Create a Game Character: Jouster - part 3

This exclusive, free tutorial series will explore game character creation workflow. I will cover my entire process of taking a concept through to the final game asset.

You can see how the concept was designed by Marc Brunet on LayerPaint in his two-part tutorial.

The tutorials are intended for intermediate users with some knowledge of the software being used, plus a base understanding of character art workflow.

During this tutorial series I will cover:

1. Blocking in the proportions
2. Sculpting the face
3. Sculpting the armor
4. Creating the armor meshes
5. Finalizing the details
6. Creating the low poly model
7. UV unwrapping and texture baking
8. Texturing the armor
9. Texturing the face
10. Model presentation in Marmoset

I hope you'll find this series of helpful in some way and if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Let's get started!

Block in the armor

Step 1: Torso

In this section of the tutorial we'll be covering blocking in the armor suit. At this stage we aren't going to worry about making the mesh super clean; it's all about roughing in the main shapes. We'll be using these meshes to create the final, cleaner meshes later on.

Duplicate the body SubTool (SubTool > Duplicate), then hide the legs and arms (Ctrl + Shift + drag) and delete hidden (Geometry > Modify Topology > Del Hidden). This will be used as our base mesh for blocking in the armor around the torso.

In order to create the shapes we'll need from this mesh, we'll take advantage of the DynaMesh feature. With the SubTool selected, click on DynaMesh (Geometry > Dynamesh > Dynamesh). Adjust the DynaMesh resolution to suit what you need. I use a resolution of around 256 and while sculpting, I have Blur set to 1 or 0 and ReProjected Dynamesh turned on.

Use the Clay and Move brushes to begin to create the rough shapes of the torso armor. Concentrate on the silhouette and larger forms before cutting in any details. You will need to re-DynaMesh (Ctrl + drag on the document) regularly to maintain good polygon distribution.

Use the DamStandard brush to create defining cuts and separation between different pieces of armor. Once the main areas have been blocked in, use a combination of the Smooth and hPolish brushes to smooth out the armor surfaces.

Pro tip: Alternative Smoothing

When using DynaMesh you will come across poles - where a vertex is shared between 3 or more edges - in the topology. Using the normal Smoothing brush (Shift + click) can still leave visible imperfections in the mesh. However, you can use an alternative Smoothing mode to help eliminate those imperfections. Simply hold Shift and start to smooth, then let go of Shift while still smoothing the mesh and ZBrush will switch the alternative Smoothing mode.

Step 2: Widen the stance

In order to allow for easier sculpting of the leg armor, we'll need to widen the leg position. Using the Mask Lasso tool, mask the legs and then invert the mask. Using the Rotate (R) Transpose Tool, draw out a transpose line from the hips down to the feet and then rotate the legs out slightly.

Step 3: Create the leg armor

Duplicate the body again, hide everything except for the left leg and then Delete Hidden. I find it easier to work on one leg and then mirror it over later; an important thing to note is to make sure the leg armor never goes over the symmetry line or it will cause the leg armor to intersect when we mirror it.

Again, we'll be using DynaMesh to maintain nice and even sculpting topology. The leg armor is quite large and bulky, so begin by using the Move and Clay brushes to pull out the profile of the leg armor.

At this stage, we are just trying to block in the rough shapes, so don't be concerned about spending time making everything perfect. Use the Clay brush to build up the surface and the DamStandard to cut into the mesh. Use the Smooth and hPolish brushes to smooth out the surfaces. The hPolish brush is also great for creating edges where two planes meet, like the edge running down the front of the lower leg!

Step 4: Leg armor plates

For the 2 separate plates on the upper leg and the feet, I use the same process. Use the Mask brush to paint out the shape of the plate and then use Extract (SubTool > Extract > Extract) to create a new SubTool from the masked area. You may need to adjust the Thickness setting to find the correct thickness of the plate.

Pressing the Extract button will preview the new mesh; once you are happy with the settings, press Accept (SubTool>Extract>Accept). Like most other SubTools, we'll use DynaMesh to allow us to pull the extracted meshes into shape. Use the Move and hPolish brushes to clean up the mesh.

Step 5: Next step - arm armor

For both the lower and then the upper arm sections of the armor, select the body SubTool and mask the shape of the armor piece. Use Extract again to create the new SubTools, only this time set the thickness set to 0. Once DynaMesh is turned on, it will close off any holes in the top and bottom of the geometry.

For the large shoulder plate and the elbow piece use the extract process again, except this time give the mesh some thickness.

Use the Move brush to pull out the overall shapes of the armor, and then use the Clay and hPolish brushes to define the curves. Once the larger shapes are in place, use the DamStandard to define any segments in the armor.

Step 6: Create the helmet

The helmet is made up of 4 SubTools. For the helmet piece that wraps around the back of the head and the chin strap, use the same masking and extract method as we previously used with the desired thickness amount.

The visor section of the helmet consists of 2 SubTools. Use the masking and extract method again for the piece that sits on top of the head and wraps down the side of the head over the ears. Use the Move brush and DynaMesh to shape the geometry. This SubTool can then be duplicated (Subtool > Duplicate) and adjusted to create the front of the visor.

Use the Smooth and hPolish brushes to smooth out the surface of the helmet. We can use the Clip brushes to create the sharp corners and curved edges of the helmet.

To select the Clip brushes, hold Ctrl + Shift and click on the brushes/selection icon, then select any of the Clip brushes; in this case we'll be using the Clip Curve brush. The Clip brushes work by pushing the polygons based on the Clip Curve created. To use the Clip Curve brush, simply click and hold to draw out a straight line; when the click is released it will push the polygons based on that line.

To create a curved line, tap Alt while holding down the click. To create a sharp corner, tap Alt twice while holding down the click. If needed, press and hold the spacebar to move the Clip Curve.

Step 7: Tackle the hair

With the head SubTool selected, mask off an area for the hair, then use Extract (SubTool > Extract > Extract) to create a new SubTool. For this character I want to keep the hair sculpting limited to broader strokes and keep the detail level consistent throughout the character.

Begin by using the Clay and Standard brushes to block in the main flow of the hair. Use the DamStandard brush to then define the directionality and add some divisions to different clumps of hair. Append a cylinder (Subtool > Append > Cylinder3D) and turn on DynaMesh. Use the Transpose tools to position the ponytail in place.

Use the Move brush to create the overall shape, and the Clay and DamStandard brushes to define some hair directionality. The ponytail is only a placeholder and will be replaced by hair strips during the retopology phase.

Step 8: Mesh cleanup and Decimation

Take some time to go back over the model to fix and clean-up any areas needed. Remember: we don't have to worry about making the meshes super clean or detailed - that will come later.

Next we need to Decimate our meshes, but before doing that it's a good idea to save a copy of the ZTool. Go to ZPlugin > Decimation Master and select Pre-process All. Next, you can select a percentage of decimation value and Decimate All; however, one value won't always suit every SubTool, so I prefer to go through and decimate each SubTool individually to make sure I use the most appropriate value.

Try to use the value that has the lowest number of polygons, but also still holds the mesh shape very well. Once all the SubTools have been decimated, export them by either using Decimation Master > Export All Subtools or SubTool Master > Export to export all visible SubTools.

Click HERE to see the next part in this series.

Click HERE to see the previous part in this series.

Want to start from the beginning? Click HERE to see the first part in this series.

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