A great lesson in the production of high-quality stylised 3d models.
Julien Desroy is a very talented artist from France, who did a lot of excellent work for Gameloft. In this article he discussed the production of his amazing crossover of Mononoke and World of Warcraft. It’s a great look in the production of the great looking stylised models.
Approach to Character Creation
Well, I try reaching for the Blizzard style. I always loved the way they succeeded to build charismatic characters. It’s not easy because they have a very particular «stylized style». When I create a character I always tend to use a lot of references and think about the character itself. Basically, asking myself who is he. This is what guides me.
For a full character I usually start from a basemesh for the body. It allows me to save some time when I ‘m on the retopology process (damn it) . Then I start the sculpt process, retopology, UV, baking, texturing, and finally the rendering and compositing’s process. It’s a long travel, but very rewarding.
It was the second time I was making San. Mononoke Hime is my favorite movie, by far. And as a big fan of World of Warcraft ‘s universe, I tried to redesign her so she can fit in this world of Warcraft.
The main challenge was the project itself. It was more or less the first time I was making a character ready for a video game. So a lot of constraints to understand and to manage. The topology was particularly pain in the ass, so to speak.
Texture Creation Process
First of all, I made the UV with a mix of Maya and Zbrush. I like the way Zbrush unfold the UV, so I defined the seams with Maya and then go to Zbrush to unfold the UV with the option «keeping seams» and that’s it. All I need to do is to arrange the UV to take the maximum space possible.
I baked my normal, bent and AO maps into xNormal which I fixed into Photoshop. XNormal baked the map very well but, often you ‘ll need to clean those maps. After that, I started to texturing process. It consists of working in Photoshop using the AO, bent and gradient maps. Then I made some polishing in 3D Coat. The process is quite simple, nothing fancy.
Posture and Lighting
This is one of my favorite parts! It’s very important to define a posture and a lighting appealing. Showing personality through the pose and the lighting will sell your model. I can easily spend a lot of time on it, depending of the complexity of the model. For San it was quite a challenge and fun.
I think it’s something that matters when you start to have some comparison elements in the model itself. For Mononoke, I knew the wolf is bigger compared to San. Making a little background can also help to define the size.
Character for Show or Game
I think it’s more about what you want to show. When you are making a character for a rendering purpose, you can directly show what you want through the sculpt and the render. For a video game character you know you ‘ll need at some point a normal map or a AO map to show the details you previously did on the sculpt. Moreover, it’s something supposed to be seen under all angles and views. On the one hand you’re gonna need to erase some elements (too small ones for example) and on the other hand, you’ll need to increase elements. This is tricky to explain. It’s all about the final purpose of the process. Stylized characters are the perfect example, because they are exaggerated and moderated in a certain way.
I would say look for some good tutorials. The process can be very long and technic. And I believe it’s something you need to learn. You can check Marc Brunet ‘s tutorials. They are very good. And don’t be afraid to go back in the process! Sometimes, it’s not gonna work as expected. For me it was the bake result of the wolf, I had to go back to the retopology part to fix the problem.