Graphics in videogames are changing very quickly and the production’s quality is reaching realism levels never imagined before. Thanks to software like Zbrush the modelling time process has been reduced astoundingly and the Zbrush’s modelling tools and methodologies have allowed character artists like Kris Kelly, Furio Tedeschi and Frank Tzen to create high realistic characters with incredible details, like wrinkles and pores and render them in real time in engines like Unreal.
A thorough understanding of anatomy is an important part of the realistic character creation we find some examples in Kris Kelly work where its faces maintain realistic proportions and are anatomically accurate. I have studied anatomy and always try to use this knowledge in all the characters I do, humans or not.
It is also important to be creative when necessary creating other type of characters like aliens is or demons are needed to be created. Furio Tedeschi is a good example of imagination applied to the job. I tried to do similar concepts for our project but no so detailed. I will use their work as a reference to improve the detail of my models adding more wrinkles and textures to the surface.
In the case of the hair creation for characters, there are three available options: to use block modelling hair that will work for cartoon characters but will have no realism or use polygonal cards and alpha maps creating and effect of volumetric hair like the Gears of war 4‘s models made by Shifally Rattani.
There is a third option, combining both methods like in the case of Uncharted 4’s character Nadine made by FrankTzeng using Yibing Jiang’s shaders that combines cards with tridimensional curls. Nevertheless, the quality of the textures will always depend on the GPU capabilities so, even being able to produce a realistic character in videogames, will be always necessary to render it in real time. Therefore, it is necessary to optimize the resources. Uncharted 4 is a very good example of optimization getting an incredible result. Yibing Jiang and its team implemented innovative techniques in order to achieve this, like adjusting the cards’ normals in order to get the hair look volumetric, using ID maps with ramps to control the depth of the strands instead Normal maps and use shadow maps to create volumetric shadows. I’ve never used these techniques before but I will research them in order to implement them in my own workflow. Also, is important the light scattering to make look realistic the hair and skin. One way of getting this effect is with the Fresnel effect to reduce the GPU cost. All these processes were achievable through experimentation getting a lot of issues in the process but reaching a better result at the end. Therefore, due to this necessity of research in order to get better results with the optimal amount of resources, experimentation will be always a big part of all game artist work.
After creating the concept art for my characters I decided to centre my attention in the creation of realistic hair. Until that moment I had always used block meshes to do hair because my characters have always been cartoonish and there wasn’t need of doing cards. Nevertheless, As the group decided that the project would have a realistic aesthetic and one of the characters I will have to model had a ponytail, I decided to study the usage of polygon planes in order to do so. I started from the basic, trying to test the simplest methods and create my own cards with different shapes. I learned that normally wasn’t necessary to be very creative with the planes and square polygons are the usual. I learned also that all the hair strips should start on the head because of the transparency would make visible the UV cuts. In the case of the ponytail I think I chose one of the most difficult things to do because was a big ball of hair without anything inside that make it less transparent. Therefore, I used a mesh as ponytail’s core to fake the density. During this process I found several interesting scripts and plugins like spPaint3D, that allow the painting of objects over a surface, in this case the cards over the head and GMH2.6 that is a plugin that assist in the creation of hair by creating polygonal strips using a base polygonal shape as a pattern. It also has a hair system that helps in the creation of hair with polygonal tubes as strands that allow the baking of them on the used polygon strip. The learning process was slow and difficult; I had to make a lot of different testing in order to understand the use of the script. The capability of baking the maps allowed me to create easily all the textures necessary to make the hair to look realistic using alpha, specular and normal maps.
As I also wanted to understand the use of Unreal engine material editor I also dedicated part of my research time to do so. In that way I learned how to do Metallic and reflective maps, transparent maps like glass and also some other effects like moving textures or Fresnel effect, all this thanks to several tutorials. After that I tried to do my own material for the alien leader visor by creating a gelatinous material from a texture. First I learned how to create tileable maps on Photoshop and then, with a bit of research I found a nice programme, named Pixplant, that allows the transformation of an image into the different maps necessary to create a material. Then I started my experimentation process to get the desired material. I had some issues like using the emmisive channel and having an undesired effect in darkness or getting a correct amount of transparency by tweaking with the refractions variables. I think I still have to do more test in order to get the desired material but I have learned a lot in the process.
In the future I will keep studying and improving my knowledge in the creation of Unreal materials and the different existing nodes and how to combine them. I will also continue using GMH2.6 in order to achieve the same result as the developer examples but I will also try to emulate the methods used in games like Uncharted to get a very realistic hair that will be usable inside game engines.
All in all, I think I have learned a lot of both processes and set the bases to improve even further in both fields.
ArtStation (n.d.) Yibing Jiang [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/yibingjiang > [Accessed 06 April 2017].
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ArtStation (n.d.) Gears of War 4 Hair, Shifally . [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Zx8lx > [Accessed 10 April 2017].
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KRISKELLY3D.COM – Character Artist, Texture Artist, 3D Modeler (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://www.kriskelly3d.com/ > [Accessed 13 April 2017].
ArtStation (n.d.) Furio Tedeschi [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/furio > [Accessed 17 April 2017].