Backstage with Tyrande (pt.3)

So, spent the morning so far tweaking the Tyrande mesh before the great Leap of Faith that is actually attaching it to the biped: at the very moment the skeleton and the mesh itself are completely seperate entities, I’ll be attaching a modifier called Physique to the mesh soon enough to make it move along with the skeleton itself. Going to hold there for now though as the whole attaching process tends to involve a lengthy and bothersome set of issues on their own and I’m not too inclined to tackle them right now.

But! Until then, I thought I’d introduce another modifier that’s rather pivotal to how the characters in Beyond the Tree look – namely MeshSmooth. I imagine you’re familiar with the idea of softening / blurring / anti-aliasing regular bitmap images – this is basically the same, but for points in 3D rather than 2D. This makes it possible to design the mesh with a fairly low polycount making it easier to just focus on essential detail and still make it look like it had a significantly higher polygon count. It does have downsides – details can sometimes get lost very easilly and I typically have to apply a particular morph (I’ll cover those in a later entry) just for the sake of extending the nose so it doesn’t look so flat.

Here’s a comparisson image between the wireframes before and after the MeshSmooth filter is added:

Quite the difference, eh? If you compare even the pre-filter mesh to earlier wireframes you might see that I’ve added quite a few polygons in places; the ones in the face are simply there for facial expressions that’ll be looked at last (that’s that morph thing) but I’ve added plenty of others to try and prevent deformation. I’ve added more than I usually do in the hopes that it will prevent some deformation in a few places that have been bothering me. It usually isn’t all that visible, but occasionally there comes an angle that I have to change or an element I have to cover up because something deformed in a way it wasn’t at all supposed to.

As a final picture for this update, I fiddled with the texture work, adding a few elements to the lightmap, adding bump maps and even doing some testing with specular colour and level maps – I haven’t decided wether I’ll keep the specular element or not yet. It’s shiny, no doubt about that, but it also tends to cause things to look like some odd sort of shiny plastic. It depends a great deal on how well I can manage to tweak them and how they interact with lightsources and other characters.

Something you won’t be able to tell in any of these pictures and that won’t really be visible until I get to facial expressions is one of the things I added to the mesh – a mouth cavity and teeth. While the Blizzard textures do have a small area dedicated to teeth, very few models actually use them. In the game itself it usually doesn’t matter. With Beyond the Tree however I do want characters capable of things like grinning or snarling, so I do indeed need those teeth!


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