Saturday, January 26, 2013

Darkstalkers Contest!

Recently, a contest was held to design a Darkstalkers character.  Darkstalkers 3 is probably my favorite 2D fighting game; I love the characters, gameplay, and even the music.  I love designing fighting game characters too, so as soon as I heard about the contest, I made plans to enter!  The cool thing was that the contest mostly relied on written design with optional visuals!  This shocked me; however, I still suspect that the winner will be someone with a strong visual concept.  Because of this suspicion, I decided to try and make something visual.  In fact, my original -- and rather audacious -- idea was to make a playable demo with this character, but a month would not have been nearly enough time to do something like that.  First, I'll show off the characters as well as their bios.


 Ginepro:  The Wooden Shell

Did someone say Pinocchio?  They did?!  Do they want a cookie?!

Instead of typing out my 8 page entry for him again, here's a link to a PDF.

Ginepro was my first design, but something made me think I should do a female character.  Since contestants were allowed to do two entries, I did a second one:


Narceilia:  The Gorgon

I realized way too late how similar her appearance was to C. Viper.  Oops!

Instead of typing out my 6 page entry for her again, here's a link to a PDF.



I definitely wanted to show off my art and writing in this post, but I also wanted to write-down my process for making these entries.  If you haven't guess, these character sheets were made by starting with a base model in 3DS Max, skinning them, and then posing them.

Base Model

For these characters, I started with a base model provided to me by a former co-worker and very talented 3D artist, Nick Miller.  Awhile ago, we were working on a 3D fighting game.  The project never came to fruition, but he allowed me to keep the base models -- 2 males and 2 females -- and use them in future work if I ever desired, and for this contest entry, I surely did.  In summary, if you aren't a strong or fast 3D modeler, which I am not, having great bases can help you conceptualize and build things quickly.

Skinning and DAZ

Skinning was the next step after creating my 3D models.  Skinning may be the most tedious and feared process in the character rigging pipeline.  Essentially, vertices have to be weighted to bones and if you aren't good you character can have all kinds of strange, inhuman stretching.
3DS Max, which I used to create these models, does have a modifier called Skin Wrapping -- which I believe I've mentioned in an earlier post -- that allows you to tranfser the skinning from one model to another, and I love it!

Daz's Logo -- nothing dirty about it...for now...

Then, there exists a 3D suite called Daz3D.  Now Daz has a pretty bad reputation for allowing anyone to pose the human form into indecent poses, but I found it useful for skin wrapping.  Essentially, I export a character, with about the same proportions as the character I'm working on as a .FBX.  I then import this into 3DS Max.  The great thing is that all the skinning information is kept intact!  I can then pose this imported model as closely to my character as possible and use Skin Wrap to transfer the skinning.  The only additional things I had to do was write a script to convert all the imported "dummy" bones to 3DS Max bones.
The only downside to Skin Wrapping is that you have to use the imported mesh's rig, which is problematic when using Daz models because they don't have arm twisting and relay on morphs which do no import with the .FBX.  After skinning successfully, I posed the characters.

Rendering and Coloring

For rendering, I just did used a simple gray material and used a skylight with shadows in 3DS Max.  Unwrapping and texturing are both time-consuming and I'm just not that great at them.  The only thing textured in my entries is Ginepro's leafy hair.  After exporting these grayscale images I placed the various poses.  I really wanted to show off some of the Darkstalkers craziness in this images with growing limbs and venemous snakes, but instead I was running short on time.  Here is what the grayscale images looked like: 

Finally, in Photoshop, I used gradient maps to convert the grayscale into very nice.  Gradient Map layers are great for coloring grayscale imagery quickly.  I plan on using them more often for sure!

Anyway, that was my "crazy" process for making these entries.  I'm contemplating on doing a 3D game in Unity and using this process to make my characters.  I'll definitely post it on here if I do!

Oh, and as for Battle High 2, we're nearing completion, waiting on some ending artwork, which has been well worth the wait. In the meantime, I've been working on some gameplay polish as we ll as some branding, such as this collection of icons:

I'll keep this blog updated as I approach the final days of Battle High 2's completion!

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