The last week or so I have been taking a shot at re-doing our first player model for Zero Gear, the original model didn't sit right with a lot of people or me included. Luckily I stumbled into contact with Edwin Rhemrev, a concept artist in Rotterdam. We talked about how much we enjoyed kart racing games, and offered to do some concept pieces for us. He came up with a lot of differently styled and awesome looking characters. This is the one that I based my character model from. After a couple days of modeling I had the base model done that everything else would build upon.
Once this step is complete, I unwrapped and textured the body and head. This step involves some tricky and/or tedious work assigning how the flat 2d texture is wrapped around the 3d model. Luckily there are a lot of different tools to help you do this, just imagine trying to cut out a set of skin tight clothes out of a piece of paper for a doll, in a shape so that all the seams match up perfectly to fit the contours of the body. Sounds pretty tricky, doesn't it! These are the flat textures I created to wrap around my character
Now we have something that looks like a character, the next step is making him move like one.
To animate the character, I make a skeleton that fits the proportions of the body and has joints in all the proper places. Then I have to assign all the verticies to correct bones in the skeleton, and after that is done I can animate the bones in the skeleton to move in whatever way I wish and the body will follow. The entire animation process is something I have been learning as go, and it has filled me with a lot of respect for animators, as it is clearly a discipline to master in and of itself. Here is a screenshot of the program I use to animate the skeleton:
The animation is done using "key-frames" on a timeline. In a nutshell this involves moving something to a position and setting a "key" and then moving the same thing to a different position and setting another "key" farther down the timeline. Using this process, the animation between those two keys are filled in for you and the result is a smooth transition between the two positions. Here is a short video I created of some animations I created for this character.
There are still some additional steps to be taken to get the character into the game, but it is mostly complete at this stage. I will be following this same process to create multiple other new characters for the game. After finishing this guy, I posed him in a little scene and rendered out a poster-type image for fun. Click on the links to the right of the image for a number of different sizes.