Game Character Development with Maya - page 17


In this chapter, we covered the main phases of creating your own concepts for real-time characters. In addition, we examined the artwork that should be prepared before you move on to modeling a character.

What you should have at this point are some nice character concepts that have been approved by your manager. From these, you will have created the model sheets needed to move to the next stage. In the next chapter, we will start to build your characters, at the same time introducing you to Maya's environment and basic modeling tools.

    Chapter 2. Modeling Kila

    CD Files





    In Scans directory:






    THE CONCEPTING IS COMPLETE for our characters Kila and Grae, so it's time to move onto the computer and into Maya.

    We begin this chapter by showing you how to prepare and store your artwork, as well as the procedure for configuring Maya's environment. Then we'll explore the basic modeling tools as we begin to build our characters.


      You are now ready to create your characters. You have all the needed resources, which you have gathered yourself or have received from another concept artist. For a given character, you should have at hand the following:

      • Model Sheet The model sheet displays the full character from various angles, preferably the front, side, and rear views. Specific details may also be included on this sheet.

      • Head Sheet The head sheet gives a close-up of the character's head and facial features. Like the model sheet, the head sheet has front, side, and rear views.

      • Color Sheet The color sheet displays the fully rendered character. You will use this for color reference when it comes time to apply a texture.

      • Limitations Before you begin to model a character, it's important that you know all the applicable technical restrictions. These will include polygon counts and texture page limits.

      With all the necessary information ready, let's look at how to properly store it.

      Artwork Storage

      An important piece of information you should obtain at this stage concerns the storage of your artwork. Is there a specific directory structure in place? Does an area exist on the network where all the artwork for a particular project will be stored? Does this location get backed up frequently and regularly?

      Many game development studios have custom-written software in place to take care of artwork storage, but deserving of mention is one of the best and most widely available: Alienbrain. A clever application, Alienbrain holds all the game assets on a server to which the development team has access. When a piece of artwork is begun, it is stored not only locally but also on the server. These server files are then locked. An individual wanting to work with a file must "check it out" and then check it back in at the end of the work session.

      This is just the tip of the Alienbrain iceberg: The program is capable of much more. It has plug-ins available for Maya, Photoshop, and many other applications to speed up workflow and make things more user friendly, while all along keeping regular backups of your work in case the worst should happen.

      You can find more information on Alienbrain by visiting their Web site

      As good as Alienbrain is, it does not set up a directory structure for you. The leads on your team should establish this so that everyone knows where everything is at any given time. The directory framework can be as simple as the structure seen in Figure 2.1.

      Figure 2.1. A basic directory structure

      Preparing the Work Environment

      Now that you know where to store your artwork, you can begin to prepare your working environment.

      Scanning in the Model

      First, you need to scan in your model sheet. By having these images available on your computer, you can import them into Maya and use them as a guide when you begin to build the model. Many developers find this arrangement to be a much better way to work because you can ultimately create a more precise model. Attempting to model from memory or by referring to hard copy references will ultimately lead to errors, and the proportions of the final models will likely be off.


      You don't need the scanned image to be huge, but it should retain most of the details that exist in the artwork. Scan in the model sheet at 100% or a resolution of 300 dpi; this is quite big, but it's easier to shrink the image later on than to enlarge it. In addition, scanning it higher and then reducing it will give you a better-quality image than if you initially scan at a lower dpi.

      Preparing the Scanned Image

      When you take the image into Photoshop (or your preferred digital imaging package), you first need to rotate it, in this case 90 degrees counterclockwise. Save the rotated image now for use as reference.

      Once all that is done, you can shrink the image. All you need to do is adjust the ppi (pixels per inch); this will scale the overall image (Figure 2.2).

      Figure 2.2. Scaling an image in Photoshop's Image Size window


      Make sure Resample Image is enabled, If you leave this option unchecked in the Image Size dialog box, changing the dpi (dots per inch) does not alter the pixel resolution of the image (or its storage size on disk). It only affects the size of the image when it is printed.

      Adjusting an image to 72 ppi usually gives an acceptable result. When you need to work with a better, more detailed image, play around with the ppi until you have something acceptable. I recommend using a lower resolution in order to consume less memory on your machine, but you do not want to end up with an image so small that you can't make out any details. See Figure 2.3 for an example of a good and a bad reduction.

      Figure 2.3. In the image reduction on the right, the ppi resolution is set too low.

      Storing the Image

      Now that you have your image stored with a resolution you can work with, you can chop it up and store the pieces (Figure 2.4). An ideal place to keep them would be in a Scans directory inside the main scene folder. These pieces will then be imported into Maya later as image planes, guidelines for modeling our characters.

      Figure 2.4. The chopped images

      To store the pieces of an image, normally you would follow the directory structure dictated by your project manager, but for this book's project we will use the file system found on the book's CD. For this chapter, our characters will be stored in the directory Project Files/02. To keep things tidy, I have added a folder called Scans. Place the image pieces in here, along with the initial image scan (MainScan.tif). Let's call the cropped images KilaFront.jpg and KilaSide.jpgthere's no need to crop the rear image as we won't be importing it into Maya.


      Making sure the images are the same height, as well as keeping the head and other body parts in line, will help when working with them in Maya.

      Saving Image Planes

      For developers experienced with Photoshops tools, here is another way of creating the image planes: When imported into Maya as image planes, these images will show up as line art. There will be no white rectangle around them to get in your way.


      Working from a 72 ppi scan, use the Rectangular Select tool and select the front drawing.


      Copy the front drawing and create a new canvas with a black background.


      Make sure the image mode is RGB by going to Image > Mode > RGB.


      Open the Channel Editor and create a new channel; this will be an alpha channel by default.


      Paste the image into the new alpha channel and then select Image > Adjustment > Invert.


      Save the image as a 32-bit Targa file.

      The KilaFront and KilaSide images saved as Targa files are also included on the CD (KilaFront.tga and KilaSide.tga).

      With the images cropped, stored, and ready, we have done all our external preparation. Next, we will move into the Maya program, so let's take a look at the basic tools it has to offer.