Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Blood Bowl is back - and maybe, so too, might our electronic board game?

About a million years ago, we made a simple electronic device to keep track of plays and character stats for the tabletop fantasy football game Blood Bowl. At the time, the game was pretty much out of favour, but has since seen not just one, but two digital versions of the game.
Our version wasn't much to write home about, but did start a many-years-long search for a still-as-yet-elusive tabletop/computer cross-over.

We came close. We even made a working prototype and got a massive 48 x 64 square playing surface working. But then creating games for heavily-copyright-protected content was always a bit of an obstacle.

So while we're trying to find a way of releasing the hardware designs under an open source licence, we've been distracting ourselves with creating assets for a potential Unity game. Even if it comes to nothing, 3d modelling is something that we really should have looked at a long time ago but just never go around to it.

With the number of 3d printers and potential for all kinds of awesome tabletop terrain having exploded in recent years, it was really only a matter of time before one of us succumbed and had a go at modelling some game assets. Steve, of course, has been an avid 3DS Max user for a long time - creating all kinds of awesome structures and models for his 3D printer. I decided to go the other route and  try to tackle Blender....

Using a number of online sources to get started, I managed to import a couple of pre-bought Unity assets (via the .fbx importer). But what to model....?

Which brings us back to Blood Bowl.
Games Workshop  are releasing a new version late in 2016 (there's talk that it might be as early as 19th Nov). It's the original game, repackaged, but with some really nice looking miniatures. Which means it's probably going to get a bit boring after a couple of plays. But it also means that there's a massive amount of interest around it already.

So - if we're going to produce a relatively simple, over-in-an-hour kind of game to put to use with our electronic hardware - why not some Blood Bowl characters? We've already bought some low-poly cartoon Orcs that will look great as fantasy football players.

Although crude, these low-poly Orcs will be perfect for use in a fantasy football game where many characters can appear on screen at the same time - so they'll be pretty zoomed out

Unfortunately, fantasy-style humans, in armour, with spikes and sporting American Football helmets are not so easy to come by. So that's where we started.

With a basic human character, I then added some shoulder pads, a helmet, and plenty of spikes. Now Blender is a massive topic and there are no end of online tutorials (plus, I'm still not entirely sure about what I'm doing, so wouldn't like to put together a how-to just yet). But here's a preview of my first low-poly Blood Bowl human, complete with basic UVs applied.

It's a total of 1500 polys, including the optional helmet, shoulder pads, armour and spikes. The idea is that, in game, (if it ever gets made) the player can add or remove armour to reflect the character's playing position. A thrower or a catcher might have little or no armour, whereas a blitzer or a blocker would have plenty of armour (and lots of spikes too!)

in Blood Bowl, the catchers is much more lightly armoured than players such as Blockers and Blitzers.

In a first attempt at UV unwrapping, we came up with this monstrosity:

But it applied nicely to the 3d model (as shown in the image higher up). What worked really well was simply taking a Google photo and dropping it onto the UV image. In this case, I simply Googled "boot treads" in images, found a photo of the sole of a boot and dropped it onto the UV image.

It's a long way to go before we're producing models up to the standard of those in the Asset store. But for now, we're going to say that the modelling is done, and have a look at rigging and animating our little character in Blender, before exporting it for use in Unity.