Character Creation for Videogames

UPDATE!

Since I got this tutorial up I’ve been getting a lot of really good feedback, so I’m going to go over the process and explain what could be updated and where with the most recent versions of the sofware.
I’ve also noticed some websites trying to sell a DVD with these free tutorials. I’m trying to make sure they link it back to the website so people realize they are free! Also I want to make sure they read the latest updates and provide comments and feedback so I can keep them alive.

Please let me know if you find these tutorials for sale anywhere else. They are supposed to be FREE!

This set of tutorials should give you a overall idea of the process of character creation. It does not go into technical details of the sofware that is being used, but should give you ideas and suggestions of different tools and methods in the process.
This is the process I used to make characters during 2009, this means most tools have been updated and Zbrush now has Decimation Master or GoZbrush, while max has an improved UVWUnwrap process.

Let me know if there are any issues with the videos, this was recorded in screen resolution of 1200×720 and with Youtube HD it should be pretty clear (just maximize the video to see details)
Enjoy!

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PART 1

Using the base template, adapt it so the silhouete matches the concept art

  1. Prepare mesh for Zbrush work (UVgroups/Polygroups)
  2. Align mesh to concept art
  3. Align head to concept art
  4. Tweak head details
  5. Tweak eyes and hair position
  6. Fix arm angle and overlapping issues
  7. Cleanup mesh in Max

COMMENTS:
Nowdays I just go straight to Zbrush and do my High res there not thinking about the base mesh until the end. Usually a base mesh will be used later when you are making the low res. If you are doing a head, it just saves you a lot of time to have a good base head (or hands for that matter) but for the overall body, you dont really need one.

So I would say analyze the concept art to understand the different “parts” and prepare your sculpture from there.

You can do primitives for small parts like shoes, suspenders, or buttons on the shirt in an outside 3D app and import them back to Zrush to further sculpt.

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PART 2

Detail overview of Unwrapping the low-res Head

  1. Prepare different groups
  2. Tweak Jaw
  3. Tweak mouth
  4. Tweak Eyes
  5. Cleanup and test Unwrap
  6. Prepare UV groups for Zbrush

COMMENTS:
Following the comments for the previous chapter, you dont need to Unwrap your model until the END of the high res sculpture and after you have made the low poly that will be used in the game.


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PART 3

Starting with the base template head we sculpt a High res head using the concept as guideline.

  1. Basic shape and overall layout for the main shapes
  2. Working on details
  3. Creating Hair
  4. Review Head



—–

PART 4

Creation of the High res body following the concept and then the low res version to use ingame.

  1. Review of the concept and preparation of the model
  2. Review of basic High res model in Max and changes from the original concept
  3. High res modelling in Zbrush
  4. Retopologize body in Zbrush
  5. Export to max

COMMENTS:
For retopologizing I would suggest you use the Graphite Tools from 3Ds Max 2010 onwards. They are a LOT more powerful than the retopo tools that you get with Zbrush and it will be a lot easier to understand and tweak the topology.

Looking back I would have also made separate geometry for the suspenders (something I ended up having to do in the end) and separate the UVs and texture. This would have allowed me to texture them much more easily and even remove or replace if required at the end.

Same issue with the buttons. Its always a good idea to separate items, specially since we aren’t that much limited on the polycount (and this guy is pretty low res). If I had made the buttons as a separate mesh I could have repeated the same UV texture for as many buttons as I wanted making it easier to change them if required, scale them up or down or completely remove them if needed.

In the end we had to redo all the costumes (and this guy never got used!) and since this game had a LOT of different clothing items (over 100) we had to scale down in terms of uniqueness and share a lot of stuff.


—–

PART 5

Preparing model to be textured in Photoshop. Includes importing all the low and high res parts into Max, Unwrap them and create Normal and Ambient Occlusion maps.

  1. Import Low and High Res Head
  2. Fix geometry, topology and UVW map for Low res Head
  3. Optimize High res Head in Polygoncruncher
  4. Create Normal and AO pass for Head
  5. Unwrap Low poly body
  6. Export High Res body from Zbrush and batch optimize
  7. Create Normal and AO pass for Body
  8. Review mesh in Asset Viewer

COMMENTS:
Its much easier to use Zbrush 4 Decimation Master to reduce the polycount of your High res mesh rather than Polycruncher or any outside tools. Some artists also like to use Xnormals to bake the ambient occlusion and Normal maps in your mesh. I kinda like 3ds max since I can see what is going on and usually do final tweaks on the geometry and UVWUnwrap as I do my bakings. I also sometimes do several bakes to allow me to get the AO projection of some models on others.
It is also important to know how to work on your UV shells and separate them (or not) in different smoothing groups to get a normal map as perfect as possible. There are many good tutorials out there on these issues so I wont cover them.

I would also have laid out the UVs differently, specially for the clothing. If I had relaxed the UVs lot more, on the texturing videos I would have been able to just paint the stripes directly in Photoshop without going back and forth with the Projection Master. I would still need to do some tweaking on the seams area and overall there would be more distortion but it would have worked MUCH better.



—–

PART 6

Final step of the model creation. Texture work in Photoshop and any aditional tweaks to the low poly geometry to support the textures.

  1. Create base texture for head
  2. Create base texture for hair
  3. Create base texture for shirt and tie
  4. Create base texture for trousers
  5. Create base texture for shoes
  6. Clean up and review textures.

COMMENTS:
Check the comments in the PART 5. Buttons and suspenders should have been separate geometry, laid out in their own UV area and would be much much easier to texture.



—–

PART 7

Review of the model and any changes that were made in the end. Overview of aditional texture and geometry tweaks and what could be improved.

  1. Geometry changes
  2. Texture changes
  3. Normal map Editing
  4. Conclusion

26 Comments:

  1. im very glad you made this i just started with zbrush and texturing is a hell.
    but you make it sound so easy i also use 3dsmax 2011 so thats a plus.
    i am following a school about game design in the netherlands

    yours sincerely terry tanke

  2. I am glad that I found your tutorial. I am a beginner. Its really useful tutorial for people like me. mostly i model characters in maya only but i also use 3ds Max. So I have no problem with following your tutorial. seriously one of the best tutorial for creating a complete character from model to texture.
    Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  3. What type of concept character style is this?

  4. Bom trabalho.

    Eu nunca usei PS para texturas, uso modo.
    Vou usar os teus vídeos para estudo.
    Obrigado.

  5. Salam,
    this is a great tutorial 🙂 this workflow will certainly improve my character creation skills 🙂

    KEEP ‘M COMIN’ MATE 😀

  6. Thanks great tut from start to finish

  7. Hi what is your file manager do you use in video 1 ?

  8. thanks for the great tutorial!!

    but cam i have the base mesh please?

    • I’m sorry but I cannot share the base mesh for professional reasons. There are many websites that provide free base templates for you to start building a character (even zbrush comes with one!).

  9. Hey, thank you for this very good tutorial.
    I love your portfolio too, your work and your passion really inspires me.
    Keep up the good work!

    Wish you all the best,
    Cristian

  10. Salam, hi Luis,
    this is one of the most precious tutorials there is in the web. the most intresting thing to learn is the workflow of a professional.

    Thanks again for your effort.

    I was just wondering if you used a mouse or a tablette (if yes wich one ?)
    Thanks again,

    Said

  11. These tutorials kickass, it’s the kinda thing you’d expect to pay like 60 dollars on Gnomon for. So thankyou very much for these 😀

  12. Hey Luis Nice job.
    I love this type of model, I was wondering with there is any chance to check your base mesh in more details, i’ve loved the way of your model’s loop. It is sooo easy to rig and animate.

    Tks brow and god bless ya

  13. Hats off…….

    really cool one, friend….awsome character. its inspire me alot. i like the work flow. can you suggest me any site or blog for production quality facial rigging in 3ds max ?
    great work, great passion, keep going… 🙂

  14. hi can i use this pipeline for a 3d animation project. please reply as fast as u can its an emergency…plz

    • This pipeline is independent from animation process. If you are doing a animated video game character for sure you can use it. But if you want to do a movie or high resolution cinematic you should use a different process (all the low Res and optimization steps are not needed).
      As for facial rigging production pipelines I would look at gnomon workshop or Cgsociety.com, I’m sure someone there will be able to guide you better.

  15. Very very Useful tutorial. I liked especially the ZBrush part in wich you use it with so mastery that’s very inspiring!!!
    Thanks for it!!!

  16. Thank you for this great tutorial! It helps a lot.

  17. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s
    rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.

  18. Hello Luis Antonio , thanks for uploading this very useful tuto for free , knowing that a recognized artist like you must be very busy all the time , however , I have one request for you , I’ve seen your 3d portfolio and I’d like to know how to create the backgrounds for presentations purposes , if you have the time , you’ll see my work is lacking a bit more of work , so a tuto about creating backgrounds in photoshop would be really useful for the people too , thanks again for your time Luis Antonio , and have a good day !!!!!!

  19. Hi, Luis thanks for replying , I’m talking about compositing your renders passes in photoshop( cause most of my renders have that boring solid grey background ) , for example the image of the character you are showcasing in this tutorial , and the one for your assassin creed and The general in your 3d work gallery , it might sound pretty basic but it would be great to see your workflow when compositing your passes .
    Thanks again for your time and have a good day !!!

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