Sculpting the Thigh Guard
Achieving AAA game quality characters with Blender
As game technology advances, the visual quality of game characters is fast becoming indistinguishable from hi-resolution animation/vfx characters. Polycounts are more generous each year, texture resolutions get higher, workflows evolve, and characters continue to get more impressive. Blender is more-than-capable of accomplishing this kind of game modeling.
Learn the Workflow
This is one of the most intricate modeling workflows we teach at CG Cookie. It's directly inspired by industry techniques that are more artisan in nature than utilitarian, to favor visual quality. So buckle up for a 6-stage modeling journey!
- Block-Out: We gotta start somewhere. This stage is merely generating the basic shapes from which our robot will be forged. Though we will establish some important foundations that will make each future step easier to work with. Hint: Separate pieces that each maintain local transform axes.
- Sculpting I: I always try to get into sculpt mode as fast as possible with characters. At this stage we begin shaping rudimentary forms.
- Sculpting II: Further refinement of sculpted forms. The goal here is to sharpen edges and smooth surfaces to the point that they pass for "hard-surface". It's never going to be perfect with digital clay, but we can get close-ish. The closer we get, the better for stage 4.
- Retopology I: Since digital clay is never going to appear perfectly hard-surface with a machined quality, this stage converts the sculpture to a subdivision-smoothable polygon model to achieve true hard-surface quality for our robot.
- Boolean-based Kit Bashing: Till this point, fine details have been ignored in favor of smooth, sharp-edged major shapes. For this stage, we'll use those major shapes as our canvas to add fine details like bolts, construction lines, and other robot-y details. We'll also use this stage to fill in any model gaps that have proven easier/more efficient to model with traditional polygon tools rather than sculpting + retopology.
- Retopology II: Finally we're going to retopologize our model - again, I know. But this time it's the low resolution version that will be used in-game. This stage will leave us with 2 versions of our character: 1) A high-resolution version and a 2) low-resolution version. Which sets us up for texturing where we'll bake a bunch of maps to approximate the high-resolution-ness on to the low resolution.
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