[ June 8 Update ]
So! For these past two weeks, we have been making a great deal of progress in character art. For the sake of quality in each of our four characters, we have made adjustments to our schedule to allow for more time, iteration, and troubleshooting of technical difficulties. So, let's peek at what's been done so far!
Miria's retopologized mesh has been completed! She clocks in at approximately 52,795 tris. Ultimately, the ponytail from her initial design was cut and replaced with a bun. This alleviated the additional technical considerations that comes with hair & the additional secondary animation ... along with the presumably long amount of time that would have taken to create hair in a portfolio-worthy quality. Along with Miria's mesh, her UVs have been laid out! And there was already some mesh alteration to reduce the polycount by almost half. She was imported into the UE4 engine to test her scale and how her mesh looked as well. With the mesh out of the way, now we can focus on the rigging process for both the body & the face, along with creating the crystaline texture of her skin.
For the Ley Lines game, we couldn't successfully get the PhysX plug-in to work all the way through. So we don't see it as a worthwhile investment to apply this to Miria for either her cloth or her body physics so we're going to be using bones upon bones for everything. Miria's body rig is a very standard humanIK set-up going on, along with some additional joints for her breasts and her stomach. This would help us to simulate "jiggle physics". As for her cloth ... this piece has its own set of bones. Animators will have a greater control of how it moves against her body, rather than relying on a simulation. After these bones are skinned & weighted to the mesh, Miria will be passed off to Summan so the racial rig process can begin.
There has been a lot of progress on Miria's body rig! She is about halfway completed. Take a peek at the video below to see.
As for the Mantis ... similarly to Miria, the retopology of this mesh has been almost completed! The current polycount clocks in at approximately 41,502 tris. Along with this, UVs have also been completed for the Mantis character, along with its Normal Maps and Ambient Occulusion maps. Once those maps were completed, the Mantis' mesh was imported into the UE4 engine and given those textures. This way, we were able to see for ourselves how this creature would look. It was determined that some of the most minor & finicky details would be painted out in normal texture maps.While the Mantis' engine-ready mesh was being finished, the rigging process began with laying out the rig bones & its hierarchy on a low-poly version of the mesh that kept all of the same proportions.
What's next for the Mantis character? Crystals have yet to be integrated into the main mesh. This will be done in the coming week, attached to the body, UV'd, and properly mapped. After this, the current skeleton can be skinned to the Mantis and he can be fully prepared for animation! The step that will be taken during the rigging process would be to complete color maps for this character. This may take a certain long degree of time, because these maps will be extremely reliant on the target visual style and striving to match it.
The Golem's mesh was the first one out of the four that was completed. When the rigging process began, it was determined that the Golem's engine-ready mesh should undergo some iteration to allow for a greater range of movement for the rig. Because of this, the Golem's joints for his limbs are being reworked. Similarly to the Minion & Boss characters in the Ley Lines game, the Golem's joints will be balls of energy. This disconnection in the mesh would permit for the Golem to have a wider range of motion. Given that he's one of our main combative characters in the entire sequence, having the ability to further exaggerate his movements and make him far more dynamic than he would have been before is something great! And it was an added benefit to have that open communication with our riggers to determine what's exactly required of the mesh & how designs may undergo iteration to accommodate any animation needs.
So, what's next? The Golem is undergoing its mesh iterative process and will be finished within the next few days (estimated date is currently June 3). Then, UVs will be re-mapped, and maps rebaked. In the midst of this, some odd UV locking errors in Maya have been encountered that need a creative solution to work around. Once UVs are mapped, the rigging process can resume and be completed for the Golem. Then we will be able to move on to animation.