3D Game Character Design Basics

The video game development community has come a long way since its general inception in the late 1970s. That's particularly true of character design and texturing. The intention of this book is to completely focus on modeling a cool game character that is endowed with a texture, optimized, rigged with what is called a skeleton, animated, and then exported to a few popular game engines. This is quite a process, but don't be discouraged. The entire character creation sequence is straightforward and logical, and I'm sure you'll be content with your end results.

Here's the workflow for creating a cool character. Notice how this corresponds to the book's chapters. This chapter describes the process involved in completing each of these steps.

■ Learning the process for creating a character

■ Conceptualizing a character and its model type

■ Generating sketch art in preparation for modeling

■ Modeling a character in 3ds Max 8

■ Mapping the UV texture coordinates, in preparation for texturing a character in Photoshop CS2

■ Creating textures and relief maps in Photoshop

■ Applying a biped skeletal rig to your character mesh to prepare it for animation

■ Creating animation sequences in Max that will be called by a game engine during gameplay

Creating a video game character is a somewhat complicated process but is fairly straightforward and linear. This process applies to most available 2D and 3D digital art programs for both video games and film. There are several differences between a character that is built for a video game and a character that is built for film, but as game consoles become more and more powerful, these differences are fading. Currently, a big difference is that film characters have a much higher polygon count, and the game characters need to be specially rigged and exported for specific game engine requirements. This section takes a closer look at the workflow we will follow throughout this book. Figure 1.1 shows an abridged diagram for creating a game character.

This workflow pattern hasn't changed much over the years, except in the character's constituent resolutions. That is, the polygon counts for the character model's mesh have dramatically increased, the texture maps are larger and more detailed, and animation sequences are greater in number






Sketch Art

Skeletal Rigging








U-V Mapping

Engine Export

Figure 1.1 The game character creation process.

Figure 1.1 The game character creation process.

and more complex. These key points of a character will continue to increase in parallel with developing computer technology. The faster the computer, the more able it will be to handle more complex game objects.

From Figure 1.1, I will break down this general process into detailed components.

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