some experiences and I've learned this the hard way (my engine is since 12 years in development :-)):
1. Free models, rigged, good looking, textured and animated are practically none existent !
2. When possible keep away from human looking models, you need to study lot of anatomy to get them right. Fantasy creatures are a lot easier(in my opinion).
3. Decide on a style early. Realistic models are cool, but are extremly expensive to produce(highpoly sclupting -> retopo low poly etc.). For some main chars in current AAA games several experienced artists are involved working on a single character model for months full time !!

When you want to avoid all this, you could buy some models. You can aquire cheap models from i.e. 3drt, but to be honest, to get a decent start you need to invest several $100, but when you bought 3dsMax this sum should be not an issue.

Good luck :D

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Try to get a student edition of 3DS Max, they come cheaper. (personal opinion) Even though Blender3D is very good for its price, it doesn't have the same polish and design behind Autodesk's package (personal opinion).

It's also important to consider that 3DS Max, among other packages, is used throughout the industry (like Blizzard for instance). It's always interesting to be keen on the same tools that professionals use - even if you have no desire at all to become an artist, it's very valuable for you as a student to keep open as many doors as possible. 

Who says you won't get fond of modelling, or maybe develop plugins and tool pipelines for this and other packages?   

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Thanks for the responses! :) Will skills in 3dsMax be transferable to blender? Also I still have the question If these are skills I will be able to be pick up on the side line during my school year?

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Polygon modelling skills are very similar in standard modelling software, so you can start with either of those you have an eye on. Try them and pick the one you find friendlier.

Regarding your second question and following Ashaman73's metaphor: you're playing an instrument. You need to practice. No one can tell you how far you will go - it depends on the amount of time you invest, your awareness, self-criticism and previous artistical experience.

Something to get better results for most of the time regardless of the time spent producing: use visual reference for 'everything', even the simplest of objects. Use them as viewport backgrounds, textured planes or in separate windows for you to ALT+TAB to.

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[color=#1C2837][size=2]One resource that I find to be really useful for 3d characters is mixamo.com. They have a free character creator that lets you customize characters online and import them back into pretty much any game engine or 3D software. The also have a huge collection of [url="mixamo.com/motions"]customizable 3D animations[/url][color=#1C2837][size=2]

that can be applied to the characters. Their animations are really great for indie game developers, their price point is very cheap and their integration into game engines like Unity is seamless.The offer a few free animations, mostly to test out the pipeline before purchasing anything.

[color=#1C2837][size=2]

If you know how to use muddbox and can model pretty well they also have an

autorigger, that automatically rigs your characters online[color=#1C2837][size=2]

. I havent tried it yet but from the videos it looks pretty awesome. Ive saved a ton of time on animations for my next iphone game.

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