Although the workflow for developing 3D characters can vary from studio to studio, the fundamental steps are always the same. The fundamental methodology and important phases of modelling 3D video game characters are covered below.
Table of Content:
3D Game Character Modeling Main Stages of the Pipeline
- Concept : Making a 2D drawing or concept that would depict the shape, position, materials, and overarching design direction of the next 3D character design
- Sculpt : Using Zbrush to create a high poly model
- Retopology : Creating a low-poly version of a high-poly model
- UV Mapping : Any 3D programme, such as Blender, Maya 3DCoat, can be used to map a 2D image onto a 3D model’s surface.
- Texturing : Although a 2D artist can help generate hand-painted textures in Photoshop, Substance Painter works wonderfully for typical texturing chores.
- Rigging : Blender or Maya can be used to create a “skeleton” with “joints” for the character to work with animation in the future.
- Animation : If necessary, it can also be done in Maya.
Creating 2D concept for 3D character
Without a solid concept, the 3D character creator won’t be able to accurately recreate the character be it a regular 3D Character or 3D anime Character the game designer or another partner studio on whose project we work has imagined it. It’s preferable to present the character at this point from at least three different perspectives (front, back, and side), and to make sure that all of the materials and accessories are clear and simple to identify. Sometimes concept artists produce work of such high calibre that it can be applied straight to the model; however, this is more often done for props than for character art.
This is the time to redesign the idea as a 3D cartoon character model. For sculpting, there are many tools available, including ZBrush, Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, and Blender. However, Zbrush is regarded as the top option for sculpting projects.
The main silhouette of the character is blocked out throughout the sculpting process. Blocking out, also known as blocking in, is the practise of using cubes, cylinders, planes, spheres, and other simple geometric forms to represent the size of a gaming area or a 3D character and to plan how it will travel through it. The artist then creates the fundamental shapes, the hard surfaces, and the finer details like muscles, creases, and wrinkles using various brushes. The artist defines the shapes that will make up the mesh through topology. The artist can anticipate performing a retopology later to tidy up the model for simpler animation.
This is the procedure for modifying the model’s surface to reduce the quantity of polygons. All 3D game assets must be correctly optimised in order for the system requirements to be acceptable for a seamless gaming experience, as the majority of games rely on the players’ hardware to function effectively. Solutions like SpeedRetopo, Retopoflow 3, Softwrap, and Instant Meshes are highly helpful and are available in Blender. On the other hand, Maya provides pretty strong retopology tools that can be both effective and occasionally automated. In the end, it all comes down to your choices and the end result; for the more intricate sculptures, working manually with all of its planes and edges is required.
A UV map can be compared to the 3D mesh’s unwrapped, flattened 2D skin. UV mapping is used to create texture and modify a scene’s lighting and composition. The artist will frequently perform additional retopology at this point and bake the high polygon features into a low poly model. Baking in this context refers to compiling or preparing data at build time for usage in the game. Because doing so in-game in real-time would be unreasonable, expensive, and time-consuming, the data is preprocessed. Lighting and texture data are frequently pre-calculated through baking.
Texturing and Shaders
The 3D model was sent to the texture artist with a flat, shaded colour. They design and use textures, mixing hand-painted textures with skin or fabric scans, as well as colour, reflection, displacement, reflection, filth, damage, illumination, and other map layers. 3D models don’t always need textures, but they occasionally do. In fact, texturing can develop into a complete independent process, particularly when hand-painted textures are involved. The creation of textures and materials is the sole concentration of the texturing artist, a specialist in the field of game art. Substance Painter, Substance Designer, and 3D Coat are some of the most used tools for working with textures.
Rigging, also referred to as skeleton animation, is the process of giving a 3D character model control. It specifies the gait and movement options for your 3D model character. Rigged objects include anything, not only human models. Bones, sockets, and connections are added by the artist in accordance with the rules of the game. Character animation is made simpler by rigging, which also improves production effectiveness.
Another time-consuming step in the creation of 3D characters is this one. The animations for walking, falling, sprinting, stooping, tossing, dying, shooting, receiving damage, chatting, etc. are all finished here by the game developers. The model is moved, rotated, and scaled by the animator to imitate various movements and poses using the bones that were inserted during rigging. The positions of the model are saved on the timeline after the animator is happy with them.
Be aware that not every 3D artist is capable of handling every facet of 3D character creation. While some exclusively work on modelling, others also work on rigging and animation.
The VFX stage uses physics-based simulation instead of 3D modelling to create more complicated aspects of a 3D game, such as explosions, fluids, fur, etc. They make use of premium effects programmes like VEGAS Effects.
By accurately reflecting the setting, time of day, tone of the shot, etc., effective lighting enhances a scene. The goal is to give the image and the 3D model a more believable and realistic appearance. When exploring a game area or a 3D model character, a professional lighting artist can employ lighting to direct the viewer’s attention.
The last phase of production is when each scene, including the backgrounds, foregrounds, colours, objects, highlights, and shadows, is produced separately in layers. Depending on how complicated the scene is, rendering a single scene can take just a few seconds or as long as many days. Post-production is where final adjustments and fine-tuning are made once rendering is finished.
In order to continue modelling on the primary system while rendering takes hours on the secondary one, many professional 3D artists use separate hardware for rendering.
Compositing and Colour Correction
The final phase of creating a 3D gaming character is called post-production. At this point, the game development team completes the finishing touches and renders the finished product. To make the project look polished and professional, they add the finishing touches. Composting is the process used by game developers to combine all of the produced 3D objects. The composite photos are then color-corrected or color-graded to remove any colouring and produce a clean, unified appearance.
Final Output – Complete 3D Character Model
The process of building a 3D character model that users can use on their mobile devices has come to a finish. Even after the game has been finished and released, the game development process is still ongoing. Some team members move on to maintenance (making updates and correcting bugs) and generating downloadable bonus material. The next project can be taken on by other artists. Debriefs or post-mortem meetings are frequently performed to assess what succeeded and failed, as well as how the game development team may enhance the procedure and results for future projects.