The Dominance War is an annual game art character competition involving many different forums worldwide. This year, the choices of races you could create were Demon, Machine and Norm (basically anything NOT a machine or a demon and wielding a magical item) and then a series of classes within those races. Though my first instinct was to make the biggest, meanest demon I possibly could… I really wanted to challenge myself this year; go beyond my comfort zone and do something that wasn't a safe choice for me. So I decided on "Bishop.”
In this article, I will attempt to cover the various different steps of his creation, from concept to final render. I've also included three accompanying movies, which can be found at the end of the article.
When the competition started, I had NO idea what I wanted to do. There were many different ideas floating around in my head, but nothing that really called out to me. Using the program "Alchemy” I started cranking out a bunch of different rough thumbnails that could represent the character designs I had in mind. This worked out really well because it mean that I spent very little time getting hung up on details and would know fairly quickly if a design was going to be "the one.” After taking some time to consider each (and with some helpful feedback from my forum mates) I decided to take the chunky, gun wielding cleric a little further (Fig.01 & Fig.02).
To start off, I created a basic, human, male mesh that was constructed of all quads (polygonal faces with four edges) with a moderate amount of detail. Generally, this is the resolution I strive for when creating base meshes; enough detail to show bigger shapes like the biceps and pecs, but not so much detail that it will cause problems during sculpting. In past characters I have modelled details such as nostrils, fingernails and abdominal muscles. Modelling these areas into your base mesh can cause problems down the line if you need them, because you end up with more geometry to deal with within a given area and, if you have to adjust these areas, it can make the topology of your model more complicated.
There are a few reasons why I modelled my base mesh to this level:
I didn't have a full concept for Bishop, so I knew a lot of the work would be done on the fly and that I would end up "going with the flow.” If the base mesh was too detailed, or if I tried to model everything out in Max right away, I would end up causing roadblocks for myself in the future. Limiting myself to a certain layout right from the beginning could have hindered possible design choices.
Speed. I work much more quickly in ZBrush than I do in Max, so it makes the most sense to me to just rough in what I need in Max, mostly just for placement, and then go crazy with pushing and pulling details in ZBrush until I'm happy with the model.
Generally for all of my modelling in Max, I use the edge extrusion method. This basically consists of creating a plane, creating an instance of that model, mirroring it in the X axis and then starting to model away. At this stage, it is all about form rather than edge flow. The purpose of this mesh is to be clean and give a solid enough base to sculpt from (Fig.03).
As you can see in Fig.04 below, I went through various body shapes before hitting on one that I felt confident with. Originally, the body shape for Bishop was looking very "generic”, like an overweight man you'd see in an everyday situation. This, however, was the Dominance War universe…pushing things to the extreme was almost mandatory! After a little more pushing and pulling in Max with soft selection and lattices, I came up with the final body shape. This made his look more dynamic, though slightly cartoony. I felt his massive upper body, offset by the undersized lower body, created a nice contrast that really pushed his heavy weight status over the top. In future stages, you'll see that I pushed the weight more towards his shoulders and trimmed down his gut even more.
From here, I just exported the OBJ of my character and imported it into ZBrush.
Using the Standard and Claytube brushes, in combination with a set of alphas that I like to use, I began roughing out the muscles and major landmarks of the character. The standard brush, as I'm sure you have noticed by now, is useful for adding a large amount of volume to your model. In some cases, however, this can become destructive and in it's place I'll switch over to the Claytubes brush (Fig.05).
I try to treat sculpting as much like the traditional medium as possible, by which I mean that I build up the bigger shapes, step by step, and then move into the finer details. At this stage, I also began playing with ideas of how Bishop's face would look (Fig.06).