[WIP] Shaman stylized character creation to learn some [UE4]

Wazzup people.
I am currently in the process of finishing the Highpoly for this Shaman dude based on the art by Yasen Stoilov (original concept here)

After taking part in my first GamesJam I see the need to broaden my skiilset beyond Zbrush and Substance painer.
So here is the plan: I wanna spend less time on polishing this guy and instead learn some new skills like:

  • Rigging and skinning in maya using built-in autorig system
  • Learning the basics of animation in maya to create a simple Idle animation
  • Importing and setting up the character in UE4
  • learning how physics works in UE4 and uisng it to make some parts of the character be affected by it (mainly leaves on the head and the leather skirt)
  • Creating presentation with one simple idle animation that can be used as a GIF like this one
  • Learning at least something about animation trees in UE4
  • Making a very basic animation tree or however it is actually called in UE4
  • Modify Mixamo animations until they fit my purpose. I want this guy to walk, stand and do some primitive casting when I press LMB
  • Maybe learning some basic FX stuff like making his stuff glow or something
  • Learn something about sockets in UE4 so I can make the staff swappable and maybe do another version of the staff to play with that.
Here is how it looks now, BTW

Currently I have to create the stuff and do some minor polish. Good luck to me, I guess.


  • Gannon
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    Gannon greentooth
    awesome sculpt, Looking forward to seeing more progress!
  • jose.fuentes
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    jose.fuentes greentooth
    you nailed the concept, looking forward to seeing where this goes 
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Thank you. Jose!
    Thanks, Gannon! (Feels kinda weird talking to ya after defeating you in BOTW) 
    Lets say I've done the HP for the staff

    All that is left to do for highpoly is some minor polish (just an evening or two, I promise) and start retopoing. Not the funnest part, but the sooner I'll get to it. the sooner I'll be done with it
  • Piemaster
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    Piemaster polycounter lvl 3
    Wicked sculpt. You did a great job, looking forward to seeing more.
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Okay, It itook a lot of time, and I am not happy with that, but I have finally retopoed and baked the sucker. Have to tell ya - making all of his leaves unique objects certainly did not speed up the process.  As well as life finding it's way to steal a lot of my time form this project((

    But for what it is worth, here's the lowpoly:

    I am not going to make the guy the most detailest asset in the world, but making him one 2k sheet was also a bit too much for me, so I separated him into 5 textures - head, body, his leather parts, his wooden armor and the staff. This way I can optimize the texture sizes a bit and play into Idea that he might have different outfits as game characters tend to do. I definitely am planning to play with making different staves, like, put some leather stipes on highpoly, rebake it, and call it "staff+1" or something.

    I was really not paying attention to polycount on this guy, but for what it's worth it is 35k of triangles. I am sure there is a lot that can be done to bring the polycount down, but I was in a hurry and it still took a long ass time, so I won't let perfectionism take the best of me here.

    I have been paying attention to the topology flow, but I am sure have messed up. if anyone there pays attention, please me a hint If I have done something obviously wrong.

    I have aimed this project at learning something about skinning, animation and Unreal, so I'll restrain myself from delving into texturing for the time being and go do some learning about skinning, adding physics in UE4 and stuff like that. 
    I am also going on vacation for two weeks, so the next post will probably be in another month. I'll try to post something in a next couple of days, but no promises. So far the plans are to watch some basic course on skinning in maya, probably not the fastest thing, to go through, but we'll see.

    I know that topology and bakes are not the most captivating of subjects, so here is a picture if my cat as a compensation. Isn't she cute?

  • Anton_Guzeev
    Okay, I am back from vacation!
    Still a bit dizzy in terms of willingness to study instead of watching anime and gaming.
    I've completed Hyper Light Drifter two times (NG and NG+) during this time and want to do boss rush, guys, its a problem

    But at least I have managed to watch two courses about HumanIK since I do not want to create complete rig from the ground up. Seems to be a great system for the base humanoids but there seems to be hard to add any addiional bones.But that is a problem I will deal a bit later with.

    I've done a test skinning of base body to the base bones to see how it looks.
    Here are some gifs from mixamo:

    As the next step I'll watch some more tutorials on basics of rigging and skinning, add the rest of the bones and try to skin the guy to the best of by abilities. If later I realise I have messed something up, I'll just redo it again. That is the process of learing, is it not))

    PS: I gotta say, painting weights in Maya is a bit more confusing than I thought. Maybe thats just my experience with skinning using 3dMax a while back, but skinning in maya feels rigid, wich is weird since from what I understand Maya is the program of choice for riggers and to lesser extent the animators, but again, that might just be me being used to Max. I'll watch some more tutorials and do some more skinning and maybe it will dawn on me.
    PPS: Keeeping this thread is really helpful at least for structuring my own thoughts and figuring out what to do next. Now all I have got to do is keep it up and also start visinig other threads. Yeah, that'll be nice.
  • CheeseOnToast
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    CheeseOnToast polycounter lvl 14
    I know you're trying to learn skinning, so adding a plugin at this stage might make things even more complicated. However, I highly recommend ngSkinTools as a helper to Maya's native skinning.

    There's a free version for non-commercial use. It handles certain things like mirroring, smoothing and locking weights much more nicely than Maya's defaults, IMO. It also allows you to paint weights non-destructively in layers, which is amazing. 
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Just a quick update before I go to bed:
    I have attached the armor to the body to see how it looks together in motion, because it was easy and didn't require any additional bones.
    Found some clipping that is easily fixable, just a couple of simple mesh tweaks.

    The  reason I am bringing this little thing up is because seeing my 3d model in motion really clears up the head in terms of modelling: Animation brings up the things I have glossed over or plainly was not thinking about during modelling. The now obvious thing that the guy should bend his leg and there gonna be clipping issues just didn't occur to me. I guess the clipping is not that obvious and could totally be ignored if that guy is supposed to be just a mob in a mobile game or something, but it is not the point.
    The point is that artists in he industry become more and more specialised and sometimes don't even have the opportunity to talk to someone down the pipeline, but we should all still keep the entire process in mind while doing our part of the job, and the best way to do it is to do the whole pipline by yourself. At least to some extent. 

  • allmighty_thunder
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    allmighty_thunder polycounter lvl 9
    you have a very good way with forms i like it
  • Nuclear Angel
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    Nuclear Angel interpolator
    This is a really cool model, and I love that you take the time to do the entire character process. I look forward to see it in movement and textured. 
  • Anton_Guzeev
    I know you're trying to learn skinning, so adding a plugin at this stage might make things even more complicated. However, I highly recommend ngSkinTools as a helper to Maya's native skinning.

    There's a free version for non-commercial use. It handles certain things like mirroring, smoothing and locking weights much more nicely than Maya's defaults, IMO. It also allows you to paint weights non-destructively in layers, which is amazing. 
    Thanks dude! I'll check it out!
  • Anton_Guzeev
  • Anton_Guzeev

    Okay, so I have done a rough skinning of the shaman guy with all the outfit this time. Base skinning tools for this time, cause I have to have a point of comparison, but I definitely keep NGTools in mind (Thanks again, @CheeseOnToast) 

    Still needs refinement, but for now that is enough to send him to Unreal with a couple of placeholder animations from mixamo (idle. walk, run, jump) to learn the basics of the Unreal side of this project.

    I really am looking forward to making his leather and leaves react to physics!

  • Anton_Guzeev
    Heyy! with help of some tutorials I have managed to do basic anim tree in UE4 and now it runs and even jumps, although jumping immediately made me realise how complicated all this stuff is.it has to start and end in sync with jumping mechanics and somehow keep in falling parn of an animation until the charrracter hits the ground etc etc. SO COMPLICATED!
    but for now lets stick to the basics: I want to see his leather flap and add a socket for the staff.
    After that I think I can work on proper idle with staff, and do some texturing, I guess  =)

    Love yall!
  • CheeseOnToast
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    CheeseOnToast polycounter lvl 14
    Looking good man. Always nice to see a character artist getting their hands dirty with rigging and animation stuff. Getting a basic state machine going is harder than it looks.
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Hey yall!
    I have got itno animDynamics a bit. That stuff rocks!
    A bit unintuitive, but cheap, since it does not actually use physics or something like that.
    anyway, it gabe me the exact result I wanted for the bottles, everythind else still needs some tweaking, but that is neverending process. Oh, and I reacts to the wind in the level just like that! really cool thing with a lot of settings that I have no idea what for))

    I guess I'll go and do some texturing now, coupled with creating appropriate Idle pose with the staff. I beilieve I can do that. just some more tutorials to watch)))

    BTW while I was figuring what to use, I have dabbled with actual phisics assets, so I can at least create some stuff on the chain that you can push around.

  • Anton_Guzeev
    hey yall.
    not much free time recently, but I have assemled a first procedural texural pass on this guy. Planning to go over later and repaint at least some of it, but for now it will do.
    Now I'll try to find time and do the Idle pose as well as maybe some glowing fx on his eyes and beltstone.
    have to assemble some sort of base for final scene as well.

  • HarlequinWerewolf
    Hey, he's looking awesome! The dynamic animation adds so much to him. Any tips for how to get into that? I'd love to give it a go for a few of my characters
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Hey, he's looking awesome! The dynamic animation adds so much to him. Any tips for how to get into that? I'd love to give it a go for a few of my characters

    Hey @HarlequinWerewolf ! I am quite new to this stuff myself) For now the best first option in unreal seems to be AnymDynamics. I have picked up basics in this stream:

    and then just toyed with it. I can not say I have mastered the tool in any way, and I still have to go through all the setup again to fine tune the results)
    But I will be glad to help if you want to ask something specific, so we learn together ^_^
  • HarlequinWerewolf
    Awesome! Thanks for letting me know. Unreal is on my list of things to learn, just need to find time between other projects :P 
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Okay my friends, I have found one solution for the GIF quality. soesnt help with the looping issue, but still. Check it out! Good old Vadim Bakhlychev knows his sh*t pretty well:

  • Anton_Guzeev
    So, the issues with GIF so far: the more colors the more apparent the dithering is gonna be. More colors mean the GIF is going to be heavier. Also, the more frames it has the heavier it gets.
    To get higher quality GIF that also loops correctly I have to come up with some optimization.

    Ideas so far: Optimize the background, remove fancy gradient in favor of basic gray, make the base one solid green color, make the resulting image smaller. That considering the GIF size.
    To at least lessen the issue of looping, I think I will increase the amplitude on actual animation and lower the power of wind. 

    So there is probably gonna be two setups -
    *One for the static image and the video - with the fancy background and base and stuff and some FX like fireflies or sparkles
    *One simpler one - for the GIF -with some or all of the optimization Ideas mentioned above.

    I think that is It regarding the final Image. Now I am going to actually learn some animation stuff and do some hand painting for the textures.
    And I need to gather one good reference for the "Idle with stuff" animation

  • Emhain
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    Emhain polycounter lvl 3
  • codyaq2
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    codyaq2 polycounter lvl 8
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Okay I have tweaked the textures in substance, now it is time to actually handpaint some stuff.
    The animatin got some rework as well, see the GIF

  • dreadleft
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    dreadleft greentooth
    Yes. With animations, every character looks so much better. Good job
  • Anton_Guzeev
    Hey guys! 
    I have toyed with a couple of things, mainly have started painting over some of the textures, mainly the staff and the mask, even though the mask still needs more lovetyed with Idle animation a bit. I have also created the base, finally! With grass that is affected by wind no less! It still needs some love (the colors will definetely be tweaked), but I am actually proud of myself for once, because I have learned a lot!

    The useful thing I have learned here is how to upload custom collision to UE4 -  create the colliision mesh in the same scene as the mesh and name it "UCX_mesh_name" and export them both in a single fbx. A very simple solution, although not the obvious one. I have spend a decent amount of time, trying to figure out how to add collision as a separate mesh, but found no such option.

    I like how the grass turned out. I have projected the normals from the base onto the grass mesh, and it almost seamlessly merged with it!

    I have also painted some vertex colors to use later to controll what the wind affects

    I have watched one tutorial to make the grass act as if affected by the wind (thank the great Progress for the internet). "As if" because the wind node is marked as mobile and probably does just basic noise displacement without taking actual wind in the scene into account, which is fine by me. At least for now. 

    The movement is subtle, but I do not want to attract attention to it anyway. If I have time, in the future I want to figure out how to offset some of the grass movement, so it doesn't all move in unison. TBH right now it feels almost alien and tentacle-like.

    I think I'll also try to use vertex color to darken the base and maybe add some other visual variety.

    As I have said, the colors will still be tweaked in the future, but for now it will do.

    In other news I think I am done with staff diffuse. Of course it is not the best texture ever, but I still make myself move forward without getting stuck on making everything perfect. This is a learning project more than anything else.

    Overall progress so far:


    Now I need to finish texturing the rest of the guy, and then set up the materials a bit better, because right now everything seems to be reflecting incorrectly. I want the leaves to be shiny!

    After that it is almost done. But not really, cause I will have to look into some post effects as well as play around with lighting, although honestly I like how it looks already. Oh, and I think I should add some details to the background texture. Just to make it more graphic.

    That's it for now folks. Love ya  <3

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