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Izunna The Traveler : A Metaverse Experience

Izunna The Traveler : A Metaverse Experience

Jude Uchenna Ugwuanyi
by JudeUgwuanyi on 7 Sep 2023

A medieval Character who can communicate with modern day and even future people and is a blend of cultures between then and now.

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The title of my Project is IZUNNA THE TRAVELER : A METAVERSE EXPERIENCE. He is a medieval character with modern influence capable of communicating with people from the future era. I would be presenting the character under Three appearances : (1) With VR - Headset,  (2) With Hair  (3) With Scalp Only






#029 - CALL OUT SHEET - Albedo, Normal, Wireframe 



A presentation of the hair cap I groomed and baked for the character using Xgen and Substance painter. The cut designs were inspired by the "Merchant's Marks" prevalent in the medieval period, used as a distinctive symbol or logo for a variety of purposes like marking his goods and property, signing documents and as a means of identification. Each Mark on his head is from a previous master who trained him in combat as a certification of having passed through him. I used some of these symbols also while designing tattoo for his arms to increase the medieval feeling in the character. 

For the Scalp, I made three variations to know which was better. Is it the Plane one without any cuts, or the faded one or the one with designs...? The Cut designs were made in Substance Painter, then overlaid as black information over the white Alpha map. I also used Substance Painter for Baking the Alpha and Normal for the scalp... to do this, Just bake your Normal map without diffusion or dilation, export to Photoshop and overlay with white in layer styles. 

I see plenty people struggle to get every inch of their scalp grooming right inside Xgen before exporting for bakes... while this is absolutely wonderful, I think you should have in mind that at the end of the day, it is just black and white information needed, and can always be tweaked and or modified with the help of substance painter and Photoshop.

#026 - UV LAYOUT

I made sure everything about the character was contained in not more than 3 x 4k maps. Optimization was at the fore front of my mind while developing the character. I used Maya for the UV unwrapping since I find it very comfortable. I also used a lot of "Unitize UV Shell" trick to straighten most of the UV Islands with minimal distortions.  I packed the Uvs in blocks, collating similar shells to particular regions of the Uv map to aid easy access and identification during texturing, and It really was helpful. 


These are the Texture Maps generated by Substance Painter. I would highly recommend people to take time and go through the Normal Map thread in Polycount wiki website as there are tons of helpful information with regard to getting good bakes from normal maps; beginning with Modelling (using chamfer/bevel and avoiding 90 degrees most times) to best practices and even how to clean unwanted areas. For the spikes on the shoulder, bevel/chamfer the top vertex so the shared normals is distributed to avoid the weird shading with cones.

For the rope, I ended up using displacement maps I got from https://www.texturecan.com/details/424/#google_vignette

#024 - HAIR CARD

These Hair Cards were made using Xgen  and Arnold. Though I ended up using Marmoset Toolbag 4 for rendering, I made sure to get every necessary map for rendering using Unreal Engine as well. The diffuse map presented here was made lighter for presentation purposes. One thing I would like to point out is that depending on if you used Maya's/Arnold's utility shader to render the normal maps, or Shuma's shader setup, you might have to "flip y" when Rendering in Marmoset Toolbag 4. 

I used GS Curve tools for the placement of the cards for both the hair and fur. It is a fantastic Plugin.

#023 - FUR CARD

For the Fur on the arm of the character, I made use of exactly the same maps I used for the hair cards except the Diffuse map where I made color changes. What you see here is the exact map/color used for rendering. I liked the fact that the hair card could be used in diverse ways. 


After getting to this stage, I reached out for feedback and suggestions from people Through LinkedIn and some of them were kind enough to spare some time out of their busy schedule to reply. I would always be grateful to all of you: Mauro Perini, John Webber, Vincent Gualt, Ronald Gebilaguin, Tristan McGuire, Steve (Kyung Ho) oh, Thorge Paulsen, Kirt Witte, Brian Schindler, Patricia Rodriguez Torroba, Vincent Pamerleau, Jordan Hunter, Hristian Ivanov, Ilia Lezov, Elahe Bayat; Thanks a lot.

 Through their feedback, I was able to push the character further.


I used Four Lights along with the default environment in Marmoset Toolbag 4. After lots of trial and error, I discovered from my research that in film setups, the lights used are usually very large in terms of Area, (I attached One sample in my Reference board) so I went back and did the same. I used Rectangular shapes so I could see the size and moved them away from the character to the point were they were just okay. Honestly, it was a break through moment for me, and I can never be afraid of approaching any lighting scenario ever again. Another helpful tip was to set the lights viewing through them like camera so I got the precise positioning the way I wanted.  

#020 - RIGGING

Advanced Skeleton Rig saved my life. It was easy to learn, easy to use, and efficient in all ramifications. I would devout more time exploring this robust plugin since I've come to realize that better understanding of technical limitations (rigging, deformation, skinning, etc) would aid better character design and even modelling. Anybody out there looking for how to rig and pose your Low poly character, I would 100% recommend this free plugin. Just go grab it from the website and take a few tutorials from it's YouTube channel and you'd be good to go. 


Since after reading "Color and Light" by James Gurney, I was so fired up I started creating systems in photoshop on how to put into practice several of the things he spoke about. This is also largely due to the experience I gathered during my Internship in 2019/2020 as I could totally relate to most of the things he discussed and find them to be absolutely true. His idea of Gamut Mapping and the many types he proposed are pure gold. I am also a very large fan of Andrew Loomis, and in more ways than one, he talked about such similar idea in two of his books. 

Bringing out time to prepare my color palette before texturing was of immense help and speed to me. One tip I would like to share is: After preparing your Platte like I did (in square 1:1 ratio) load it as a color map in a fill layer in Substance Painter, and it would give you amazing color suggestions for various areas of your model. You can even go to the properties section and rotate 90 degrees clock or anti clockwise. 

If you can't prepare your palette directly from color wheel like this, pick any colorful painting you like or that has similar "mood" to one you want to represent and then color pick from that painting using the eyedropper tool in Photoshop and use it to fill in your swatches. Any painting that works or looks good, must have obeyed the rule of Gamut Mapping. 

#018 - RS3d WRAP

I used a combination of TexturingXYZ and 3dScanStore maps to transfer high frequency details to the face and textures as well. I did cleanups in Zbrush and substance painter.

#017 - LOW POLY 

I had to make the character in layers because I imagine him being able to take off the headset when he is not actively engaging in combat activities with people from the future and so we can see him with eyes, hair, and change of clothes between chainmail and fur. Even though I didn't end up making the fur jacket, I could at a later time in the future. 

Total tri - count ended up being 139, 924, including the eyes, hair, and fur. I like how it turned out considering the fact that the character has many props. I was really thinking about optimization throughout the whole process.


These are renderings of the High Poly Versions. I made two variations of the concept - one with chainmail and the other with fur. Initially I wanted to choose and keep just one, but what if I could keep the two such that the player starts the game with the chainmail version and after completing series of contests, it changes to fur as a reward for missions completed? This would also add to the diversity of materials/shaders I would have to work with and I liked the Idea since it presupposes more challenges for me. I ended up with just the chainmail version for the time being, however, I could make the fur jacket anytime in the future especially since I already have the material and colors I like. 


A VR headset designed in the medieval times to take a look into the future and communicate with people. You could set the date, time and location with the exact GPS coordinates and be sure to arrive at your destination in no time. I wanted it to feel like it was designed in the medieval times, and so I imagined the resources available to the scientist / Magician / Astrologer who might have made this and felt that it shouldn't look all polished up like it was made today or in the future. 

I wish I could animate and demonstrate the workings of this headset, but maybe at a later post, I would design a graphic explaining how the lens opens and closes, how the dates rotate, time ticks, etc.

#014 - BAG + SCI - FI  WATCH

This was the stage when I added the detailed version of the bag and sci - fi watch. These are part of the modern influence elements of the design. 


I designed and blocked out the bag pack in marvelous designer. I left out the handles intentionally as I preferred to model them in Maya using Live surface/Quad Draw tool to get them exactly where I wanted. And for the other design elements like buckles and stuffs, It would be a combination of Maya and Zbrush. I also did the retopology of the bag here, exported it in parts into Maya, welded verts, transferred attributes (verts position) and continued working from there on correct topology. I wrote a detailed breakdown of the whole process from Marvelous Desinger to Maya and then Zbrush on my arstation post "clothes part II"  (during the arstation challenge: medieval back and forth) just because it took me so much time to figure this out and I wanted to put the information out there so maybe I could help JUST one person who may be as confused as I was.


I applied high frequency detailing with the exception of the skin which was done using Texturingxyz and 3dscanstore maps. It was thrilling to see how the surface feature in zbrush could be used with custom alphas to achieve a very high end result very fast.


These hairs were all generated using Xgen. I felt really happy when the workflow worked out for me because I haven't seen it in any tutorial nor read about it somewhere. I was just curious and tried it out and am going to spend time on it next time when am making another character. I wrote a detailed breakdown of the workflow in my post in art station (artstation challenge: medieval back and forth), but it would be too long to write here. For those who don't really like zbrush fiber mesh, but can handle xgen, yeti or ornatrix, you should definately check it out... it's a very simple workflow.


For the chainmail, I used IMM brush from Zbrush Central IMM brush repository. Pretty amazing and cool stuffs there. For the Fur, I modelled a few strands and turned them into different clumps, then converted it into IMM insert brush. However, the same technique for making sculpted hairs with xgen (yeti, ornatrix) can be used to make sculpted furs and it gives amazing results also.


I used the blue color as black to see how the design reads in black and white.


I added accessories to make the clothing richer.


This is the stage where I stitch up my garments in Maya, transfer attributes and add thickness if needed n Zbrush. Anyone like me out there who is confused about the Marvelous Designer to Maya and Zbrush workflow do check out this post on art station (artstation challenge : medieval back and forth). One last thing to add to that would be that whenever you use the panel loop function to add thickness, you would lose your Uvs and would have to unwrap it... not a deal breaker, but something you should be aware of if you plan on doing it. 


Designed the clothes in MD and did Retopolgy also. Until I find reasons not to, doing the retopology on a flat 2d pattern in MD is way better than struggling with it in 3d.


I am a very big fan of Andrew Loomis and have read several of his books so I took out the time to make sure the features and proportions of my character are in line with what I learnt from his books.


The anatomy of a small boy was challenging and fun at the same time because how much could be exaggerated in the body of a five year old boy to make him look muscular and built, like a fighter, and still make him feel like a child and not a dwarf. Even though parts of it would be covered up in clothes, Anatomy is fundamental and so I had to do it.


When starting out this project, I knew I wanted the character to be a child, but I wasn't really decided it it would be a boy or a girl child. So I went with the two for a start, and feeling really pumped up and inspired from studying Andrew Loomis's works, I felt a child character would pose more challenges for me - there are lots of base meshes for adult male and female, but I haven't really seen a lot of children base meshes, so I headed in that direction.

I started by modifying an already existing base mesh to get the proportions of various ages using the head unit as a measurement guide. It was literally a transfer of what I learnt from studying Andrew Loomis and I was happy doing it. it was after this stage I picked the Five years male/boy base mesh and continued with it for the concept.


Instead of appending all the images I collated during the course of this project, I decided to single out the MAJOR ones that played a huge part in the inspiration of the concept this would be very obvious by looking at the bag and rife. All images were gotten from Pinterest and are properties of their respective owners. The thought of the VR headset came to my mind after I saw that cyber punk bag pack with dates... and instead of repeating the same design on my bag pack I converted it into vr headset... the round element from the sci-fi hand glove is what I used as the lens on the vr headset... etc. The Lighting Ref displayed here along with many others really help me break past the lighting setback I was experiencing and I hope it does for you as well. 


I decided to reward anyone still reading with the video of the turn table and I hope you enjoy watching them as I believe they're awesome.  I rendered two versions, it took a lot of time, but I believe it was worth it. 


I am so happy to have finally completed my first Real Time Game Character which started during this year's Artstation challenge : Medieval Back and Forth. To remember I designed and modelled everything makes me feel nostalgic in ways words alone can't express. I'm grateful to God, Family, Friends and all the amazing people I reached out to for feedback, for your constant support, patience and understanding. God bless you again and again. I still have quite a long way to go and more to learn, but I'm hopeful to have the opportunity to work with more amazing artists in the future.

Everything was rendered using Marmoset Toolbag 4

Thank you so much my dear reader for taking out time to go through this lengthy post, I do hope you enjoyed every bit of it. 





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