Game Ready 3D Characters
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Game Ready 3D Characters

Mitchell Russell
by mitchrussell on 1 Jun 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Two of my University projects completed for my final year at Staffordshire University. Fan Art pieces of Merrick from Sea of Thieves and the Hobbes inspired by the game Fable 2. Here you will be able to see my breakdowns and journey through both of my projects.

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Project 1 - Sea of Thieves Fan Art: Merrick

This project was completed for my final year project at university. The final year project is slightly different in the duration as the project starts in semester 1 and continues through till the end of semester 2.

As of this I tasked myself to create a brief that I would work on throughout my third year. I had to come up with an idea that was complex enough to fill the time allotted. I wanted to formulate a project that would be a challenge and give me an opportunity to practice techniques and learn new methods.

The brief I give myself, was taking the character Merrick and seeing if I could do my own version. I felt like doing a redesign was a good direction, as it allowed some freedom within creating this character. At the very start I challenged myself to create a likeness within the games’ unique art style, however this was my first time and felt like replicating it 1 to 1 was not the best route. After I finished the head sculpt, I knew this was the best direction for me to go in.

For the redesign I wanted it to be something that could have easily fit within the game itself. After researching deeper into the character, I found that he was in the game initially and then removed for a period. After this period, he was bought back with a whole new purpose and look, as of this I saw an opportunity to create a new design. I tried to answer the question of what did he look like in his time out of the game?

Short process of the project plan and the direction I took with this project

I started with the questions previously mentioned and tried to answer certain questions that I has set for myself. Moving throughout the project you can see the direction I took it in, then at the end you can see the final renders as a comparison to the photobash design I created.

I think I answered the question successfully, I have been able to achieve the similarities to the game's art style as well as find a middle ground of what the character could have looked like whilst out of the game. In hindsight, the overall design could have been pushed a little further to potentially add more similarities between the two designs. This would then create more of an obvious link to the current design within the game. Although, I do think that possibly taking it to another extreme and making him look totally different, is something that could have also worked. The design in its current state is quite reminiscent of the older design, I think moving further away from this could also create interesting outcomes.

High poly turnaround

Here is the final high poly sculpt of Merrick. Overall I think this has came out well. There are a few areas that do need a little bit more development to push it closer to the Sea of Thieves art style. Looking at the clothing and sculpting of the fabric, this is where I think the most time should be spent. Sculpting the folds in the clothes I found to be the most difficult part of this project.

I had found some really useful reference from an artist called Matt Wilkins on Artstation, who also works for Rare. On their post they broke down how they sculped the cloth on a Blunderbuss that was put into the game. This was a really insightful article on showing how they approached this at Rare. Trying to emulate this was difficult but I think with more practice this is an area I want to definitely improve.

More of a slight minor issue is looking back at the project I think that the body proportionally is slightly off. I think the body is a little too small for the head. I think the torso could be slightly long as could the legs.

Unposed model turnaround

Here is the model before it has been posed. This allows to see what changes have been made to the body and the face.

Final model progress shots

Here is a selection of images showing the different stages of the model; Low poly with no maps, Wireframes, all maps applied and then the final render.

This gives a nice look into the final model as a whole, as well as showing the different stages.

What I think would work well to push this further is to do an additional pose where a prop is incorporated. Something similar to the photobash design. Adding an instrument, fishing rod or even something as small as a tankard could could create a really nice alternate version of the final piece.

Final close up beauty renders

Here you can see the detail of the model closer up to see the upper, middle and lower sections of the model. Giving a better at the texture and bakes on the model. Additionally, helping to view the model better seen as the model itself is quite tall.

Merrick model viewer

Here you can see the separate maps and topology for the model.

As previously mentioned within the first process slider I struggled to find any concrete information for workflows and technical restrictions that Rare specifically used for their game. As this was something I needed to pull reference from for my project I decided to opt for a game that was fairly similar with art style, that game being Overwatch.

I was able to find an 80 Level article online talking about Tri counts and maps used for the characters within that game. So comparing my model with the Overwatch models I thought it would be best to look at similar body types as well as how much detail is within their design. Due to Merrick having a lot of elements I felt that looking at the more populated characters would be the best approach. From what I found 40-45k Tris was roughly the range for a similar model from Overwatch. As for the texture maps I wanted to ensure they weren't too cramped, I felt that having 3x 2048 maps would retain the resolution well due to their being a lot of elements within them.

I think that the final tri count was possibly higher than it needed to be. Overall, the topology is clean and contains good animation loops for the character. Termination is fairly efficient on this model also. Although, areas such as the teeth could be optimised greatly as they are far too dense and if reduced the overall tri count would be much lower.

Tri count

39,995 - Total 

UV Maps

3x 2048 Maps - Body, Clothing + Rope, Accessories

Software Used:

Zbrush - High Poly

3Dcoat - Retopology

3DS Max - Unwrap, Rigging & Skinning, Posing

Substance Painter + Photoshop - Texturing

Project 2  - VIVA LA HOBBES!

This project was created for one of my modules during my 3rd Year at University. The idea for the brief was decided on by me as this is how this specific module was structured. This meant that the; idea, design and technical restraints were also decided by me to create the game ready character seen below.

The character itself is a Fan Art recreation of the Hobbes from one of my all time favourite games, Fable 2. I wanted to explore this weird character since its nature within the game is a weird and unpredictable one. I felt like there was an opportunity to create a fun narrative with this project as well as a chance to explore some techniques, like rigging the face, that I had not used prior to this project. To elaborate, I wanted to approach this project with the intention of trying include a narrative that ties together my final renders. From very early on I wanted to try and get across the personality of these creatures, the best way I felt was to set a theme and go from there.

The theme I went for was Rebellion/Resistance as this was something that I thought played into their personality quite well. The Hobbes as a whole have quite a juxtaposed personality. The personality traits of the Hobbes are very much bold yet timid, they are willing to charge into battle but get terrified by the slightest noise. Baring this in mind I wanted to try and convey this as much as possible throughout and hopefully capture the opposing traits of this character.

In hindsight, to push this project further the main thing I would like to improve is to make the overall design more complex. As the initial design was based off of concept images from the card game 'Fable Fortune'. Opting for more of a simple design works okay but I think pushing this further would really help to sell the main aim of the project.

Initial Design stage to render

Here is a short process view that shows the initial photobashed design with an old version of the model used as a base. This shows the development, going from initial design to the final render. The images used are not mine, they were sourced from the internet to help build reference for the over all design. Taking reference from concept art from the Fable games as well as Fable Fortunes card art.

High poly turnaround

Here are the turnarounds for the final model. Full body as well as the shield and arrows. To improve,  I think a lot more detail can definitely be added in the high poly stage. I think this would of benefitted the later stages of the process. Adding fabric textures and maybe skin pore details will  really help to try and push the model that bit further. Currently the model relies on the materials and textures, creating a bit of a challenge.

Unposed model turnaround

Here is the Hobbe before being posed, showing of a turnaround to see the model. This allows to see the changes made to the body and face when it has been posed.

Final model progress shots

Here is a selection of images showing the different stages of the model; Low poly with no maps, Wireframes, all maps applied and then the final render.

This gives a nice look into the final composition as a whole, as well as showing the different stages.

What I think could take this a step further is possibly creating a small diorama to place the Hobbes into. Having extra elements to emphasize the battle scene more. Even just including some more arrows flying overhead could possibly work quite nice.

Final beauty renders

Here you can see the final together and close up renders of the final Hobbe model. 

I think that these showcase the model quite well in the two poses created for this character. As well as the joint render, I think that having these two together works well to create a small scene that contains the narrative I set out to achieve.

Hobbe model viewer

Here you can see the separate maps and topology for the model.

Below is the break down of the final game ready model. Opting for the Tri Count to be no higher than 30k. Trying to optimise this as much as possible seen as the model is fairly a small model and doesn't need to be too dense. I do think that the model could be more optimised and have a lower count. Areas such as the neck topology would be a lot better if it was terminated later in the mesh. This didn't cause any issues in posing but may cause issues seen as this area would deform if the model was to be fully animated.

I would say that the textures have came out nice as well as the roughness. Although, I do think that the shield could have a lot more variation within the colour as well as in the roughness to break up much more.

Tri counts

29,916 - Total

27,712 - Hobbe

2,204 - Shield & Arrows

UV Maps

2x 2048 Maps - Body (including teeth, fingernails etc) and Clothing

1x 1024 Map - Accessories (Shield and Arrows)

Software Used:

Zbrush - High Poly

3Dcoat - Retopology

3DS Max - Unwrap, Rigging & Skinning, Posing

Substance Painter + Photoshop - Texturing


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