Game Development Tips: Easy Human 3d Characters
Staff Writer By: Sergio Rosa (nemirc)
I think most know by now that I've been into game development for a few years. Being a game developer in Latin America means you need to be very creative when it comes to overcoming obstacles and challenges, as you're miles away from the "big industry." Luckily, there's always the internet, and most of the time you can find help and answers online.
Luckily for me, I'm no longer a solo-developer, and now we are a small team of 8 people. One of the things that we need to take into consideration when working on a project is how we can make things easier for us. As of today, we only work on 3D games because we find them easier since we don't have many 2D artists. Of course, we could go all Donkey Kong for the SNES and make 2D sprites out of rendered 3D objects, but that's something for another time. Having said this, here's the tip for this time: if you need semi-realistic human characters, save your time and use Daz Studio instead.
Just a quick note: I'm not recommending Daz Studio over Poser Pro Game Dev for any particular reason. The truth is: I have never used Poser Pro Game Dev, so I don't know how it compares to Daz Studio with Texture Atlas and Decimator.
When working on Enola, I was still a solo developer for around half of the development. I basically made the 3D characters using a combination picture references and (very) high-resolution model references. We then rigged those characters by hand, including a facial rig made in Softimage FaceRobot (good times...) so we could animate the faces in that application and then export the animations as bone-animations into Maya, and then UDK (Unreal Engine 3).
Just making the characters and rigging them took a lot of time. It was a matter of weeks before the first character was ready.
Before we began working on our current project--The Nightmare from Outspace--I took the time to use Daz Studio a little bit. I got Daz Studio + Decimator, and then I began to run some tests, and I managed to get my fully rigged character, including facial morphs, inside Unity in around one day (yes, we switched to another engine). As I said before, I got Decimator so that same morning, I made a lot of tests to find a balance between polygon count and character detail. What's nice about Decimator is that you can selectively decide which parts retain more level of detail, and which ones are optimized more.
Now, you may have an issue about using pre-build characters if you have this idea that "all characters will end up looking the same," but remember Daz offers morphs that you can use to modify the look of your character, and then there's Photoshop so you can change the skin color of the base texture that ships with your Daz Genesis character (or you can use any of their other character textures).
Just remember a couple of things. First, you need to buy your Indie Game Developer license (a $500 value, per project) if you plan to use Daz characters in your game. Second, you can only use Daz Originals (so if you wanted to use that cool character from insert favorite Daz merchant here you can't do it). I don't think the "Daz Originals" part is very limiting, though, since they have TONS of content (pro-tip: Black Friday will be soon-ish).
I hope I get the chance to try out Poser Pro Game Dev soon, so I can give you a comparison between the two, since I think it'd be good to compare both alternatives, from price points to features.