Yesterday at Game Developer Conference in San Francisco Epic Games announced big news for gaming industry- Unreal Engine is available to everyone for free and all future updates will be free!
Few months ago an inquiry came to us from Epic about possibility of 3Lateral designing and rigging a kid character who would portray child curiosity, confidence and ultimately- freedom. As Epic nicely put it “this is supposed to be the kid that everybody wants to be”. Character would be the only character in the piece which is mainly about environment, however, character would be central to the subtle story which leads to the main message- “IF YOU LOVE SOMETHING, SET IT FREE”. We were, of course, excited about this opportunity and accepted it without hesitation. Below is a result of collaboration with fantastic team at Epic.
Rough run through the process would be as follows:
PHASE 1- Rough sketching, focus on the head
Before anything else we wanted to focus on the face as it needs to project all qualities set out in concept stage. Giving it initial form sparked good discussions within our team and with team at Epic.
PHASE 2- Refining sketches and modeling the head.
After initial sketches were done, we had a very good idea on where we want to go with this character. We quickly did a ton of various clothing variations and did a full sculpt and color pass for the head. We did a lot of hair style variations but have converged to these two at this stage.
PHASE 3- Body and cloth modeling
After having established the face, we started thinking more about secondary features like cloth wrinkles and hair parting in animation.
PHASE 4- Facial rigging
This phase was very important to us since facial expressions are equally important as the design of the character itself. Facial expressions define how audience perceives the character and this had to be absolutely perfect. We incorporated our advanced facial rig featuring Rig Logic embedded within Maya scene which coordinates individual rig elements into a holistic FACS solution for the face. This enables animator with isolated controls which, in return, moves face as a whole leaving artist concerned only with emotion that needs to be seen on the face rather than battling deformational issues.
Important to note here is the fact that this is a full blendshape rig featuring hundreds of shapes which Unreal Engine handles without problems. Finally the time has come for faces in game to look as good as in feature films. We encourage all developers to use blendshapes as much as it is possible. Nice results can be obtained by joint deformations but blendshapes are hardly replaced even with hundreds of joints. Good news which is proven with this demo is that technology has matured for high end blendshape rigs to be part of new games. Developers are often surprised how much blendshapes they can actually have in a rig after all necessary metrics are done.
PHASE 5- Preparing Unreal Engine asset
After we completed authoring asset in Maya, we have imported everything into Unreal and did an initial look development to help the team at Epic. Few screen shots of final asset in engine below.
After seeing the asset in engine we tweaked a few things like eyebrow textures, hair specular and softened the hairline