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[WIP] Game Ready Character - The Protagonist, Sol (11 y/o girl)

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ashuuki triangle

Hi all!

I am currently working as a member of [NAME_HERE].games, an indie dev team of 9 student developers (In our final year at Falmouth Games Academy, UK)

Our game is called "Lone Sol", and is a narrative-driven Solarpunk mystery, featuring Sol and her robot companion, RoBo.

As the team's 3D Character Artist, I am responsible for making both these characters. I'll be posting here, both to record my process and also open it up to any feedback (: I'm looking to break into industry at the end of this year as a Character Artist, so any crit is always a big help!

Here is the concept art I'm working from for Sol, made by our amazing concept artist Anna Forsythova:

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  • ashuuki
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    ashuuki triangle

    First step is of course the body - there's a common issue in our game dev projects at uni, where Animators frequently end up with nothing to animate until several months into the project. They have to wait for the Concept Artist and then 3D artists to get into gear first, before they'll finally receive a mesh.

    To try and combat this (having our animator sitting round twiddling her thumbs for months would be such a waste!) I decided to develop a workflow that allowed me get her a finalised body mesh, three days into our production cycle.

    This workflow hinged on the integration of Metahuman. We're developing in UE5, and are aiming for a realistic style (with our main reference being titles such as The Last of Us), so trying to incorporate this technology into my workflow seemed like a natural choice.

    I shared this plan with our concept artist, who sketched up a headshot and got me references for the face and body type she was envisioning, all within a couple hours of project start.

    Alas, turns out MetaHuman does not like children! After spending some time playing around with presets, preset merging, and many, many sliders, this was the youngest looking result I could produce:

    Still very uncanny and quite old looking! MetaHuman lets you input meshes, so I took a different approach which involved inputting a child-proportioned mesh into MetaHuman, to get it to work off of as a "base", allowing me a lot more control over the face shape.

    I lovingly call this process "you have to feed it a child", aka the "child sacrifice method" (;

    From what I can tell, MetaHuman isn't really designed for taking the sculpt to an external software (barring unreal) - so you're limited on what you can export. Specifically a lot of the details like the skin texture were lost on export - this was totally fine for my purposes though, as I was just wanting to use MetaHuman as a time saving base.

    So when I send the above to ZBrush, this is what I get:

    and after some sculpting, iterations and feedback from my team and art lead, I ended up with this:

    Time for the body! MetaHuman only has three standard adult body options, and no ability to customise them in any way. I took one into ZBrush and reshaped and resculpted it significantly to create Sol's body - this allowed me to edit the rough topology for the lowpoly as I went using subdivision levels, essentially working on a draft version of the LP at the same time as the HP sculpt. I did this purely to save as much time as possible, but I am actually really pleased with the results, so I'd consider doing it again in the future.

    Here's the final sculpt and mesh I ended up with! Topology was cleaned and optimised in Maya. I broke certain body areas like jaw, hand etc into coloured sections as I went, hoping it'd provide a visual aid for our animator.

    Here are the UVs - they are placeholder currently as they were made before the outfit concept art was decided, and will be revisited to account for areas of skin that will be covered in clothing.

    And that's the body finalised and sent off to our animator, three days into production! Here's a nice little graphic summarising the steps I took in this process (:


  • ashuuki
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    ashuuki triangle

    With the body done, I wanted to get started on the clothes! I've made a really rough blockout in ZBrush, and then moved over to Marvelous Designer very quickly.

    If you're not familiar with MD - it emulates real life sewing, and the workflow revolves around making pieces of flat cloth on a 2D display, and then stitching them together and manipulating them to create a garment within 3D space. So the easiest way to make good looking clothing is to follow real life Sewing Patterns.

    I started off by doing research into sewing patterns that fit the design of the shirt - the site 'Mood Sewciety' ended up being a great source of free sewing patterns, with a variety of blouse designs. I ended up with three different shirt patterns, planning to take bits from each.

    This shirt the "Elaeis Shirt" by Lee Norris https://www.moodfabrics.com/blog/the-elaeis-shirt-free-sewing-pattern/ is what I'm using as the main base for Sol's shirt. The patterns on Mood Sewciety are designed to be printed, so you have to manually combine the 64 pages into a single pattern image before you can get started - here's what I ended up with.


    You then draw this out in Marvelous Designer's 2D Pattern view. There are some differences in creating garments irl and for games - often patterns will call for an internal and external layer of fabric, such as cloth lining - you don't need this in digital recreations of garments, it just adds unnecessary complications with layering. I find you should only layer fabric if it changes something visually, as it can cause errors so easily in MD.

    Here are some screenshots from my Elaeis Shirt creation process:

    This is the finished "Elaeis Shirt", so now I start editing it to fit Sol's shirt design more closely. The first step is the sleeves - they have pleated cuffs at the end, and the sleeves have much less hanging fabric. I also move the fabric cut on the shoulders inward, towards the neck.

    The pleats on the cuffs took a bit of experimentation to get right, and I experimented with the three different types of pleats (accordion, knife and box) to see which looked best. The main 'trick' to it was tweaking pressure settings a lot to get it right - this affects the internal pressure of the cloth, essentially making it 'puff' either inward or outward.

    and that's where I'm at currently ! Will keep updating this thread as I work on Sol further (: I am aiming to get her entirely finished for February 1st, due to both our production goals, and the deadline for Grads in Games "Search for a Star", which I am entering this character into.

  • carvuliero
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    carvuliero quad damage

    If its not too late I think you could improve on the face a lot more To me it looks more like a boy right now also proportion of children are a little different , eyes are not in the middle of the face but below that line younger the child lower the eyes .If you are going to resculpt it I could suggest to reduce the jaw increase cranium add more forehead and add more fat on cheeks and above the eyes

    Also there is something wrong with her feet


  • ashuuki
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    ashuuki triangle

    Hi there, thank you very much for your feedback! It’s always appreciated.

    You’re right that it’s too far in the pipeline of this specific character to change the body structure in such a way, but I am always looking to improve and will take this advice along with me to my next project (:

    In terms of her “looking more like a boy”, sculpting there was based on information I received from consulting black people, who have told me that black children have a very “androgynous look” in this stage of development, and that gender defining facial features don’t tend to come in until they’re older. My references seemed to be in line with this.

    The feet could definitely use work - she will never be seen without shoes, so I stopped working on them at a point, to prioritise getting the mesh handed over.

    Thanks again for your time!

  • ashuuki
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    ashuuki triangle

    Progress on Sol was halted for a little while while I focused on my Photogrammetry project, but I have now returned! With exciting news, too - our early demo for Lone Sol is now available on itch.io! https://nameheregames.itch.io/lone-sol

    So, here's where we left off! I realised we were off to a great start when I loaded up the project and all the buttons decided to detach from the shirt and fly away, for.. some inexplicable reason. Thank you Marvelous Designer, very cool!


    Once I got the secondary sleeve added I realised that some things were simply easier and more efficient in ZBrush, so at this point in the process I started switching between the two rapidly. I'd be blocking out a piece of fabric in MD, and getting the fine details sorted in ZBrush, then back into MD to build on top of it, etc..

    Here's what we ended up with in the end - I'm super pleased with how the shirt is shaping up, and getting familiar with MD's pleating tools has been fun! Definitely going to redo that bow around the neck tie - its feeling very flat and stiff currently. Getting the right mix of flow and motion while also having it be believably firm and not flopping around everywhere is what I've found to be the most challenging part of the project so far!

    In terms of the most labour intensive bit, that would have to be the layered frills around the neck collar. They took a while to get into place due to being two layers of bunched up fabric so close together, which Marvelous does NOT like - I ended up having to position a lot of it manually in ZBrush. Took a while, but well worth the results in my opinion!


    My progress on Sol so far is also available as a wip post on ArtStation (this will be replaced when the project is finished): https://www.artstation.com/artwork/14qVB3

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