In this article we will tell you about the process of creating a 3D character using the example of the main boss of a virtual reality game from Lookinar. In this case, the complexity of the protagonist is maximum, so the timing and list of works are appropriate. Below you will find the final version of 3D character.
Stage 1 Concept
Stage duration – 2 weeks.
Stage description – creating a basic idea of the character and defining his appearance.
As with any business, everything starts with a plan. In 3d modeling, such a plan is the concept of a future character. In our case, we created the main boss for a virtual reality game. We had a general idea that this should be a terrifying character, not ugly, but mysterious. Our task example to the screenwriter is presented below:
A tall (giant) thin body with a face hidden by a hood, wearing a mackintosh that flutters and is torn. Additional accessories that can be possible: chains, belts, windings on the limbs, ropes. The hero should be scary, but not disgusting. The general atmosphere can be seen in the attached pictures.
Having received the input, the concept designer started to develop the character sketches, taking into account our wishes. More than 10 different options were made from which we chose those concepts that, in our opinion, most closely coincided with our vision.
Having defined the basic concept, we moved on to finding out the details – wings, weapons, chains, mackintosh, etc.
After agreeing on the main elements, we moved on to the definition of things hidden from the eye – methods of armor and wings attaching. These are important points that must be worked out at the concept stage, since in the future 3D modelers and 3D animators will face difficulties when animating a character.
Having figured out the structure of our character, we moved on to his clothes. Now it was necessary to determine what materials and where are used. This is also being worked out at the concept stage, as it allows you to form a complete image of the character being developed.
As a result, after long approvals, we got the final concept of our main enemy, the final boss of our game in virtual reality.
Stage 2 Blocking
Stage duration – 1 week.
Stage description – building the proportions of the body parts of the future character.
The final concept was given to the 3D artist, who began developing the 3D character by creating a basic skeleton. The very body of the antagonist was made in the Zbrush program. A skeletal creature was created with a kind of muscle frame, so that in the future it would be easier to place clothing and armor.
After the base was created, it was time for the Maya program and there they modeled a block of armor, very lowpoly, in order to understand whether it looks good on the body. When everything was adjusted in the same program, wings were created from swords.
Stage 3 Sculpting
Stage duration – 4 weeks.
Stage description – development of the most detailed 3D model.
Realizing what was where, the 3D modeler began to develop a highpoly character model. It should be noted that this task requires knowledge of human anatomy, and not superficial, but deep, on a level with medical professionals. Only excellent understanding of the human skeleton structure allows you to create characters that will look like human beings (or be similar, as in our case).
At this stage, the modeler must use all the skills and knowledge when creating a model, since in the future there will be no good possibility to change the shape of the created character.
An interesting detail – despite the absence of character’s legs and the fact that he hovers above the ground, the modeler must work out the skeleton and bones of an ordinary person, including the hip joint. Only by understanding the location and angle of bones rotation, you can correctly pose and make animations similar to the real world.
Having created the character model, it is time to make the numerous chains that wrap around the wings and connect the blocks of armor. The type of links in the chains was different in shape. But that was just the smallest problem. Initially, there was an attempt to make chains in the Zbrush program, but after several attempts it became clear that this program works irrationally by linking solid objects to each other. We have refused this decision.
The MASH toolkit was used, which appeared in the latest versions of Maya program. Everything worked wonderfully and clearly. At the same time, work began on the antagonist’s weapon, as chains were also wrapped around it.
It was time to move on to the next part of the plan and we started to work with numerous fabrics. Having resolved the concept into its components, it became clear that the clothing itself consists of three main layers. The first hoodie is under the armor, the rest are on top. The best program for creating fabrics is Marvelous Designer.
The peculiarity of this program is that, as in real life, patterns are first created in it and their parts are sewn together. The first hoodie was sewn and adjusted to fit the armor, then the rest parts were added. Hard work began with folds on each of the hoodies so that they did not overlap each other, looked organically and matched the concept.
When the clothing stage was completed, it was time to start with the fabrics on the wings. They are not symmetrical, the patterns with the distribution of the fabric are different there. Each wing has four different layers of fabric. When this process was completed, all the fabrics were exported to Zbrush and all the rips and small holes were made there.
Then, in Maya and Zbrush, highpoly models of armor and weapons were created with all dents and scuffs.
Stage 4 Retopology
Stage duration – 1 week.
Stage description – reducing the number of polys to the optimal
When the highpoly model of our hero was ready, it was time for retopology. The fact is, a highpoly model, as its name implies, has a large number of polys, which means it weighs a lot. The use of such models in games is simply unreasonable – all the computing power of a computer or mobile phone will be spent on loading such a highpoly model. And if there is not one 3D model, but hundreds of them, then the game will simply crash and the user will be unhappy. That is why, on the basis of a highpoly model, a lowpoly model is created, which weighs thousands of times less and therefore can be safely used in games.
This stage was worked out in the Maya program. For this, a highpoly model was taken and new polys are drawn from above, there are much fewer of them. This is a rather monotonous, but very necessary job.
Stage 5 Unwrapping and baking
Stage duration – 3 days.
Stage description – transferring a three-dimensional model to a plane surface in order to apply texture, transferring parts from a highpoly model to a lowpoly model.
At this stage, it is necessary to so an unwrap. It will allow you to transfer three-dimensional models to a plane surface. This will help to put textures on them. The unwrap is always created from the lowpoly model. The model was exported to UV Layout in order to make a uv-layout of it for further baking and texturing.
For the baking stage, when the normal, curvature and ambient occlusion map is removed from the highpoly model, we used the Marmoset Toolbag program. All the pieces of the highpoly model and the lowpoly model were loaded in parts into this program and baked in several stages.
Stage 6 Texturing
Texturing time – a week
Stage description – applying textures to models for the purpose of transfer.
Then it’s time to texture the model. The lowpoly model has been sent to Substance Painter program. All the maps previously generated in Marmoset were loaded into it and the painting process began. First, a layer of metal lay on the armor, then a layer of rust and corrosion.
The fabrics were painted in slightly different shades so that they do not run into one another. Then a darker shade was added to the bottom and complemented with blood stains in Photoshop. This was followed by a very hard work to create a transparency map so that all the torn parts look more natural.
At this stage, the creation of the model can be considered complete. The result was worth all the effort and time spent.
However, it should be noted that our hero is not yet showing sparks of life – he froze in one position and is just waiting in the wings. Rigging, skinning and animation are still ahead. These are the last stages that let our anti-hero with move and allow to carry out his direct duties – to destroy, break and kill.