Indie Game Development Blog #2 - Creating Zara
Hey everyone, welcome to my second development blog. I have so many new features in the game I want to discuss and share however for this blog I want to focus on the creation of Zara my main character in the game.
Character Creation Mindset
If you remember from the last dev blog I briefly described my character creation process. I use a pre-made character from the UE4/Sketchfab marketplace or generated character in Blender as a base. From there I model the character to suit my own designs, texture it and animate the character with motion capture animation.
This workflow is extremely efficient and fun as I’m working as a solo developer. If I followed a traditional workflow it would feel very tiring and tedious. To avoid more traditional workflows such as concept art, 3D model, unwrap, texture, rig, animate I created a workflow specifically for me. In this blog I’m going to go over this workflow and hopefully you’ll get something valuable from it.
Character Creation Workflow
Inspiration is where I begin, I’m discovering what I want the character to be. What is their personality? What do they look like? How do they fit into the gameplay? I’ll ask many questions and look for answers, taking inspiration from movies, concept art, books and games. My main two influences for this character were Princess Zelda and Aqua from Kingdom Hearts. Colour palettes, cloth details, personality and abilities are aspects are key elements that I’m using for inspiration.
After the inspiration I need to consider how this character will be created. For this game I want to iterate on characters over the games development rather than spend 2 to 3 weeks purely working on a character. Since I’m working on all aspects of the game I want to iterate upon everything over time together rather than separately. For Zara I decided to have a look online, I found an amazing art asset on the Marketplace which looked similar to the image I had in my mind. After acquiring the asset I exported it into Blender and used box modelling techniques to transform the character and make it suit the vision in my mind.
The next step was to unwrap and texture it. For texturing I use Substance Painter, I love this program! I never enjoyed hand painted texturing, I tried my hardest to learn/enjoy it but it’s not for me. Substance Painter allows me to generate procedural textures and edit them in a very technical way which suits me perfectly. You can also stamp detailed onto the model which is how I created the pattern on the gloves. I can also use Substance to achieve the look I’m after, it’s not fully realistic or fully stylised. I’m still discovering the look but that’s all part of the process. Overall I’m extremely happy with how Zara turned out.
The final part of this character creation process was rigging. I heavily dislike rigging, it’s a very tedious process however I found a great tool in Blender which made the process enjoyable and cut down the time required to rig a character. It’s called Auto-Rig Pro, a member of my Discord community pointed the program out to me. At first it feels similar to Mixamo, you assign these points to various body parts such as the chin, neck and wrist. It uses all of this information to create a skeleton which you can modify turning off facial bones or adding spine bones. After this you create a rig which is an IK rig. I was very impressed with the controllers and how well it worked. You can adjust the skeleton and IK rig to suit your needs. The final step was to bind the rig and mesh which creates weighted bones.
Outside of adjusting the weight painting and fixing a few problems I made in the model this process was extremelly efficient. I’m pretty skeptical of programs such as Mixamo or Auto-Rig pro but it really worked and exceeded my expectations. One other thing is that it exports a rig which works for UE4 mannequins, this means you can make it work with most animation packs on the marketplace without retargeting the animations.
With all of the work done I imported the character into UE4 and after setting up animation blueprints it all worked very well! I’m happy with this version of Zara and I like this workflow that I’ve established. It took me around 4 - 7 days all up but I think I could do this process again in 3 days. However the time it takes is not the important factor, I mean it’s amazing but not what I want anyone to walk away with.
I think the most important aspect is that we can develop our own workflows that work towards our strengths. Technology has gotten much better and we can create games in our own ways now. Developing characters was an aspect of game development I previously avoided, it seemed like too much work. But now I can create 3D characters for my games and I hope you can develop your own workflows for your games.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you so much for reading this blog post! If you enjoyed it make sure to check out my YouTube DevLog as well.