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lougv22

Best ways to obtain an animated 3D model(s) for indie developer

20 posts in this topic

So I am an indie game developer working on a small game in Unity and I am in need of a few animated 3D models. I am currently the only person on the project, other than contracting with a music composer for a few tracks, that is. I am a programmer by education and trade so I cannnot do art and I don't think it wise for me to start learnning how to do it at this point in my career. Even if I do learn, my art would not be nearly as good as the one created by a professional artist and I don't want the rest of my project to suffer because of it. So basically, I need some 3D art and I've come here for an advice on what the best ways to acquire it would be.

 

I've come up with an action plan with several possible avenues of achieving my goal. They are:

 

  1. Find an artist in my local area and pay them to do it for me. I've already tried that and the main problem I keep runnning into is (yea, you guessed it) money, or rather lack of it. It seems the average cost for a simple model with a couple animations is upwards of $1,000. I could afford that, but the problem is I'll need a lot more than a couple animations. As the game I am working on involves fighting gameplay mechanics, I'll need many animations per character, probably about 20, at the very least, i.e. a lot more than $1,000. So that is an option, but it would be very difficult to really get what I want with my limited budget.
  2. Do the initial version myself (in Blender or Unity) and then find an artist to polish it later. Similar problem as #1 above. It'd still cost a lot of money. Plus it'd take time away from my specialty and what I really love doing, i.e. game design and programming.
  3. Find somebody on Fiver.com to do the model(s) for me. I heard about this site from a co-worker, but I haven't really given it a try. Supposedly you can find people there to do all sorts of art for very affordable prices. Has anybody had any experience with that site? Is it legit? Do they really deliver anything good for such low costs? Sounds to me like one of those things in life that's too good to be true.
  4. Request/hire an artist to do it for me on OpenGameArt.org (or another similar site). This actually seems like a really good option. It's likely I could find an artist there who'd be open to negtioation as far as the cost is concerned. Has anybody here done that and if so, what was your experience and did they deliver good art?
  5. Figure out how to generate animated 3D models with Kinect. This is something I only learned about very recently and it actually sounds like an exciting and really goood option. You can purchase a stand alone Kinect for about $300 and the necessary capture softare for a few hundreds dollars more so the cost would be lower than hiring an actual 3D artist. You can scan a person performing the animations you want, then generate an animated 3D model from it, and finally import it in Unity. Of course, it's not as simple as that. You'd still have to do some mesh clean up an so forth, but even with that it's a lot less work than creating a model from scratch. Has anyone here tried this and if so, did you have any success with generating good 3D models and actually using them in a game?

So I need some advice on which of the options above seem best for a lone wolf indie developer with a limited budget? Or are there any other alternatives I should pursue?

 

Thanks in advance.

Edited by lougv22
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6. Find a local artist in your area who you trust and form a partnership / shared LLC. You're now a 2-man indie shop instead of a lone indie. Finding someone who's unemployed and willing to basically remain unemployed (unpaid) while also working a full-time job is tough though!

 

@Hodgman,

 

Thanks for the answer. There a couple of problems with this though: as you said, finding someone who is willing to work for free would be very, very hard to do. Besides, I don't want anybody doing stuff for me for free. I wouldn't feel right about it and also, people aren't nearly as motivated when they work for free as when they know they have to deliver something good in order to get paid. And as soon as they find a job that pays them they'd be gone.

 

@welly_59,

 

I actually tried that already. I had found a game artist student from a local university who was willing to do the art for me at a reasonable price, but then he was told by his professor that, as his copy of 3ds Max was a student one, he wasn't allowed to profit from any work created on it. Apparently it's a restriction on student versions of that software.

 

@jbadams,

 

Great idea! Thanks! I hadn't thought about that. It sounds like I could get what I need for a reasonable price. I'll do some research on that one.

 

Anyone else have any other ideas/comments to offer?

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Besides, I don't want anybody doing stuff for me for free. I wouldn't feel right about it and also, people aren't nearly as motivated when they work for free as when they know they have to deliver something good in order to get paid. And as soon as they find a job that pays them they'd be gone.
If it's a partnership, they'd be working free for you just as much as you're working free for them. You're both paying yourself in equity (owning the company, which owns the game). The company is only going to make money and then be able to pay you both a salary if the work that you both do is good.

If someone is going to run off to the first paying job that appears, then that person is not going to try and found their own company in the first place (i.e. you're not going to partner with those kinds of people). Anyone who's going to sign on as a founder of a company is going to be pretty damn dedicated to the project.

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I second jbadams:

 

7.  Purchase suitable "stock" assets

 

Since you do it in unity, you can obviously take advantage of the unity asset store:

https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/

Can't you find something suitable there? It'd save you lots of time and money.

 

Otherwise, there are many sites out there selling further 3D models, from big protals to small one man web stores. I'd first check them out to see if you find what you need, or something close enough.

Edited by creatures-of-gaia.com
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I second jbadams:

 

7.  Purchase suitable "stock" assets

 

Since you do it in unity, you can obviously take advantage of the unity asset store:

https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/

Can't you find something suitable there? It'd save you lots of time and money.

 

Otherwise, there are many sites out there selling further 3D models, from big protals to small one man web stores. I'd first check them out to see if you find what you need, or something close enough.

 

@creatures-of-gaia.com

 

Thanks for your answer! I have not really looked into the Unity store for this particular thing, but I'll definitely check it out now.

 

Can you give me some examples of sites selling 3D models, other than TurboSquid, that is. I know about that one and they don't have what I need there.

 

On another note, has anyone here played around with Daz3D? I found out about it the other day, but I am not really sure what it is. Looks like you can buy 3D models and they have some software application of their own, but I am not sure what it does. Is it a 3D modeling tool, similar to Blender, Maya, or 3DsMax or what? Can Daz3D be used to customize 3D models to your liking and then export them into an FBX (for example) format for use in Unity?

 

@Serapth,

 

What exactly is Mixamo? I've never heard about it.

 

So nobody commented on the possibility of using Kinect to generate animated 3D models. I know it can be done because at the latest Game Development Association meeting in my area another developer actually brought a Kinect and demonstrated how to capture animations with it and then generate animated 3D models for use in Unity. The only thing I am wondering is, how feasible this really is, and how much work would it involve? Would it be more difficult  than, say, modifying an existing stock asset?

 

And finally, has any of you played the fighting games Soul Calibur III, IV, or V? The reason why I am asking is because there is an awesome character creation mode in those games. You can pick between multiple face types, body types, skin colors, hair types and colors, head outfits, arms outfits, etc., etc. Essentially you can make your character look like anything you want and then use them in the game. So ideally, I am looking for something like this for creating 3D models. For example, a program, not for 3D modeling, but where anybody with little or no art skills, can go in there and put together a 3D model from a variety of available assets, and then export it into whatever format they need. I'd pay good money for something like that.

Edited by lougv22
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So nobody commented on the possibility of using Kinect to generate animated 3D models. I know it can be done because at the latest Game Development Association meeting in my area another developer actually brought a Kinect and demonstrated how to capture animations with it and then generate animated 3D models for use in Unity. The only thing I am wondering is, how feasible this really is, and how much work would it involve? Would it be more difficult  than, say, modifying an existing stock asset?

It sounds like a really interesting idea, but I don't have any personal experience with it or know of any related resources -- I'd love to know more myself if you're able to find anything or if you end up trying it out though!

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So nobody commented on the possibility of using Kinect to generate animated 3D models. I know it can be done because at the latest Game Development Association meeting in my area another developer actually brought a Kinect and demonstrated how to capture animations with it and then generate animated 3D models for use in Unity. The only thing I am wondering is, how feasible this really is, and how much work would it involve? Would it be more difficult  than, say, modifying an existing stock asset?

It sounds like a really interesting idea, but I don't have any personal experience with it or know of any related resources -- I'd love to know more myself if you're able to find anything or if you end up trying it out though!

I've seen it used professionally at my last job. There's plugins for animation software such as MotionBuilder that can directly interface with the Kinnect as a motion-capture device. AFAIK, there's also some open-source standalone apps to do the same.
 
It's the same as any motion-capture system. Raw mo-cap data is never fed directly into a game, ready to use. Mo-cap data is a starting point for an animator, who then has to do a lot of work with it in their animation package (MotionBuilder, etc) to clean it up and get it ready for use as a final game-ready animation.
 
N.B. that even professional-grade mo-cap systems -- where you're spending tens of thousands on rent, actors and operators -- you still need a skilled animator to take the recorded data and turn it into a game-ready animation. Kinnect is a poor-man's replacement, so the data is worse quality, so there's even more work for the animator to do in the "clean-up" phase...
 
It's a great time-saver for an animator, but it's not a replacement for having a skilled animator.

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Fuse is very close to being useful. You can simply build character models from stock parts, then buy animations for them from Mixamos site. However the model parts are rather limited and you can only export one model a week (without paying a lot of money)

also the stock walking/running pack is ~$500 (though it is customisable). Maybe keep an eye on the software though to see if it gets better (as it's still in its early stages)

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I know this is kind of a late answer, but I just wanted to thank everybody who replied to this topic. You guys were very helpful. After much research and deliberation I decided to go with Mixamo Fuse. It seems to be best suited for creating game ready characters for Unity and it has a royalty free game developer license. In also has a very extensive animations library and if, even then, the animation you want is not there, you can request an animation from Mixamo. They also have support for motion capture and, from what I read on the Unity message boards, it works really well and the models captured are very well cleaned up.

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Your lowest risk is using fiverr, and it is a good site also. People are willing to do a lot for so little there.

I would check that out first, as I think I have seen some 3d artists on there. You could even get voice actors and musicians.

One thing I would suggest is that you offer more than 5$ to them for the complexity of work you want, that way they will not feel they are getting used. Work out a deal.

Mixamo will cost you money, and if you need stuff other than characters, like props and such, mixamo doesn't offer a good selection.

You could try out iclone as well.

I am flying solo also, and have a bunch of workarounds if you have any questions.
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This seems like a situation where that Qumarion USB doll would be useful, if it were available overseas* and were easy to purchase like most consumer electronics: http://www.clip-studio.com/quma/en/products

*There are services in Japan that receive packages for you and ship them to your overseas address for a relative fee, such as J.I.G.S Shop. I've used this agent several times to acquire items that aren't shipped outside of Japan.

Like most fine-art creative work, making original animation is a time consuming process and requires experience. It's expensive. Edited by Kryzon
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In the long term, you get what you pay as far as 3D.


Thanks for the answer. There a couple of problems with this though: as you said, finding someone who is willing to work for free would be very, very hard to do. Besides, I don't want anybody doing stuff for me for free. I wouldn't feel right about it and also, people aren't nearly as motivated when they work for free as when they know they have to deliver something good in order to get paid. And as soon as they find a job that pays them they'd be gone.

 

Bingo!  The 3D artist spent years and thousands of hours to reach a level of quality worthy of most games.  It is a profession in its own right.

 

The dedicated 3D artist who wants to earn a living at it is very motivated to promote a career.  You must offer something to them of real value or they will not be interested.  That could be money, it could be a share in the profits of the game, or it could be the opportunity to grow with your organization if you are found of value as well.

 

A true artist is looking at risks compared with a return on the hard work.  As a 3D artist myself, I can tell you that it sure is hard work. We have current living expenses which are constantly reminding us that we need to get paid for our art work and long hours.

 

I have seen several disgruntled artists leave organizations because:

 

1) They were not getting paid enough.

2) Artistic liberty was infringed.

3) There was no future in the present project or maybe the whole company looks toward an inevitable dead end.

 

The result was that much needed 3D work was not delivered in a timely manner and sometimes not at all when a 3D artist left the company.

 

Coders are under a ton of pressure because if delays are too severe, then artists can jump ship like the plague hit the ship!  Some companies with budgets keep the artists happy and food on their tables, perhaps by working on multiple projects according to priority. You would be amazed at how much art content can be created even before a single line of coding is written.

 

In the meantime, you can use place-holder 3D objects in areas that need to be developed and will allow for that. This will enable you to keep development moving and is standard method for indy and small game development companies. Even a Proof-Of-Concept version of your game can use a lot of placeholders.

 

Cost for 3D work ranges from $15 - $ 45 per hour depending on skill and experience. Some world class artists make six digit incomes per year in conjunction with their non-game related 3D work such as for Hollywood motion pictures. They fill gaps with game 3D work sometimes.

 

Students are your best source for 3D work at this stage, but you MUST offer them something of value to retain them past the first model or they will lose interest very soon.

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@3dDreamer,

 

I've already tried the student route and didn't work out for me (look at one of my posts above for the reasons why). You are absolutely right that good 3D artists don't come cheap. That's one of the reasons why I decided to go with a character creator. I've been using Mixamo Fuse for a few weeks now and it's been working great for me. The basic version doesn't have a whole lot of customization options, but it's free. It's good enough to create your own 3D character and animate him. They have a TON of animations to choose from and most of them are very affordable (less than $30). The export process is a breeze and their models work just fine with Unity.

 

So the bottom line is, for an indie developer such as myself, a character creator fits the bill perfectly. The only thing I am really losing is detailed customization of my characters, but that's a sacrifice I am more than willing to take, considering I am not attempting to make a AAA game. I spent months last year trying to find a 3D artist to do a simple animated model for me, with just 2-3 animations. One quoted me a price of $25 an hour. Another said it'd be $1,100. I understand where they are coming from, i.e. they went to school for a long time and have a ton of experience behind their back, but the fact of the matter is I got very satisfactory results from Mixamo Fuse for free or for a small fraction of the costs mentioned above. Of course, if you want the full version of Fuse it'll cost you (something like $1500 per year for full access), but it comes with unlimited rigging and animations.

Edited by lougv22
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loug,

 

 Its seems that you found a perfect fit for your situation.  I believe that your original post shows that you are pragmatic about your growth.

 

If things go well for you, then you may someday find the custom meshes, rigging, textures, and animations are the only way to:

 

1)  Display an original game concept which sets your game apart from the large number of them out there.

 

2)  Grabs the attention of end users will a unique gaming experience.

 

As you advance in game devevelopment, then you will realize even more how critical these issues are for profitability, but for now you have found a solution which takes you

to the next level.

 

I believe that you will do well.

Edited by 3Ddreamer
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loug,

 

 Its seems that you found a perfect fit for your situation.  I believe that your original post shows that you are pragmatic about your growth.

 

If things go well for you, then you may someday find the custom meshes, rigging, textures, and animations are the only way to:

 

1)  Display an original game concept which sets your game apart from the large number of them out there.

 

2)  Grabs the attention of end users will a unique gaming experience.

 

As you advance in game devevelopment, then you will realize even more how critical these issues are for profitability, but for now you have found a solution which takes you

to the next level.

 

I believe that you will do well.

 

Thank you!

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