What's a Style? It's edible?
If we look the definition in the dictionary, a style is a list of peculiar characteristics that identify an artist, work or a period in art history. When we talk about videogames, we could choose the most obvious ones, like stylized, abstract or realistic.
Abstract Videogames: Geometric Wars, Monument Valley
Stylized Videogames: Overwatch, Zelda breath of the wild
Realistic games: Assassin's creed Odissey, Uncharted
I know it's kind of an easy to see with examples proposed, you can easily identify each one of them looking at them. But it is a good exercise to look at your preferred medium and try to identify their defining characteristics.
How to take on a Style
As we said before, a style is a series of characteristics that makes someone or something easily identifiable. In Polygonal Mind, for example, we do a low poly and stylized look, while maintaining an unique edge in each project. When taking on something as complicated as this, I like to view it from examples that are close to home. So let's see what I mean looking into one of the projects of Polygonal mind, the museum for decentraland. Taking a look back, the museum is a virtual building for Decentraland. It had to be cyberpunk and similar to the style of Blade Runner, if you want more information on that you can check the article here:
Developing an Style 101
Sometimes developing can seem to be really easy, but truth be told, it's not child's play.
A Style is something that can take years to evolve until it becomes yours truly
So take this as a series of tips to start creating your own way of doing things.For that reason I'm going to try to exemplify it using the props for the museum on Decentraland.
Photo of the museum
When I want to develop props for a project, I like to write a list of the
That made the scene feel different. In this case we can say that:
Another thing to take into account, is the palette of colours, if there is a series of colors that are already selected, then you can work with the same colours, select complementary colours (colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel) or on the same hue but with different saturation (the intensity of a colour, expressed as the degree to which it differs from white).
For instance, green hues don't match in this scheme of colours, since the pink and blue are the commanding tones on the scene. However, as you can see on the screen that surround the tree, yellow tones work really well, because they are complementary with the palette. Nevertheless, in this project I preferred to use the same colours as the building.
Once we have the characteristics and the list of models, I search for references in Pinterest and Google Images. Here are some examples of some sketches for the props.
Sketches of props
As you can see in the sketches I tried to make it as similar as possible to the list of attributes I wrote before, that way they can blend with the scene perfectly.
Into the modeling
At this point, the process we follow is very similar to the one described in the last article I wrote, so if you want a more developed description you can check it at the link I provided before. But as I said before...
Nevertheless, never forget the musts. Reference, Blockout and Detail.
Moreover, in case of 3D, don't forget that you can view the prop, object or character from different angles, so it is important to think in all the angles the model can be viewed, see the expositor below.
As I said, this is more a series of tips rather than through guide, but I hope that it's useful. Sometimes it can be complicated, but with a little bit of attention to details and dedication, you can get a unique design.
Main Parts of the Wearables
A wearable is an item of clothing, accesory or body feature, that are used to customized your avatar inside the world of Decentraland. Although there are some wearables that you can use already once you create your account. Now you can create your own custom wearables.
However before you proceed in creating your own clothes, you need to know several things. First things first, each wearable is organized in different categories such as:
This divides the wearables in different categories, that determines which body part of the avatar will be applied to, some wearables will have to replace others completely to work. The categories that appear in the builder are these:
And last but not for that less important, we have to talk about the limitations for the 3d models and those are:
Starting to build
Once you have clear the division between the parts of the wearables, you can start modeling. In this guide I'm going to do the basic wereables, such as feet, lower body and upper body. So you can know it as a reference, however you can follow this same progress to create all the wearables following the limitations I wrote before.
Before start I recommend to download the basic avatar male and female from the link below, so you have a reference of where to start. Inside you will also find a Blender file with the armature, that we will use later on to rig the models, as well as some references of other wearables.
Wearable Reference Models - Google Drive
Inside the Drive folder and where to find the basic resources
In my case I'm going to download the fbx model of male and female avatar to load them in my maya scene to start modeling, but you can use your prefered 3D software.
Modeling & Texturing
In this section on the article I'm going to comment on three ways in which I take on making the wearables together.
First one, is taking one part of the model duplicate it, and modify the vertex and faces to create the new model. making sure that connects correctly with the other parts. In this case since I'm making the feet this model can be for male and female, so I only need to make this wearable once.
Making the feet from the base feet of the model.
The second one, is to create the model from zero from a basic shape and model the vertex to create it. In this case the skirt, while I use the female legs as the base the skirt is created from a cylinder, and increase the triangles conforming I'm modeling. Also in this case I create a variant for male avatar, that are pants, following the first method.
Skirt for female avatars
The third one, consist in model the wearable without taking into account the number of tris and when we have the final shape, make a new retopology that fits on the criteria. In my case, I use Zbrush to create the shape of the model and then I make the low poly in Maya. The model of the upper body is the same, but it changes the body shape, so I duplicate the model and change the shape a little to create the variation.
Creating the Upper body jacket
For the textures, since is such a small resolution texture I recommend to made UVs symmetrical so that the UVs can be a lot of bigger. I don't touch any part of the AvatarSkin material UVs because I can break the texture when loading in Decentraland.
For my models I paint them in Substance Painter, and I can only put two textures in the model so I only paint on the Base color channel. Don't forget to change it also in the viewport in Substance to see the final result. Also when you create a new project remember to put the resolution in 512 px.
Painting all the models
Rigging & Exporting
Once we have all the models, materials and textures done, is time to rig them and export them in GLB. For that purpose you need to have Blender 2.8 or superior, you can rig the models in other softwares however when exported, the models tend not to work correctly.
First we have to import our model into the scene, armature.blend in the drive folder, if you have modeled it using the original models as a reference you will have not problems in the placement of the model, nevertheless I recommend to apply the transformations on the move and scale.
When I have the transformations applied I rig it selecting the armature and the model, pressing P with automatic weights, check the weights and if necessary correct them.
Finally, it's time to export it. I select the models just in case, click File → Export → GLB. Check apply modifiers, and skinning in the extra options in the exporter.
Then repeat this steps with the rest of the models.
Rigging the model and exportin it from blender
From there you are ready to add your items, press add items and drag or select the models, in the new panel that appears we can select the basic options for our wearables. You can select the body shape and select the male or female options and then add the counterpart. Change the name, the rarity which determnines the number of wearables that will be created, and the category that configures which part will replace.
If you press EDIT, you will enter a menu where you can view the wearable in the avatar, and complete the rest of the options.
Once we have all the wearables, we can return to the main menu in the collection. Click on set a price, where we can put a price or make it free, put our address and finally submit it to the curation commite.
Here is a general guide that can help you create your own wearables. In the decentraland guides you can find more information about the curation process, and the textures of the skin and the standard texture, if you need them.
I believe the builder is a great tool to check this wearables, and test them pretty fast. With this models I think it is time to say; have fun and can't wait to see what you make.
Setting up the Unity Project
It's possible that you can use older and newer versions of Unity, but for the sake of not complicating things, I recommend you use Unity 2018.3.14f1, since it's the same I use.
As always, create the Unity Project with the correct version. No need for Android versions. Now you should be on the empty scene. Before creating anything, let's install a couple of things first.
The Unity Recorder allow us to record videos, Gifs and images directly from the program, so no need to screenshot anything. Just Unity.
To install this, you need to go to Window > Package manager
The package manager will open up, and it'll take a couple of seconds to load everything.
Unity Post Processing Effects
Same as the Recorder, go to Window > Package manager and search for Post Processing
Now you only need to install it, there's no need to do anything else for now.
This is more of a personal preference, but you can search online for diferent shaders that you can use on your avatars to make them look cooler. The one we use is Toony Colors Pro 2, although there are a lot of free online alternatives that give similar results.
This is the fun in this part of the avatar process, experimentation.
Setting up the scene
It's time to set up the scene. At least the basics so you can always start with something.
I'll leave a UnityPackage down below with everything I'm about to do.
For a good representation of our characters, we use 3-point lighting method. It is a traditional way of lighting up a scene and it uses, as the name suggests, 3 different points of light to illuminate the avatar. Only the avatar, not the scenary around it.
Use this link to get the basic set-up of lights.
This is the basic setup we use for the avatars. Regarding the rest of the scenary I use the standard directional light that comes with every Unity scene and I create any new light that I see necessary to achieve the result I want.
You might be asking yourself "how can I make one set of lights affect the avatar and not the scenary or viceversa?"
We use the layer system Unity has by default. For this test I use a cube, but its exactly the same when you have your avatar posed.
First you need to create the layer your avatar will be on.
We have the canvas ready with the frame but how can I see the final result?
You need to set up the game window to display the correct resolution for it to work.
If the canvas is active everything will set up correctly and you will see the frame in place.
Poses for your avatar
Now it's time to pose your avatar!
I hope you used Mixamo because if you did, this part will be a lot easier.
Just use the FBX file you used to create the VRM (with the rig and the visemes) and upload it again in Mixamo. This time it won't ask you to put the bones in place, because it already has them!
Anyway, find a pose that you like.
Once you have what you need, download the avatar and put it on the scene. But that's not all!
You can still manually edit the pose by manually moving the bones to get a better, exagerated and more expressive. Also you can move around any dynamic bones you have manually to get much better results.
Think how your avatar would be like, what kind of personality would have and how it would act. If you have a nice base pose you can get a much better result if you edit the pose afterwards. Look at this example:
Play with the poses so you can represent how cool your avatar is! There is no limit!
Color and composition
Color is one of the most important factors. You need to understand what colors your avatar have and how to complement them accordignly to make it pop-up in the scene.
Having a basic understanding of the theory of colors will help you tons in this one.
To give you an example, I'll use the Cool Banana render that I made because it shows perfectly what I'm trying to explain.
The principal color of Cool Banana is, of course, yellow, which complementary is purple.
Of course this is not a Law, but rules. You should not follow these strictly and can bend it around how you please, so for Cool Banana I used both purple and tones of Dark blue.
By using these rules, you will ensure that no avatar will blend with the background and they'll be the first thing you will see. Not only that, it'll make sure complicated poses are easily readable.
What? You don't know what color is which and you can't figure it out? Don't worry, I have a solution! Adobe Color Wheel!
You can select the colors you want and with a click of a button, it will give you your complementary colors. What's even better, is that you can actually upload an image and it'll tell you what are the 5 more prominent colors, so you can then, select a few to color the rest of the background.
One of the most useful tools to have, and with practice, you won't even need it in the future!
Now it's time to set up a scenary for our avatar.
This is really up to you, if you have ideas where your avatar will be posed, make it a reality. Play with the primitives Unity provides to make a scenario or use Blender or Maya to create an even more detailed background.
Play with perspective, at the end of the day, its just an image, so you can stretch and deform everything to make it look cool. Look at this example of out Avatar nº26 Udon.
Looks pretty normal. But look how the scene is set up.
You can use another shader material to give a different look to you avatar. The material is one of the most importants parts to change on your avatar since it will radically change how it looks. See the diference down below.
Now that you have the background and the avatar in there, it's time to give the final touches, that is, post processing. Go where you camera is, and add a new component called "Post Processing Volume"
Now it's time to take the picture.
If you have done the steps of how to configure the recordings from before, just open the recording window and hit "Start Recording". It'll automatically render the first frame of the camera and it'll save it on your PC.
Be sure to turn off the frame from the canvas since it'll be already added when you mint your Avatar in CryptoAvatars.
Thats all I have! Experiment, and look at the renders we and other creators make for inspiration for your own work.
The avatar cards are one of the most important pieces on the whole process since it's the first thing any potential buyer is going to see.
Be creative and have fun!
Preparing the model
This way of doing facial animation should be considered when starting and through the process of creating the character.
Once we have the mesh of our character mesh ready, we can start getting some references from other games and other pieces of media to choose the extreme poses they'll be able to perform with facial animation. I'm going to choose one of my favourite 3d animated movies as an example: Wreck it Ralph. Let's use Vanellope since the proportions for the example is closer to hers more than Ralph.
So now we have some references, let's plan in how many parts we need to divide the whole puzzle to make it work... We need to separate:
VERY IMPORTANT: after duplicating and separating the meshes from the original one, you can see the cuts where the normals broke.
We can use Maya's Transter Attributes to copy the normals from the base mesh.
See? Much better! None of the cuts are visible :)
Texturing the model
Let's start texturing the eyes. The principle which all of this system is based on is an offset the UVs of the mesh or the material. Once we have the eyes in place let's proceed with the eyelids and make them blink!
As you can see, we need to leave some extra space on the sides of the eye so we only get one iris for each eye, even if we push the UVs to the limits.
When painting the eye, I use the Base Iris we already have to draw the eye itself, but the point will be to leave only the eyelids and the red part as opaque, and leave as transparent the center so the eyeballs can offset under this new layer on top. Let's draw the rest of the frames and then we'll organize them in a texture atlas!
This is the result of the 4 frame animation.
Let's now organize them so we can have more variations with other expressions in the future! We can use a 4x4 grid, giving us 4 animations of 4 frames each, 2 animations of 8 frames, or however you like to organize it! Thanks to Photoshop guides we can organize them in a regular way, with 1/4 of the total width of the texture.
The red parts are going to be painted white so we can change the skin tone inside Unity, and the insides of the eyes are going to be removed so they're transparent, looking like this when exporting the texture:
The checker pattern is the transparency bit.
Let's import our character into Unity now and try how our system works. Assign all the materials to the correct mesh. Make sure the Eyelids' Material is set on "Fade" so it lets the underneath colours go through.
Animating the model
The next part is where different workflows can be used to make the eyes, eyelids and facial parts animate we setup before.
The optimal way to do this would be to setup a script in Unity that receives the offset of different facial parts with a setup of bones that control those offset from Maya, so the Animator in Maya can see what they're doing. It's a more complex topic and I hope I can make a blog post in the future about that.
We can also setup an animator that controls each part separately to modify the offset of the materials (this is the one we're using in this example since it's a very simple workflow, and can be compatible with Mixamo animations), but it's not really optimized.
We have to be mindful of the type of curves we're creating for a sprite sheet kind of texture (eyelids in this case), since if it was linear it would look super strange panning from one frame to the next. We need it to snap from frame to frame, hence we'll be using a "constant" type of curve.
Here you can see the difference between using "constant" and using "linear"
There are many workflows to achieve the same result, and in this case we might get carried away about what should we use, either blend shapes (morph targets) or bones for a facial rig, but there are always more options available to you, and the games from Nintendo make a really good use of "now forgotten" techniques that were more common in the past.
Hope you learned something new today, and that it was useful. See you around! :)
Setting up UVs
How we did it
When we made our avatars we made the UVs in a particular. Each UV isle is one color, so that way in Substance Painter.
You've got your avatar ready, right? If you are in doubt, you should follow this few guidelines to make sure you won't have any problems:
If you think your UV maps are done, then let's go to the next step: PAINT!
Painting or re-painting
Our avatars are quite simple in terms of painting, usually using a combination of flat colors, maybe some gradients, patterns to mix things up and letters in some cases. So, how can we make those?
We will use Substance Painter for almost all of that.
First, you need to import you character. Use whichever program you know (Blender, Maya, 3D Max...) to export an FBX file.
Then in Substance, create a new proyect. Use the template which fits with your proyect and use the select button to find your fbx file.
Now you should see your character on the left side and the UV map on the right side of the screen.
On the top right corner of the UV map view you can select "Base color" so that way you can only see the colors without any material added.
Now we will go on painting.
It will create 2 squares, one representing the color and the black one is the mask.
Click on the color and right under the Layers tab, scroll through the propeties until you find Base Color. You can select any color you want. Using the dropper tool you can even select colors that are on another place outside the program.
If you have the color you want to use, you will see nothing has changed. Now its time to use the mask we created before.
Click on the mask black square, and go to the left of your screen. You will see a couple of icons. Select the Polygon Fill one. Right above it, select UV Chunk Fill.
Now you can begin to paint.
Select whichever UV isle you want and it will get the color you said.
Repainting on avatar
If you are repainting one of our avatars you can actually add the base texture if you want to preserve one zone like the original.
On the top left, new → import resources. Click on the Add Resources and find the texture you want to add.
Make sure to mark it as a texture.
And import it to your current session.
Now that it's imported it should appear on the texture section on the shelf (Located on the bottom).
You can drag and drop the texture into the base color on any base layer and with the help of a black mask, you can select which zones to use.
Once you have your final results it's time to export.
Go to New → Export Textures
Click on the name of the material and deselect or select the maps you have used or want. For our avatar we only used Base Color, so we won't use the other ones.
On global settings you can change the directory output, the file type and the padding.
This last one is important. Padding is the amount of pixels over a UV isle in which the program will draw over the limit. If that doesn't make any sense here's a comparasion between a texture with no padding at all (right) and 10 pixels of padding (left).
By default it's set to infinite, which is alright, but I usually set it to "Dilation + Default background color" and I set the pixels to a minimum of 8. That's why it was important to space out UV Isles.
Once all the parameters are correct, hit the export button and done!
We need to set the avatar in T-pose for an easier workflow.
Before import hands
Delete one hand
Match and Combine both objects
It's time to adjust the hand and match the vertex with the mesh of the avatar.
Finally, if we are not convinced with the final result, we also can move the vertex/edges/faces of the object before export. Just make sure that the avatar hands are exactly where you want to, with the scale as you want,...
Once we followed this steps, now we have to export into a fbx and upload it to mixamo.
Make again mirror of the avatar
To make this faster than usually, I use Blender 2.9.
Navigating he Viewport
First of all, import the fbx of the avatar, just before you want to upload.
We want to select one side (right or left) and delete the other one.
Make sure that the middle vertex are in the position 0 in X
Make again mirror of the avatar
When you have been uploaded your avatar to mixamo (using the Auto-rig), choose the animation of typing to get sure that each finger works fine. Also, we have some settings at the right, we will use one whose Tittle says "Character Arm-Space".
Of course, the scale of the hands, topology, etc can not match perfectly with all the avatars, but we can modify at least, the mesh of the hands or avatar before combine together and make again the UV's.
However, normaly change the mesh of an avatar rigged could be tiresome. But following different tips and rigging with mixamo gives you a lot of time that you can spend in other things.