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Sketchbook: Tim Smith

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DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

Hi. Welcome to my digital sketchbook. I hope I go about this right. I specialise in characters and I'm aiming to focus on real-time for my portfolio. I'll be using this to log my progress with a new project I'll be starting. I'm planning on making my first ever mech/robot. Due to the time-frame I have, I'm not planning on anything crazy complex, so I've decided to pick the Death Egg Robot from Sonic 2. :) I plan on making a real-time version of it, so apart from my usual breakdowns and research, I need to find similar projects of anime-styled mechs that have been made real-time.

Any feedback or suggestions throughout this would be super welcome! :)


  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Here are all the gathered references so far:

    There aren't going to be many sadly as it's mostly the same screenshots taken from the games. Particularly 2D sprites. The few 3D models out there are fan-made, stylized, and not particularly great. The best example is the mesh from Sonic Generations I managed to download, which will be the best reference.

    The image's saturation has been turned down to show the gradients:

    And the silhouette from the side:

    Some shape breakdowns have been done using colour:

    The model from Sonic Generations looks to already have some colour designs and pickers, which are essentially the same in every iteration. There's also a bit of a breakdown on how the arms would move. The scale of that version is a bit too big though compared to the Sonic 2 version as Sonic is completely dwarfed.

    The RoboWiki suggests it's around 20ft/609.6cm tall.

    And finally, did some paintovers/annotations of the first weapon-type:

    Some further breakdowns

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    The movement for the original sprite is incredibly simple. Only the arms and legs rotate/roll from their pivots.

    However, elements from the Sonic Generations model will probably be incorporated to help modernise it. The diagram from Sonic Generations show how there are more joints that roll, which match the workings of a real foot.

    The armature for the downloaded mesh is present, so each part can be rotated to see how they work...





    The arms for the model have been made so they can extend and retract. Personally, I'm not a fan of this aspect and would prefer to keep the arms short to match the original design. Though this also depends on the type of weapon and how it's used.

    Arms extended:

    Arms retracted/shorter:

    The retracted version better matches the modified design from Sonic Mania where they're a bit thicker compared to the original, including the spikes:

    Though for some odd reason, the top of the feet in the Sonic Mania version look quite flat and have a weird protrusion at the back.

    Similarly, the back of the Sonic Mania sprite has loads of bolts running down and across the back panel. This is where various designs/elements will be mixed an matched.

    Some of the key differences between the original and Sonic Mania sprites have been compared:

    Also observed how much more egg-shaped the Sonic Generations design is. I can understand the logic behind the decision, though it also makes the head look a bit small. I'll most likely stick to the rounder design from Sonic Mania.

    One design I do like from the Sonic Generations version is the pattern/floating geo on the underside of the base. A lot of it looks to be internal, which may only been seen if/when the boss opens up further during the fight. I haven't quite figured out how I'd go about making this pattern, if I decide to. Thankfully, it's symmetrical, so I'd only have to worry about one side. This may be something to add at the end, depending on how much time is left, otherwise, it's not a super important detail.

    I've also gone and looked at the colour palette, mainly for the Sonic Generations mesh, as this is probably the best scheme to follow.

    As well as their values:

    The metal colour could either be grey using the white colour, so it's in line with the original, or the hue of the blue may be adjusted to match the version from Sonic Mania. Thanks to the original design/sketch being released from Sonic 2's development, I can do some colour experiments in Photoshop.

    I also found this image of a Death Egg Guard enemy from Sonic Forces that I may use as reference for the kind of real-time look to go for:

    At the very least, it'll be good to use as reference for additional surface detail, such as the scratches and scrapes on the metal and paintwork.

    Here are some other references of mechs taken from anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, and Patlabor of the kind of real-time look to aim for:

    AV-98 "Ingram" Patlabor

    Patlabor Ingram AV-98

    Gurren Lagann 3D Model

    Day 8-10 Evangelion Unit-01

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    This is the first pose I'm thinking of doing:

    The difference with mine is I'll probably have the left arm detached and coming away from the body so it's in mid-flight. In Unreal, for the beauty render, I'll probably have DOF blur out the arm so the focus is on the mech itself.

    Another pose idea might be something like this where it's primed and ready to fire both out at the same time:

    If one of the weapon types is of the arms extending, like in Sonic Mania and Generations, that could be a potential third pose.

    Whichever one is gone for, I'll probably have another variation of the pose with the head open and the cockpit revealed.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    A couple of quick paintovers of the different colour schemes, particularly for the metal. Still not sure which I prefer. Probably the grey. I may include a very subtle blue tint...

    Second paintover for a potential second weapon type:

    Third weapon idea:

    Put a quick gradient and silhouette together of what it would look like with the included arm. Though admittedly, the values would be different if the colours for the arm are changed:

    Also, found this image showing where and how Dr. Robotnik sits when in the mech:

    If this is fairly accurate, the cockpit should be fairly tight and similar to the space found in Robotnik's other machines and his EggOmatic. There aren't many images out there showing the interiors of his machines, but these are the only ones found so far:

    I'll try to find some more to help and paintover them.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Managed to find this fan-made model on Sketchfab of Robotnik and the EggOmatic from The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Also found a couple more official models that should help - the EggOMatic/Egg Mobile from Sonic Unleashed and the Death Egg Guard from Sonic Forces.

    Did a small breakdown of the few Egg Mobiles I've found and what's found in their cockpits:

    I'll probably design it so it has two joysticks to control the mech.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Done some final paintovers/breakdowns of the various shapes on the sprites and best images collected. Also did the same for on the Sonic Generations model.

    I think it's safe to say that's it for paintovers and breakdowns... 😁

    The next stage will be the blockouts.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Created the first blockout in 3ds Max:

    Will probably tweak it a bit further.

    Also found the model from Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - Episode 1. It's not a particularly great looking model, but it might prove useful for some design ideas.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Changed the material to a grey with a metal shader. Also, I downloaded a Sonic game model and set it up in the scene to check the scale comparison. Sonic should be around 100cm.

    After some thought, I may make this mech using Sub-D modelling in Maya/Max. Apart from some paneling, I don't think much sculpting will be involved. The Death Egg boss consists mostly of simple shapes. Some may need to be tweaked using a Freeform brush or taken into ZBrush, but apart from that...

    The next step will be to check the current blockout against the side profile references/silhouette to see if things are matching up properly. From there, a lot of the parts will be tweaked further.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Refined and re-made parts of the blockout, which now better match up with the reference/silhouette. Some elements have been taken from the Sonic Mania version, such as the arms, whereas the legs are based on the original Sonic 2 sprite. The eyes and nose had to be moved forwards otherwise they would have been hidden under the head's mesh.

    Blockout 1:

    Blockout 2:. Also turned them into silhouettes to see the differences. To be honest, the differences between the first and second blockout from the front isn't vastly different.

    Third and final blockout with protruding arm:

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Modified the colour schemes a bit and also did a third one, which is more based on the Final Weapon from Sonic & Knuckles.

    Also de-saturated them to see their gradients and was surprised to see there's not much variation with the original colour design. The second one actually has more, which would explain the change in Sonic Mania.

    Current progress with modelling in Fusion 360:

    Trying to keep it so only one side is modelled first before mirroring everything.

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Made some greebles in 3ds Max, though I suspect these will be redone in Fusion 360:

    Progress was going slow with the mech due to running into problems with Fusion 360 and getting to grips with the tools. I feel I've learnt quite a bit about the software though thanks to trial and error and getting help and advice on the Autodesk forum. Some parts have been completely re-done using better methods.

    Progress shots going from oldest to latest:

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    Progress update:

    Learnt and improved further with Fusion 360 and specifically with getting the hang of Constraints and making sure to get Sketches fully constrained. Re-done and improved a few more sections as well as continued adding more of the secondary and tertiary shapes.

    Was very close to buying the official Sonic 30th anniversary Death Egg battle robot toy, which would have been ideal to use as a physical reference.

  • iam717
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    iam717 keyframe
    Wow, lot of analysis going on, looking good so far just adding a comment (not to break the updates or anything).  The only thing can add is if you achieve all this, if you could have him land inside the mech and control it, then once it will explode after being defeated, he could then pop out and run away.
    :)never played with fusion so nice to see imgs from it.  Will check this out again,eventually, all the best with it, have fun.
  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3
    Thank you and for the feedback.  :3
    I'm not really an animator, so I don't have plans for making any animations. But I do plan on rigging and posing him. I've also downloaded a model of Robotnik/Eggman from Sonic Unleashed that I plan on putting inside to show off the cockpit. :)
    Fusion has taken some time to get used to as it's my first piece of CAD software. I found it very frustrating to get used to coming from other programs, but I've warmed up to it. And it is pretty good for hard-surface modelling thanks to its boolean system. :)
  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    It's been a while since my last update. This is more of the progress in Fusion... Most of the secondary and even tertiary shapes (bolts, rivets etc.) have been done. There's only a bit more left to do until mirroring everything and taking it into ZBrush. :)





    Also got my geek on and managed to get the Death Egg Battle toy in the end. : =) I think this is the first time I've bought a physical reference to use for a project. Had to modify the arm joints with thin rubber rings to keep the arms posed. Noticed it also has some details the references I've been using don't have, such as at the back of the head and under the feet. :)





    And then the final result...
    There were a few areas I was struggling with, or struggling to implement properly, and had to get help on the Autodesk forum. One of the issues was making cuts that didn't go through the entire mesh using the Split Bodies or Split Faces tools. In the end, I was shown a new method that helped me achieve just what I needed involving the Lathe tool. Some very powerful, useful and clever methods...! Also, I was struggling how best to approach the legs. The inital design I had was based on the Sonic Mania sprite/design. but there are no references of what it looks like from the front. And no way of knowing how the upper leg/ball connects seamlessly to the one below. It was essentially just clipping through, which looked bad and lazy. I did consider adding some sort of bracket that connected the two, much like the mech in Sonic the Hedgehog 4:


    In the end though, it was simpler and quicker to just do it based on illustrations of the original design, and how it is on the toy - where the top ball looks to sit within the one below. This can then leave it to a person's imagination on how the two work/mesh together.

    So many tweaks and adjustments were made, too. And I also learnt how to bend models within Fusion 360, which was done for the moustache. This ends the high poly within Fusion!  Everything's been mirrored over, parts combined where needed, and exported into ZBrush!






    Finally, I've had some thought on the texturing process. Thankfully, as this model is very symmetric, it should make UV unwrapping and texturing quicker. In my mind, Dr. Robotnik would build Badniks, robots and mechs from scratch, and fairly recently, before using them against Sonic et al. This would mean none of them would be covered in scratches, dents, dust, rust etc. But that led me to wonder about those kinds of surface details if I want to make this semi-realistic and interesting looking. It's possible I may have to avoid overlaying UVs and open them out more like a book.

    Sadly, I'm not happy with the results ZRemesher gives me for retopping the mech. Smaller primitive-like parts are not usually a problem, but the bigger pieces are. No matter what settings are used, the results are messy, and it'll be too time consuming to try and get each part sorted. I was pointed to Simplygon on these forums, but this only works well if a mesh is already quadded. This should be useful to use for when experimenting with LODs though. So instead, I'm going to retopologise the entire thing, which will be done anyway for the low poly. Then I'll just sub-divide the retopped mesh to create a new high poly to bake from. It's impossible to sub-divide the triangulated mesh as it is without it looking like a mess, and leaving it at default, it's too faceted and low poly. Thankfully, the current model has no fancy surface detail created in Fusion, or alphas applied to it from in ZBrush; it's just shapes

    As to the cockpit...

    I downloaded a model of Dr. Robotnik from Sonic Unleashed, which is pre-rigged. I posed him so he's sitting down and used him to help check the scale whilst working on the inside. I also used the Egg Mobile model from the game as reference for the main console and monitors. Gathered a few references from Wallace & Gromit for the buttons and levers. :)


    And here's the final result...




    Onto the retopology...!

  • DustyShinigami
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    DustyShinigami polycounter lvl 3

    It's been sometime since the last progress update. The retopping took me a while, but after some experimenting and cleanup, everything's done. There's a couple of panels that weren't, but the original meshes from ZBrush are low poly anyway. This is how it's all looking:









    During my time retopping, I also had a couple of ideas. As stated earlier, Robotnik/Eggman's crafts seem to be freshly made to tackle Sonic. So there won't be much in the way of damage on the Death Egg Mech. However, I could create two separate texture sets for the body where everything is perfectly clean and damage free, and another that has a massive dent in the centre where Sonic has hit it. I'll have to look around online for some dent alphas to use.

    Also, whilst asking about Poles here, the thread deviated towards exporting high poly meshes from Fusion 360. From what I've discovered, the original high poly meshes aren't exactly clean as everything is triangulated. And adding Smoothing of any kind, or subdivisions in ZBrush, introduces pinching and weird shading issues. And on some meshes, everything can look faceted.







    Trying to ZRemesh in ZBrush can be hit and miss for cleaning everything up. In that discussion though, I was informed about Plasticity, which is a more artistic-friendly version of Fusion 360. Thankfully, apart from a free trial run, there's only a one-time payment. There doesn't appear to be as many tools to use as in Fusion, but what it does have, is a far better tool for converting and tessellating a mesh. You can choose to do it with either tris or quads and there are various settings you can adjust to help keep a lot of the shapes and details. Even with quads, it can still triangulate things in places, but after some testing, the results are far more cleaner!





    No smoothing need be applied as everything should look fine once imported into Max/Maya etc. And you can fine tune the density of the mesh before exporting. If smoothing is added, the same pinching and shading problems can appear. But thanks to Plasticity, I now have a better method for exporting and using the original high poly meshes, whereas this time around, I've had to manually retop over the original meshes, so I can create a cleaner high poly by sub-dividing them. I've added creases with ZModeler to keep the hard and sharp edges. Some parts are cleaner from subdividing the new meshes, though others aren't. Particularly rounder objects. So those parts can be replaced with the originals, either using Plasticity or regular tessellation from Fusion. The rounder objects seem to come out the cleanest.

    I was also pointed to another thread where someone exported from Fusion into Mol3D, along with using RizomUV, but I've still yet to try these methods.

    The next stage is unwrapping. I plan on using a texture sheet per part - one for the head, torso, arms, legs, jetpacks, and interior.

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