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Game Character 1

"Creating game character - part 1 " by Les Padrew
Character Development
Creating good game characters is one of the most satisfying and fun aspects of game art.Like the actors and actresses in a motion picture,they are the focus ofattention. They are the performers on the stage of the game.Often the player is connected to the game through the game characters. Thus, creating good character art is very important. This chapter will deal with character design and construction.It will cover the fol- lowing topics:

What game characters are
What types of characters are in games
Where you can get ideas for characters
How you can draw character templates
How you can build a character model
Game Characters
With the possible exception of some puzzle games,almost every game has charac- ters. A game character is an intelligent person, creature, or machine in a game. Some game characters are beautiful; some are ugly. Some are stylized cartoon characters,while others are very realistic.There is almost as much variety in game characters as imagination will permit. Game characters include all intelligent people or creatures in a game. Intelligent means that the character is either controlled by the player or by the game software. The specific software that controls characters in games is called artificial intelli- gence ,or AI for short.AI in games is becoming increasingly complex,to the point that the player can interact with AI-controlled characters as if they were real. Characters in games are becoming more and more lifelike. They dont just run around and shoot things they can also have emotions. An angry character will not just attack with sword drawn;he will also have facial expressions and body language to emphasize the attack.He might yell at you or even call other game characters to help him fight.This increase in sophistication has increased the demands on designers and game artists to develop interesting and engaging characters.
Types of Game Characters
Games have many different types of characters,which can be broken into the following categories.

Player characters
Non-player characters
Each type of character can be further broken down into subtypes. Player charac- ters can be controlled by a single player or,in the case of a multiplayer game,they can be controlled by other players.Non-player characters or NPCs,for short can be allies,facilitators,or decorations.Enemies can be rivals,and they can be aggressive, passive, or traitorous. These breakdowns are only a few of the many ways to categorize characters in a game.
Player Characters
A player character is controlled by a player.In many games there is only one player character the one being controlled by you,the player.Some games,such as realtime strategy or team sports games,have the player control multiple characters at once with the assistance of sophisticated AI.In these team games,the player might control individual characters directly, but most of the time the player characters are doing their jobs as assigned by the game. The amount of control the player has over a character will depend on the type of game being played.For example,a fighting game will give the player a lot of control over the character.The player will be able to control the movement and actions of the character in detail. Adventure games are similar in that the player will be able to control the charactes actions to navigate through the world.Other games,such as real-time strategy games, give the player control over position and assigning jobs. The RTS character then intelligently acts upon the environment and game events. Multiplayer games have several player-controlled characters in a single game. Some of these games are made up entirely of player-controlled characters.A multiplayer game might have hundreds of player-controlled characters. Many multiplayer games allow players to customize their characters;some even go so far as to include a character editor with the game.Character editors are challenging for the game artist because the artist has to create characters with multiple variations in costume,hair,body size,and accessories.
Non-Player Characters
Technically,any non-player-controlled character is a non-player character;however, it is useful to think of enemies as a separate group. Enemies are distinct in that players have to react very differently to them than they do to other characters in the game.I'll talk about enemies later. NPCs are usually not overtly hostile to the player. They might be indifferent or have very limited reactions to the player,but they are not generally hostile. Some games are filled with NPCs. Team sports games, for example, have NPCs that play the role of teammates, cheerleaders, spectators, announcers, and so on. Although they might not necessarily try to kill the player character, the opposing team is better classified as an enemy because their goal is to defeat the player. Adventure games provide probably the best examples of NPCs in a game. In an adventure game the player interacts with several NPCs on many different levels. Some of the characters in the game might be helpful to the player by providing information or items. Others might be indifferent but helpful in their own way, such as store clerks or other types of merchants. Some characters might be noth- ing but decorative,giving no useful information and acting only as distractions. In some games the NPCs change roles depending on the actions of the player.For example, an indifferent merchant might change to an ally if the player completes a quest or helps solve a problem.The merchant might also become an enemy if the player tries to steal something from his or her shop. When designing characters, the concept artist needs to understand what the charactes role is and create a character that fits that role. A sleazy police informant should not wear a three-piece suit.A military guard should not be slightly built.An opposing linebacker should not be obese.Characters need to fit their roles.Players should be able to tell a lot about your characters just from the charactersdesigns.
Enemies are all non-player-controlled characters that try to keep the player from winning the game.The opposing team in a sports game is an enemy.The evil creatures in a horror game are enemies.The other drivers in a racing game are enemies. The vicious alien trying to kill the player in a first-person shooter is an enemy. In some games enemies are very intelligent and cunning, whereas in others they might just be aggressive.In a football game,the opposing team might be very good at play calling and disguising play coverage. In a shooter, the enemies might be very good at ganging up on the player. In a fighting game, the opponent might have several combo moves.. In designing enemies, the look of the character is often as important as what the character does in the game. The characters should be intimidating, causing the player to feel a sense of accomplishment when he or she defeats them.Sometimes the intimidation is from an imposing physical appearance;other times it is subtler, such as in a quiz game where the opponent needs to appear intelligent.
Building Characters
Characters are some of the most complex models in games for a couple of reasons. First,a game character is the focal point of the game.Players will be looking at the character more intently than at any other element in the game.The second reason is that characters tend to be organic rather than mechanical.A human character,for example, is made up of many curves, which are difficult to create from flat poly- gons.Because of their complexity,I will be very detailed in the exercises that follow. In this first section, you will explore creating a model sheet to use as a template. Next,you will cover building the character.Last,you will explore how to apply tex- tures to the character. I chose a human character because it is the most common character in games, but more importantly, because it is the measure by which art directors choose who they will hire.Learning how to build great characters will go further in helping you get a job in the game industry than knowing how to build any other game element.
Character Templates
Character illustrations are great, but they often dont give the model builder enough information to create the character model.A critical piece of artwork for the concept artist to create is the model sheet,which can be used as a template for creating the character model.
What Are Model Sheets?
A model sheet is a template created by the concept artist to help the development team create accurate models of the designed characters. The model sheet is an orthographic rendering of the character drawn from different views.Each view is designed to give the development team vital information about the character.
Many characters in games today are very detailed. Games are getting closer and closer to reality in their graphics. Features such as cloth movement, facial animation, specular lighting, bump mapping, and transparency, which were impossible only a few years ago, are commonplace today. The movement to realism in characters is putting a lot of pressure on the concept artist and the development team to create better and better characters.The model sheet is the vital link between the concept artist and the development team.
Model sheets are a form of art borrowed from the motion-picture animation industry. When animators started drawing characters, they had to keep the characters looking consistent in all the scenes. Back then, all the frames of animation were drawn by hand. The problem became even more daunting when multiple artists worked on the same character.To help solve the problem,the industry came up with a system for helping the animators to keep their drawings consistent.A big part of that system was the model sheet.
Model sheets are also used extensively in the comic book industry. Comics, like motion-picture animation, have several artists working on the same character. Although the requirements for consistency are not as rigorous in comics as in motion-picture animation,they are still fairly rigid.
Unlike motion-picture animation and comics, games do not have as much hand- drawn art. Instead, games primarily use 3D models. The advantage to using a 3D model is that the character is consistent because the same model is used through- out the game. However, the need to keep the game character consistent with the designed character is still important.The model sheet helps take care of that need. Model sheets are in many ways similar to drafting plans. The character is seen from different angles in isometric views. Isometric means without perspective. In other words, the view is flat to the viewer, without distortion for distance. Isometric drawings are more accurate than perspective drawings because the elements can be plotted directly from view to view.

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