Learn from an industry professional and have a go at creating your own portfolio-worthy game character with this free chapter from The Swordmaster in 3ds Max and ZBrush!
In this portion of the series we are going to cover creating a base mesh model. A base mesh is the model intended for sculpting and ultimately is the beginning of what our high poly model will be. For this project, the base mesh will include organic sections such as the face and body, which will then be sculpted and used as a basis for armor design in future sections. Using this workflow is a great way to increase speed and really get your ideas into 3D quickly, worrying about overall aesthetics first and clean topology second.
Modeling the base mesh
We begin by gathering references. In this case concept art has been provided for us in the form of an action pose and a standard model sheet showing the front, side and back of our Swordmaster character. Different projects will require a different level of accuracy; once you become comfortable with your craft it is perfectly fine to model in perspective view or freestyle details. On most commercial projects, there will already be character rigs used within the game, which will require you to build your model to those guidelines. This helps on a wider scale as you can then share animations between characters with similar body types (Fig.01 - 02).
To begin, I split up the character based on the views that I will need. For me this is just going to be a rough
guide to help ensure the accuracy of proportions. When it comes to detailing, I tend to switch to a freestyle workflow. In Photoshop, select the area that includes the front view of the character. Press Ctrl + C to copy the information, open a new document and save it as a new image. Repeat the process for the side view, making sure to take note of the height and width of each image (Fig.03).
Next, open up 3ds Max and create a box by going to the Create panel and then navigating to Geometry > Standard Primitives. Click and drag in the Perspective viewport to create the box primitive. In the Width and Height rollout menus, enter the dimensions of your front view image. In my case, the image is 1686 x 1878 units (Fig.04).
The box now needs a material as a perfectly black box makes it very hard to pick out edge details. We also
need this material to begin setting up our reference images. Press M on your keyboard; this will bring up the Material Editor. You?ll notice a nice collection of blank shader balls. Click on the first shader ball and rename it ?Front?. This will be the material used to display our front view reference image. Move over the object, right-click and select Convert to Editable Poly from the menu that appears (Fig.05).
Click on the Diffuse button and then click on Bitmap. This will allow a 2D image to drive the basic color information within your material. Navigate to your front reference image and click OK. Select your front view box and click the Assign Material to Selection icon or, alternatively, click and drag the shader ball onto your model (Fig.06).
Create another box and give it the dimensions of your side view image in the Length and Height coordinates. To make sure that both boxes align perfectly, you can select each box and enter the sizes into the XYZ coordinates at the bottom of the screen (Fig.07).
Create a new material in the Material Editor and enter the name ?Side?. This will help keep things organized as you move along in the project or if you need to change anything. Apply this material to the new object you created (Fig.08).