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Model Creation Overview

This document is to help start the character creation process of any model that you want to bring into the Lithtech engine.

The first thing you want to do is focus on the design of the model, if you really want to take advantage of some of the cool stuff the Lithtech engine provides.

To start, this tutorial is not the best place to go to learn how to actually start building a 3D model; 3D Total is a great place to go in order to learn more on modeling. And though I won't go into the gritty details of chopping up a box to make a face, I will focus on what's needed to get your ideas out for the Talon/Jupiter engine.

Also note, that in the Talon and Jupiter engine, we can start implementing some sort of lip-synch for our models (as well as eye-blinks and emotions). I will try to start you on the process of that as well. (Lip-synch is more of a single bone rotated to the right 90* and linked to the main head bone for Talon).

Despite popular belief, you can create your mesh in any program: Maya, Lightwave, Blender, Gmax... doesn't matter. Lithtech only supplies plugins for 3DsMax though, so you can create mesh anywhere, but need 3DsMax to animate and export.

For Lithtech model development you can have multi-limbed, multi-mapped characters (up to 4 maps), and exports to tri-mesh, which you can see in model edit. You can use Character Studio and regular max bones to animate the model.

Now I use 3DsMax 4.2 and Character Studio 3.21a, which is a student version at my school (for my home work), and use 3DsMax 3.1 (commercial) for work. Both are fine, and you do not need Character Studio to get an object exported with animation; because you just need to send it out using the "d_" switch.

Polycount for AvP2 Models are definitely 1400-1500 if you want to create higher models. But keep in mind the level, the NPC's, the weapons and who is generally going to be playing the mod... though it's definitely possible to pull of a high-end game, like, "Devil May Cry Mod".

Tutorial Model Example

Starting character!

You see, here is the start of my character (which is OK, I think, but I made it for a game development class). One thing you can bet is that I want to take advantage of the limb separation that the Talon engine has; in other words, I want my guy to cut up the other guy's legs off, as well have his own body cut up as much as possible. (Do note the polycount is way off for AvP2; I have different polycount specs for the school project.)

Something else that's cool, which I am taking advantage of, is that Lithtech can have the character add or change the armor, or on certain nodes. For the leg, it has two mesh things (that could be armor), but using an attachment (so I have the option of swapping it to create another version of this character).

The leg's armor attachments!

After I created the original armor pieces, I just export each one into a separate 3DsMax file, and import them as a single solid mesh; then center it, and export it (as if it was a prop). This way, the object can be socketed on, and I have the ability to alter the mesh to make new armor.

Damn mirroring objects!

Watch out for mirroring objects! It's simply better to "reset XForm"+"collapse" and flip the normals after you mirrored something; because what may happen is the object normals will be inverted within model edit. (Weird mirroring bug from within the exporter).

For the head, you can design the head to be swapped with other character heads, but I wanted to be able for this character; I wanted to animate the hair, and mouth. Unfortunately, you cannot socket-controllable animated objects onto other animated objects. (I have seen looping objects socketed onto other objects, though it is rarely done).

The head!

So, for example, if in your mod you just wanted to keep the body, but change the head - and have no need for mouth animation - then you probably wouldn't want to have your character's head on the body when exporting. If you do want to have a head that can blink and talk (have emotions), though, then you need to have the head on the body, with the skeleton.

It's a design thing. ;)

One thing that's cool when creating bones is animating the eye-blinks - you can socket stuff to them, such as glowing eyes that can be turned on or off (like the marine shoulder lamp). Just by using the butes, you can pretty much do anything your devious mind can come up with.

The eyesockets!

However, this breaks more into attaching special effects - and probably a tutorial I'll have to do soon. In anycase, let's say you do want to have a head that can lip-synch, you probably want to have a mouth (that's for sure), but you need to model it open - and with some teeth!

Model it open!

Lithtech does not support 2-sided materials, so you can see right through the head when you look at the mouth. However, a nice simple plane will take care of that problem, but please keep watch of your polycount.

A simple plane!

As for eyes blinks and emotions, the general thing is, build the areas that you want to bring down or up, and have bones rotate them (down or up).

Close-up on the eyes!

Once you are done modeling your character, and then uvwmapped it, (and detached some of the pieces), select it all and either physique or skin it (Talon engine can only read in one physique per model).

Sometimes I had the habit to make various skin modifiers for different mesh pieces, but it didn't work out in the exporting. Other than that, I have to get ready to cover lip-synch and eyepiece nodes in more detail. But this should help anyone who is modding their own character for the Talon engine, and flesh out a model a little easier. Cheers!

By TimmyG
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