Meet TP. He’s my main character in the iOS game I’m developing. The proxy character I had been using to test the game mechanics has now been tossed. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see TP walking and running around rooms and corridors. One small step for TP, one giant leap to get him to this point.
I’ve had a number of people ask me what is involved in game development. Character creation is just one teeny tiny aspect, but I thought it might be a good place to start:
1. First the character needs to be visualised. Quick concept sketches help here. They don’t have to be masterpieces, which is a good thing considering the fact I don’t see myself as a sketch artist, or concept artist.
2. Develop the character you like best, the one who fits the story, game, platform. If this is being done for someone else to model in 3D then you need to sketch the character proportionally in front view and side view. I didn’t bother because, well, I’m the 3D modeller and I could visualise TP without having to sketch his side view.
3. Model him in 3D. Sounds simple, but when you’ve been putting it off for months because the character will be the main focus of the game, the story revolving around him, the target for players to control, well, then it gets a lot tougher. Add personal pressure generated by my perfectionist nature and I figured I’d be doomed. Not so. After a couple of failed attempts–I’ll readily admit I was a smidge rusty when it came to character modelling–I was satisfied enough to call him done. And then I tweaked him some more… and a little more.
4. Texture the character. Without a texture the character would be boring monochrome. While I might have had something like 9 years’ experience in the animation industry, I never had to worry about polygon counts, texture atlases and everything else that must be considered when aiming for a mobile platform with limited capabilities. Fitting his textures on one map and hiding seams proved challenging. I spent many hours playing with his UVs, the thingies that tell the flat 2D texture image where to wrap on the 3D character’s body.
5. Bone and Skin him. Sounds like torture for the character, but really it’s torture for the artist who is new to the program of choice. One has to create a skeleton and attach it to the character. It’s via the skeleton that I’m able to animate him. Skinning is telling the specific parts of the character to respond to specific bones when they move.
You’ve created an awesome character who can laugh and dance and walk around. He can also cry with you when something inevitably goes wrong while trying to import him into your game.
So that’s my nutshell of what happens behind the scenes of character creation.