Antone Magdy did a breakdown of his character Blood Elf: blocking the body, skin texturing, armor production, and more.
I had the pleasure to work on multiple movies and AAA games (including Injustice 2, Mafia 3, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and some unreleased titles).
I started learning 3D on my own before going to university (I studied Computer Science there). It was a little bit hard since there were not as many resources back then as it’s now. After a while, I had a few chances to freelance and work with a couple of studios until I landed my first full-time job (I had to create cute 3D characters for TV Series). I always wanted to work for games so I enrolled in an online school Game Artist Academy and focused on Creating Characters for games (unfortunately it is not active anymore). I think things turned out great: I’m currently enjoying my life and working on a lot of exciting projects, either personal, freelance or professional ones at Snappers.
I always wanted to do an elf and the concept by Tony Sart was great so it was a challenge for me to do it justice (hopefully, I did!)
Before the start, I usually try to collect as many references as possible so that I have a clear idea of what I want and how it looks.
Then I start in ZBrush by blocking everything with dynamesh. When I’m satisfied, I start to retopo what I have made and add details to the high poly model (at first, I was aiming for a smaller part of the character as you can see in the blocking but later on, I decided to go further).
This is the initial sculpt of the face with retopo/UV:
Building the Body
Usually, I try to block out the character as quickly as possible to get a feel of how the character is going to look like, see if I need to change anything to make it closer to the concept or change something that’s not working. I try to make such decisions early before getting attached to the model.
An early render with a paintover to see the overall picture and what needs to be added:
For the body, I had a base mesh that I started blocking to basic forms (I needed it to lay everything on top of it).
The rest of the stuff I wanted to model and a test render:
I wanted to create a peaceful looking female warrior and it was harder than I thought. I changed the face a few times before I settled on the last one.
The shader was a little bit tricky to handle since I needed the displacement to work alongside the texture and specular/roughness maps to get the results I was looking for. It took some time to go back and forth until I got what I wanted.
For the armor, I wanted to try a new technique that I had in mind. First, I did a retopo of the sculpt to have a clean topology for the metal parts (armor).
I wanted to know how far I could go with adding details to a cinematic object in Substance, and it took a few experiments to make the height work as displacement in Maya. Then, I sculpted a few scratches here and there in ZBrush (all detailing was created in Substance). Of course, this wouldn’t have worked as well without using the Anchor Points technique in Substance so that the newly added details could be used in the masks and generators for dirt, scratches, etc.
Then, I used a couple of nodes in Maya over an exported 32-bit height map from Substance to make it work.
For hair, I used XGen, and my workflow was pretty straightforward: I start by creating guides step-by-step and painting maps for density and width. I also got a lot of help from our grooming artist at Snapper, Basem Shenouda. For the shader, I used AiStandard Hair shader and a ramp connected to it.
For rendering, I used Arnold for Maya and experimented a lot with different lights. For me, the key point of this stage is to keep tweaking, working on the lighting and it will pay off. At the same time, you should learn how to let go. I did all I could for the project though I know that a lot of things could be better. As da Vinci said, “art is never finished, only abandoned.”
I think the biggest challenge was handling the frustration caused by changing a lot of stuff over and over. When you see the colors not working together or the hairstyle still needing to be changed, it can get to you. When I was done, I started to work with blend shapes to enlarge and unite the project (patience is a virtue). I always try to keep in mind the whole project and what I’m aiming for – this really helps me to handle the frustration and have fun!