Developer Journal Series 4 - Character in 3D

Hey everyone, Joe's here bringing you the 4th developer's journal, or in another word our fail record. We're looking into the characters in 3D this time, particularly the face.

So one of the challenge we were facing during the production period is how to create a system to quickly put the character in action without spending our entire life drawing frame one by one. The easiest way to do this is of course making the characters 3D and animate them in the 3D environment.

With a 3D character rotational scene takes no time to create, compared to drawing frame by frame.

However, once we went for that approach a second question arise --- How do we solve the 3D anime face dilemma?  When looking at anime characters from the front they usually have a pretty flat face, it enhance the facial feature and most important of all, their big eyes. But if the base model of the face is completely flat, when the camera rotate and look at the character from the side, it looks like some horrible accident victim with the face completely squashed.

This face is better suited for a horror game......a really bad horror game.

We decided to play with the blend shape feature inside Maya. When the camera looks at the character from the front the face mesh will be completely flat, and when it start rotate to the side it will slowly morph into a second face that has nose, cheek, and eyes sockets, features that breaks the flat face.

During the test phase the blend shape usually bugged out when the face is in 45 degrees angle, not showing the shadow for facial feature. (Middle)

At first it sounds like a good plan, but we soon realized synchronizing the rotation angel and the blend shape speed is even more troublesome. With the deadline for the prototype right in front of us, we had no choice but to compromising the idea into a simpler approach, shader.

The final face model with Steven's face.

The final result was an ordinary 3D face model with a modified toon shader wih facial feature using sprite clipboard. It's not what we originally intended to do, but the outcome still achieve the same visual style we looked for. The downside of this is of course the dramatic increase in the number of sprites that the artists have to do, it is doable for the prototype, but definitely a problem that need to be solved in the actual game itself.

All the facial feature are hand-drawn assets that attached on the face with clipboard facing the camera.

Apart from the face, the rest of the body is simply draw on top of the model sheet, adding extra edge loop for animation purpose and the endless UV copy and paste. Thus ended the whole process of character creation.The next journal will be an insight of character rigging and animation, a painful process due to a badly setup scene.

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