Our friends at We're Five Games have been working on their game Totally Reliable Delivery Service, a hilarious physics-based game with customizable characters. Our mission was to assist them in achieving a wide range of characters in a short period of time.
We devised a specific MayaLT workflow that helped us reduce the amount of time we needed to invest in creating the characters. In the end, we managed to create all 36 character variations in just 2 weeks.
Similar yet different
The team at We're Five Games provided references for the characters they wanted to include in the game. As you can observe in the pictures, there is a wide range of customization choices available for your character.
On top of this, all the variations should work for both male and female models regardless the reference gender. So we had to be aware of all the differences between genders like breast and hips.
So we started modelling the character bodies as bases to create the clothes on top. We used Zbrush for quick shape blockout and then MayaLT for retopology and final fixes.
Once we had the basic models done and rigged, we had to develop the most optimal ways to create clothes and accessories for all of them.
This project has a huge amount of work so you need to think ahead and figure out ways to shrink down production time. You never know if you'll need to add more content later on, so it's better to be prepared.
At Polygonal Mind, we enjoy coming together to initiate brainstorming sessions for potential workflows.
Should we create them separately or collaboratively? Can we incorporate any new tools within Maya? What about Substance Painter?
After you have a few potential approaches on the table, it's time to note down the most relevant ones. The entire process takes us approximately two hours, and if executed correctly, it can save you numerous hours down the line. Taking notes during the session is vital, and a whiteboard, pen, and paper are always your best companions for such occasions.
For TRDS, we opted to compile a list based on everything presented in the concept. If you review the concept's images, you'll likely notice that many characters are dressed similarly in polo shirts and pants, with minor variations such as long sleeves, open shirts, and tank tops.
Keeping this in mind, we began identifying elements that are highly similar and can be created once, with variations achieved through textures.
In summary, pay attention to what's alike, what's distinct, and compile a list. Ultimately, we reduced the clothing models to nine different shirts and ten different pants. Instead of producing 72 unique clothing items all at once, we streamlined the process and eliminated a significant amount of unnecessary work. This approach also makes modifications, additions, and exchanges much simpler.
The magic behind UVs
If you've engaged in 3D modeling before, you're likely familiar with UVs. In case you're not, UVs represent what a 3D model looks like in 2D – think of it as the assembly and disassembly of a box.
In simpler words, UVs are what we utilize to apply textures to 3D models.
Having a well-structured set of UVs for each model is crucial because we intend to employ the same 3D model with interchangeable textures. This approach allows us to create only 10 variations of pants instead of 36. The same principle applies to the other clothing items, except for the special ones.
When aiming to craft flawlessly interchangeable clothing with shared UVs, you can consider these options:
Begin by crafting the initial set of clothes, then establish the UVs. Utilize this initial outcome as the foundation for the remaining variations.
Develop the variations while considering the vertex count, and then transfer attributes from one variation to another. (A more detailed explanation is provided in the subsequent section.)
The choice typically hinges on the nature of the model being worked on. In this instance, we employed both methods: the first for texturing and the second for transforming models into female versions.
Transfer Attributes from Male to Female
One of the strategies we employed to minimize production time was creating a male character and subsequently using it as a reference for the female version. As you might have observed, male and female bodies exhibit certain differences that render it impossible to accommodate clothing for both models; these disparities encompass aspects such as breasts, a slender waist, and others.
So, after developing all the male variations, the next step was to generate their female counterparts.To accomplish this without the necessity of crafting a new model for each polo shirt, we employed one of Maya's most valuable tools: Transfer Attributes.
To utilize this tool, you require both a source and a target mesh, which can differ significantly in topology (although having a somewhat similar edge flow is recommended). It's essential that both models are positioned in the same location within the scene due to the sampling and transfer process that takes place.
Further insights into how Transfer Attributes functions will be provided in an upcoming blog post.
Totally Reliable Delivery Service has proven to be an excellent project to be a part of. It has enabled us to acquire new MayaLT techniques for character development, leading to time and effort savings.