Harley Quinn WIP 01

Hey guys, just dropping some work in progress shots here. Found an old sculpt I had done of Harley Quinn based on an old DC Universe Online character sheet I had found. Decided to go back and clean her up, and am currently finishing up the retopology phase. Once that's done, I need to unwrap her, and then I'm going to do another Quixel experiment. This time with a character instead of a prop. Obviously. 

I'm still on the fence when it comes to Quixel vs Substance Painter. I had seen that substance painter had just put out V2.0, and I kinda want to upgrade my indie license to see what's up with the new version. I liked V1, but I felt it just wasn't quite there. Anywho, let me know what you think. I'll post some more in depth shots the further I get. 

Harley- Highpoly
Harley - Retopo Wire
Harley - Retopo

Scripts!

I've been trying my hand at some Max Scripts lately. Just some small tools that have made some things easier for things I do often, or a small problem to be solved. So I've added a Script section to my website here. Feel free to look at them as examples of things I've done, but also if you think they would be useful, feel free to download them, give them a try, look at the code, and send some feedback if you like. There is a link to the scriptspot page for each script, where you can download it and comment. 

Prop Dump March 05 2015

Here are some random props that I've worked on in my free time.

 

A simple bulkhead door that may be used in larger projects later on.

A simple bulkhead door that may be used in larger projects later on.

A double test. A first stab using Zbrush's new low poly tool, Zmodeler, and another Substance texturing test using both Substance Painter and Designer.

A double test. A first stab using Zbrush's new low poly tool, Zmodeler, and another Substance texturing test using both Substance Painter and Designer.

Another Substance Painter and Designer Test. This time using parameters in the sbsar to allow for the texture to be altered. Rendered in max, part of a larger project.

Another Substance Painter and Designer Test. This time using parameters in the sbsar to allow for the texture to be altered. Rendered in max, part of a larger project.

Monthly Model Jam January 2015 - Time

The people I work with started a small monthly modeling jam. There are just a few of us, but we decided it would be a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing and keep the skills sharp. It's pretty open, and heck we even have a  graphic designer participating as well, using the skills for their craft. Anyway, the 'concept' for this month was time, and so obviously my entry is a retro VCR prop.

This was my first real attempt at using Substance Painter for the texturing, and Marmoset Toolbag 2 for the rendering. Certainly some things I need to figure out still, but I'm pretty happy with my first attempt. Here is a render and turnaround for your viewing pleasure.

 

Project Falco

So I've started working on a game in my spare time finally. I've been using a personal game idea as a learning project to teach myself some scripting and other aspects of game development, besides the 3D asset side of things which I am already familiar with.

I'm using the Unity3D engine, as it seems to be a fairly easy one to cut my teeth on. While I am working on it as often as I can, my progress is slow going with a full time job sucking up most of my time during the week. This is something I'm very excited to do though, so I hope to keep this blog up to date with what I've learned.

A fighter to be used as an enemy model created in Max, detailed in Zbrush, and testured in Mudbox and Photoshop. Screenshot from the Unity Editor.

A fighter to be used as an enemy model created in Max, detailed in Zbrush, and testured in Mudbox and Photoshop. Screenshot from the Unity Editor.

Tin Can Hitman Update

Here's a look at what I've been doing in my free time. Working on my OCD the Tin Can Hitman which I've mentioned before. Slowly picking at him in my free time after work, and I'm hoping *crossed fingers*, that when he's done I'll be able to get him printed out with the 3D printer at work.

tincan01

tincan03

tincan02

Creating Source Mod Characters

How to create source mod characters.

Please note: This is not a tutorial. This is just a recount of my experiences making characters for use with the Source Engine and the Hammer Level Editor. You may learn of a few things to keep your eye out for when doing this yourself, but this is not a step by step guide.

Asset Creation

The characters were modeled in Maya. The could have been modeled in any software package, so I decided to use the one I was most familiar with. You just have to keep in mind the limitations of the engine. Through research I found that a good rule of thumb is around 8000 tris for a poly count, and a 1024x texture sheet.

I also imported a character model from Half Life into maya to see what sort of scale to model the character in. If you model your characters in the XSI Mod Tool, you can use the Source Biped Guide to make sure your character is around the same size. You can always scale your character later, but getting it roughly close does help.

Character Rigging

This was when research became more important, as I needed to learn how to rig the characters properly in for the animation from existing characters to be used properly, and also so the game would recognize the skeleton. I looked through many online resources, including the Valve Developer Wiki (http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Main_Page) and the XSI Mod Tool website (http://www.softimage.com/products/modtool/inside.aspx).

From there I learned that it would be best to use the Mod Tool to rig the characters. It came with tools built in to create guides and rigs specifically for the Source Engine. This way I did not have to rely on any third party plugins for Maya. The Mod Tool is a free download for any to use, and it was not hard to learn.

It was at this point that I learned of the Noesis training videos (http://www.noesisinteractive.com/). They are a series of video tutorials made to teach you the process of creating assets and compiling them for use in a Source game mod. I used the one called Character Design & Integration with Half-Life®2 (XSI). I used this video for most of my reference material. I found it was very well made and easy to follow. There were a few discrepancies, as the video was a few years old, and was not for the specific game that we were using, but it provided a very good base.

Rigging the characters was fairly straight forward, as it was very similar to rigging in Maya. You first line up your character as close to the guide as you can, and then you can move the guides markers to the specific joints of your character. It is important not to move joints near the torso of the body too far from their starting point, as I found that the animation from existing characters will actually try to move them back, thus distorting your character in ways that you don't want.

Once the guide is in place you can tell the Mod Tool to create the actual rig from the guide. It will place all the bones in controllers in the proper places following the guide's placement. Then you begin the weighting. It works much the same as smooth skinning in Maya. You can paint weights on each bone, and you can also use the weight editor to specify the weights for each verticy specifically.

There are a few more steps in the Mod Tool before you can export it for compilation. You have to make sure that your model is pointing to a texture file that is inside the proper Steam folders on your computer, and that that file is a TGA format.

At this point you can export your character as an SMD, which is the starting format for Source engine models. You need this file, and the TGA texture file in order to create the compiled version.

Compiling

This was the area of creation that required the most trial and error. The video tutorial was very helpful in this area, but as mentioned before it was not very up to date, and there were quite a few areas that had changed.

Compiling the texture was rather easy. All you had to do was place the TGA file in the proper materialsrc folder inside the Source SDK Content folder. You then dragged that file over on top of the vtex.exe which is contained in the bin folder of the engine version you are using. That's really all you need to do. The corresponding VTF file is placed in the game Material folder that you are using. You then create a folder of the same name as the file, and in that folder you place a VMT file also of the same name. This is basically a text file that tells the model where the texture is located, along with some other basic shader information. There was a sample of this file included with the video tutorial. Some editing in notepad was all that was needed.

Compiling the models correctly proved to be much more difficult. Most of the information for compiling the model is contained in a QC file. This is also a text file that references the SMD model, where the new MDL model will go, what certain bones do, facial information, animation references, etc. I used the basic QC from the Source SDK Content folder for the Male 06 model.

The main problem I had here was trying to get the models to compile using animation from existing Source models. There were various strings of code that seemed to reference different files for animation and other information, so it took various trial and error to figure out which ones to change, and which would result in errors during compiling.

You compile using the studiomdl.exe which is in the same folder as the vtex.exe. Though when trying to compile various iterations of the qc file, the screen did not stay up long enough for me to see the errors and troubleshoot them. Luckily I found a program that created an more user friendly interface for the studiomdl.exe, called GUIStudioMDL.exe (http://www.wunderboy.org/apps/guistudiomdl2.php). This allowed me to see the errors and come up with solutions.

I discovered that the best way to include animation in the custom models was to use the string $includemodel before the filepath of the model. This way it would include the animation from an existing model from any Source game you wanted.

It also took some experimentation to find proper characters to use for the base animation. The original plan was to try and include animation from a newer game called Left 4 Dead, which characters more closely resembled my custom ones in actions and behavior. However the Development Kit was not released at the time for this game, and decompiling the models myself did not yield a usable file.

So I found some suitable characters that existed in Half Life to use, and compiled the characters accordingly. Another error I came across when compiling them, was that it appeared that the files did not have write permissions. This was due to the folders that it was trying to write to were none existent. Unlike most programs that will create folders if they don't exist, the studiomdl will not.

Importing into Level

This was the final step in making custom characters for our game mod. I expected to be able to import my characters and have them act as the characters that their animation was based on. I was mistaken, as my custom characters lacked AI to control them in the game engine, and there was no way to get them into the level otherwise.

After researching some more, and posting on the Steam forums asking for help, I was down to two options. I could either try renaming my characters' files as the files for existing characters, essentially tricking the engine into using my character models instead of the originals, with the AI of the existing characters, or learn c++ and create my own AI code. I opted for the former.

I tried this method a few times, with the result of utterly breaking the SDK on my computer, and also breaking the characters that I had compiled and had working in the Model Viewer. I did not understand why. It took some more trial and error to realise that I was renaming my custom files to the very same name of the files I was referencing for the animations, thus creating an infinite loop, which is what caused the SDK to crash.

I solved this issue by copying the original Source characters, renaming them to Character_Original, using that as the reference in the QC for the animation, and then naming my custom characters as the original Valve characters. That solved the issue, and allowed me to bring in my custom characters, under the name of pre-existing Valve characters in the Hammer editor.

The last few issues had to do with the kinds of characters I was using for the animations. I originally wanted to use zombie like animations for my characters, but it even though they worked fine in the Model Viewer, when in the hammer editor, and in a running map they did not work correctly. Animations would not play, characters would not move, and some would crash the game when trying to use an animation that wasn't there.

I believe this problem comes from the skeleton I used. I don't think it is exactly the same as the skeletons used for the zombies. It is for humans only. So I solved this issue by recompiling the characters using the animation from pre-existing human characters. This worked for 2 out of 3 of the characters. The last still would crash the game, but I could not fix it by using another character's animation, as there are only so many characters available, and only a certain number of those seemed to work with my characters.

So in the end I managed to get 2 out of three characters in the level and working properly, save for a few minor bugs that I have yet to rectify, like some animations still not working properly, and weapons and creatures spawning when they should not be.

Dominance War!

Hey everyone, I know I haven't posted in a little while. I've been very busy as of late. Lots of school projects and I've also been doing a couple of contests online which I'm VERY excited about. The first one was the Steampunk Legends contest on CGSociety. I'll post some more about that later, but right now I'm taking part in Dominance War IV which is the big international game art competition. I learned about it last year and promised myself that I would participate this year, so here I am.

This year the competition consists of two 9 day mini challenges along with the larger character creation part. The first 9 day challenge was due yesterday and it was certainly a fun warmup.

You had to use a base mesh that was provided to make a General Portrait. Unfortunately I can't post the actual images on my blog here, at least not yet. Contests like these like the work you do to stay just on their site, so I'll post the links here. Please take a look and tell me what you think.

WIP Forum Posts (Posts with DWIV in the title) - http://forums.cgsociety.org/search.php?searchid=1490259

Final Submission for Mini Challenge 1 - http://www.gameartisans.org/contests/minis/finals_cgsociety_3d_1803.html

For more information on the competition itself please click the image at the top of this post. I'm very excited to take part in this competition and find it pushes my skills and is a great experience. I hope to take part in more competitions like this in the future, time permitting of course.

Negaton Crawler

crawler_front_textured.jpg

I had time to actually make the final character for our game mod project here. I'd actually say this was the best model so far, and it was made in about one day, texture included. You can see more images in the gallery below.

Negaton Characters Textured

Here are the two negaton characters textured and ready to go. They both have just a simple 1024x1024 color map on them, made in photoshop.

Ghost Model Completed

Here is the ghost model for the game mod we are doing. Just another simple, low poly character for use in-game.

Siren - Model Complete

Here is the first of the Negaton character models, the Siren. Pretty basic model. Kept the poly count low as it's for a game. Enjoy!

Negaton Enemies

Here are the character designs for our game mod Project Negaton. Due to time constraints I will probably only be able to model two of these characters, since they have to be textured as well, but we shall see. Enjoy!

SMC Hand

This was an old Speed Modeling Challenge from Game Artist Forums so I didn't bother timing myself for it.  In fact, I treated it more like an anatomy study on the hand. I modeled it in the pose you see, and tried to get as much detail as I could, while keeping the poly count relatively low.

I'm still alive.

Guh... work. Summer jobs suck up so much of your time, especially when they aren't related to your chosen career path. So I'm falling a little behind with my summer projects, which was to be expected. I don't have much time for things other than sleeping and going to work. But I have a couple days off, so I'll be able to scratch a few creative itches for a little while anyway.

We went to Halifax today and I got to go to Chapters. I picked up a few new books.

50 Robots To Draw And Paint: Create Fantastic Robot Characters For Comic Books, Computer Games, And Graphic Novels 50 Robots To Draw And Paint

- I love robots so this was a must have. It has various robot designs, ranging from pur sci-fi, cartoony, to steam punk style. Covers basics, even gives you tips on specific parts like joints and cables. Very good inspirational material and mechanical reference.

Anatomy for the Artist Anatomy for the Artist

- You can never have too many anatomy resources in my opinion, especially when you're doing character designs and trying to get a certain level of realism. This book is great. It has overlays that show the underlying bone structures, and musculature. It has lots of large color photos of models. Very clean and well posed. Each photo focuses on a certain part, and has in depth descriptions and tips for drawing each part. A lovely book I'm sure I'll be referring to often.

Erotic Fantasy Art Erotic Fantasy Art

- A lovely inspirational and beautiful book of over a hundred sexy female paintings, drawings, and photography. It covers everything from vampire queens to bondage angels. It incorporates artwork from lots of different artists, and they are all stunning works of art celebrating the female form in various cultures, races, costumes, and even species. A great book if you're looking to create a sexy femme fatale and you're not quite sure how revealing to make her outfit :P

I've also been working on the Scissor Sisters project, and a practice hand model to keep myself busy. Hopefully you will see more from me in the coming weeks. Later!

Scissor Sisters WIP 5 - Fuyuko Concept (Unfinished)

I've decided that I should move on from the concept paintings for now. I've already spent far too much time on them. This one, Fuyuko, I started even before Natsuko. Shows how slow I was, but am slowly getting faster while maintaining the same quality. At least that's what I think.

The painting is unfinished, but I think it's far enough along to convey the details of the character, and so I'm moving on to the the next phase, which is the technical drawings that will be used to model with. These will just be line work, with heavy importance on detail and anatomy. So if anyone wants to model for me that would be AWSOME!

Anywho. So as I mentioned this is Fuyuko (Winter Child) the sister of Natsuko. She is the more hard headed of the two, but is the better warrior, despite her tendancy to run head long into dangerous situation. She has the large broadsword, almost zanbatō, type of scissor blade. Very heavy, and capabile of cutting a man in half.

Tell me what you think of her in the comments :) Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Scissor Sisters WIP 04 - Natsuko Concept

Here is the final concept design for the more timid of the two Scissor Sisters, Natsuko. Natsuko means 'Summer Child' so she was designed with a summer like pallet, with oranges and reds. She is the more acrobatic of the two sisters, and thus is dressed in something light. Her weapons are two short sword type scissors. The design of the scissors themselves will be done more in depth at a later time.