Saturday, 12 December 2009

Mission Complete

That's right folks, we're done! Take me out of the oven and poke me, I'm ready. It's been 48 hours since I last closed my eyes and participated in an activity often called sleep. Except I won't be sleeping, what I'll be doing is far beyond sleep, other dimensions and parallel universes, you know the drill. So as I write this with what little strength I have left (said like a true martyr, on both knees and fist raised to the sky), I considered why I was actually doing what I was doing. Often the hardest question is the simplest.

At the core of the question, the easiest answer is that I simply want to get better at character design and modelling, what better way to go about it than actually design and model? Though after a short time, through what I consider natural research or plagarism I found out there's most to every character than meets the eye. I don't have the mental capacity to go deeper than that (I lied, I never had the mental capacity to go deeper than that) but suffice to say I learned a good bit this term. An exercise in seeing how a protagonist and antagonist can exist in the same place while having totally different goals and affecting the outcome of the game ever so much.

Enough talk, I'm finished with Haruka for now... well in terms of deadlines. I might try some more stuff out with her later on. In general, all I wanted to do was show some emtion, maybe tell a story and show a relationship between different characters. We'll see how it goes, though the only part about this semester that bothers me is the contextual stuff. I'm terrible at that.

I had intended to finish this post yesterday (the 11th) but I fell asleep. So much for willpower huh?

A couple of pages from my final hand in. Overall I was pleased with this project, but I'm sure I can do better. I can't wait for next term to try and prove that right. So it's Christmas time finally! Gonna play games, sleep, eat food, clean stuff, make sprites and 3D models of random stuff if I can. Next updates will probably be sprite based...maybe.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Diligence, Diligence!

So, there are 2 weeks left until the ultimate deadline of ultimate destiny is upon us. Oddly enough, I'm feeling rather calm about it, just a couple of days ago I was freaking out like I usually do thinking about what I have to do and when I have to do it by. But I've been underestimating myself since I got things done really quickly.

The test now was to take a mesh I was happy with and turn it into a real time model. A lot can be lost when going from a 10, 000, 000 poly sculpt to 10, 000. Zbrush often gives a false sense of security in how solid your model is - it'll look nice in Zbrush, everything does. Well, except the crap stuff. So when you take it out of Zbrush and put it back in Maya, you're often left in the dark for the longest time, UV'ing and baking until you finally look at the model, often with dissatisfaction. But some clean up, texture work and nice rendering will slowly build confidence back up. But there's still a lot that can go wrong, if your UVs (basically flattening out the model so you can paint on it as a 2D texture) aren't right the bake and textures will look funny. If your baking settings are wrong or the mesh is unclean then you won't get good results. The list goes on and on and I've encountered every problem at least twice. A lot of people said that Haruka was creepy, and I reckon even now they don't know what to think of her, so I did a quite paint-over of my sculpt to preview what she would look like with textures.

And I really liked that, she was looking freaky because... well, how else is someone with a big head and no eyes supposed to look? I really wanted to try and get that pastel look, but that's mostly about materials, shader set ups, lighting and render more than anything I've learned. Yet, after all my trials to get a low poly Haruka the previews of my model weren't looking...great.

Well... it's a start. Haruka is supposed to be innocent looking and all those descriptive words (I'm saving the good stuff for contextuals...), so the face and eyes were the first things I worked on. It didn't take long to complete the textures, it was rather simple which often worries me cause I imagine it should be harder. Yet I suppose that's the trade off with all the headaches the steps before it cause. So after a while I finished her textures and specular map and decided to render them out in Marmoset. And I have to say, they're looking nice! I was pleased about it, so the last thing I do when I render her out for final images will be to separate the mesh into different chunks to better control specularity (this has to be a word). Yet I may be screwed with the other Haruka, since I can't render Alphas in there... time to learn UDK right?

Sunday, 29 November 2009

I can't believe it's not...working

Unlike how delicious the brand of butter I simply referenced is, 3D is not so tasty at times. There are rare times when you can eat your favourite food, enjoy the hell out of it but still be kicked in the taste buds by some unexpectedly bad after taste. It happens once every... hundred times or so, but when it does you feel like you've been made a fool by something you so dearly trusted. Today, I had that experienced. Unlike with food, where running to down the closest thing (like apple juice or jam) usually clears the bad after taste, 3D work takes 100x longer and usually requires a lot of thought and problem solving.

True to my word, I said I would be complaining about Maya, Zbrush, and whatever I could get my hands on. No matter how much experience you have, there are somethings you can't predict. I write this mostly as a precautionary warning to myself and anyone else reading it who can utilize this shared knowledge of pain. Which mostly means I'm writing this for myself.

1: Sometimes it's better to work in pieces than it is to work as a whole.
I'm not sure what to think about this. Intersecting pieces vs a whole continuous mesh? I've used both methods already, and I honestly can't say which is better. For ease of mind and matter, I suppose intersecting pieces is better, but maybe for animation a continuous mesh is better? I'll tell you one thing I know for damn sure, it's a hell of a lot easier to retopologize and bake intersecting pieces than a continuous mesh. Easier on my over heating brain and my over heating computer.

I cannot emphasize that enough. I always thought there was little reason to care about these settings in xNormal, but it turns out I had been taking them for granted. What they do is they make the normals and occlusion so much better when baking. It makes the rendering go past the UV borders and ensures that you can't see any nasty seams. It also cuts down on time spent cleaning up your easy bake mesh afterwards. I never knew, luckily I work methodically (or I'm paranoid...) so I can fix these issues up, but I never would have seen this coming. And to think I did it just to save my computer some effort rendering. Good for nothing...

3: Decimation Master is...sketchy.
Well, I spent most of today fighting with Zbrush crashing on me every 3 seconds. I have no idea why it's doing this, chalk it up to the randomness and sheer frustrating...frustration of 3D programs. Photoshop never did this to me, photoshop has always been kind and gentle. I love photoshop. I can't say why Zbrush isn't working, my usual method of figuring out what's wrong by eliminating what I've done and retracing my steps isn't working because Zbrush has quite a rigid work flow, another reason I want 3.5 R3, though, probably not a great reason.

Well, that's all I have for now, at least Haruka is coming along nicely, the bake turned out well except for minor (or not) grievances that I've outlined above. Update somewhat soon, when I finish the textures.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Haruka Sató - Stylized Cont.

Well, it's been a while since I updated. I guess it's time for progress shots, yay! Anyway, in general the modelling has been going well, since this was a new style I was eager to get started, but the eagerness soon faded as I started sculpting and realized that even something that seems so simple in 2D is just as hard in 3D. Certain parts were easy and just a matter of deciding tension points and general aesthetics, but the face and eyes were haaaard. Though I say that, you must know that it's in relation to the other parts of Haruka, but the face is important for the overall look, since it's so damn big, it has to look right, right?

So here's where I am currently, people say it looks creepy, and I tend to agree with them - but I also think it's kinda cute, which perhaps says more about me than I realize. Maybe I'm too close to it, or maybe I just know too much about it. Since I can say to myself, "Well, before it looked like..." and take some comfort in how messed up it looked before. Or maybe I'm some kind of Alien lover. In general, one of the things I was trying to do was add character to basic form. Some characters just have...character, but usually the best thing to do is keep them neutral if you plan on doing facial rigging and animation. I guess I should stop focusing on that in the future, that might make it easier to add some drastic facial expressions in my sculpting stage which I haven't done yet.

Apart from creepy, people haven't really said much about it, though I'm trying to make it cuter just because that's what the concept art looks like, even though I think I've come as close to the concept art as I can get - especially in regards to the hair, which is my favourite part. The main difference between concept art and 3D model is the belt/skirt area. It's a lot thicker in the 3D model and less flowy, because mainly if it wasn't it would be hard to get those dynamic movements when animating. Also, the belt buckle thing had to go. It just looked wrong, which kinda supports what I was thinking about things in 2D don't always work in 3D. It's mostly a compromise job, since a lot of ideas and concepts just spring out in 3D that wouldn't work in 2D because of complex drawing angles (not that I suppose that stopped anyone who's actually good at drawing).

So far, Steve said the eyes are too far apart, which is an easy fix (in both ways, easy to change and easier to reverse should it look bad). I think that could help a lot (also, eyebrows! Only villains have no eye brows...) though it remains to be seen. Secondly he said the forehead was too harsh, which I can see as well. Perhaps roughing in a hairline will help? My only worry is that it'll change the mood a little, but we'll see huh?

Lastly, random picture I drew in class today. Didn't have much else to do, and I suppose tomorrow's lesson will be shorter in that I really need to be at home to finish Haruka, retopologize her and then bake her. That sounds weird, even to me. I hope I can finish retopology tomorrow, but it can be so boring that I often procrastinate while doing it. Oh well, no time for such luxuries, deadline in 2 weeks or so and I haven't even started my contextual studies part. Not that pushing contextuals to the wire has ever stopped me from completing it before. I'm getting pretty quick at 3D modelling/creation, but it certainly doesn't mean my work load goes down.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Haruka Sató - Stylized Start

So today I start working on the stylized version of Haruka. You can see the similarities but of course a lot has changed. The above drawing is what we call a "model making" drawing. Basically it says all it needs to say (so why say more?) It doesn't take long to draw these things, but it can be annoying trying to line everything up. I used to be really anal about getting stuff to line up perfectly and spend ages doing it, but sooner or later I realized what a waste of time that was since I could easily tweak the shape in Maya or Zbrush. I mean, if I can go from a cube to a person just by sculpting then this shouldn't be hard at all. The main reason I even did these was because stylized proportions are different and figuring it out in 2D is a lot quicker than doing it in 3D.

Damn... Josh and I talked about a lot of things yesterday but I can't remember exactly what it was. I think the main topic was giving the bag equal amounts of character - as well as making the serious Haruka's bag be more menacing and slug-like. I figure by now just a simple lattice deformer will work for the bag, but I also want to try animating the UVs to give Haruka's cuffs a little more of a ghostly feel. Either with transparency or some kind of eerie glow/incandescence. I dunno, I'll figure something out later on.

Anyway, let's see how long it takes to build a bash mesh for Haruka. I'm feeling really good about this, a nice fluttery feeling in my stomach tells me as much. Or it's telling me to go toilet, either way it's good.

Deformer isn't a word. Damn you English, damn you.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Brand New Day

Woo! So today was pretty good, finished the texturing and overcame a few design problems. I'm gonna stop tweaking the textures because I could seriously spend another 2-3 days just doing that. Thing about design is that somethings have to be improvised. No matter how much you plan or how cautious you are there are somethings that you can never see coming. Stuff like how the bag handles are different in the concepts, how the buttons changed and so on. The main thing was that Haruka was supposed to wear bracelets (if only to cover up a horrible seam). But after doing so many variations and trying different ideas nothing worked out. I was potentially screwed because I would have to redo the UVs and join the hand and wrist together.

There's another note, keep the hand attached to the arm throughout the whole process. Unless there's a sleeve or something.

Anyway, after lamenting and wasting some time figuring stuff out, I just decided to go with the shackles that you can see attached to Haruka's bag. They fit perfectly ([gayvoice]great accessories[/gayvoice]) and go quite well with the character. I figure if you see them alone you'll be wondering why Haruka is wearing something so weird - so the mystery is noticable from the get go. She's not a convict cause of her clothes, so it worked out in the end after all. Not to mention how when I rig it I can do it much more organically.

Things are looking up. I also got asked to draw more Balloons for a christmas release of a thing for my thing. That's awesome, though horribly timed - still, I was in no position to turn it down.

Early AM O' Clock Part 2

As I write this it is 6:14 am. I'm quite awake oddly enough despite waking up at 10am this morning and going to Open09. Speaking of which, it was pretty fun. Lots of ideas and talking going on, who doesn't like talking about games? Probably a lot of people, I might be the minority here...

God why am I still up... Do I risk just...staying up and getting an energy drink as soon as the shops open? Nah, to hell with that, I need sleep (it's taking a lot of effort to not swear). Anyway, I figured at this point I would post a thing I did today cause I finished my other thing so I can start the thing I wanted to start tomorrow...

I hope I finish the thing by thursday...that's what? 3 days? Pssh, I can do that. Anyway, while I was doing something I remember that I should write down what I was thinking about while doing it. Soooo uhh, here goes.

Eccentricity - Specular Power - Controls how strong the highlight hot spots are. Low values (black) make smaller, stronger hot spots while high values (white) make larger, weaker hot spots. Make maps with details from diffuse map (lots of different shades and values)

Specular Roll Off - Specular Masking - Controls how strong or spread out the hot spot is. Low values are weak while high are strong. Make with flat/block in values.

Need to find the right balance...need a lot more strong, small hot spots.

Specular Colour - Specular Colour - Controls what colour the highlights will be when light passes through them and returns to...the void? Somewhere... lost my train of thought... Oh right. Using dark, dark colours (usually blue from what I can tell) to make the specular highlight as white as possible. Can get a rough preview by setting the specular layer on Linear Dodge (add).

Currently I need to tweak the colours of the spec map, and change a few values here and there. I also cannot believe my image hasn't uploaded yet, jesus what is it doing? I started when I... started this entry and it still hasn't finished. It's 6:45... really? I must have dozed off. Yay, there it is. Only 6:30... no, that can't be right... anyway...

Rendered with some toolbag thing...downloading Unreal Development Kit to see if I can use that as a rendering engine. Lighting in Maya is annoying. Uhh, probably going to sleep now until... well, tomorrow. I wonder if my parents are reading this - if you are, don't call me for a couple of days. I won't be conscious.

EDIT: Clarity note, I may have had spec roll off and eccentricity mixed up. Spec Roll is where I control the intensity of the highlight and eccentricity is the sharpness of the highlight. A spec map is what I expect it to be basically, a greyscale version of the colour map. Light/White = stronger highlights. Invert the roll off map and get a base for eccentricity map.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Early AM O' Clock

So here I am again (at the time of writing, 3:15 am) posting in the middle of the night after working on...something. Oh yeah, textures. So texturing (boohoo, not a real word either) is going rather well. I used the colour scheme from the last picture I drew and it worked out rather nicely. I was at a loss on how to improve the textures, so I'm glad they turned out pretty well.

Haruka is missing her bracelets because I messed up the UVs for them so the lighting was messed up. I forgot that I should delete the other half of the object if the UV sets were overlapping when baking my normal map. So after that I pretty much started on the bag and was very pleased with the result. It's dirty and very bloody, the lost soul might need some work, but I might just use an incandescent map for the cracks and glow maps for the eyes. I still need to work on the spec maps, but I'll explain that stuff later when it isn't so late.

Tomorrow is Open09, might not go considering it's 3:20 am right now and the thing starts at 10:45 am. Jesus why does crap have to happen so early in the morning? These are game designers and gamers. We don't get up before 12pm unless it's life or death (or a new game just came out).

3:23, spent 3 minutes staring at nothing while I was thinking about nothing. Wow, 3:25...what was I doing? Oh yeah, it came back to me. I was thinking about uhh, the relationship between Haruka and her bag. How two characters joined at the hip interact with each other? Usually that sort of relationship is reserved for friends who work together for a common goal. But Haruka's bag (and souls) are working against her in a constant struggle to get free. So displaying that relationship will be difficult, but so far the easier way is by clarity of texture. Haruka is visually clean and innocent (I guess) while the bag is dirty, bloody and intimidating. As far as rigging goes I think the motions of the bag have to be sluggish and, being dragged around by an unsuspecting Haruka. While Haruka will be more energetic and fluid in her motions, like she's running to a place she cannot wait to get to.

I have to rig this soon, not looking forward to doing that. I wish I could just hi-jack an old rig I made (like the one for Lyra!) but ultimately I need to make it again so I can properly incorporate the bag.

Note to self: Generic characters are good for a reason. I'm starting to see why the bald marine is so popular.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Seems so far away...

So apparently the rain makes me a little melancholic. Either that or I'm sick in the head. Sometime while texturing (picking colours while texturing is...not a good idea I'm starting to realize) I got sick of it and thinking about it. So what do you do when you're bored out of your mind of the monotonous, mundane task you're doing? The Internet! How I love the Internet sometimes, but during my procrastination session (which makes it sound important) I came across a series of pretty depressing pictures. Stuff like Calvin and Hobbs when Calvin was on some medicine that killed his imagination so Hobbs disappears. People generally being depressing, suicidal nitwits and imagining a life where they aren't alone.

It sounds incredibly sad (in more than one way) but it was pretty good stuff. I could just imagine Haruka's depression after being alone for so long. Long story short, I was in the mood for drawing. Apart from generally giving me a good idea (and more confidence) about Haruka's colour scheme, it was fun to draw once again. I took a new route in drawing so I'll probably be using this method more for speed drawings. I say speed drawings, but it still took me a couple of hours to do.

So while I was in this...depressing mood so to speak, I found it pretty easy to draw. This is a mix between a mood picture and a concept realisation. A lot of it is based on my 3D model, so that makes it easier to pick accurate colours (note, you can't see the colours I picked, because the picture is mostly blue - you know, cause Haruka is blue). It's good to go back and forth between 2D and 3D. Because too much time in 1D is bad.

Deadlines approaching soon. I didn't want to be like Steve, posting blog entries at 4 am. But hell, I'll be up all night. Panic mode has not disappeared what so ever. Back to the grind! Texture time... or maybe retopo time. No... Textures. New Rule: Keep it simple, stupid.

P.S Why is Texturing not a real word? It seems like half the words I'm using on this damn blog don't exist.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Little Miss Penny's Oven - The Easy Bake

Even as a child I loved to bake stuff. Cookies, cakes, cats, all those C words. So when I grew up I thought, "where has that childhood dream gone to?" I wondered why I haven't baked in such a long time when I used to love it. Making treats for all my friends and bringing them in for the teachers. That's when I realised, it was because that wasn't me. But how weird would it be if I was?

Moving on, the title may seem deceptive - I know I would be peeved if I were reading this and didn't see any sweets or cookies. But it is actually relevant, in a way to 3D modelling. You see, when you have a high poly sculpt and a low poly/real time mesh. You want to get the details from the high poly onto the low poly. We call that baking. You bake the details from the high to the low so that when you apply it to the low you get the feeling that you're looking at the high. Ok, so that sentence doesn't make much sense, so I'll show you.

Remember all those Zbrush meshes I've showed you over the past... however long. Those are my high poly meshes. I can't use those to make a game because the game engine would crash and burn faster than the Hindenburg. So I made a new mesh based on the high poly. After you bake the details you can see the information from the high poly but on a low poly surface.

You can see the wireframe of the low poly mesh as well as the flow (remember I talked about flow a few posts ago). All in all this mesh comes to around 10k tris (triangles), I might poly strip a few edge loops (excuse the jargon, it means I'll remove a few of those blue lines to make the tri count lower) so I don't go over 10k. The normal map took a little bit of cleaning to get right, but that's always the case. Cleaning a normal map isn't as simple as color picking and soft brushing. You have to get into the meat of the channels and work the RGB channels separately until the final outcome is desirable. I guess in the channels it's just as simple as colour picking and soft brushing though.

You can see the before and after of the images. As you could guess, without the clean up the model would be looking very ugly. There were a few artifacts with lighting in Maya, which annoyed me because I noticed a similar thing happening on a previous render.

So after ditching that lighting set up (FU Daylight rig). I found another method of lighting that I quite liked. It also made me feel a lot better about the model and my baking/cleaning skills after seeing it like it. I was getting that feeling in the back of my head like starting over again wouldn't be so bad. That's a terrible thing.

So that's where I'm up to right now. Next up, hair!

Monday, 9 November 2009


Ok, this has nothing to do whatsoever with my projects, but Andrew Thompson (no relation to Jim Thompson...I think) sent me an email with some reviews for Balloons! It's an iPhone app I did the graphics for last year. Overall the reviews have been very positive - my concern was whether they liked the graphics - and they did! Damn it was nervewrecking to read, but I suppose Andrew wouldn't have emailed me if they were crap reviews.

Review 1
Review 2
Review 3
Japanese Review 4 (how's your Japanese?!)

So, that was quite a lot of fun. Didn't feel like it at the time, but what can you do?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Interim Game Idea - Wandering/Wondering

I dunno why I'm doing this, but I considered doing a short game idea to help contextualize my character a little. The game title would be Wandering/Wondering, mostly because the character Haruka spends a lot of her time wandering the land looking for her family and the other character (the demon/whatever hunter) spends a lot of time contemplating his actions and trying to find Haruka. Each character goes to the other side, but don't we all?

Anyway, I considered all sorts of possibilities for the game and character in previous posts and comments. Thanks to a little help from Steve (the MCP of game design) I was able to narrow down the list of ideas to something more concrete.

The main characters would be Haruka and a still unnamed man who's a demon hunter (I'll call him DM). You play through both perspectives of Haruka and DM in order to understand the full story.

Haruka's innate ability is to draw in lost souls, delay, manipulate and absorb them. Of course, she doesn't know this. She becomes more ghostly when in danger, able to run through certain walls or disappear completely and reappear in a random place (her memory hazy). She has little control over these powers and often doesn't know she has used them. Certain people she meets and captures give Haruka other abilities, classic things like more strength or the ability to do things (pick locks, fight, plumb etc). Haruka doesn't realize how she's using these powers, nor does the player until near the end of the game. But the truth is that she's tapping power from the souls shes captured and the more she uses a certain power, the more of the soul's memories she uncovers. The souls are very malicious towards Haruka (wanting to get free) so over using a certain power harms Haruka. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Haruka can gain health by running through crowded areas. Since she passively absorbs souls, she can absorb bits of the souls of the people she's running by, but the consequences (more story/character wise than game play) are that the people are in grave danger. Haruka is safest around a crowd and vulnerable alone, which is a great character contradiction for someone who feels lonely. She wants to be near people, but can't because she'll kill them and she doesn't want to be alone but it's safest for everyone.

Haruka's story takes her from place to place, which is unusual for a ghost. She finds clues that eventually lead her no where. The player uncovers these new clues and gains new insight from using abilities. As she uses her power she realizes the evil surrounding her and where her true power comes from. As she sees her "baggage" she can finally see all the souls she has captured and tormented, as well as all the blood that follows behind her. Depending on the game style, the final boss would be Haruka's "baggage" or DM.

A final thing to note about Haruka's perspective is that she sees threats as story book demons, ghosts and ghouls. In truth these are actually hunters who travel around the world looking for strange oddities. Anything from ghost busters to demon hunters try and kill Haruka, but so far none have succeeded. Haruka's instinct is to defend herself from those trying to hurt her - she doesn't hold back because she doesn't see them as human. If she did, she probably wouldn't exist.

That would be the first perspective, the other perspective would be from DM. From his perspective, DM sees all the destruction Haruka causes and his job is to hunt her down and put a stop to her. The player doesn't really know why Haruka is doing this, or even who Haruka is. He just has to fight the lost and tormented souls (un)lucky enough to not have been captured by Haruka. These souls take on various different forms depending on the person. It might be accurate to say that DM is more of an exorcist than a demon hunter. Though hand in hand?

DM sees many of his fellow comrades die to Haruka, so his view on her is very negative when he finally does meet her. It's up to the player to try and decipher the clues on what Haruka is doing in order to see that she's as much of a victim as the rest of the people. Naturally that's often easier said than done, there are a lot of grim possibilities when DM fights Haruka. He could win (difficult) and destroy Haruka, leaving her baggage to rampage wildly without her. He could lose the fight and become one of the souls that Haruka has in her palm - that way nothing gets resolved. This outcome would happen if the player can't beat Haruka or hasn't tried to see what has happened with her. The final would be to realize that Haruka isn't the enemy and try to focus on her baggage. Through this Haruka would see DM for what he is and finally the baggage would be the true enemy for both of them. That would be the true ending.

The final fight would be similar for both characters (as in DM vs Haruka, Haruka vs DM and both vs baggage), in which the true goal is not defeating your opponent, but understanding them. It would be Haruka realizing her demons and how to fight them, and DM understanding Haruka's dilemma.

The last perspective would happen randomly, you'd see how the souls Haruka has captured came to meet her in the first place and what circumstances led to their death. Haruka is more drawn to people without a purpose, wandering like she is - so you'd see what caused them to become like that. The player wouldn't know exactly what was going on with these perspectives until the end of the game. It would feel like someone met with Haruka and bonded with her, eventually leaving (the ideal would be having their issues resolved - but that's a fake truth).

Lastly, the game would probably be more of an action/adventure game, with more emphasis on the adventure (like how Ico has action in it but it's not the main thing). So with that done, I suppose I'll end this entry and get back to slaving over my 3D model like a good porch monkey.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Back from the Grave - A Swine Flu Perspective

Oink oink oink internet, oink oink oink CBS sucks oink oink oink dying slowly oink oink.

(So I've been gone for a while, no new posts or updates. I would have loved to have posted stuff and shown what I was doing but my internet died while I was in the midst of contracting SWINE FLU. So while sick and cut off from the world for an entire week I worked as my strength allowed powered by SHEER BOREDOM. I would have gotten more work done if the light didn't hurt and my arms didn't burn, but all pity aside I did respectable...which is a way of saying I did crap but give me props anyway.)

Oink oink oink, oink oink, oink oink retopologization oink oink oink.

(What I was going to post about before god smited me (smote? Smoted? Don't get me wrong, this was a modern day smiting) was about retopologization (try saying that 3 times fast). I know it doesn't sound like a real world and it barely is, but the importance of doing it while 3D modelling is immense. Many a mistake and crap model was made before I discovered it. It's all about how the edges flow, which probably means little to nothing to you. But what can you do. This is as far as I got before giving up on the notion of posting anything related to the subject AS YET. Notice the lines around the mouth. See how the flow directly across, bending up and down to fit the contours of the mouth? This is bad. It's supposed to flow around the mouth in loops. As shown in the later picture).

Oink oink oiiink oink oink, oink oink, oink oink.

(Instead, I worked on my model until I was happy with it. I went slowly with this in order to lessen my frustration. Lessons learned:

  • Thinking is frustrating. Perhaps just as much or even more so than actually solving the problem before you get to it.
  • I messed up on the neck...scarf tie thing that droops over her shoulder. Next model that won't be a problem.
  • I some how ended up working backwards. Literally. Uhh, not sure how that happened, but it didn't really affect how I worked. It just took a while to figure out when I was retopologizing why nothing I did was taking any effect. I'm not used to working on the left side, so that was annoying.
  • Add/Split in 3D Coat is a GOD SEND. Seriously, it can be pretty frustrating to do this stuff, even more so when the tools don't work. 3D coat sped up the process greatly, but not without it's own set of nuances.
  • Not sure how this bake will turn out (more on that later), but if it does I need to find more of a consistent balance.
So, a good deal was gleamed from this, but making a second model in less than a month is going to be stressful. Tentative deadline for finishing srs Haruka is the 15th or 16th. Tomorrow I should have this stuff baked and if everything goes well (haha... unlikely) I can be texturing by the weekend, hopefully finishing by Monday. Tuesday the latest. That gives me around 6 days to make Haruka's backpack. Rigging isn't a huge issue, though I would love to throw in another face rig. But we'll see how December looks for time. It takes about a day or 2 to make a good rig, so 5-6 days to rig both characters... not sure what I'm going to do about posing the backpacks, maybe separate flies and/or transpose in Zbrush? Who the hell knows. I realize at this moment I might be making 4 models this term instead of 2. THAT'S NOT COOL AT ALL. I kind of screwed myself there. But enough whining... actually I got more left in me. What the hell am I doing? Do I pose the backpacks and rig them separately? Should I just throw in a simple rig for posing or create a rig for animation? Thinking about it makes my head hurt... I might skip out of class early tomorrow just because I'm worrying about it. 3D stuff + deadline = SWINE FLU. Yes, I'm blaming Jim for this. And God. Mostly God.)

Oink oink, oink oink, oink oink.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Little by little...

The greatest thing about 3D work is how meticulous you have to be in order to get something done. Maybe it's just me, maybe I have 3D OCD, but something this time consuming deserves to be perfect. At least, perfect in your eyes. Little by little, you tweak points, vertices and faces. The rough, wide sculpting phase doesn't last for long, but in retrospect it's a lovely stage where nothing is solid and you have no views or preconceptions about the work. The body shape, proportions or details hardly matter.

Then the detailing section comes in, which is also a lot of fun, but it's the most time consuming part. Thank god for Zbrush though, it certainly makes things a lot more manageable. 3D work no longer has to be purely about technical skill, it's a lot more artistic. Doing everything in Maya was depressingly slow. But nothing about 3D work is quick, unless you suck at it. Which I guess you can apply to everything.

So I spent a while modifying the body. The stuff I last posted sucks. Don't look at that anymore, it's uhh, not relevant anymore. As you can see I rotated the arms, brought the legs in and increased the size of the body (so the head isn't massive). So after that, I worked on the head (Ok, I lie, I did most of the work on the face and then the body - but who needs a timeline?!)


If these GIFs don't work then I'll kill something. Probably the first chav I see one the way to class tomorrow. Anyway, if they do work, they show my progress on the face from stage 1 to.. uhh, 9? As you can see, I'm glad I didn't stick with the first face that technically worked. Most of the work was done on the eyes, later on I worked on the nose and face shape a little. This took me most of yesterday to do. Which was a long god damn time of slowly moving stuff around. TV helps, so do drugs.

This is the stuff I did today. Most of the focus was on the body (because the head was generally complete). So for now I'm done with it and now I focus on retopologizing (say that 3 times fast - haha, you can't) and finally putting some clothes on her. Tomorrow I will figure out the specifics of how I do this, including how I join parts to her and cloth her.

TL;DR 3D is long.

Monday, 19 October 2009

In commemoration of...

Since I tend to go off on tangents a lot when posting (I can't help it, my mind is a mess), I decided to do this post in the style of Squall Leonhart.




...Whatever. It's still a work in progress. I don't care what you think.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Haruka Sató Cont.

Well, my last post ended rather abruptly, but it was late and well... do you really need an explanation? No? Good, moving on. Today was a pretty productive day. I expected it to suck because my PSP was low on battery and I left my charger at home. No music + nothing to do during the lecture = blow my brains out now.

So as I sat down, ready to pop the cyanide pill into my mouth and perhaps get out of the lecture via ambulance. I took out my drawing pad (my last refuge) and started scribbling more pictures of Sató Haruka. I wasn't exactly happy with my stylized drawings in the last post, so when I decided to try a new concept out I found it worked great. After that I scribbled more and I can say with satisfaction that I'm ready design and style wise.

So thank you, great American fashion hero lecturer. Thank you for forcing me so deep into boredom that I did something productive! Seriously though, it was pretty boring. But the optomistic thing would be to try relate it to games (or character) design. I guess the easy connection is characters wear clothes (though some don't wear many), so in a way, relating the clothes to the personality is important. Especially if you're trying to sell a persona in a picture.

Ugh, I hate getting side tracked. It's worse when you get side tracked in text, cause not only is it a waste of time to read but it's a waste of time to write... Crap, I'm doing it again. Yet, here I am, not pressing backspace. So, that Haruka person. I wrote about her history and personality, but to go a bit more into her character. As you know (or not), Haruka carries around the bodies and souls of people around with her. This is represented in the form of a large backpack that no one can really see. Let's get on with the sketches. Oh yeah, ignore the filenames, Steve named them *coughbastardcough*

This was the first set of sketches I did for Haruka, before the digital sketches. I know the time line is messed up, but whatever.

After the face, I did some rough costumes (can you see my general process? Face > body type/costume > refine etc). I also messed with proportions a little, since the stylized one would be a different size and even look a different age.

(These outfits came after the digital ones, this is pretty much where I settled down with a modern look, although I think a futuristic twist would have been interesting. But then the bag would need to be futuristic and I doubt that would look good.)

After that, I decided to work out the details of the bag. The pictures of the clothes are the final (or what I think is final) designs for Haruka. The bag with the face is for the stylized Haruka. Since Haruka can't see the bag's evilness(?!) until it attacks. So it kind of hangs onto Haruka by wrapping it's arms around her and holding onto itself, pulling faces every now and again. This bag concept is meant to be more physical than the realistic Haruka. In that way the player can hope to beat up the bag and free Haruka from wandering aimlessly. Realistic Haruka's bag is more hidden and... metaphorical? You can't attack it or directly interact with it, it just sort of represents her grief and burden. I wanted players to see the chains attached to the souls, and the faces of anguish that kind of run across the bag's surface. There's also a lot of blood and (?!) at the bottom of the bag, so when Haruka walks she leaves a trail of blood akin to a snail (which is another influence, which also influenced the spiral look).

This is when I start the new style for Haruka. It looks a lot different than the other drawings, which was great for me. I managed to draw all 3 styles I wanted on the same page, as well as another feel pic for the previous Haruka style. I just wanted to draw Haruka and the bag, perhaps after she's seen what it really is?

Well, that's all I got for Haruka's concept for now. Now it's just working on Haruka's 3D model. Expect a lot of bitching when I get to do real Maya work. Oh Maya, I love to hate to love you.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Style Vs Style - Haruka Sato

Well finally, some damn design. I'll have more to post sooner or later, so I figured I would just post whatever I have now and save the rest for later. Anyway, my first real project (one that actually counts, unlike the goddamn Preston brief which can kiss my ass) for the term, actually the whole year in fact is character design. 10 points if you guessed that correctly, -10 points for it being painfully obvious. If you're at -10, shame on you, nothing can save your soul.

Back on topic, since my projects are about character design, I figured I needed some way to design characters, model them in 3D and actual get something out of this academic man-trap. Lo-and-behold! I had a revelation, well, nothing that profound but I was pretty happy when I figured out how I wanted to do things my way and still get the marks. In the end, I decided that designing the same character in different ways was how I would go about that. The same character might look different when the style changes (indicated by my last post), the same character might look different across genres and the same character might look different between platforms (ie, PS3 vs Wii vs DS).

If you don't understand the last point, basically different platforms allow characters to have different levels of details. PS3/360/PC allow for the highest. Character's can be very detailed and complex. The Wii allows for a good amount of detail, but the maps used are limited. The DS/PSP can't handle a lot of detail in the model, so most of the details have to be painted in the textures. The same character looks a lot different because you have to make changes to accommodate the lower levels of detail. This part I'm not too sure about, but hell, I'll let future me deal with it.

Looking back over the last 3 paragraphs, it feels like I haven't said a damn thing. I blame it on how late it is, say what you will about making excuses but they exist for a reason. So for this part of the project (I'll give it a cool name later on, like Operation Takedown), the character I'm designing is called Haruka Sato. Yes, it's a small Japanese girl. But hey, you gotta get started somehow, right? Moving forward!

(Note: This sculpt is very uhh, early. I have no real reference for her face right now.)

Profile: Haruka Sató

Haruka is a wandering spirit who was killed in a brutal accident on her way home from school with her friends. Because Haruka was killed before she could reach home, she never could find the way. Her sense of direction wasn't great and she relied on her friends and family to guide her back home. In death, Haruka wanders around the world looking for her way home, but she can never find it as it no longer exists. Being young and naive, Haruka doesn't realise that her family and home is gone and continues to look for it. On her journey she meets a lot of different people who get sucked into her plight and try to help Haruka look for her home. Because of the futile nature of this quest, most of Haruka's companions die on the way, unable to break away from Haruka for unknown reasons. The burden of their deaths weighs heavily on Haruka, and over the years she has become more introverted and shut in. Yet something about Haruka draws people in, and try as she might, she can never turn someone away. Especially after being alone for so long. The bodies and souls of the dead follow Haruka around, chained to her and also unable to escape. The souls soon became violent and malicious, making the lives of those who follow Haruka end sooner.

Most people (including Haruka) can't see the countless bodies and souls attached to Haruka, so they're unaware of the danger that awaits them. Over the years, rumours of Haruka began to spread and she soon became a symbol of death and aimlessness. It's said that Haruka attracts the type of people who don't have a goal in life, or are just running away from their problems looking for the quick fix. Haruka isn't a malicious spirit, but the circumstances surrounding her death and afterlife make it seem so.

Haruka's character is innocent looking, alluring and helpless. These traits are visually meant to draw in people to her dilemma. When she was alive, Haruka was upbeat, energetic, childish and stubborn, traits that have mostly vanished. She insists that she doesn't need any help getting home, which seems to make those she meets want to help her all the more. Despite her often abrasive and cold initial demeanor, she is kind hearted and sincere. Beneath her forced smile lies a lot of anguish and loneliness.

So, finally here are some pics to go with this description. So far I'm only uploading pics I did directly in photoshop. Tomorrow I'll add some pics I did in my sketchbook to go along with more of the character's description.

These are some of the first faces I drew for Haruka. I wasn't aiming for anything in particular (aimless just like Haruka, coincidence?!), so the style bounces and the drawings kind of suck, but that's OK, since I'm still trying to get the feel of the character.

These drawings were done to help me with the more serious side of Haruka's story. The character would be more realistic, but true realism is boring and ultimately it's not why I draw. So most of the time I go for what looks good to me. I can afford such a thing for now. I really like these drawings, but somehow the style of the eyes gets lost when I do a full size picture. I need to reference this page a lot more. Thankfully the main image I have in my head is no where near complete, so there's still time to fix it.

This side shows the more light hearted style I had in mind for Haruka. This is where I decided what Haruka's hair would look like. I had spirals in mind when I drew these faces, so the hair in this picture and the last tends to curl around a lot. It was based on the idea of a circle, since I imagined Haruka's journey would ultimately be a circle. From the circle I went into a spiral, since those are visually more interesting to me. I quite like the look, but I figure everyone will say "oh, anime!" like they always do no matter what I draw. Not that I mind, I love anime, but when you look around at different styles you find a lot of them look like anime/manga. As I write this, I discovered that I could probably do something in a Timesplitters style and break away from that. But we'll see how those drawings turn out later.

After getting to a nice place with the faces, I decided that I would work out what Haruka would wear. Since she's coming from school, that kind of makes the job easy. But I still played around with some variations. Classic/old school, casual and something kind of futuristic. The clothes had to fit with Haruka's personality, but also a few design choices were done because ultimately, I plan to model Haruka in 3D. And certain things become easier to do if you design things a certain way. Example; Haruka wears two bracelets and her collar goes up quite high. If you were to look at Haruka's neck, you could see there would be two different materials. I designed it like that so I could make Haruka's head and body flow into each other despite having different topology and density. Same with the hands, it's easier to connect parts like this.

After that, came a few "feel" pictures. I'm not sure what to say about these, except I like to draw them to understand the character more. Not just in the way they look (justify the outfit/style from different angles), but possible how they would feel or act in a situation. Usually I do most of this in my head, but every now and again it's nice to get it all out there.

(Note: 25% COMPLETE!)

I wondered if Haruka would be antagonistic to the main character (if this was a game, or something)? Would she be a soul to save or just escape from? I figured in a more light hearted game, Haruka would be someone you save. You end up putting her at peace, along with the souls she carries. But in a darker/more serious game, Haruka might be someone you have to eliminate or escape from, meaning that she can never be at peace.

Whew, that was long. I have nothing witty to say in closing, so...