So I’ve been working on various aspects of DIVERSE for a while now, and to this day I hadn’t been happy with the design of the main character. Not on a basic design level you understand, Dylan Banks did a fantastic job on the original design, but on how the character had translated into a 3D mesh, which was my doing.
So the purpose of this, still ongoing project, has been to rework the 3D implementation of the Aidan design, as well come up with a few more costumes, and ultimately to rig and get the model UE4 ready.
There will be some steps that are either skimmed over or skipped entirely, as covering the entire project step for step would be arduous.
So we’ve seen the concept art above, but what has the current model looked like?
So other than banking a lot of detail on textures and the frankly awful hair mesh (and the glove, which we did redesign anyway), this one is pretty on par with the concept. So what’s the issue? Well aside from some optimization issues, from a purely visual perspective the main issue I had found was that 1) Aidan looks older than he should be, and 2) He’s almost too serious, sure we want a more mature narrative but he’s almost gritty in design.
I also hate how I built the outfit, as it makes giving him anything new to wear in-game a difficult task going forward.
So going forward, taking inspiration from recent games like Breath of the Wild and Overwatch, I decided if we’re going to go for a semi-cartoon art style, then let’s go for a softer and more youthful protagonist; and most importantly I need to build the mesh with an underbody to build future outfits on. Which we will then do using a fantastic program called Marvelous Designer.
So after a cumulative day or two’s work, here is the new Aidan base mesh.
From here we have to UV map the mesh before we do a detail sculpt otherwise we cannot generate normal maps and it will also make texturing impossible until we do so.
In the event you were wondering, this is what a freshly made mesh like this looks like in the UV layout.
It’s complete jibberish, you wouldn’t be able to texture this model, and an auto-uv process would be very unclean and likely lead to a lot of artifacts.
We’ll start with an Auto-Unwrap on the entire mesh, mostly just so we can start to distinguish what the UV is before moving forward.
Now, in theory at least, you could texture off this map but the UV’s are so small that short of working at a massive resolution you wouldn’t be able to get much small detail in clearly and there are likely some sections that overlap or are improperly scaled.
So we’ll select the edges of the torso, and use UV Edge Cut to break it away from the rest of the UV Map. At which point we’ll then cut some seams along its sides so that it can unfold to be flat.
The highlighted edges in the image below were where we cut the mesh to flatten it.
We will continue doing this across the entire body, breaking it into sections and then creating seams to flatten the sections out as much as possible. Eventually we will have something like this:
This layout isn’t perfect and may get tweaked before all is said and done, but the general idea is to get all polygons flattened out and fairly to scale.
The hands are still fairly crappily laid out, but they should texture just fine, and we won’t be detailing them blindly on the UV map like we might have in the old days.
One way you can verify the UV is layed out properly is to lay a checkerboard texture across the mesh. The squares ideally should be all around the same size, and stay fairly square in ratio and that they skew as little as possible.
There are a few skewed squares, but this layout should work alright at least in this early stages.
One thing you’ll note is that the eyes, teeth, and tongue were absent from the UV map and that is because we’ll be doing them on their own maps later to make shaders easier going forward. For now, they’re just hauntingly untextured.
So now we have a base mesh, and a UV layout, it’s time to move forward into a higher resolution detail sculpt in Mudbox. I’ll be covering that in the next post.