Create a Game Character: Jouster - part 4

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!

Create the armor meshes

Step 1: Scene setup

In this chapter of the tutorial I will cover creating cleaner meshes from our earlier ZBrush rough sculpt. This process comes down to personal workflow preference: some people prefer to continue refining the rough sculpt in ZBrush, while others may prefer using the retopology tools in ZBrush or 3ds Max. For this tutorial, I am using some of the newer modeling tools in Maya 2014.

I used the same process for all of the armor pieces, so rather than repeat myself for each object, I'll just concentrate on one part of the model. To begin, import the decimated ZBrush objects into Maya and put them into a new Layer; I name it "ZB". I have a second layer that I used for the ZBrush meshes that I name "Working". In this layer I transfer any ZBrush meshes I'm working on at that time. The third layer I use for all the new meshes that I create in Maya. I find this helpful as I'm able to quickly toggle the visibility of meshes I'm working on and those I'm not.

Step 2: Retopology workflow

The main tool I used for the retopology process is the new Modeling Toolkit (Edit Mesh > Show Modeling Toolkit). I'll be concentrating on the helmet as an example of creating cleaner meshes. Select the decimated ZBrush helmet meshes and add them to the "Working" layer. In Modeling Toolkit > Transform Constraints > Other Surface choose the helmet mesh.

Select Quad Draw (Modeling Toolkit > Mesh Editing Tools > Quad Draw) and begin placing vertices on the mesh. Use MMB to move a vertex, Ctrl to delete and Shift to create a polygon between 4 vertices.

Use Quad Draw to create one half of the new mesh. The topology flow over flat surfaces isn't too important; however, try to keep the topology fairly evenly distributed and make sure there are continuous edges running along any sharp edges of the mesh.

Once one half of the outer surface of the helmet is created, mirror the Geometry (Mesh > Mirror Geometry), then merge and align the vertices along the centerline. Select all the faces of the mesh and Extrude to create the thickness of the helmet. Extruding inwards may invert the Normals; to check this go to Display > Polygons > Face Normals. If they facing incorrectly, go to Normals > Reverse.

Step 3: Add some creases

Rather than adding in support edge loops to create hard edges, we'll be using Maya's Crease Set Editor. For each mesh select any edges that need a hard edge, then in the Crease Set Editor (Edit Mesh > Crease Set Editor) click New to create a new Crease Set. You can easily add or remove edges from any crease set with the buttons in the Crease Set Editor window.

Each object will need its own Crease Set. Once the object is smoothed these edges will hold its shape without the need for any extra support edge loops.

Step 4: Finalize and export

Continue to create the new meshes for each part of the armor and assign a new crease set to each object where needed. Once all of the objects are complete, delete the object's history (Edit > Delete by Type > History) and export each object separately as a Maya Ascii file to preserve the crease set information. Do this by selecting the object and going to File > Export Selection and set the file type to mayaAscii.

Step 5: ZBrush import

In ZBrush, you can delete (Subtool > Delete) all the original armor blocking meshes, so that the only remaining SubTools are the head, body, eyes and hair. Then under ZPlugin > SubTool Master, select MultiAppend to import the new armor MayaAscii files.

Step 6: Edge smoothing

To see the creases on the SubTools in ZBrush, click on the Draw Polyframe icon (Shift + F) and you'll notice the small, extra, edge loops along the creased edges. Subdivide (Ctrl + D) the mesh a couple of times and you'll notice that the creases create really tight edges. We need to soften these edges to allow for better results when we bake our normal maps.

To soften the edges, once the SubTool has been subdivide 2-3 times, remove the creases by selecting UnCreaseAll (Geometry > Crease > UnCreaseAll) and then subdivide the model again. You should find that the edges have been softened, but the main shapes have been retained.

To soften the edges further and polish the overall shape of the mesh use the Polish by Crisp Edges, Polish by Features and Polish sliders under the Deformation tab. Do this to all the armor SubTools, then we'll move onto detailing!

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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