John Crawford

Game-ready topology for organic characters

I think I've asked a question like this before, but I'm always seeking further clarity on this.

The game-ready topology videos CG Cookie have done are on a rock, level assets and a robot, which is all good stuff, but they're all hard surface and don't deform with animation. I'm still curious as to how liberal you're allowed to be with triangles on say, a human character for a video game, or how you're meant to integrate properly triangles for armature deformation. From what I understand, triangles are actually encouraged in certain deforming areas, provided they're set up correctly. I even found a 2015 tutorial by jlampel on his youtube channel talking about exactly this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON3gsB5AxII

So to sum up: if I sculpt a game character, upon reaching the retopology stage, should I still be modeling mostly with all quads? Where would triangles typically be acceptable on a biped model?

Extending further from that, this is kind of unrelated to my initial question, but where do normal maps come in for characters? Obviously the beveling method for the gun course wouldn't apply here because it's an organic model, so you'd use a sculpt. I thought dyntopo-sculpted models weren't fit for normal maps because of the messy geometry, but I'm watching the Wrangler sculpt course, and theluthier said the sculpt would be used for a normal map. I always thought the idea was to retopologize a high poly retopo, then maybe apply a multires or 4 for some high-frequency non-dyntopo sculpting then bake that onto the game-ready retopo?

Could these things be covered in future courses?

  • crew

    Hey John, good questions! Retopologizing that wrangler character is pretty high on my to-do list, so that course will hopefully cover all of those topics. In the meantime, I'd recommend sticking with all quads for the most part but using triangles in sharp pointy areas (his beard), and on the concave part of the joints as seen in that video. 

    I always thought the idea was to retopologize a high poly retopo, then maybe apply a multires or 4 for some high-frequency non-dyntopo sculpting then bake that onto the game-ready retopo?

    I haven't taken too close of a look at the character yet, but that very well may be what we end up doing since, like you mentioned, sculpts are a bit rough. 

  • Hi! My question would be kinda the same, since we are lacking a full session of game-ready organic character tutorial. I'd need help only with the steps. I'm done with the sculpting part (4.3 M tris), now I'm finishing the high-poly retopo (with lvl2 subsurf around 400K tris). Is it important for nice clean maps to bake? Or can i get nice results from the sculpt as well?

    Thank you for replies, and pardon my English.

  • crew


    mmano986 You can get decent results from the sculpt if you take a ton of time to polish it up, but often I find I get much better normal maps if I do a high poly retopo first, or if I am sculpting via multiresolution modifier on a model that already has good base topology. A good workflow for me is dynamic topology sculpt for the general forms -> retopology and high res detail sculpt using multiresolution -> game res topology and bake.