In Polygonal Mind we've been heavily involved in Decentraland development and community for the past 2 years, and thanks to it we've been in many meetings answering questions about this Metaverse.
This article is a recap of all the most common questions we've been getting about the platform explained for a non technical person.
What Is Decentraland?
Decentraland is a virtual world divided into squares of land of the same size. You can buy and trade this land and also build on top of it. All the content in the world is generated by the owners of the land, making it a huge collaborative space.
How Did We Get Here?
The project has been under development for longer than most would like to admit, and it is evolving on a very slow pace to my taste. This slow motion is probably because 2 years ago, most of the progress of the platform was not poured directly into developing it, but more into the financial aspect of it.
This was very criticized and tagged by many as a "money grabbing project" the progress the team was showing to the public was very focused on financial, while at the same time, various promises were broken on the technical side.
Many in the community felt very disappointed at the time, especially for the VR aspect. Decentraland as a concept drove many different people in investing for a very long term project without a clear route.
But what many of us wasn't able to see at the time, was that having a very strong coin and assets before the actual platform would enable the growth of a development ecosystem from the ground up.
Seen with perspective, it was a risky move, but the right one. I don't really know if this was made on purpose or accidentally.
Decentraland As An Ecosystem To The Future
During this time, there has been many initiatives to attract talent to the project.
Game Jams, Funds, and contests, providing MANA and LAND.
In the future, these initiatives, especially the game funds, will be managed by the Decentraland DAO. That will unlock funds to bootstrap projects pitched directly to the community.
These type of events has motivated professional teams to invest their time into developing for the platform. This has been a great advantage against other platforms that haven't invested that much into attracting developers. It is highly important to allow monetization of your work as soon as possible if you want to retain creatives for the long run.
Most of the times these payments were done in MANA, which has been increasing its price during last year, helping even more those teams who hold it as a financial asset to fund their ideas.
Taking all of this into consideration, we can expect his internal ecosystem to grow slowly into a B2B market for the short term, that will evolve eventually on a play to earn economy.
I Haven't Been In Decentraland Ever Before, How Can I Enter?
You'll need a computer and a browser.
The Graphics Suck
Although this statement might hold some truth, there are various things to consider on the graphical style of Decentraland.
The most important one is resource optimization, it is a web project that loads your 3D interactive land and everyone around you on real time, from your browser, and on top of that, is USER generated content, that can or cannot be prepared to run smoothly.
Think about browsing a website, I'm sure you have experienced a bad website that takes forever to load because it has high resolution images. This is the same thing, but multiplied. So when you open a site, you open at the same time all the sites around it, some of them will work just fine, but others will work badly.
Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do about this, for now.
And if we think even more into the future, probably everything will be rendered on a cloud computer and streamed to your device, like Google Stadia does. I'm not very optimistic about this technology since it will need that most of the world uses a very high speed internet connection. But only time will tell.
The second thing to consider on the graphic aspect is the style, and this is purely a personal taste opinion. This debate has been going for years on the videogame industry, hyper-realistic graphics against stylized content. There is no real answer to this. Stop.
There are many things that Decentraland is lacking visually, we can all agree on that, but I expect the team to deliver them in the future.
How Do I Become Rich Playing Decentraland?
Unfortunately you can't, yet.
How Can I Make Wearables?
A very frequent question, right now, you need a license to mint wearables, and it is given by the DCL team. There is a reason behind, making wearables requires 3D modelling, texturing and rigging skills. Not everyone has them.
We're in the early stages of the platform, and I guess the team is doing closed experiments with experienced teams and individuals to learn the best way to open the market later on.
In the future we can expect:
What About VR
This is one of the points that have brought many different debates and heated arguments to the community. It was promised in the Whitepaper, but discarded a few years back.
Developing a platform is not an easy task, and a VR platform is even harder, so removing it from their roadmap was not a crazy idea at all, it has helped focus on bringing DCL to more devices than a VR focused project could potentially do at the moment.
It has been stated by the Decentraland team that VR is not a forgotten thing, just postponed. So eventually we'll be able to experience Decentraland with our favorite headset. When? Not anytime soon pal, probably in 2022.
Why LAND Is So Expensive?
There are various reasons behind this, the most obvious is scarcity. There is a limited amount of them and in order to make more, the community has to vote for it.
Building on it isn't easy either, you need some expertise to create something worth visiting.
We can't deny that the market has gone wild and has been pumping prices for a while, leading to what we have today.
But at the same time it has shaped the vision of the project into a more B2B approach rather than the B2C we all had in mind. For a business, buying and investing into Decentraland is way more reasonable than a regular person.
Why Should I Buy LAND If I Got Funding To Build
My Own Virtual Space?
Many old fashioned businesses are starting to consider their own Metaverse presence and this question pops very often on their head.
The Metaverse is and will be infinite, endless layers and worlds that we can access anywhere from many different devices. You'll be lost and very easily as we get deeper on the internet.
Decentraland will act as an attention beacon for users, pretty much like any social media platform does these days. So you might want to build your own personal space outside these Metaverse platforms, but you'll need to invest a lot of efforts to attract users there and retain them.
And I'm not just talking about advertising, you'll need to develop interaction on your own, servers to hold visitors, avatar systems, interactivity, etc. Not saying that is impossible, but it will take way more time and funding than having your parcel in Decentraland.
I would say that having a small presence on Decentraland (or any other platform) and linking it to your personal space will be the most logical option in the future, just like you have your Facebook page and your own website.
This is just a highlight of the many different questions we get everyday, my goal this time has been to explain how Decentraland has been evolving in the last few years from an insider look.
But there are lots of different questions that I haven't included here, so stay tuned for more Decentraland insider looks.
As a final reminder, Decentraland is a collaborative layer of the Metaverse, just like Facebook is part of the internet. If everything keeps evolving steadily it might become the business cluster of the future.
See you around the Metaverse!
VRChat is a well known social platform for all those who have VR equipment, and even if you don't have any specific hardware, you can join the party from your standard PC screen too! When you create a scenario, you have to be cautious with texture sizing and data management to make sure you can run your scene, but also the target audience can too! If you fail to democratize hardware requirements then you fail to create a popular VRChat World.
#00 What is Occlusion Culling
Occlusion culling is a process which prevents Unity from performing rendering calculations for GameObjects that are completely hidden from view (occluded) by other GameObjects.
Every frame, a camera perform culling operations that examine the Renderers in the Scene and exclude (cull) those that do not need to be drawn. By default, Cameras perform frustum culling, which excludes all Renderers that do not fall within the Camera’s view frustum. However, frustum culling does not check whether a Renderer is occluded by other GameObjects, and so Unity can still waste CPU and GPU time on rendering operations for Renderers that are not visible in the final frame. Occlusion culling stops Unity from performing these wasted operations.
This is basically the core knowledge of the whole system. This technique is used to avoid doing the real time calculations of gameObjects that are not in the Camera frustrum. This improves framerate and events performance during runtime.
#01 How do you apply it to your scene
To begin creating an "occlusion area" you need to check the box "static" or just click on the drop down and toggle "OccluderStatic" and "OccludeeStatic". Another approach is to select the desired gameobjects and toggle option in the Occlusion Window on the Object Panel.
This tells the engine to consider the gameObject when calculating the Occlusion Data within its Occlusion Area (Unity considers the whole scene as a single area if you don't configure one prior bake).
Occluders and Occludees
The main difference between these two Occlusion concepts is pretty simple but its important to keep it in mind when building your scene occlusion areas and data.
An example of Occludee toggle would be for larger objects like grounds that should be considered separately to ensure its always rendered.
#02 Culling Portals and Culling Areas
Culling Areas are "cube" shaped volumes that "group" all the gameObjects inside of it, being only rendered if the camera is placed inside the same area. This works well if you have multiple enclosed areas, for our case, Occlusion areas didnt make sense as the whole scene is enclosed without visual walls among it.
Occlusion Portals are for connecting two Occlusion Areas and so the Camera can render both areas by the Portal region area. The toggle Open option is for allowing or disallowing this conneciton.
#03 Alternatives to Unity's Occlusion Culling system
The Occlusion system uses a built-in version of Umbra. As any other system, it has its failures and improvements compared to other occlusion system engines. For other projects I personally have worked with Sector, an Asset Package found in the Asset Store that is very helpful and by the time I worked with it it was way better than the Unity's Umbra (more flexible settings as its main selling point).
Another thing to keep in mind is the use of shaders with an excess of passes. Each pass is a whole mesh calculation for the material to be rendered and so Materials with more than two passes can be problematic for lower platforms like mobile. I state two as a minimum because transparent materials require two passes, furthermore they require the renderer to render whats behind the mesh rendered with transparency so they are quite the hard limit for low platforms.
Copy of Batch example
Please keep in mind that "static batching" meshes get combined during runtime by the unity engine and so reduce the "meshrender" batching but keep the mat batching.
#04 Occlusion in the Gauguin Avatar Garden
The whole scene is marked as "Static" as there are no dynamic objects to keep in mind (the water is animated through material [not shader]). This made the Occlusion set up "easy" and not very hard to set the first steps. Keep in mind the size of the Occluder box you want to set, the bigger, the less "accurate" it will be, but at the same time the data will be much smaller. Each project needs its own balance.
In this case for Gauguin we set the size to 1.5, meaning that the smallest "box" packing objects was of 1.5 units (meters) in x/y/z value.
The Smallest Hole float is the setting to tell the camera how big it has to be the "hole" in the mesh to start casting what is behind it. This is specially tricky on elements with small holes or meshes with complicated shapes.
The backface value is the value of directionality of a mesh to be rendered. The higher, the more "aggresive" the occluder will be, making the camera not compute meshes that are not facing towards the camera.
Note that all the "black" shadows are objects that are not getting rendered as their lightbake remains on the mesh that is being rendered. Furthermore you can see the "area" that the camera is in with the correspondent portals. When there is none in scene Unity creates them for you.
The best workaround is to always do it manually and never let the program do the math for you.
For the scene, the ground meshes were kept without the Occludee option as smaller avatars made it through the ground floor due to camera frustrum and its near clip (this cannot be changed as it how it goes in VRChat).
You may find Occlusion Culling easy to set up or even unnecessary!
But the truth is that is a vital piece during the final stages of environment development as is the manager, loader and unloader, of all the visual aspects of the camera, ensuring an smooth experience while mantaining the quality levels desired and keeping hidden from view but not unloaded from scene to ensure fast-charging-fast-hidding.
Also each time you modify a gameObject property like transform or add/remove gameObjects from scene you should rebuild your Occlusion data as those gameObjects are still "baked" in the data.
Keep it in mind specially when working with large environments or low-specs platforms.
You are more than welcome to drop any question or your try-out and results!
Join us: https://discord.gg/UDf9cPy
I purr when you're not looking. I'm passionate about environments and all the techie stuff to make them look rad. Learning and improving everyday to be a better hooman.
So you are new to all this Metaverse economy and you are having trouble understanding what's going on. You want to start investing some time and maybe even money on it, but you are not sure where to start... Well, you are in luck, this post is for you!
In the last two years, we've been involved in many Metaverse projects,
building and generating value across different platforms.
In this article we'll dig into Blockchain Metaverse projects, the ones we know and what you should consider before starting your journey. There are many different Metaverse projects out there, but today we'll compare the best known in the space on different points, so you can have enough information before digging further on them.
Before starting you must understand the Metaverse as a concept.
NONE of these projects alone are the Metaverse, even if they say so on their marketing efforts.
They are LAYERS of the Metaverse, and all of them combined are the Metaverse.
In easy terms to understand, Facebook is not the internet, but a part of it. Same applies here.
The Metaverse Projects, A Brief Description
The oldest one in the space.
It is a single Metaverse layer divided evenly into a grid. Every single coordinate is called LAND.
All the LAND is the same size and has the same limitations. Users can combine their colliding LAND into Estates. Users can create districts to coordinate themselves and this one function as separated entities/companies. There is a limited supply of LAND and there is no way to create more unless the community proposes it through the Decentraland DAO.
The world was open on 20/02/2020
Minecraft-like inspired project.
It is a single Metaverse layer divided unevenly in different plots and islands.
There is a main island called Origin City that has a limited supply of parcels.
Their team is always generating new islands and parcels as a way to fund the project.
Every plot has a different size and limitations.
The world was open on July/2018
High end devices focused project.
It is a single Metaverse layer divided unevenly in different plots along an already generated map with some islands too. Every plot has different size and limitations. The team is releasing new land once in a while.
The world was open on 20/02/2020
The project also has a new proposal for owning whole Metaverse layers, called Somnium Worlds.
But there is little information about this yet.
Evolution of a previously very successful non-blockchain project into a new paradigm.
Also with Voxel art.
It is a single Metaverse layer divided evenly into a grid. All the land is the same size and is pretty big, users can combine their plots into estates to generate bigger places. There is a limited supply of land there is still a big part of it not released to the market.
The world is still in private beta, aiming to launch in Q1 2021
How Is The Experience?
When we talk about Metaverse layers we're talking about content being deployed on the same "world" meaning that in theory you could be able to "walk" from one point to another without any loading screen, so when you join the place, you can see your parcel and everything built around it even if this content is built by another person.
This is the case of Decentraland, CryptoVoxels and Somnium Space,
they all got a seamlessly walking experience.
As opposed to the other projects, Sandbox encapsulates their land experiences into separated scenes and when you walk from one parcel to another, there will be a loading screen.
How Can I Access The World?
Desktop Website: https://decentraland.org/
Desktop, Mobile Website and VR: https://www.cryptovoxels.com/
Same experience in any device.
Full version: Desktop Client and High end device VR headset.
Reduced version: Desktop Web and Quest.
The reduced version is encapsulated in different instances, meaning that you can only visit 1 plot at a time. Web based visitors cannot see client visitors and vice versa. Avatars are also limited to the web version.
Not released yet.
Who Is behind The Wheel?
The project started with Esteban Ordano and Ari Merlich, both very experienced folks on blockchain and high end technology and did a very successful job creating and pushing the idea. Now the project is managed by the Decentraland Foundation, a new entity that is focused on listening to the community needs. Most of the team is in Argentina.
By the one and only Ben Nolan. This solo entrepreneur from New Zealand started off the project from scratch and now has a team helping him to generate his vision. They are very active listeners on their Discord and Twitter.
Funded by the serial entrepreneur Artur Sychov, the project started with a very successful indiegogo campaign back in the day. Based in the beautiful city of Prague, right in the heart of Europe.
The Sandbox project was initially started in 2012 on mobile platforms which to date have gathered more than 40 million global installs on mobile devices. Their 100-people strong team behind has over 15 years of experience making games.
Over the past 3 years, The Sandbox team has been developing a new version of the game – this time as a 3D, multiplayer platform using blockchain technology (Ethereum) to offer a virtual world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences. This is the version we are comparing today.
What Can I Do On These Platforms TODAY?
From afar all these projects look very, very similar, but they are actually not, they all have different communities with various mindsets.
This project has made a huge effort into building collaborations and partnerships with top blockchain and crypto projects around the world, there are many virtual headquarters built in there already and more to come in the following months.
Events and networking is what is driving Decentraland adoption.
You can keep up to date with their events on the website.
The platform has also a lot of cryptoart galleries and a few games to enjoy.
But be aware that most of the place is still empty.
If you want to get inspired quickly, you MUST visit CryptoVoxels.
In 2020, CryptoArtists from all around the world have taken over this platform generating mind blowing content. The world is filled with art galleries and the community is super active. This project has the best boarding experience on Crypto-Metaverse so far.
There are many art and business related events in the world, but there isn't a centralized way to find them, you must follow each micro community individually.
The main selling point of the project is its beautiful image rendering.
If you own a high end VR device, Somnium is for you.
The community is small but cozy, very active and welcoming on their Discord.
They also got an event page to keep track of all the events.
Art galleries and private land is the content you'll find there.
The project is unreleased yet. But I can give you a glimpse of what you'll find.
Games, games and more games.
Their team is making a great effort to build a game platform along with many creators. With their background on the industry and how they communicate, I expect SandBox will become a great gaming platform. They are using Arkane Network, which makes on boarding for blockchain newbies very easy.
What About Building Things?
Alright. So you want to have something built in your new virtual domains, these are the things you need to take into account.
This platform has 2 ways of building.
The Builder: This online tool allows users to place and allocate 3D models in the parcel and then deploy. What you can do with it is very limited.
The SDK: Tool developed for professional teams to generate interactive content in the game. Probably very complex for starters, but very good if you want to have something very unique on your parcel. We've made different games and experiences with it. Developing with DCL SDK is still a very niche thing and takes A LOT of time, so be prepared to hire a professional team.
The easiest and most friendliest of them all, just join CV and start placing things in your land while playing. You can find many artists willing to take building commissions and they'll create amazing stuff by pushing limitations to the next level. The great downside right now is that you can't create any complex behavior on CV, so no games.
There is a Somnium Builder that works very well, it is very similar to the Sims building creator tool and it allows you to make your own place out of already generated assets. There is a Unity SDK in the works for Somnium, but no release date yet.
This project has developed 2 different tools for content creators:
VoxEdit: that allows to create game items and characters.
Game Maker: This tool will take the assets generated on VoxEdit and place them in world, also adding interaction and complex behavior for them. No code required.
Since the platform is not released, it is still hard to find people to develop in your SandBox Land.
What Is Their Economy?
All the platforms, released or not, got some economy going on, based on different stuff.
They have their erc20 token called Decentraland MANA ($MANA)
Probably the strongest coin of all the platforms and listed on the most well known exchanges.
1 MANA ≃ $0.116
Their LAND economy is also pretty hot, the lowest prized LAND on OpenSea right now costs
8,000 MANA ≃ $924.3
This project also has wearables made by their team and community,
you can also buy and sell names on Decentraland.
They don't have any coin anymore.
It has a very small wearable economy, but unfortunately generating new tokens it's been closed down due Ethereum gas fees many times, making it very difficult to generate a stable revenue for creators.
Cheapest parcel on Opensea: 1 ETH ≃ $1,236.61
They have an erc20 token called Somnium Space CUBEs ($CUBE)
1 CUBE ≃ $0.3
But their team has made claims that they want it to become a stable coin.
Cheapest parcel on Opensea: 0.68 ETH ≃ $839.5
The project has also created their own virtual reality avatar market, only usable on Somnium client version. They also have released a world token. But they haven't released much info on this yet.
They have an erc20 token called SAND ($SAND)
1 SAND ≃ $ 0.05
Cheapest parcel on OpenSea: 0.1 ETH ≃ $122.7
Any item created and uploaded to SandBox will be automatically an NFT, so expect a huge boom of NFT trading from this project once is released.
How Does The Future Looks Like For These Platforms?
The following statements are made in Jan of 2021 and are based on how all these platforms have evolved along 2019-2020. This might shift as their communities become bigger and evolve.
Networking platform. Hopefully a decentralized virtual Silicon Valley of the future. Many big blockchain companies and influencers are setting their virtual business Head Quarters in there using districts as a catalyst. Unless LAND prices go down, the investment needed to buy a plot and then to develop content for it, is really high. This kind of budget makes sense for a B2B environment.
Micro house-blogging platform. Pretty much like your 3D house blog. The team sets the prices based on FIAT in order to attract more BUILDERS. Many companies and influencers have a plot in CV too, but most of the plots are built by artist showcasing their art. It is amazing to see all the islands getting built these days.
Virtual Beverly Hills neighbour for early blockchain enthusiasts and celebrities. Somnium parcel prices have skyrocketed in the last year. The community is small BUT very active and very well connected. The world looks like a green field, that can remind you of The Sims.
Blockchain based Minecraft competitor. Is very difficult to imagine how this project will evolve without seen it released yet. But based on the previous SandBox game and the team background, we can already see this project being the only one fully focused on game development.
Where To Learn More About The Projects?
All these projects got Discord communities and Twitter accounts to follow their progress.
You can learn more about them by following us too!
I just wanted to give some insight thoughts on these projects, since these are the most
"HOT Blockchain Metaverse" projects in early 2021.
All these platforms compete and work together at the same time.
If one of them fails hard, it will affect negatively to the others,
since they are all tied together with Ethereum.
As I stated in the beggining, NONE of them are the Metaverse,
they are just layers, collaborative worlds filled with used generated content.
Ultimately the users owning and building the platforms will be the ones
in charge of its success or failure, same goes for their tied coins.
I haven't included any NON-blockchain projects on the list, but to give you some real facts with perspective about how EARLY we are in the space.... VRChat has today more daily active users than all of the platforms mentioned COMBINED.
True ownership will be granted by blockchain, but only if the majority of users
understand the value of NFTs and prefer it to centralized systems.
We could keep comparing all the projects in the space in the future on different subjects,
feel free to leave us ideas on our interoperable Discord community!
Isn't it great when you talk with somebody online and you see his mouth moving while he talks?
It really add ups to the experience, specially in Virtual Reality.
That's what this is about.
Creating different shapes so you can see yourself talking when you look at a mirror.
It's the little touches that makes something good to something better.
Let's say you already have your model done, it's also rigged and skinned so its ready to go.
But, you want to make some blend shapes because in-game they look neat and funny.
Well, let's make them!
First, we need to know how many blend shapes we need to make. VRChat uses 16 different blend shapes. These are:
To make things easier in the future, I highly recommend always using the same prefix for each name, so later in Unity it's almost automatic. The prefix being vrc_v_blendshapename.
This gives you a general idea of how I made the different shapes of the mouth depending on the viseme. Another thing to keep in mind is that even if vrc_v_sil doesn't change the shape whatsoever, you must change something regardless.
Now that we have every shape done, we will use the Shape Editor.
Open the Shape Editor in the sculpting tab in Maya. Or going to Deform>Blend Shape.
Now, select one shape that you created and then select the original model. Go to the Shape Editor and click on "Create Blend Shape". Repeat this with all the 16 shapes.
Export and import
We have every shape ready, so now we will export all the package.
Select all the shapes, meshes and bones and go to export.
Be mindful of checking in the box of Animation and make sure that Blend Shapes is activated too, if it's not, it won't export correctly.
Now write the name you want and export it.
You should have your Unity 2018.4.20f1 or whichever version VRChat uses already set up. If you don't, check this guide out made by my friend Alejandro Peño where he explains how to set it up:
With the character imported, we will add a new component called VRC_Avatar Descriptor.
Now it will appear a couple of parameters you can edit.
We are only going to modify 3 of them. View position, LipSync and Eye Look.
This parameter allows you to decide where the first person point of view is located. In other words, from where are you going to see inside VRChat.
It is a no-brainer that we should put the little indicator at eye level. As close as posible to the eyes.
How can we make our character talk? With this option right here!
In mode, select Viseme Blend Shape.
Now it will appear a Face Mesh tab. Using the little circle on the right, you can select the mesh where the Blend Shape Visemes are stored. In this case, since it's all the same mesh, we only have one option.
Now we are talking (pun intended). Like I said before, putting the right names, makes our lives easier. Every single blend shape is in place. But just to be sure, give it a look.
If you have sharp eyes, you might have realized that blink was nowhere to be seen (These puns just keep coming). That's because we will use the Eye Look tab to configure it.
Click on Enable and a couple of options will appear.
Ignore the others and go to the Eyelids section and select the blendshapes option.
Select once again the mesh where the BlendShapes are stored, and it will appear something like this.
If something is not properly added, you can change it from here. Since we don't have only the Blink Blendshape states, we will leave Blink like it is and change the other 2 so they don't have any state at all. Like this:
Use the preview button to make sure that everything works correctly. You can even check all the other blendshapes if you want!
Once it's finished, you can upload the character like you usually do. Again, if you don't know how to do it, you can check this guide:
Blend shapes visemes are a great way to give life to your avatars in VRChat.
I would 100% recommend using them in your future avatars.
Depending on the model it takes around 30 minutes to an hour
to create all the shapes needed, and they look great.
It's a lot of fun making these, so give them a try!
Getting the rig
Since we want humanoid avatars, the best way to get a fast rig is using Mixamo.
Mixamo is an automatic rigging website tool that allows you to create quick humanoid for free.
I won't cover how to use Mixamo, since we already have that cover in this post here:
But I will explain how to use all the tools that I used when rigging almost every of the +200 different avatars we have made for the 100 Avatars project.
So tag along, because the world of rigging is one where patience is KEY.
You have the avatar on your Maya proyect ready now.
There are a few places where you have to take a closer look since these are the most problematic areas. These areas are shoulders, armpit and hands. Depending on the character you might have to take a look at other places, specially if it is a complex character.
Ask yourself; are all the bones where they are supposed to be?
In this case... no. Using the X-Ray Bones options you can easly see where each bone is inside the body.
In this case, the shoulders aren't where they should be, so, how can we move them?
With a really useful tool called Moved Skinned Joints.
Go to the Rigging tab, and then to Skin. Almost at the bottom, you should find the tool. Click on the square on the right and then on any joint. Now you can move them freely without any problem!
Use it to move the shoulders where they should be.
Now it's time to skin!
Value is the value you set the influence of the brush. More means more influence. The maximum is 1 and the least is 0.
The Flood button makes every selected region get the value you selected.
With this explanation of the tools, you should have a good idea of how to skin a character inside Maya.
Now, skinning is not an easy thing, at least to make it right. It requires a lot of patience. A couple of advices I can give are, try to use the 1 value as little as you can. You should also use the smooth option since it really is unvaluable. Dont be scared of rotating bones. Aim to get the cleanest breaking point in your mesh.
Remember to check those zones I wrote about earlier and have fun! Skinning is an important process and takes time. The more you practice the better you will become!
If you want to see what's the next step, read my post about how to make visemes for your avatar and configure it inside Unity!
First Steps: What are we looking for?
In order to begin the process, we need to define what we want to do. From a medieval wagon to a SciFi antenna, the desired item we want will define all the work we must do. Its not the same to build an item from an apocalyptic world or an object from the far future. All the workflow, from texturing to modelling will change depending on what are we looking for.
In this case, our choice is gonna be a Cliff Scaffold. For this purpose, we are gonna use a concept. This is not our goal, its just a support image to define the pieces that we need.
At first sight we can break down groups of pieces and we can add some more:
After the break down, we need to think how this will be build. We are gonna make a few pieces from each group to achieve some variations. But first, we need to talk about this damn materials.
Materials or "How trim textures make us happy"
Its time to talk about materials. With all the above in mind, we need to define how our textures will work and look alike. How many textures do we need? A texture for every channel in every material? NO. Instead we will "combine" all the materials in one by doing a clever use of the UV space.
We are gonna choose a trimmed texture instead of some unique textures. If you haven't worked previously with any texture of this kind, you can take a look on how to create a Trim Texture by reading the Trim Textures: Making Of article.
With a quick previsualization on "what" do we want and "how" to do it, you should be able to anticipate all your visual needs and material count.
The core idea is to use this Trim Texture to texture almost everything by UV tiling one of the two axis (U or V). You can see that our texture consist in three types of wooden planks, for all the wooden pieces that we got made after the reference inspiration; a metal section for details and to add some more style to our props (for example for ends and decorations); and a rock section for the basement and maybe some big pieces. All of these three types of "material" are going to be tiled in the U axis of the UVs. With only this three layers we can texture all of our asset. In order to achieve this goals, we are gonna keep in mind this texture in the modelling phase.
Also you should keep in mind the Texture usage and Model visibility. When texels come into scene, you will need that the textures match the mesh need of texture, having a healthy texel space ratio is a good way to make your models look nice wherever they are placed in scene. Here you can see that we have dedicated almost 2/3 of the texture for wood. Meanwhile rocks and ironworks remain in smaller space.
Last but not least, this small guide is focused on a material that only uses the color/albedo channel, we have baked the AO, bumps and made some light details but it can work well also with a full PBR material (Albedo, Normal, Metal/Rough, AO, Height, Emission). You will just have to do the texture work for every channel matching their space and watching out to not overlap the information between channels. Also a good workaround for bigger environments would be packing the trim textures by material, specially the ones that use specific information extensively like the emission or metal channel.
Modelling our pieces.
With our texture already done, we have to create all the pieces of our asset with our modelling toolkit. The core idea of modular environment design is to create the less models possible and give a unique look to each one.
The objective is to get a group of diferent pieces like pillars, planks or decoration. Three variations from each type of item should be enough for avoiding repetition. Don't create 3 exact same pillars, instead do shape variations or even small compositions to match your reference moodboard. After modeling our assets, our scene should look like this.
We have build different pieces. Some short and long pillars. Some planks. Some decoration. In conclussion all the things that we need for build different structures. We should work in the UVs for texturing. If you dont know how Trim Textures Work, you should read the Article of Trim Textures: A New Hope
With all the modelling done, its time to import everything to our Game Engine. Here we use the Unity Engine but the process is similar in Unreal, Blender, CryEngine etc.
Building Props from pieces on Unity 3D.
The final step of our work has come. By importing our assets to Unity, we begin to build our props.
In Unity you can get your hands on prefabs for your environment compositions or just keep them tied together in scene by parenting, the choice is yours!
Prefab design will keep your assets interoperable between scenes without the need to rebuild them from scratch but they will be likely harder to modify once they are built. Prefabs store the transform and all component data for each gameObject in the prefab parent. But this make it more sensible to mesh editing after building.
On the other hand keeping your assets parented but not prefab-ed will make them more tedious to modify (specially if you have different scenes) but easier to mesh modify them.
By prefab-ing we can build dozens of props that in the end are calling the same meshes and doing the same material batching. This will heavily optimize the runtime stability and scene load. Just parent some of them to the transform point you want and drag them from the Hierarchy to your Project / Prefabs folder!
With our pieces already in unity, we must invest time in build some PropsBy investing more time we can create some more assets to fill our scene but in this case we only want to show the idea of building a modular asset.
By spending some time on composition we can achieve our goal to set a scene from our modular asset. In this example we have build a hut, a platform with a ladder and some boxes that use the same material and meshes. All wooden, all optimized.
In conclusion, with this workflow you can build a wide range of props
that in fact are using a few models.
In this case we have created a simple asset with some wood, metal and rock but applying this workflow to other styles or goals, we can get quick and complex models to use it in our projects. The mastery resides in creating a balance between generic and modular props to create the general look and composition and create a layer over it of specific content, for example to add a Boat, a fishing net or by just creating something that doesn't match the trim-material features but fit in our environments.
Dominating this workflow will allow you to create
quick scenarios without much effort and a good optimization.