Game Styles

The style of game dictates nearly all the components of a character model. One of the most common game styles that use the type of character that we are creating is FPS, meaning that the player views and controls the game-play through the eyes of the player's character. If you have difficulty discerning between the terms first, second, and third in terms of game-play, here's how it works. In first person, you, the player, are actually "in the game" as if you have taken over the main character's digital body in the computer world. Examples of first-person games are DOOM, Half-Life, and Call of Duty. When playing these games, you walk through the game world seeing only what you would see if you were there—your arms and hands holding a weapon, and your feet (see Figure 1.2). This doesn't mean that's all that is present in the game. The game engine is aware of the full character's position in the scene, but most of the body is not displayed to you, the player. Other players that might be present will see your full body (as in any multiplayer FPS game).

Figure 1.2 An FPS-style game. The character's 3D model is fully present but only partially visible to the player through his character's eyes. Half-Life 2. © 2006 Valve Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Ever wonder why we skip from first-person-shooter to third? Although it's not really used, the term second person refers to the actual camera object that the game uses to display images to the player onscreen. The camera is an invisible dummy object, usually represented by a simple small box model you create. This object is technically part of a character mesh, attached to a point on the character's body, usually located between the character's eyes. The orientation of the object (that is, its X-, Y-, and Z-axes) is aligned in a specific direction, usually with the Y- or Z-axis pointing forward to the game world. The camera object's name, location, and orientation are specified by the game programmers, who use these objects in the programming code to properly display the game to the player. Figure 1.3 shows what the camera object looks like when developing a character model.

Dummy objects are used for other things like weapon placement and character attachment points (such as where the player's hands and feet go when he's hopping onto a vehicle). I will explain more about this in

Figure 1.3 A

camera dummy object being placed and attached on a character model. The camera represents the second person in a video game.

Camera dummy object

Figure 1.3 A

camera dummy object being placed and attached on a character model. The camera represents the second person in a video game.

Camera dummy object

Chapter 7, "Rigging a Character with Biped in 3ds Max."

A third-person-style game is similar to first-person in that you are still controlling the main character but you see the world through the eyes of an orbital, or positional camera. Not only can you see your player character in full detail, but you can position your world view around the character and in almost all directions (see Figure 1.4). The reason that this style is labeled third person is that you are no longer "in the game world" but viewing the world from outside of your player character. Examples of games like this are Tomb Raider, Hitman, and Splinter Cell. The camera object floats behind the player character, and both move together through the game world but also independently of one another.

Some games allow you to switch between first- and third-person perspectives, but both styles have the same character model specifications. The polygon count, textures, and animations are the highest quality of any

Highest Polygon Count
Figure 1.4 A third-person perspective game. The camera object displays the entire player character and is linked to it yet independently mobile. SplinterCell. © 2005 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

other model in the game because the player constantly views them.

Lastly, there are what I consider fourth-person-style games. Technically, these are still third person, but instead of controlling one player character, you control many, as in the Age of Empires series, Diabolo, and even Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms (when controlling multiple characters at once). I want to single out Age of Empires and that respective style because the character models are small and usually viewed from afar (see Figure 1.5). This is a strategy game, but having the characters so small means that the polygon count and texture maps are also small. This is important because it means you shouldn't spend too much time creating a complex game character—the polygon count is low, and there is only a handful of animations.

Taking into consideration the style of game for which you are creating a character is important so that you know how detailed your character will be. A first- or third-person game character, as the player model, has relatively high polygon counts for the mesh, detailed textures, and dozens of animation sequences. Computer AI characters also have high quality and most likely incorporate many facial expressions and lip-syncing animations.

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