Giving This Game Some Character

This was a busy week for me. I decided that instead of working on more weapon textures it was vital that I get the character to a point that Aaron could start rigging it. After all, what’s a game without a character? So I decided to switch around my schedule a bit and work on UV mapping, baking normals to, and texturing the character. After what felt like a million hours of prep work I was finally able to bring the character into Photoshop for preliminary and secondary texture passes (like I said, very busy week). So now I have a character that’s in a pretty-close-to-but-not-quite finished state. The textures still need additional work but they’re pretty close to how I envision them. Close enough to show off, anyway:

“But you said the team colors are green and purple! This guy is blue!” Why, yes, he is blue. I’ve been working in a light blue/teal color because it’s a good middle ground between green and purple but isn’t either of them.

Pretty nice, huh? I’m pleased with it, anyway. You can also see here how the color accents, taking the form of paint and lit details as well as the helmet’s visor, are prominent enough to distinguish the team colors but not so much that they dominate the armor. Things I’m still considering about the textures include extra decals (logos, military insignia, etc.) and subtle animated effects on the lights and under-suit.

Another thing I worked on this week was an shield material to be incorporated into the final character asset. The original plan was to create an entirely separate mesh around the character that would have a masked shield material on it with variable opacity. But before I started working on that (well, I had already started a little) I wanted to see if I could accomplish the same thing within the base character material. This would allow me not only to save on polygons, but also to implement a modular shield material that could be applied to any object without modification, should we decide to include shields elsewhere in the game. The result of my efforts was a mostly emission-based material that can be included in any other material in order to apply an overshield to those objects. Not only that, but it includes parameters for every aspect of it’s appearance including opacity, animation speed (oh yes, it animates), color, and plenty more.

Seen here on a slightly older version of the character material inside UE4.
Seen here on a slightly older version of the character material inside UE4. Please ignore the crappy default lighting.

My final plan is to build a completely modular material for all team-based objects (characters and vehicles, mostly). Rather than the current albedo texture that includes splashes of color in various areas, the final image will be completely greyscale (except for slight discolorations to account for dirt, smudges, etc.) and I will have a second material that acts as a color mask. Then I can use the color mask and the color parameter currently used on the shield to re-apply the color accents to the albedo. This way, I can change the color of the entire material through a single parameter without affecting areas that should remain constant. Eventually I can switch this parameter from a random color picker to a dropdown that is associated with the game’s “team color” list. That way, setting a player’s team color will be as simple as setting a single variable that can also be tied to other things such as spawn location and score. Pretty nifty, huh?

I plan to have the character material completely finished by next week including the modular texture properties. Then I can put together a fancy demo to show off and check one more workflow off my list.

This week was really fun. Exhausting, but fun. I spent many more late nights working on this project than I probably should have, but I very much enjoyed the work and I’m quite pleased with the results of my labor. I suppose it’s a good sign that nearly a year later I’m still just as invested in this project as I was when I started. Check out the breakdown for my ridiculous 33 hours of work this week. That’s nearly full-time!

2 sonic shotgun concept illustration
1 project meeting
1 grenade model

1 grenade model
1 character model
4 UE4 material creation

1 character UV mapping
5 character UV mapping

1 character UV mapping
4 UE4 material creation

.5 UE4 experiments
6 character textures
.5 UE4 experiments

3 character textures
2 UE4 material creation/experiments

Giving This Game Some Character

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