The Making of a Hero

Well, it’s been some time since I’ve put up an update. Last July, as a matter of fact. There’s a good reason for that!

After I completed the various online tutorials (around November last year) for Unity3D, I started on working on my first ever video game (WAAAY pre-alpha). This phase is essentially a “screen test” for the hero & its animations as well as performance check for older PCs (tablets down the road).

I’m pretty satisfied with the animation sequences but there are still some tweaks that need to be done to our hero. What are they? Tweak hands & feet to make them a bit more prominent, fix/change the skin, add a couple bones to the tail, add skin weights & reanimate. I suppose this is a complete redo but at least the time consuming part of rigging the skeleton has already been done! 🙂

That said, the character in this test build is actually an evolution from previous concepts. As I was thinking about the the main character for the game’s narrative (to be revealed later) I had one stipulation, it had to be a cute creature. What creature? I wasn’t 100% sure! Which is a problem, but something that couldn’t be solved.

Though it’s been YEARS since I had been in a studio doing any life drawings or any sketches whatsoever, I started doodling. To get some creative juices going, I watched some Disney & Pixar animations– Jungle Book, Brave & Monsters Inc. After seeing these movies, I busted out some news print & charcoal to quickly draw this up.

concept character

Character concept: charcoal on newsprint

Now I still need to get this image digitized. I wasn’t about to get charcoal dust all over my scanner. So I took some printer paper & traced the image with a Sharpie.

scanned image

Scanned image

Once I had digitized the image, I set out to build the model in Maya.

3D build of head

At this point, I still had not committed to what type of creature the hero would be. As I was building the model, I was thinking “bearlike” physique with a marmoset‘s face. I ended up with this figure.


T-Pose front view

I didn’t really have a full figure as a guide for the model as I was making much of it on the fly (admittedly not a very good method). Although I didn’t have a front/side view to model, I had to make sure I was working in scale so the character would work within the environment. To achieve this, I created two image planes 183cm high 91cm wide each (yes it’s a typo on the image Z axis ought to be Y).

t-pose dimensions

Character dimensions

I finally finished a model that I could animate! But I’ve another hurdle. I’ve NEVER rigged a biped before! I found a few tutorials here & there on the interwebs that helped me get my character moving along its world.

Although the character or its animations were nowhere near perfect, this was a major milestone for the project, in that it enabled me to make sure the scripting for the various gameObjects used in the game were functional. It also enabled me to establish the “art style” to be used throughout the game.

OK, so the prototype model was done, unfortunately, it’s absolutely FUGLY, the poly count is just massive (~6k tris), the skeleton wasn’t fully rigged & there were no skin weights. I was fine with all that, because as the video above shows, it was just a test to make sure the components were working accordingly & the game was running at ~60 fps on slower PCs.

That test phase gave me some time to figure out how I want the hero would look. I used my morning runs to think about such things. Since it’s winter, I’ve been running indoors at my gym. One Saturday AM, they had Jack Hanna on the tele. The intro montage showed a bunch of animals & one had caught my eye- it was reddish brown with dark brown limbs & had rings on its tail. I didn’t know what it was since it was never featured on the show.

That creature I saw was what was in my mind’s eye but I didn’t know what to look for. One day I googled “panda”, I clicked on the images & I saw the creature that I had seen on my run, a red panda!

Back to the drawing board to finalize our hero. Once I edited the main character, I was able to optimize the poly count to 2682 tris. Additionally, I found a very informative instructional video series on rigging bipeds! This was phenomenal, I was able to fix the “limp hand” syndrome I had with the previous model AND this is what I had in mind (but will redo with smaller ears).


Remodeled character.

So now that the main character is done, I started working on the antagonists AKA the minions!

Check back soon…