Thursday, 28 May 2015

Modelling in 3DS Max - getting started

After commissioning some disappointing custom 3D models, we figured it was time to knuckle down and give this 3DS Max thing a go. Our electronic board game is still on a back burner, but smoldering along - this time we're looking at creating some fantasy football teams (and considering making some custom animations using a Kinect for mo-cap but more on that in the future!)

Our original commission was for a couple of human footballers and a couple of orcs.
The initial photos came back looking like one character had been created, then simply re-shaped and re-skinned to create three other derivatives. Not quite what we were looking for!

Luckily the Unity Asset store had just what we needed - some nice, slightly cartoon-y looking orc characters, ready-rigged, with a few sample animations included.

These orcs not only keep their humanoid shape, but also manage to capture the ork-iness of an orc: the long, muscular arms and slightly hunched stance tell you that these are definitely not just human characters that have been coloured green.

In fact, we're not quite sure how to go about "re-skinning" these fellas, but it can be done. For now we're more interested in getting a usable character or two. These characters also come with a couple of bits of armour, which can be attached to empty game objects, placed on the elbows, shoulders and knee joints.

What we needed was a bit of 3DS Max magic, to create some custom armour that we can then simply hook onto these connection points on the model. Here's a run down of how we created our first ever 3DS Max model, from scratch.

Firstly, we're creating a "blood-bowl-like" shoulder pad, complete with raised edges and lots of spikes. This is like a squashed-up half-orange shape, with a bit of modification. This is how we did it:

The first thing was to create a sphere, and rotate it so that the "segments" travelled around the object, from top to bottom. Then we reduced the number of segments as low as we could go without it looking too angular.

We only actually want half a ball, so we changed the "hemisphere" option to 0.5.
Setting "slice" to 180 meant that as well as only drawing half the ball vertically, this half-ball shape was cut horizontally, so only 180 (of the total 360) degrees of the shape were drawn

We then made two copies of this quarter-ball shape, and placed one each to the left and to the right of the original. We made one slightly larger than the original and placed it - slightly higher and slightly to the right - of the original.

With the first shape selected, we created a new compound shape object and selected "pro-boolean". This allows shapes to be added together, subtracted from each other and combinations of these functions. Ensuring our first shape was selected first, we went for subtraction and started picking.

When we selected the (larger) shape that was overlapping the original, it immediately took a big slice out of the original shape.

We then took the other shape (previously deposited to the left of the original) and scaled it down slightly, before positioning it in the "empty space" just created. Then created a clone of this (smaller) shape and put it to one side.

Already it's starting to look a bit like a shoulder pad from a Games Workshop character (although at this stage it's more sci-fi Space Marine than fantasy Blood Bowl player) To make 3DS Max treat this as one continuous shape, we once again created a compound shape - only this time selecting unison as the pro-boolean modifier, and selected both pieces.

We're starting to get there - only we've a big solid lump of a shape, rather than a nice, hollow shoulder pad. So after shrinking the new quarter-ball shape (that we set aside earlier) just a smidgen, we placed it slightly offset from the shoulder pad shape:

Another compound shape/pro-boolean substraction, and our shoulder pad is really starting to look like a "proper" 3d model.

All that remained now was to scale the shell to make it slightly less wide (while retaining the height) using the scale cursor selector from the top toolbar....

... and add some cones-for-spikes:

A few extra shapes were thrown down (cylinder slices under the spikes, additional compound shapes on the corners of the shoulder pads) and we're pretty much done!

Skinning - or UV-mapping - 3d models is an art within itself. We managed to create a half-decent layout, ready to create a bitmap to apply to our model. But this is going to need some serious planning to get a half decent result. But so far, we're pretty pleased with making a 3d shape that not only looks ok, but exports as FBX and imports perfectly into the Unity game engine.

Maybe it won't be too long 'til we have a team full of Orcs ready to play Digital Blood Bowl after all.....