This page contains a production log detailing the development of my Final Major Project (or FMP for short, which is currently being worked on as of this writing). In my FMP, I will be developing four boss character models based on my Deadlock universe (which I have been writing lore on for 2 years). All of them will mainly be focussed on fantasy, however, some will have elements of sci-fi, horror and mythology sprinkled in.
The reason I'm doing this is so I can develop the skills required to be a Character Designer within the Games Industry, and with time, my modelling and texturing skills should improve as my FMP progresses. Also, all my characters will have different backgrounds and aesthetics to ensure that what I'm showing off here will have variety and something new to offer.
Inspiration: Moonlight Butterfly (Dark Souls)
Aesthetic / Style: Dark Fantasy
Target Studio: From Software
Lore: Insectum is purely based on dark fantasy, and unlike the other characters, it resembles an insect with hardly any human features. During the War against the Abominations, those within Ethereal Peaks (a place of solitude where the inhabitants developed their spirituality) sought to remain in seclusion but needed protection so they could live out life in peace, leading to the creation of Insectum, who stood guard within the Botanical Gardens with the sole purpose of protecting the Ethereal Peaks from the abominations. However, an interdimensional crisis later occurred within the Peaks – where the lines between the physical and spiritual realms blurred – shifting the focus away from controlling Insectum and The Flora; after going untended for many years, the Insectum attacked anyone on sight, making the path towards the Ethereal Peaks a perilous journey.
Inspiration: Ekhidna (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt)
Aesthetic / Style: Mythology & Horror
Target Studio: CD Projekt Red
Lore: My second character (named Mysthia) is a Siren based off Greek Mythology. She is no ordinary Siren however, as this one will have a more horrific and ragged background. While ships were still in use, Sirens used their voice to lead pirates and sailors alike to their untimely deaths, only to pillage the wreckages for supplies soon afterwards. But since the advent of gargoyles as a new form of travel, the Sirens used their voices only for no ships to turn up, and thus supplies were few and far between (for a while, they had to rely on the Ocean of Shipwrecks and took solace in what little supplies they found). One by one, most of them would perish while one would become wretched and mutated under The Curse of Abominations; Mysthia developed a blood curdling scream that would stun its victims, leaving them open for an attack by her long sharp claws (that could open up the most protected of travellers), while still keeping a melodic voice that can draw humans towards it.
Upon discovery, Mysthia is seen lurking around a pile of corpses and a pool of blood, suggesting that it has turned to organic beings in order to survive. While Sirens were a very common sight, very few can be heard from even kilometres away, suggesting that a low number of Sirens have adapted to their new predicament. They appear to be on the verge of extinction.
Inspiration: Awilix, Terra & Serqet (Smite)
Aesthetic / Style: Stylised Realism & Egyptian Fantasy
Target Studio: Hi-Rez Studios
Lore: Before being turned into an Earth Elemental Queen, Vitalis watched over Terra until she was captured from her seclusion shortly after the War against the Abominations began. Upon her return, Terra had already faced its burning demise, and it was abundantly clear that she was used as an experiment subject and turned into a Prototype; after the War had ended, she was released and returned to the Tower of the Golden Star. With her limbs covered by tree bark-like growths which have vines protruding from them, her immense power infested the now wrecked city of Terra with moss, vines, giant stalks and other poisonous plantations. She stayed within the Tower to watch over Terra - in the state it is in - and remained the same age as she did during the war, suggesting that her days as an experiment had affected her mortality to a degree.
Inspiration: One Eyed Oni (Nioh)
Aesthetic / Style: Exaggeration & Japanese Folklore
Target Studio: Team Ninja
Lore: Compared to other Gorgers (grotesque abominations with abdominal mouths, long girths for arms and abdomens that hang down to their knee caps), Koloss is twice the size and weight due to an insatiable appetite for organic beings and inanimate objects. He was said to have been a giant guardian of Colossus (a giant cylindrical structure built to house most of Keljo’s inhabitants, which is also a centre of trade, medical research and warfare) before mutating and turning against the one thing he was meant to protect; his size and insatiable appetite would cause major damage to Colossus and result in the destruction of the Temple of Azuloch.
Upon completion of this project, my main goal is to work in the games industry as a 3D character designer, so my main focus is developing my 3D modelling and texturing skills as close to industry standard as possible. Also, I will consider rigging some of my Final Major Project characters to further widen my skillset and maybe open up the option of being a Technical Designer (beyond character design).
Before starting my production log and bringing my characters to life in 3D, I want to first show off the pre-production phase of this project, where I came up with the moodboards, profile sheets and descriptions to determine the overall look and concept of each character.
All pre-production work can be found on my Wordpress:
On an occasional basis, I will also expand on some of the research I've made for each character. This will add some clarity on what formed my character ideas, and may even allow me to tweak my character designs into something better.
Before documenting the development of my first character, I think it's worth showing the final concept piece to give an idea of what I'll be making in the opening months of the project.
Compared to the character profile sheet I made (see Entry 2 on my WordPress), I've kept the general idea the same, but with a few adjustments;
For the first couple of weeks (since starting my FMP), I've been creating the mesh for my first character (called Insectum, a giant, oddly-shaped insectoid with a gaping mouth, bulbous compound eye and tapeworm like tentacles).
So far I have completed the head, thorax and abdomen section, each of which has their own features:
Now all I need to do is model the tapeworm tentacles, elongated arms and the wings so I can move on to unwrapping the UVs.
The first thing I did was use the measure tool to determine the height of Insectum. Then I began modelling by creating the compound eye and antenna. The latter is split into four to keep the 'segmented' aesthetic even for smaller objects, while the former is it's most striking feature; since Insectum can see it's surroundings in its entirety, only a sphere primitive was required to create the compound eye. I then created a cylinder object and then resized the edge loops to give it a curvy shape. This object is the top half of the thorax (which will contain the mouth).
With the upper thorax modelled, I proceeded to take it into Mudbox to sculpt in the mouth section (using the sculpt and smooth tool). The finished sculpt was imported into Maya. Since it is very high poly, I had to use Quad Draw to model over it. Luckily, I found that extruding the last edge loop over the live geometry saved a lot of time. The result took longer than expected as I had to adjust some of the vertical edges (because they began to overlap each other during the extrusion process) and create a circular edge loop around the soft palate and uvular, that being said, it was still far quicker than creating every quad individually.
I then moved on to creating the bone-like mandibles. I created two versions; the one on the far left (see 6th screenshot on the image slider) is the first attempt, but upon receiving feedback, I decided to create another mandible with more height subdivisions (most of which now have equal distance from each other) and fewer axis subdivisions.
Afterwards, I proceeded to create another cylinder for the lower thorax (the ridges were done by having two edge loops close together). I then created the tongue and tentacles using the same process as the mandibles, and a halo object around the neck.
And for the abdomen, I created a long cylinder object and resized the edge loops to give out a bulbous shape. While for the opening on the front, I created an oval shape using multi-cut and deleted the inner faces. The hole was covered by a plane object.
Since the previous entry, I have been working on finishing the model for Insectum while also making a start on the UV mapping (the latter of which - if done correctly - will enable me to texture my model without seams or stretched UVs).
There were four main things I needed to add in order to finish off the modelling process: vines covering the lower thorax, tapeworm tentacles, wings and arms.
With everything now completely modelled and almost unwrapped, I looked at the mesh to figure out any improvements to be made; the lower thorax will have to be remodelled as it looks far too primitive, while the arms will need to be sculpted and re-topologised so they can have more shape and definition. These improvements will be documented in the next entry.
Modelling the vines was a relatively simple task, as all I had to do was create a cylinder primitive and then extrude one end of it a numerous amount of times. In-between each extrusion I rotated the end part of the cylinder so the vine can look like it's weaving in and out of other vines.
Creating the tapeworm tentacles involved a different process as there was no extrusion modelling; a cube with many subdivisions was created so I could give it a twisted shape using the grab tool. After sculpting, I noticed backfaces poking out of each tentacle, so I moved some of the vertices to hide them.
The wings were created using cube objects with high numbers of subdivisions. Soft selection and rotate was used to give the wings a bendy pose.
Both the upper and lower arms were created through extrusion modelling from a half-sphere object. For the lower arm, I had to add some edge loops so I could split the hand into three and create three fingers through extrusion. The only problem I experienced here was trying to connect both arms together as well as the upper arm to the thorax. So instead of merging some vertices together, I decided to come up with a creative solution of mechanical joints in-between the arms and the thorax (which to be fair, adds a bit more of a science fantasy feel to the character).
In this entry, I am going to talk about some of the secondary research I've conducted during the development of my first character, to see how I can take my idea even further.
The images on the top half I took from the pre-production mood-board as they helped shape Insectum into what it is right now:
For the images on the bottom half, I decided to search 'Flying Ants' as their main body shape is similar to Insectum's. What I have found is that the ridges go all the way around the abdomen instead of around the side, and the body texture is reflective and consists of mostly a singular colour, so I will bear that in mind while texturing Insectum.
And the last image on the bottom right inspired the idea of giving Insectum a giant gaping mouth in the upper thorax; it is interesting that there are teeth protruding from the lip of the mouth, may have to try and see if I can replicate the same effect. Another texturing note, the majority of the body has a beige skin tone, then it becomes a pinky colour around the mouth. Seeing as Insectum will likely take on a darker colour, I may give the gaping mouth area a brown/orange colour instead.
Insectum Development [Entry 3]
This week, I have finished off the modelling and unwrapping process for my first character, which means it is now ready to be textured.
As promised on the previous entry, I have made the improvements to the arm and upper thorax; the former has a more pronounced shoulder and forearm (due to sculpting it in Mudbox), and it is also put together as one object (from shoulder to hand), while the latter maintains the ridges, but has a more rounded shape. Both changes were made to make Insectum look more natural than before.
Before moving on to unwrapping, I decided to adjust the vines and tapeworm tentacles; for obvious reasons, the vines were adjusted accordingly to the shape of the improved upper thorax (as both were intersecting with one another), I also added suction pads to the tapeworm tentacle heads via extrusion modelling (this idea I gained from the tapeworm image I included in the previous research entry), just to add some further details in.
As this character model comprised of many different objects (due to the segmented nature of insects), the unwrapping process turned out to be very time-consuming. The complexity of some of the objects exacerbated this issue; for one example, I ended up creating six UV shells for each tapeworm tentacle as using only one resulted in the UVs being stretched horribly when I tried using the unfold function.
Insectum Development [Entry 4]
With the model complete and the UVs unwrapped, I moved on to sculpting the high definition mesh (which will allow me to extract all the details into a normal map). For this and the texturing process, I had to split the character model in half; as the full model will have at least 15 IDs, this is to minimise the risk of one ID colour clashing with another.
The preparation for this process was done in three steps: add edge loops around the mesh to keep the size of each polygon consistent, increase the definition of the mesh using Blender (subdivision tool) & Mudbox (shift+D), then use the latter to smooth the edges out. I found this process effective, however, I'll see if I can find a quicker solution.
The upper body was considerably time-consuming compared to the lower body (which I'll get to in a bit) as there was quite simply a lot of details that I planned to include. Some details only required a standard brush, such as the veins on the wings (as they will have lower opacity), while for others, I mixed and matched between different brushes; I used the slice brush to add the 'crack' details to the upper thorax and arm, the clay and smooth tool to make the antenna appear bumpy instead of flat, and I even used a scaly alpha for the compound eye.
The lower body only took one session as there were fewer objects to sculpt. One notable detail about the lower body is the pronounced centrepiece; I added in bird shaped dents and made the other areas more defined, resulting in something resembling a human abdomen (an 'eighteen-pack' to be more precise), and I also gave the rest of the abdomen a lumpy look to give off the impression that it was infected by the tapeworms protruding from it, which were simple to sculpt by themselves as all I had to do was simple clicks with the 'fold' brush (making them look a bit more Lovecraftian).
Final Note: Midway through this process, I found a feature called the 'LightBox' which contains many additional brushes and alphas outside from those that are easy to access. This will come in very handy as this means that I have more tools to play with when sculpting high definition meshes.
Insectum Development [Entry 5]
After two months in production, it was time to wrap up the development of Insectum by texturing it in Substance Painter (and eventually rendering the final model in Marmoset).
Before getting into texturing, there were two simple processes I needed to do; for one, I needed to create an ID map for each half of the character so I can apply a range of materials to different parts of the model, and second, I needed to extract the maps from the high definition mesh within Substance Painter, which is a short painless process as I extract 'By Mesh Name' instead of using an external cage.
When texturing the upper body, I started off with the compound eye; this was the most difficult part of the texturing process as I did already have a fabric smart material which replicated the texture of a compound eye, however, it didn't have any UV scalability. I attempted to find a replacement material to no avail, so I decided to improvise and use a stencil with hexagon patterns and a brush with increased height settings (which thankfully, produced the effect I was looking for).
I enabled the opacity channel and applied a metal-based material to the wings to make them see-through and fluorescent, while also enabling the emissive channel to make the antennas, upper thorax and hands glow in a cyan hue. The latter makes the creature look like it wields some sort of magic power.
I used the 'creature skin' material and heavily modified it for the main body; the idea is to make it appear as a hard surface (like a rock or a carapace) as I needed to replicate the body texture found on insects. I used the same material and settings for the lower body, however, because of the presence of tapeworms, I wanted it to look infected to a degree, so I covered the abdomen with bulging spots (by using pink colours and increased height settings). As the tapeworms (in reality) are also simple in appearance, I used a skin texture and left it like that (as the normal map provides all the details anyway).
After exporting all the textures, I duplicated some of the objects that needed to be duplicated until I got this final result (see the seventh image).
Here are the renders of my first character.
To start my FMP, I decided to make an insect character that mostly consisted of primitives. It was a risky choice to make - considering that the vast majority of professionals sculpt their characters before topologising them - however, it was effective in making Insectum segmented in design (like an insect).
The main strength of this character is the general weirdness in its design, with its near reptilian arms, Lovecraftian tentacles and rows of teeth resembling that of a shark, however, the main drawback was texturing the compound eye in Substance Painter; since I didn't have a material suitable for it, I had to spend a bit more time using a stencil to create the desired texture (which is not all bad as it forced me to learn different features).
Overall, production was time-consuming in reflection to the scale of this character and I didn't come across many problems that could have impacted the final result. Feedback has been positive, praising the creativity and texturing while suggesting to make the tentacles vary in colour, the latter of which can easily be addressed in the next entry.
I have now addressed the textures on the tapeworm tentacles; this was done by adding variation to the colours and making the tentacles darker (as they previously looked overpowering compared to the rest of the model), some more normals have been added as well to help the tentacles pop out, as before, they looked very plain and minimal to look at.
Now that my first character is done (after two months of production), I'll be moving on to my second character for the time being. (Starting with the research & final concept piece).
Before heading into production, I decided to do research on Sirens and their inclusion in The Witcher 3 (which I chose as I'll be attempting to replicate its art style for this character).
According to Greek Mythology, Sirens are half-human, half bird creatures who used their singing voices to lure unsuspecting sailors to their islands, resulting in the eventual destruction of the ship and crew.
In some cases, Sirens were portrayed as humanlike maidens, but in The Witcher 3 they are portrayed as nixa, a Siren variant that can transform between attractive maidens and fish-like monsters, while also being able to fly due to having wings.
The top half images show a clear representation of what a Siren is; the one on the top-left depicts the life of a Siren and her actions, while the top-right is a take on how a Siren would look. While generating the idea for Mysthia, I pondered on how the discontinuation of ships would impact a Siren's life; in my Deadlock universe, mechanical Gargoyles are used as a new form of transport for passengers and supplies, negating the need for ships and causing Sirens to become endangered, the latter of which resorted to feeding on humans to survive. As per the story, my character will be slightly more horrific in design, resembling that of an Ekhidna (bottom left image, also from The Witcher 3).
Note: The idea of using Gargoyles as a means for transport came from various games that featured living gargoyles, such as the Belfry Gargoyle from Dark Souls 2.
The majority of the above images came from my moodboard and they pretty much share many features between each other; they share the same hair colour and the overall palette consists of dark colours with a tint of cyan, giving off a very dark tone (which is suitable for Mysthia as she is mythological horror based). The sole exception is the top-left cartoon style image, which depicts a more alien looking Siren with green skin and fins around the body (although, the necklaces she's wearing could serve as a good reference if I was to add accessories to my character, same can be said for the headpiece featured on the top-right image).
The central images are very simple but have distinguishing features of their own, including a boomerang-shaped tail-fin (top), dead blue eyes and webbed hands (bottom). While the bottom side images show a more horrific side of the Siren mythology; they both have pale blue skin and screaming facial expressions, one is emaciated, bloody and fish-like in appearance, while the other is muscular and more sinister looking.
Mysthia Final Concept
This week I've been working on the final concept piece for my second character: Mysthia, the Wretched Siren.
Compared to her character profile sheet (which you can see on my Wordpress), the general idea and aesthetic have remained the same only with some minor differences and additions:
The main reason for putting this final concept together is so I can get a clearer picture of how the face will look (putting a significant amount of focus on the split mouth feature), while also fixing the tail pose as the tail on the profile sheet was bending forwards in a very awkward and unnatural way. This would look very bad on a 3D model, which is now primed and ready for production following the completion of the final concept.
Mysthia Development [Entry 1] & Insectum Final Touches
For the past two days, I have been sculpting the head of my second character (Mysthia) before moving on to the modelling and topology stage, and I am right now in the process of making some finishing touches to the face and sculpting the upper body shape.
In preparation, I used a female body template and made the split mouth feature by deleting faces and using multi-cut to reconstruct the topology. I also created a few joints for the jaw so I could keep the mouth open (to make the splits more prominent), and removed the ears (filling in the hole afterwards) so I can replace them by sculpting a pair of fish like ears suitable for a siren.
This is also the first time I've sculpted proper eyelids; there are still a couple of adjustments here and there, however, I'm happy with the progress so far.
Recently, I have made some finishing changes to my first character (Insectum); I received some more feedback regarding the tapeworm tentacles, as they didn't appear to be naturally attached to the abdomen. So what I decided to do was duplicate an object connecting the wings to the upper thorax, and resized the duplicate to closely match the shape of the tentacle (this didn't detract from the quality however, as the texture only consisted of flesh and insect blood).
The image on the right shows the final result of these changes, indicated by the red circles. This provides an illusion that the tentacled are connected to the abdomen via the inner flesh of Insectum, which makes it look as though the tentacles have eaten through the abdomen, leaving part of the flesh exposed.
Mysthia Development [Entry 2]
This week I have been finishing off the silhouette sculpt for my second character (which I began last week). I started off by making some finishing touches to the face (by adjusting the eyes and nose), and then adding shape and definition to the torso.
When sculpting this character, I had to take the backstory into account; that she is endangered with starvation and scrambling for food (by luring and feeding on humans), resulting in an emaciated appearance. I've already made the skull anatomy on her face prominent, but now I needed the skeleton showing for the torso and arms. While sculpting the torso, I used a reference image of an anorexic woman to get an idea on how the human bone structure looks when its showing through the skin, and I have also taken a brief look at the Xenomorph from alien for other-worldly influences.
I've worked on making all the main bones prominent, including the spine, shoulder-blades, collar bone and ribs, and I've made the waist and breasts smaller due to lack of fat deposits.
After working on the bones and body shape, I decided to sculpt two growths on the back; the indentations is where the long haired back wings will go, to ensure that they will be connected naturally. As well as two growths on the bony arms, as those are where the horns will be protruding from.
Now that the silhouette is done, it is almost time to export it into Maya and topologise over it; I just need to make some small adjustments to the arms so they are in proportion compared to the rest of the body, and then I'll cover the topology in the next entry.
Mysthia Development [Entry 3]
Before finishing up the silhouette sculpt, I decided to make one more adjustment to the arms by making them boney and thin enough so they are in proportion with the rest of the body (see the first screenshot). Now the next thing I had to do was topologise over it while also making sure the edges were flowing correctly and naturally.
Progress has been good so far as I've already dealt with the face (which is the most difficult part as the edges must flow around the mouth and eyes) and the majority of the torso, now I just need to topologise the rest of the body and the tail so I can move on to modelling (i.e. creating horns, teeth / gums, & clothes).
Unlike my previous characters (which were topologised using the Quad Draw tool in Maya), I decided - for the first time - to use Topogun 2 for topologising this character, which is designed solely for making topology easier and faster; with Maya's Quad Draw, I could only create one polygon at a time (which requires four vertices to be drawn) unless I created an additional edge loop on an existing mesh flow, which was a very time-consuming process on top of the fact that Maya would slow down unless I deleted the history often, on the other hand, Topogun 2 is very fast and doesn't slow down in relation to history build-up, while also allowing me to use many techniques: using the bridge tool, I can hold click across to create polygons in rapid succession, and I can also use the tube tool which allows me to draw rows over a cylindrical-like object (such as an arm or a horn) and instantly create polygons out of them.
During production, the face was still pretty difficult to topologise as I was more worried about getting the mesh flows right instead of finding shortcuts, however, the torso has been giving me more room to play around with the tools this software has to offer. Overall, this week has been good as I got to learn a new piece of software (which was very easy to learn), now I just need to use it more so I can gain experience and find more efficient ways to topologise my characters.
Mysthia Development [Entry 4]
This week was very productive as I have finished working on the topology and started working on the clothes and other features that complement the character, so I have split the work done this week into two entries.
The first thing I did was finish topologising the upper body, I did however lose a bit of control over the polycount (more than I was comfortable with anyway), however, I decided to address this issue by merging some of the vertices in the tail; this allowed me to reduce the polycount as the tail became thinner.
Another thing I did was create the mouth for my character; this was pretty much mandatory as her mouth is open by default (to show off the split mouth feature). I also needed to create the mouth correctly, as not doing so would make it stick out like a sore thumb. So I decided to follow a tutorial for modelling the gums and teeth (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by9bZK3r7SM), while also adapting the teeth to Mysthia's backstory (by making the canines longer and making the rest of the teeth sharper). I have also added in a tongue which was a very simple process on its own (model a sphere, delete half of it, reduce the Y scale and crease the middle edge loop), as well as a uvular for added realism and detail.
So far, I now have the full body shape for Mysthia (including upper body and tail) and as of right now I'm very close to wrapping up the modelling phase; once I've done that, I'll cover the rest of the modelling process in the next entry.
Mysthia Development [Entry 5]
Following the completion of the main body, I moved straight on to developing the clothing and accessories.
I first started off by creating the exposed tail bone protruding from her tail-end; this was done by creating a basic cylinder, sculpting and shaping it in zBrush then topologising it in Topogun; the advantage of the latter is that cylinder objects can quickly be topologised using the tube tool, so I was able to make short work with the tail. Shortly afterwards, I made a little change to the final design; it was originally intended for Mysthia to have fins attached to her tail (see final concept entry), however, upon creating the fins, I felt that having just the bones poking out of the tail's sides added to the sinister and hostile look provided by the tail end (which by itself looks very devilish).
Some other details I've added includes the bracelets which were made through quad-draw, as well as the spinning choppers which were made from extruded cylinders and elongated cubes.
The last thing I needed to add was the torso clothing which mostly consists of chains and scrap metal (the breastplates are taken directly from shipwrecks), and the skull which would be dangling from the breastplates via a metallic flexible spanner. For the latter, I needed a reference image (right) so when I'm sculpting I know which features to add (Source: https://free3d.com/3d-model/skull-3482.html).
After sculpting the features in (front teeth, eye sockets, nasal cavity and temples), I applied the same procedure I used for the exposed tail end and retopologised over the skull sculpt. The original intention was to have four skulls, however, I decided to reduce it to two as I needed to increase the overall size of the skull (to roughly match the size of Mysthia's head), and as a result, I ran out of visual space for the torso section.
With all that said and done, a lot of progress was made this week; I started with only a silhouette sculpt, and 8 - 10 days later, the main model has been fully produced and is now ready for unwrapping and texturing.
Note: The last screenshot indicates that I've adjusted the topology for the forehead area; originally, none of the edge loops were flowing around the eyes and brows properly as the middle of her forehead was made out of a hard shell, however, this would have made facial animations extremely difficult (such as frowning), so I decided to adjust the topology according to traditional methods.
Mysthia Development [Entry 6]
This week I worked on unwrapping the UVs and sculpting the high definition mesh (so it can be baked into a normal map).
I mainly used the cut edge and unfold tools for unwrapping my character, and this time, I've placed a lot of emphasis into resizing the UVs in accordance to the size and visibility of the object; with my previous character, the texture for its abdomen was slightly blurred compared to the other body parts due to the UV being smaller than it is supposed to be, so I made sure not to repeat the same mistake with this character.
Then the next step was adding the high poly details; when sculpting the skin, I focused on adding scar tissue, barnacles and scales. The addition of barnacles is an important one as they are closely sea related in terms of theming (I used a picture of barnacles on a whale as inspiration - see right image), same thing with the scales which is a common feature in mermaids and other sea creatures. And lastly, I wanted to add some battle scars in reflection to her backstory, most notably, I've added a lot of scar tissue around the mouth split so it looks as though it was caused by a rough cut instead of a clean precise one.
The bones now have cracks painstakingly sculpted in to show wear and tear; the idea being that she is an old member of a species nearing extinction. The cracks on the exposed tail bone took an hour to sculpt, but it was worth the effort regardless. And lastly, some reproductive organs have been added on the tail section; Sirens are often depicted as females, which assumes that they are uni-gender, so I decided to add barnacle shaped details within the reproductive area (which shoots out eggs that hatch into Sirens).
Sculpting the clothes and other features were straight forward, as I know that the vast majority of which are made of scrap metal, leather and other organic materials; for example, the objects that are made of metal are full of scratches and nails, while those that are made of leather will have stitching and concave details (since leather is bendy instead of solid). One last thing to note is the stubs on the ends of Mysthia's tail and the finger dangling from the belt; I made them a bit more bumpy and fleshy, as before, they just consisted of flat extruded faces.
Next up, I'm moving on to texturing the character so it is game ready, then I am aiming to add fins which will have a transparent texture (similar to a membrane) as well as hair through xgen.
Now that all the high definition details are ready, I focused this week on texturing Mysthia so I can finalise her overall look. The body, clothing, eyes and necklace beads were done separately so no normals will be baked in places that need to be rotated (such as the eyes).
As this character is horror fantasy based, I gave her a very pale and bloody look by applying a creature skin texture and changing the base colour to light blue, then applying blood spatter through a particle brush and using a blood material as a paint colour. I used Orphan of Kos (from Bloodborne) as a reference for this as he has a similar aesthetic (texture wise) to what I'm going for. (Image Source:
Some other things I did for the skin texture is mix dark red and bright yellow colours for the scar tissue so they look fleshy and organic, while also applying yellow paint around the barnacles (as that is how most barnacles will look). Mixed in with the horror, I also added colourful patterns to the tail to clearly show that she once had elements of beauty before turning into an endangered creature with cannibalistic tendencies. And yes, her reproductive organ is fleshy as well.
For her eyes, I textured them separately as I didn't want any normals baked onto them. To texture them, I used an Iris Generator which allows me to change the colour of the iris and shape of the pupil. This took me two attempts to get right; originally, I wanted the iris colour to be a very bright blue, however, it didn't quite match up with the rest of her skin texture; the whites were also too bright and the iris was too small. So I changed the texture accordingly; I darkened the whites and change the iris colour to a faint purple colour so she gives off a more evil and demented look.
I textured the necklace bead separately with a simple marble material, which needs to be duplicated and rotated various times to form a necklace and an illusion that the beads are different. And then I moved on to the clothes, which was simple enough as I needed to apply the right materials where necessary (e.g. metal for the scraps and leather for the belt).
Mysthia Development [Entry 7]
There was one more thing I needed to do and that was add membrane styled wings protruding from the growths on her back; originally, they were going to be made of long hairs, however, upon looking at the above reference image, I realised that something more organic would work better. So I modelled the wing through extrusion modelling, then went on to texturing: on my first attempt, I applied a pale skin texture with an additional opacity layer and reduced roughness to give it a very silky but transclucent look, then upon receiving feedback, I went to add blood spatter as - in comparison to the rest of the character - it originally looked very clean, as if it hadn't been near any of the fresh scar tissue.
With the modelling and texturing done, Mysthia is now game ready and primed for rendering. However, first thing I need to do is attempt to add hair through xgen, which will be a very useful tool to learn in the future.
Mysthia Development [Entry 8]
This week, I added in some hair for my character, which was the last thing I needed to do in order to finish off the character and render it. Before doing so, I ran a little test on a plane object so I can get a feel for the XGen tool. Basically, the process I'm using is to create some spline guides, adjust them, turn the hairs generated in the preview into cards, then convert the cards into polygons.
This is just the second part of the process however, as the first thing I needed is to create the scalp in zBrush. I did this by masking out a section of her skull, hiding the rest of the object and then decimating and Zremeshing the scalp to a lower polycount. It was then brought over to my character's scene file for the generation of hair.
After that, I created a new collection in XGen so I can start adding the spline guides. I decided to grab an image of Alma Wade (from the F.E.A.R. series) so I got a reference on hairstyles used on horror characters, and adjusted the splines accordingly; the intention is so Mysthia has hair running along the sides of her skull, however, I wanted her hair to be thinner so her webbed ears are more visible.
Once I was happy with how the hair looked, I decided to reduce the Density setting as I didn't want to create too many polygons, and then I turned each hair strand into cards; in order to do this, I needed to add two values to the width expression (A and Mult) as all it did before was increase the thickness of each hair strand (which was cylindrical in shape).
I learned the process through this tutorial:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JlZ0diRwLQ&t=46s however, I got the expression values from the comments section.
With all the strands turned into cards, I used the Select Polygons tool and drag selected certain parts of her hair so I could convert them into polygons; the main limitation with XGen is that the generated hair (strand or card) always faces the camera, and as the hairstyle I'm going is meant to be facing multiple directions, this meant that I had to repeat this process multiple times in order to create all the polygons needed.
After deleting some unneeded polygons, then duplicating and reversing the normals of each polygon (so the hair can be visible from both sides), I began the final step by taking a UV snapshot, and drawing in the hair strands in Photoshop. I decided to go for black hair as Mysthia is based on fantasy horror, and I've also added in some red strokes to give her hair a more bloody look. I then saved the texture as a PNG as I needed the transparency to give the illusion of there being hair strands.
With the hair done along with the texture, I've done everything I can for this character and can now move on to my third character: Vitalis, Queen of Terra. But first, with the Vertex event coming up next month (where I - along with other people - will get the opportunity to show off the work I've done so far), I need to pose Mysthia and Insectum, and then render them in 4K so they can appear on big screens and posters.
Learning Marvellous Designer 7, Vertex Renders & Mysthia Review
Inbetween my vertex commitments and research into my next character, I have started learning Marvellous Designer 7 which - much like Autodesk Maya - is a 3D software dedicated to producing clothes for characters; the way it works is that the shapes are created in 2D and then the clothing is simulated in 3D. As the right screenshot shows, I've just created my very first dress through albeit very basic methods; the shapes consisted of a low-neck top and a skirt which were created with a polygon tool, smoothed with the edit curve tool, and then duplicated each 2D shape (so I have both the front and back side of the dress). The last step was to sew the sides and straps together while leaving the collar, sides of the straps and bottom of the skirt separate so the limbs can fit through them. Things went smoothly for the most part, however, upon receiving feedback it was found that the sides of the skirt were way too sharp and didn't flow all that well, so that is something I'll look out for when learning the tools and practicing the software a bit more.
Switching gears: upon finishing off production of Mysthia, I was tasked with posing her and Insectum along with modelling props for them to hold, as both of them were going to be rendered in 4K and shown off to industry professionals at the Vertex event. When it comes to posing them, I only needed to create a simple rig consisting of joints as there was no heavy animation involved, which just left the skin weights as the most time-consuming process (as I needed to make sure that each joint moved naturally, without influencing other parts of the mesh). Insectum's pose has only minor changes, with the main differences being that its arms have been raised slightly while the left forearm points forwards and the left fingers are wrapped around its staff prop (which looks uniquely weird and other-worldly considering it has no thumb). Insectum has an overall mystical look to it so it made sense to add a staff and ball of magic as its props.
As for Mysthia, I decided to give her a more hostile look to suit her background and overall design; originally, the intention was to have her primed and ready to attack her prey, by rotating the tips of her fingers and thumbs into a claw pose (which looks intimidating enough due to her long sharp nails and bloody hands), however, it was suggested via feedback that she should be holding an organ that she had ripped out of somebody, which I thought was a cool idea to implement. So I sculpted and topologised a segment of ripped intestines which would (of course) have a bloody organic texture; this also meant that I had to adjust the pose of the left hand so it is holding said intestines. It was also suggested to add in blood dripping from the organ, however, I wanted to take it a step further by having blood pouring from it like a faucet and forming a puddle below; blood and cannibalism are the main themes of Mysthia, so it makes sense to add gore of this magnitude, which also justifies the fleshy aesthetic of her turntable stand. Aside from that, I wanted at least one empty hand so I could keep it in a claw pose (indicating that the character is still in an attacking stance).
Overall, I feel that I've nailed down Mysthia's aesthetic which has developed to be her greatest quality; her tail patterns all indicate that she was once a beautiful sea-creature, but at the same time, the blood, scaly pale skin, organic/artificial trophies, and the certain parts of the tail that has been skinned to the bone, all indicate the cannibalistic creature she has become, desperately and viciously hunting for food while also developing ill-health in the process. The idea of using salvaged scrap metal from ships as a means of flying and clothing was a good way to extend this character design beyond the organic, showing that she can collect trophies and make good use out of them. And in general, the modelling and texturing came out pretty good as well; the proportions were correct when it comes to slim boney builds, the teeth and tongue were made with extra care so they didn't have any major distracting flaws, and like Insectum, the textures had a good amount of detail to them which really brought Mysthia to life, including blood spatter, barnacles, tail patterns and cracks in her bones.
Her clothing was very minimal and didn't require Marvellous Designer 7 in order to be produced, which also allowed me to focus a lot of time and effort on adding detail to the skin textures. However, her main flaws for me are the hair and the UVs on the exposed tailbone; the former could have been a little bit longer and have a better flow to it in certain areas (which I'll admit, is the result of having just learned the XGen to polygons pipeline last week), while the texture on the latter looks a little blurred, but not so much that it sticks out like a sore thumb. So in the future, I'll pay full attention to the size of the UVs, making sure that none will end up blurring any textures, and also I'll work on getting the hang with the XGen to polygons pipeline to make better hair.
When doing research for Vitalis, I focussed on the goddess characters featured in Smite as they use a combination of stylised realism in terms of art style (which is what I'm attempting to replicate with this character). But seeing as Vitalis is an Earth Elemental Queen and has powers relating to nature (the ability to infest any place she inhabits with moss, giant stalks and poisonous growths), I wanted to focus on those with a strong emphasis on Earth and/or Egyptian Fantasy: Awilix, Terra & Serqet.
Awilix (far left) - accompanied by her pet Jaguar - has the most primitive design of the three, with light clothing consisting of green coloured fabric and feathers, as well as basic markings that dominate her legs and shoulders, all of which suit the natural environment she is featured in. While Serqet (far right) has a more elegant but dangerous look, with notable features such as a metallic tail that contains a potent poison and a wooden bodysuit with gold plating, all of which, combined with her eye markings and jewelled clothing provides me with a good idea on which direction to take when it comes to Egyptian fantasy.
Both characters have a sense of familiarity with them due to their human-likeness, but one of the biggest inspirations to Vitalis is Terra (middle); within the lore of Smite, she symbolises Earth in all ways and can even raise standing stones from the ground that can temporarily provide her with buffs. I found her Spriggan skin to be her most striking look as it makes her look like a glowing humanoid tree with grassy green hair. Following this research, my intent is for Vitalis to retain most of the human features from Awilix and Serqet as in the Deadlock universe, she was originally a human anyway before being turned into an Earth Elemental Queen through experimentation, so it makes sense to maintain most of her humanity while having some areas appear unusual and other-worldly; I intend to make the legs and lower arms out of stylised tree bark (which will glow in certain areas), which means that it will be more believable to have vines protruding from them, and I will also be making her eyes glow as well to convey the idea of her having earthen powers.
I've also expanded on the research relating to Egyptian Fantasy (top images) and Earth Elementals (bottom images), this is so I can explore potentially new visual ideas to implement into Vitalis. The Egyptian images give me a further understanding of how Egyptian attire looks (and what kind of textures to use), I especially like the image on the far left due to the colour palette (heavily tanned skin tone and classic gold and blue colours for the clothing). I also included an image from the 2017 film The Mummy as I found the use of Egyptian symbols as facial tattoos an interesting design choice, something I may consider during development alongside the classic eye markings.
As expected, the Earth Elemental images I found have a strong emphasis on green colours; this can easily be applied to the hair and tree bark limbs, however, turning the skin green requires a bit more thought as the last thing I want is the skin texture conflicting with the clothes. The bottom central images give me a few ideas on what to do for hairstyles; one has strands of hair flowing around her head, with several others pointing upwards, while the other has hair made entirely out of leaves. The former can easily be made through XGen, while the latter hairstyle would need to be modelled from complete scratch due to the unusual shape of each strand, so creating the hair through XGen seems to be the better option. Something that stands out about the right central image is the body shape of the elemental; I may use this as a reference while sculpting a body suitable for a goddess. The far left image is rather simple but is a good reference I can use for clothing patterns, and finally, the far right image gives me new ideas on how the vines would look; instead of them being giant cylinders protruding from Vitalis's body, they can start thick then taper off as they go along, giving them an overall creepier but more interesting look.
Vitalis Final Concept
For the past couple of days, I have been preparing my third character by finalising her look before production. Unlike my previous two characters, this one needed a drastic overhaul due to her initial design (on her character profile sheet) being a bit bland, which became easier when I decided to add Egyptian fantasy and stylised elements to her final look; so instead of making a plain skirt and top, both will have gold armour pieces, jewels and some multi-coloured Egyptian style beads. The only thing that remains the same is the soil-like texture applied to the top.
Another big change was to make the arms and legs like tree barks as I wanted to further emphasise her being an Earth elemental. This change happened very late into the research phase and was heavily influenced by Terra from Smite as well as the Ivy monsters from Resident Evil 2. I've kept the upper body vines - which now tapers slightly - but removed the lower vines (with the exception of one, which protrudes out of a hatched sac on her left leg and has a stinger on the end) to place more focus on her main body, and I've also added some flow to her hairstyle as it looked very scruffy last time.
That's pretty much the main bulk of all the updates covered, and starting from today, I can begin production on Vitalis now that I have a clear idea on how she will look.
Vitalis Development [Entry 1]
This week, I began production on Vitalis by sculpting her body shape and then topologising over it. Before sculpting, I took a female base mesh and deleted the lower arms and legs; those body parts will look like tree barks with vines protruding from them so they will need to be sculpted and topologised from scratch.
After importing the base mesh into zBrush, I began sculpting the face; since I'm going for a mixture of stylised realism, I flattened the nose bridge and her eyebrows while using the grab tool to shape the eyes to be slightly bigger than normal (with the eyelids also taking on the shape of a leaf, which will suit very well with her overall aesthetic). Aside from concaving the temples, straightening the jaw and giving the cheeks a full shape, that is pretty much it for the face.
Just so I could get a vague idea on if I'm going the right direction, I tested how she would look by making the zBrush display see-through and having the final concept window behind it. I was confident that this was the right look for her so I moved on to sculpting the body shape. For this, I took some inspiration from the Dark Elf Assassin by Marco Taffelli, as I wanted a slightly thicker body shape for Vitalis (seeing as she is inspired by goddess characters, it personally wouldn't feel right to give her a skinny or average body build). I then used a mixture of grab tool, standard brush and smooth to increase the size of her hips and breasts (but not by so much that they would end up distracting from the rest of her design), as well as increasing the depth of her abdomen and circumference of her arms and legs; I didn't want to over-exaggerate anything so I placed some focus into making sure the proportions are equal.
Then once I was happy with the changes I made, I finally proceeded to add muscle definition to further refine the body shape (by making the abdomen, buttocks, back and neck muscles more prominent) before exporting the silhouette sculpt and importing it into Topogun so I can topologise it. From here, I followed pretty much the same process as with Mysthia; for the head, I made the mesh flow around the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, while for the body, I made the mesh flow circles within the surface area of the breasts, as well as around the circumference of her neck, abdomen, arms and legs, which was quick and easy as I used the tube tool for three of those body parts. In general, I managed to topologise Vitalis very quickly and efficiently as unlike Mysthia, I only needed to focus on the main body without having to deal with fins, circular holes (where horns protrude from), oddly shaped ears or other extra details. This means that now I can move straight on to sculpting the tree-bark like arms and legs from scratch; this will be one of the more challenging parts of the production process as I'm still getting to grips with sculpting things from scratch, so I'll take the initiative to get the arms and legs out of the way first, then focus on everything else afterwards.
Before I end this entry, I need to add that after topologising Vitalis, I noticed that the spinal crease down her back was too deep (making it look like the back of her torso was cut vertically), so I had to import the newly topologised model into Maya to readjust the shape of the back; in order to do this, I enabled soft select, selected the edges flowing down her spine, then moved them outwards using the pivot so their levels of concaveness would appear more natural.
Specimen 13 Final Renders & Vertex Highlights
For the past nine days, I've been working on the limbs for Vitalis (which I'll get to in the next entry) as well as finishing off the Specimen 13 character for a team-based project simply titled 'Specimen'; a horror escape game set in an abandoned hospital warehouse in the 1960s.
While I have been focussing on my FMP and Dissertation, this has been in production on-and-off for nearly two months (I'd say I spent just over 15 days on it), and I'm happy with the way it turned out despite dealing with other stressors. I have also been applying decals for the very first time (by creating an image in Photoshop, saving it as a PNG, then importing it as an alpha/brush in Substance Painter), which really helps in fleshing out the character's story. It is a very simple and effective process so I'll consider using it again whenever the design calls for it.
Outside of production, I attended the Vertex event on 8th March (which took place in West Kensington, London) which is also attended by many professionals working in the games industry.
The first thing I did was visit the South Essex College stand, as this is where some of our work is being shown; as you can see, a rendered image of Mysthia (my second character) was printed on a large poster for everyone to see it, which made me proud as I had spent a month building her up and eventually posing her. (I also got a nice professional picture out of it)
Afterwards, I went to a few talks mostly based on character design; the first I attended I found to be the most interesting as it was related to sculpting in VR. Throughout, the speaker was using the Oculus Medium to instantly make shapes appear out of thin air while making some adjustments afterwards (with some embarrassing results). This shows a technological advancement in terms of sculpting, which - with some practice - can be done with ease.
Amongst other things, I also got a chance to meet Danny Sweeney (a character/creature artist from Creative Assembly) as he was doing portfolio reviews. I showed him my siren character (the latest one that I finished at the time) and got some good advice when it comes to limiting the amount of noise on the textures (as certain areas such as her back and wing membranes contained a lot of it), and after the event, I applied this feedback to the clothing of Specimen 13 (which was still in production); it was originally a mess of dirt, blood and chemicals, but I decided to clear that up by keeping the blood and chemicals to a minimal level (so the viewer won't be overwhelmed by the amount of detail). Other things that were criticised were the skulls and spinning choppers; the anatomy of the former was incorrect as they were too small and rounded, while the latter looked interesting visually, the main critique was that it wouldn't make sense for them to be spinning around, so it was suggested to either make a steampunk styled mechanism or have fish-like fins protruding from her head.
Aside from that, the feedback was positive and I managed to learn some new things in regards to character design, such as making sure that skeleton anatomy is correct, and that certain design decisions actually make sense when drawn on paper, instead of just looking pretty. Following this feedback, I will also need to change how I make Vitalis' clothing, as the final concept shows solid gold armour pieces around the skirt (which looks cool but wouldn't work as it would make the skirt look rigid). Speaking of Vitalis, I can now put more focus on her production seeing as I've finished making my Specimen 13 character.
Vitalis Development [Entry 2]
After finishing off my Specimen 13 character and my Dissertation, I was able to restart production on Vitalis and get the lower arms and legs fully shaped and topologised.
Before sculpting the silhouette of the limbs, I created two cylinder primitives in Maya so I could figure out the right proportions compared to the rest of the body, and then I imported them into zBrush to sculpt in the hands and feet from scratch. The feet were quite basic as all I needed to do was sculpt in large twigs with the standard brush, however, the hands were a bit more delicate to work with as I also needed to position the fingers correctly for the T-pose, and plus, sculpt indents on the tip of the fingers and back of her hands; this is so the respective claws and vines can protrude from the hands naturally.
I sent the hand and foot back to Maya so I could duplicate them to the opposite side, but experienced a problem when I discovered that the dynamesh (a feature that allowed me to sculpt any schape while maintaining the quality of the mesh) had split the import into many different meshes, which meant I had to combine the entire thing and merge some vertices together in order to sculpt it again; the intention here is to practice adding stylised features for the map baking process
This came about because originally because I was going to add details on one side, then duplicate special, however, that was changed when I wanted to make both sides look different, detail-wise; since I was dealing with tree-like limbs, it made more sense to add variation to their shape. With this, I used the standard brush to make the bark-like details as well as add in small growths where the bark sticks outwards. However, since this character will have stylised elements as well as realism, I also used the flatten brush over the details to give off a more cartoony look.
Then the final step was to topologise over the sculpt using Topogun 2, and due to the shape of the sculpt, it was a very delicate process; one that took almost a day to carry out. To explain further, I had to topologise around all the gaps so I wouldn't be losing all the detail that I had created earlier, which in turn, will give me some guidelines on where to place them once I'm back in zBrush (Additional note: the mesh flows around the arms and legs for the most part, with the exception of the small growths, which had a separate mesh flow around them). After importing the newly topologised mesh into Maya, I realised that there was hardly a visible knee joint (which would make animating the legs look very unnatural), so I transformed her body on the y axis to make some room, and then extruded the bottom edge of her legs so I could add in the knee caps. It was a quick and simple fix, but it was one that made a huge difference for future procedures.
Also, looking at the final result (so far), she looks as if she's wearing the tree-bark limbs instead of them being part of her body, so to compensate, I will add tree-bark details around her upper arms and legs during the map baking and texturing process, making sure that the connection between her main body and tree-bark limbs are seamless. That being said, I need to deal with two things first before I worry about texturing, and that is the clothes and vines.
Vitalis Development [Entry 3]
With the tree bark limbs topologised, I moved on to producing the main bulk of the clothing before adding in the smaller details (such as the gems, leaves, and flowers) and the vines.
For the fabric of the clothing, I started off by creating a dress in Marvellous Designer 7, which was done by creating two shapes (a low neck tank top and a skirt with a gap in the middle) and stitching them together into one piece of fabric. Once I was happy with the shape of the clothing, I exported two versions of the same clothes; one simulated version (as a single object) and one flat version (as multiple objects), the latter of which I used to topologise over as I can just focus on the topology instead of worrying about awkward camera angles. Afterwards, I used the transfer attributes tool so the UVs of the topologised
mesh would match the UVs of the imported flat mesh (by selecting both meshes and setting UV sets to 'current'), and so the vertices of the topologised mesh would match the shape of the simulated import (by setting vertex position to 'on' and leaving everything else off). After merging some of the vertices (to ensure the dress remains as one piece of clothing), I extruded the entire mesh to add some thickness to the dress and give it a more stylised look (plus, the viewer can easily see the insides of the skirt, meaning that having backfaces there would make the character design look incomplete). This meant that I had to do some additional unwrapping, most of which has already been done by the 2D shape editor in Marvellous Designer and the Transfer Attributes tool.
Afterwards, I decided to make a few additions; the neckpiece, amulet and facial jewellery were made with primitives, the former of which was the most time consuming as it involved creating a torus object, positioning it around the neck, extruding one of the mesh flows downwards and then adjusting the outer end of the shape so parts of it doesn't collide with either the clothing or topology. Then afterwards, I used the quad draw tool to add in the rest. You may notice that parts of the clothing appear to be circular; I did this by selecting entire edge flows, switching the selected edges into vertices, then transforming them while the pivot is in 'Normal' mode. This allowed me to add in a significant amount of detail, while also shaving off a lot of development time and making a decent amount of progress.
So that pretty much covers it for the clothing (aside from learning a new technique), next up, I will be finishing up the modelling phase by adding in the vines and some final additions to the clothing, and then it's on to the unwrapping and texturing.
Vitalis Development [Entry 4]
For the past week, I have been finishing up the modelling and unwrapping process for Vitalis, while also making a start on sculpting the high definition meshes (which I'll cover in the next entry).
The first thing was finish modelling the accessories for the clothing such as the leaves, gems and flowers. The first two were quad drawn on a live plane object, this is so I can make complex shapes relatively quickly (plus, there was no other reliable surface to draw on). Then afterwards, I curved the leaves by transforming the side vertices forwards, while extruding the gems so they look solid and three dimentional. Lastly, making the flowers was a simple process, as I created a sphere primitive (with smaller z scaling) for the petals then used quad draw for the leaves (which have less polygons due to their smaller size).
Next up, were the vines, claws and rocks: for the vines, I used the EP Curve Tool to create a NURBS curve and determine the shape of the vines (which I adjusted in Edit Point mode), then I created a cylinder primitive and placed it near the start of the curve (which is where the backhand is), so when I select both one side of the cylinder and the entire curve, extruding the former would result in the selected faces being moved to the other side of the curve, by which point I can increase the number of segments so the cylinder matches the shape of the curve. This process was far quicker and more effective compared to what I did with my first two characters, where I extruded out and adjusted all the segments individually. To finish off, I adjusted the size of some segments so the vines would look more natural instead of uniform.
The rocks were made by sculpting a base sphere mesh in zBrush (using the flatten brush for stylisation), then topologising it in Topogun 2, and as for the claws, they were made by creating a cylinder primitive with multiple segments that are progressivel scaled down on all axes (to give them that sharp look). With the model done, things are starting to shape up now that she is looking more like an Earth Elemental, as intended. The last thing I needed to do for now was unwrap it using the same technique as before; planar mapping, cut UV edges and unfold, except for her head and body, where I used the roadkill method to flatten the entire body (excluding the head) into one UV (which was done by cutting the edges down the spine, across the back of her arms and down the insides of her legs, then unfolding).
Throughout the course of next week, I will be finishing off this character by baking the normals, applying textures and adding in the hair.
Vitalis Development [Entry 5]
Before writing the previous entry, I made a start on subdividing and sculpting in the high definition details:
For the start, I inserted edge loops close to the edges of the rocks, so they would have a sharper look reminiscent of stylisation. I then subdivided the rest of the character in preparation for sculpting in zBrush.
For the topology, most of the human features have been left untouched; the only thing I did was add in vines around the upper legs and shoulders as well as other smaller details for the sake of anatomy. As for the upper arms and legs, I sculpted in stylised tree bark details; since the lower half of the limbs will be made out of tree bark, this will give Vitalis a more natural look.
A final note on the topology, I removed the ring object attached to the chin as it looked very out of place compared to the rest of the character model.
The tree bark detailing was made using this process: sculpt the shape with the standard brush, flatten the shapes with the flatten brush to add to the stylised look, then switch back to the standard brush for the wooden patterns. I applied this same process when doing the limbs and topology, so the design is consistent.
Then lastly, I added details to the clothing, which has two texture sets so I can texture both the fabric and other objects together in Substance Painter 2. The fabric set was very simple, as all I needed to do was add a little bit of noise to the top half (to give it an Earthen look); I did nothing else to the bottom half as it will be made of a simple material. Whereas the other set had a lot more complexity, as I was dealing with leaves, straw padding, metallic ridges and Egyptian styled beads (where the neckpiece is); in essense, it was time consuming, but it wasn't too difficult given the simple nature of the details. Afterwards, I exported all the high definition meshes and then created the ID maps in preparation for texturing.
For texturing, I started with the topology mesh: the result has two different sections, one has a basic human skin texture applied and the other has a tree-bark like material painted on to it. Both sections also have vines painted across them so it feels like they are connected.
Some additional notes: the basic skin texture has been darkened and tanned slightly due to Egyptian influences, which is the same reason facial makeup was added using bold black colours. The facial markings are also different compared to the final concept; it was planned that the markings would run along her cheeks, however, those designs clashed with the vines (where the face is), forcing me to change the location of the markings to the chin (in place of the hoop primitive that I decided to delete earlier). Also, you may notice white indentations around the joints of the arms and legs; that is tree-sap, which was added to make animating the character more believable
The majority of the limbs were textured using the same process I used for the upper arms (paint over the limbs in material mode, darken the brush for the edges, and then add in the sap around the appropriate joints - such as the wrists, ankles and fingers); since I didn't add much detail to the hands and feet, they looked a little bland upon baking the maps, so I decided to use a wooden alpha and lower height settings to make those parts look sharpened (making the final texture look more interesting). Then, to continue adding to the cartoonish look, I used a basic green texture for the vines.
Next, I textured the smaller assets: as her eyes will be glowing, I gave the eyeball a yellow emissive texture instead of using an iris generator, and the reason why I'm picking yellow is because it will complement the green and brown colours applied to other texture sets, while also giving Vitalis a Goddess like appearance. As for the dress jewels, both had different colours applied to add variation to them, along with this, I've enabled the opacity layer so I could add transperancy to the jewellery and I used a particle brush and lowered height settings to add in some wear and tear.
And finally, I worked on both texture sets of the clothing. For the bottom half of the fabric set, I applied a simple silk texture so it allows me some room to add in the gold patterns, and for the top half, I applied a stylised ground texture with disabled height settings as well as the same silk texture; the latter has a height range setting that adds subtle ripples to the textures, so by using that, the top half feels like clothing but adds the illusion that it was made naturally. As for the leaves, they were given the same texture that I used for the vines, except this time, I have given most of the leaves separate IDs which allows for variation in colours, and as for the rest, I placed a great emphasis on gold and dark blue colours to suit the Egyptian look.
Before ending this entry, I want to note that while unwrapping, I forgot to create new shells for some of the UVs that had a different texture applied, this resulted in a white seam showing up in certain parts of the clothing, so after exporting the textures I went back into the albedo targa to fill in those white seams as they may distract from the final product. Luckily, this didn't take long to do so it didn't impede progress in any way. Now, last thing I have to do is make the hair so I can finish Vitalis off and then start working on my final character.
Vitalis Development [Entry 6]
Today, I wrapped up production of Vitalis by adding in the hair. At this point of development, I have decided against using the XGen to Polygons pipeline (which I used for Mysthia) as while it is very advanced, it was very time-consuming and caused a big jump in the polycount, so instead, I took the more simple approach of sculpting the hair shape and topologising over it; not only does it provide me instant control over the hairstyle, it also helps add to the stylised look of Vitalis (as I'm going for stylised realism this time around).
First off, the hair shape was sculpted in ZBrush: I did this by masking out the area I wanted to sculpt from (which would obviously be the scalp), then clicking 'Extract' to create an extruded mesh used as a separate sub-tool (so sculpting it won't affect the shape of the base mesh).
From there, I formed the shape with the Clay Build-up tool while also smoothing out the sharp edges and using the Move tool to increase the length of certain parts of the hair (in this case, her right side had longer hair than the left). I then used the Dam Standard brush to determine the direction of the hair flow, which will help a great deal once I topologise over it; the hair will be a single mesh for a simple, cleaner look, which prevents the polycount from drastically increasing.
After unwrapping the mesh (which I was able to do in one go), I imported it into Substance Painter to apply a hair material; rather than going for flat colours (used in fully stylised characters), this bridges the gap between stylised and realism, plus it has a few sliders which enable me to shift the hues to a green colour (which fits with the rest of the character). Before finishing off, I duplicated one of the leaves repeatedly and placed each duplicate around the character to provide the feeling of there being a gust of wind; this is simply to add a bit more atmosphere to the final renders.
Now that I've finished the production of Vitalis, I can now move on to my very last character of this project: Koloss, the Great Gorger. Despite the deadline is next month, I'll still be maintaining most of its body shape as it will be very easy to sculpt from scratch; its body shape is over-exaggerated, meaning that I can sculpt it with little regards to anatomy.
Production for Vitalis was a little bumpier compared to previous characters, due to other commitments such as completing the Specimen 13 character, but despite this, I managed to get by without making compromises. The main positives were the tree-bark limbs and the seamless blend of Egyptian elements: the former allowed me to practice sculpting complex shapes from simple primitives, which will definitely come in handy for my next and final character, and the only problem I faced was the textures causing the normals to be faded, which forced me to paint a bark material onto the limbs by hand. While the inclusion of the latter added some visual depth into the character without conflicting with the idea of her being an Earth Elemental.
As I had little experience with stylisation, I decided to take influences from humanoid Smite characters, as some of them utilise cartoony textures while maintaining realistic body proportions. This went well for the most part, as I made sure to not go overboard with the colouring, however, in the future I'll study stylisation further so I can get to better grips with it. For the hair, I decided to use a different process that wouldn't take up many polygons; sculpt the hair shape, topologise over it, then find a suitable material for the hair strands. The shape needs a bit of refinement, however, compared to using XGen, the simplicity of this pipeline allows me to rebuild the hair without losing too much time.
As for the giant vines, they became a very defining feature of this character due to them wrapping around the limbs in a unique manner, plus while modelling them, I learned how effective NURBS curves are to modelling things that would otherwise take up large amounts of time (such as cylinders that twist and turn in many directions, as has been the case with my characters), the only thing I realised further into development (after sculpting the tree-bark limbs) is that the upper vines are a bit thick to be protruding from the hands; it would have been better to have it protruding from the side of the lower arm so there is more room for it inside (to split into smaller vines in a similar manner to veins), while still maintaining the overall shape of the object.
The main thing that went wrong is the normals on the neckpiece: the idea is that it would have tiny beads that are typically found in Egyptian clothing, however, the detailing of the beads came out bigger than intended, leaving visible gaps between them. But overall, I feel that some weird beauty has been captured with Vitalis' aesthetic, and most importantly I learned a lot in regards to sculpting body parts from primitives, modelling from NURBS curves, using different methods for hair creation and stylised texturing.
For my abomination character (Koloss), I focussed my research on a variety of folklore and huge monsters from video games. The biggest inspirations are the One Eyed Oni from Nioh and the Camber Luce boss from Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, as they are both towering beasts that respectively pummel or devour their enemies; the former has an over-exaggerated and demonic look due to it being a Yokai based on Japanese folklore, while the latter has a giant gaping mouth where its abdomen is as well as two cleaver shaped weapons. Going by this, I thought that including a giant mouth as well as weapons would work well for Koloss’ design, especially in an over-exaggerated and grotesque style. While doing further research into Japanese folklore, I found pictures of people wearing Namahage masks, and while they do look simple compared to what is seen on artwork and character models, it gives me a better idea on how I can exaggerate certain facial features.
Koloss will also have a multitude of eyes around his neck as well as a larger, more demonic eye on his chest. The main inspiration for this is Balor, King of the Fomorians (from Irish Mythology), who caused destruction every time he opened his huge eye, which grew as a result of fumes from a potion (Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Balor).
After getting the initial concept down, I looked at more images of monsters that could potentially influence my design, each of which has some very scary but fascinating features.
Starting with the top images; the concept piece of the quadruped from Prototype 2 gave me the idea of turning one of Koloss' arms into a blunt object; not only will it give him something to pummel his enemies with, but it will also be very simple to sculpt on my end. The other two images give me a better idea on how to construct fat body builds for monsters; their necks are bloated to the point where the sides of their skulls are lowered into their trapezoids, and their abdomens (as well as their arms) are longer than their legs, all of which have a significant amount of girth to them.
The monsters shown on the bottom half also show some strange features that I may play around with, including additional tentacles (which I can model additional ornaments to them), a giant eyeball encased within a giant maw (obviously, I'd have something similar to this in the chest area as this conflicts with the idea of having a giant mouth that feeds on others) as well as pipes embedded in the abdomen (which can serve as a mechanical digestive system or filter). The image on the bottom right was the one that got the most ideas flowing; for instance, the overhead limb has a cleaver shaped weapon in place of a hand while the abdominal mouth has pointed teeth and tentacle-like tongues constricting the monster's victim like a snake. The latter would be perfect for Koloss, considering his insatiable appetite, as for the former, I may consider making the weapon out of bone instead of metal so it looks like a result of a freak mutation, while also making the additional limb flexible (like a fleshy whip). Overall, I have some ideas on how to make my last character as freaky as possible; as I can use exaggeration whenever it's needed, there isn't a limit here aside from the deadline being next month (which is why I'll need to find the right balance of complexity and achievability).
Koloss Final Concept
For the past day, I have been working on finalising the look for Koloss before heading into production. Unlike my previous character, where I incorporated elements of stylised realism, this one will have a more over-exaggerated design, meaning that I can sculpt the body shape without having to worry about anatomy and proportions (effectively shortening the silhouette sculpting process).
While making the final concept, several changes were made to the armour pieces amongst other things:
With the design planning now finalised, it is now time to start production on what will be my last character of this Final Major Project.
Koloss Development [Entry 1]
This week, I began production on my last character of this FMP by sculpting the body silhouette; due to Koloss being an abomination with an otherworldly shape, I decided to build the character up from scratch instead of using a base mesh, as this allowed me more freedom in terms of sculpting different body shapes. I also attempted to block out the body shape in Maya, however, I wasn't sure if sculpting out of that would give me the result I want, so that was also a big motivator for me sculpting it from scratch.
The early stage of this process was fairly straight forward as I was only dealing with rounded and exaggerated shapes, which also meant that I only needed to worry about matching the proportions displayed on the final concept, rather than being accurate as far as anatomy is concerned.
I also made good use of the Dynamesh feature, which increases (or decreases) the shape complexity to make sure that all polygons are equally sized, which allowed me to expand on the current shape, and for the most part, I only needed to use the standard brush to build up the body shape and the smooth brush to smooth out the edges to give that rounded look.
For adding the finer details, I first worked on the face and neck, then the torso, and finally the limbs: for the face, I adapted my understanding of facial anatomy into the exaggerated nature of Koloss, allowing me to give him an uncanny monstrous look; as making him look ugly was the point this time around, I didn't need to spend so much time adjusting the facial features. I also added indentations where additional eyeballs and horns will be placed (and can protrude from the skin naturally).
Before adding anything else to the torso, I needed to work on the shape of the pectorals (by adding droopiness away from the chest area, similar to people of obese builds) as well as reduce the thickness of the upper arms and increase the height of the arm-pits so I had more space to work with. Then I added indentations for some deep scar tissue, the Balor inspired eye and machinery (which will wrap around his sides and back). For the giant abdominal mouth, I used the same process I did for his face; sculpt out the lips, then reverse the standard tool to make the mouth area (where the tongues, gums, and teeth will go).
Unlike the previous two areas, the limbs were simpler to work on; for the legs, I simply added in fat rolls around the circumference with a large sized standard brush, while also decreasing the brush size and reversing it to deepen the creases. I also sculpted in toe and fingernails by indenting the shape and sculpting the nails outwards. And for the arms, I added some definition to the arms to refine their shape while still maintaining the roundness, as well as indentations where the tentacles and horns will go and a mass on the left shoulder (which will have a maldeveloped face on it, almost like a mutation).
Now that the silhouette is finished (much earlier than expected, as sculpting this from scratch could have been a very tall task to undertake), I will now spend the next couple of weeks topologising over the silhouette and modelling in the rest.
Koloss Development [Entry 2]
Since the previous entry, I have spent the week topologising Koloss; due to his complex and asymmetrical silhouette, it took a while to topologise over it while also making sure that all the edges were flowing correctly. Luckily, the rules still applied despite his otherworldly shape; topologise around the circumference of the neck, arms and legs, while making sure that the mesh flows around his (many) eyes, nose, two mouths and the indentations where the horns, tentacles, and other things will be (so it looks like they are protruding from the indentations naturally).
The only problem that slowed down progress was how the lower parts of the torso were sculpted (crotch, hips etc.), as this caused major difficulty when it came to topologising that area.
It was only when I took a closer look at the silhouette sculpt when I realised what was causing the problem; the torso and legs looked like separate objects due to how deep the top crease was, plus, the sides of the abdomen began at the top the legs instead of further up where the hips would be, making it impossible to topologise around the crotch and hips. Luckily, overwriting the obj file of the silhouette also updates the reference loaded in Topogun 2, so I was able to make the necessary changes in zBrush (while having enough time to do so); the aim being that the abdomen starts hanging from a higher part of his body, allowing the topology to flow around the abdomen, crotch/hips and legs. From there onwards, I managed to topologise the rest of the body without experiencing any further problems, now for the rest of this month, I will focus on completing the rest of the model and also make a start on the UV mapping.
Koloss Development [Entry 3]
After looking at the topologised mesh from last week, I realised that the topology around the neck eyes was very messy, and animating them would have likely caused them to deform in a very unnatural manner, so I went back into Topogun to retopologise those areas (which was done by having the mesh flow circling around them without messing up the topology around the neck).
Once the mesh was cleaned up, I imported it back into Maya to model around it; I started with simple objects by adding in the eyeballs, upper mouth and horns (the latter of which were mostly constructed using NURBS curves and scaling edge loops), and then I moved on to the bigger, more complex objects that would take a bit more time to model.
My primary focus right now is the torso as that has the most objects that need modelling, and the first thing I worked on was the giant abdominal mouth, where I created the gums with half-pipe objects (also including pointed teeth and molars) and the three tongues with cylinders (reduced on the Y scale) and the EP Curve Tool. I then moved on to creating the artificial digestive system with banners attached to them; the former was created with cylinders and the latter was created by duplicating an EP Curve several times and then using the Loft tool to create the surface (which I had to convert into polygons so I could quadrangulate - as converting it makes the tris visible - and extrude it). One final note, the cylinders were wrapped around his waist through extruding them manually (without using the EP Curve Tool) in order to get a more accurate result, and to get the central pipes to split off into two I added some extra edge loops, deleted the faces down the middle, then extruded the edges.
So a good amount of progress has been made, now I just need to finish off the torso section and then model pieces of fabric and armour around the arms.
Koloss Development [Entry 4]
For the past few days, I have been wrapping up the modelling stage of Koloss' development so I can move on to UV Mapping and texturing. Primarily, I focussed on finishing off the torso (by adding in the tentacles) and adding armour pieces to the arms, as that was all I needed to add at this point.
Before making these additions, I needed to make a small adjustment to his main body; the Artificial Digestive System originally looked like it was going to fall off his body, so what I decided to do was extrude some polygons from the topology so it looks like the ADS is being supported by parts of his skin. Then after making this quick adjustments, I focussed on making the tentacles for his torso area. For those, I created cylinder primitives and used the EP Curve Tool to give them that twisted look.
The only exception is the larger tentacle (with the bone blade protruding from it); I wanted to give it a more fleshy look, so I sent it into zBrush for extra detailing (using a standard brush to add in bumps as well as small stumps that will have mini tentacles protruding from them) and then retopologised it in Topogun (primarily using the tube tool as it is a cylinder object), resulting in a more bumpy finish. Then to finish off the torso, I created the bone blade from scratch by using quad draw on a plane object, extruding the entire shape, and keeping the outer faces very thin to maintain its sharp look.
Now the last thing I needed to do was add leather scraps and armour pieces to his arms, which was basically done by quad drawing the shape, extruding for extra details and moving components around in order to finalise the shape, and because I had plenty of spare time to flesh things out, I decided to add in smaller details such as armour plating and large screw heads attaching the armour pieces to the leather, as well as a chain object hanging off the left armour piece (which resembles an oversized cuff), to give the idea that somebody attempted to lock him up but failed in the process. The armour pieces on his right arm were more difficult to model due to their unusual shape; for example, the horn shaped shoulder piece was done by repeatedly extruding the top-side faces and gradually reducing their size as I go along (as the design assumes that there are horns on both sides with once side being covered), the hard part was refining the shape and adjusting the components, as it took a few attempts to add believability to it. Luckily, I was able to get the shapes that I was happy with, so I could move on and finish the modelling process. Now, I need to unwrap the character in preparation for texturing.
Koloss Development [Entry 5]
This week, I have been unwrapping and adding high poly details to my final character, which is now almost ready for texturing (just need to create the ID maps).
Because there were a lot of objects to deal with (some of which take up a large amount of space in the scene), I had to split the main topology, tentacles/horns, mouths, and clothes into separate UV sets, and of course, I left the eyes separate so the normals won't be baked onto them. The unwrapping stage was relatively straight forward aside from the main topology; due to Koloss' unusual body shape, I was unable to use the roadkill method without the UVs stretching, so I opted to have the torso and limbs as separate UV shells.
After everything was unwrapped, I exported the subdivided meshes into zBrush to add the detailing. I was able to deal with the mouths and tentacles very quickly as I knew exactly which details to add; to give an example, I used a zAlpha to add taste buds to the tongues as well as small cracks to the horns and bone blade to give them a worn out look, switching between the zAdd and zSub settings respectively. Along with this, I used a low-intensity standard brush to add bumps to the gums as they are influenced by the shape of the teeth, and for the tentacles, I focussed on giving them a fleshy but otherworldly look due to them protruding from within his body (using the rake and clay brushes for the muscles and the standard brush for the bumpy flesh).
As for the topology and clothing, they took a while longer due to there being a lot more space to fill. For the former, I considered how his large body shape (and insatiable appetite) would affect his skin, so I used the rake brush to add stretch marks around his chest and abdomen as well as creases between the fat rolls.
I also added in a lot of scar tissue around his body so it gives an impression that the skin gave out and started to open up due to him growing to an immense size. Another thing to mention is the giant eye on the chest isn't shaped like a traditional eye-lid, so I instead made it look as though the centre of the chest has been ripped open by giving the insides a fleshy appearance.
And for the latter, I added dents to the pipe objects using the same technique I used for the scar tissue (by first bringing out the shape with the zAdd setting enabled, then concaving it with zSub), then I used the masking feature and standard brush to add detailing around the armour pieces; I needed the details to be precise and sharp without influencing other parts of the mesh, and by masking out small parts of the mesh (then inverting the selection afterwards), I was able to achieve this very quickly, allowing me to give the armour pieces a very large amount of detail despite the time constraints. Now that all the high poly details have been sculpted in, it is time to texture my final character and wrap up production of this final major project; while I have modelled and unwrapped this character to the best of my ability, the quality of the textures will largely depend on the time I have left so I will insure to make this last week count before submission.
Koloss Development [Entry 6]
Today, I finished production on my final character of this project as I had spent the last few days texturing it and then duplicating some of the objects (teeth, screwheads, eyes etc.) to complete the model.
First, I re-exported the clothing as I added indentations around the circumference of the tubes, this will give them a more industrial look to go with the dirty textures. Then, I imported the entire model (which consisted of five texture sets) into Substance Painter for texturing.
The first step was to add in the materials; to give a few examples, I used skin and other organic materials for the topology, mouths and tentacles, iris generators for the eyes as well as leather and metal for the clothing. Basically, while choosing my materials, I thought about whether or not the object would be flexible or solid.
As a quick note, I used the 'skin light' material for the topology as it procedurally generates height lumps and spots to give the skin a rough look to it (which is well suited for monsters like Koloss). With the materials applied, there was a lot of room to paint details in, so I created several paint layers to add in skin discolouration around the cheeks, lips and chest, blood and acid leaking from scar tissue, as well as fecal matter and moles, I also darkened the chest detailing so it stands out from the rest of the skin texture. And for the clothes, I applied rust materials and white masks inside the metal layers in order to add rust around the pipes and armour pieces (making them look aged and worn), and I used a mixture of alphas to create the insignias on the banners, as well as stencils for the background; for the former, I used the brush for the basic shape and the eraser for the detailing, which provided me with plenty of options to create a unique insignia, which either way would have added more personality to the clothing rather than keeping it as a plain material with nothing interesting to look at.
Now with the textures exported and my final character in a complete, production for this final major project has now been concluded. Now all I need to do is render the final version of Koloss, then give an overview of how the production came along before wrapping things up.
With the deadline approaching, there was a considerable amount of pressure to finish off this character in accordance to its original concept; as he has a very complex and unusual body shape, this would inevitably cause problems when topologising the character and making sure the mesh flows were correct (which took almost a week to do).
Despite this, I did what I could to take advantage of the pressure and make sure that Koloss was finished to the best possible standard. The main things that went well were the body shape and the textures; at this stage of production, sculpting the body shape from scratch was very risky as it could have gone very wrong, however, the oversized and exaggerated nature of the body shape allowed me to sculpt a unique silhouette without needing to worry about advanced anatomy, which saved me a lot of time to work on texturing and adding as much detail as possible; the end result is a monster with acid and blood leaking from various parts of his body, strange patterns around the giant mutated eye, and moles around the circumference of his neck and tentacles, all of which provide the viewer something interesting to look at.
On the other hand, the main thing that went wrong was the strips of leather on the left arm; they were originally meant to be bandages (covering the scar tissue), however, I had a lot of trouble modelling them through quad draw and had reached a point where
I needed to move on to texturing, so I modelled bands of leather around the arm as an alternative so I could continue making progress under the limited amount of time I had, but in the future, I'll try and find a different workflow best suited to making bandages (e.g. sculpting, then re-topologising). Aside from that, most of the flaws that can be found with this character was due to the unfortunate nature of time constraints and deadlines, and overall, I'm happy with the amount that I was able to do within a short space of time (5 weeks).
Final Major Project Evaluation
After seven months of production, my final major project is now complete with five unique characters fully modelled and textured. In this evaluation, I will be detailing the ups and downs of the project as well as highlighting the changes that have been made since the proposal and what I plan to do in the future.
What Went Well?
The main things that went well during this project are the execution of different ideas, development of modelling and texturing skills, as well as how the project has been managed overall. While forming the ideas for this project, I took many risks in order to create something that has never been seen before in a video game, while also developing each character under different styles and influences to build-up a varied portfolio. This went well for the most part as the research I did into different games and the concepts I produced gave me a better idea on how I will follow these styles; as an example, I based Mysthia (my Siren character) on fantasy horror and realism, so during production, I made design choices to suit both genres, such as the addition of blood, scar tissue, mermaid patterns and fins, while also maintaining realistic body proportions in order to make the final design look uncanny and frightening.
Secondly, I feel that my modelling and texturing skills have improved throughout production as I learned some new techniques to effortlessly make advanced models; while developing my first two characters (Insectum and Mysthia), I created the tentacles/tendrils by extruding a cylinder object repeatedly until I got the shape that I wanted, which was very time-consuming. Then later on in the project, I learned to create tentacles with relative ease by drawing a NURBS Curve and extruding the end of the cylinder to match the shape of the curve, which shaved off a considerable amount of time for other parts of the project. Plus, I was using decals for the first time (in the case of Specimen 13) as well as stencils, both of which (when applicable) added more personality to the textures rather than just using the material on its own. Along with this, I also learned different pieces of software including Topogun 2 and Marvellous Designer 7, both of which had time-efficient advantages over Maya; the former speeds up the re-topologising process with features such as the tube and connect tools, and the latter creates the shape of fabric clothing effortlessly (that is automatically unwrapped in the process).
And lastly, my time management has improved significantly; once I had a good idea on what to do for my project, I made sure to make a start on it as early as possible as this would allow me enough time to work on each character equally and maintain the quality of the product as much as possible. When the pressure began to build up towards the end, there were times when I simply had to let go and get things done (more on that in the next section), however, because I had started very early, I was able to take my time for the most part and focus on refining the models and adding a significant amount of detail to my textures before moving on to my next piece.
What Went Wrong?
On the other hand, the things that went wrong were the use of stylisation on Vitalis, modelling the topology and armour pieces for my abomination character (Koloss), and the subdivision workflow. For the first thing, I wasn’t experienced with stylisation so I decided to follow the Smite style as the human characters in that game had realistic proportions but cartoony textures. When attempting to follow this style, I had a great deal of trouble finding the suitable materials and textures, especially for the clothing and the tree-bark limbs (the latter of which I had to texture completely from a brush with a stylised material applied to it). I also ended up rushing the hair as I needed to move on to developing Koloss, which I needed at least a month to complete. I feel that not learning Substance Designer caused this (a software dedicated to the creation of unique materials), as I was focussing intensively on finishing the project on time.
Speaking of Koloss, it took me up to a week to re-topologise over the silhouette as his complex and other-worldly body shape caused me problems in regards to making sure the mesh flows were correct, which is very crucial when it comes to rigging and animating. It was worth the risk as I wanted to create something truly unique, however, this resulted in me rushing out the armour pieces in order to get all characters done on time (fully modelled and textured) before production ended, so they ended up looking very small compared to the body. Luckily, I made sure that the textures were of a good quality to cover up the shortcomings with some of the models.
And lastly, the subdivision process has been a weak point for me; usually, I will add multiple edge loops around the object to make sure that all faces are of equal size (making it easier to sculpt details into them) as well as bevel the sharp edges to ensure that the mesh doesn’t lose its shape while subdividing it in zBrush, however, this results in the lowpoly edges showing in the highpoly mesh, meaning that I had to smooth out the object before adding details to it. So while it works, I will need to figure out a more time efficient way of subdividing the mesh effectively, so I can focus more on the texturing process straight afterwards.
Changes Made Since the Proposal
Since the beginning of the project, all my character ideas and concepts have remained unchanged from the pre-production of character profiles to the completion of the final product, meaning that I was able to realise those initial ideas that I had pitched early on, with some minor adjustments made as I went along (e.g. adding the split mouth feature to Mysthia).
However, while drawing up the final concepts for Vitalis and Koloss, I had to give both characters a major design overhaul; initially, the former looked a lot like a throwaway as her clothes and limbs were very plain, so I decided to do more research into Smite characters, make her limbs out of tree-bark (so having vines protruding from her hands would make more sense), then add in Egyptian fantasy elements to her skin and clothing to make her design more interesting (such as eye makeup, beaded neckpiece and gold armour).
And as for the latter, I decided to remove some unnecessary details while maintaining the body shape; originally, there were horns and limbs protruding all around his body, but as I had reached a point where I needed to get the project done (development of Koloss began 5 weeks before the deadline), I decided to switch those out and instead make the eye on the chest more prominent while also adding in some patterns and spots around his body. So the idea is that I could still add a lot of detail to Koloss, but do it in a simpler more efficient way (either way, it was a necessary change to make).
In the future, I will work on the feedback that I received for my Siren character during the Vertex event, where I will remake the skulls hanging from her breastplates (while taking a closer look at skull anatomy) as well as the blood spatter on her wing membrane textures. Then afterwards, I will return to my Egyptian character (Vitalis) to remake the hair (and probably add leaves to it) as it was rushed due to time constraints, then see if I can fix some of the texturing.
I will also work on rigging and posing the remaining characters (that are currently in a t-pose), as well as add a base for each of them; this means that once I re-render those characters, they will not only be visually interesting, but will also have personality to them, and plus, this will develop my technical design skills as I go along, so this can open up opportunities for rigging job roles as well as character design.
Then afterwards, I will continue to create new characters in order to explore new ideas that were never explored before, develop my modelling and texturing skills and most importantly expand on my current portfolio. In particular, I will look into developing more stylised characters so I can build extra confidence and proficiency in multiple art styles.
Despite a couple shortcomings, I feel that my project has gone according to plan as I have made an attempt to develop each character equally, which will allow me to start making my way into the industry with an already strong and consistent portfolio to build upon. Compared to the beginning of this project, I feel that my character designing skills have progressed significantly, and now with the final major project finished and behind me, I will take what I have learned so far and develop those skills further.