You in the Game
Be a hero for once, fight your way through the levels with action. Why not? Game engines make it possible. With a little motivation and competent training, anyone can build their own game today. It doesn’t have to be triple-A, indie games are also very popular – if the story is right.In this blog article I deal with the game character. Often the good-looking guy in the shimmering armor or the hot chick, with a bulging cleavage (just had to google how to spell that), who wildly kicks and kicks, slaughters the opponents. Somehow it always feels like that. Why not be the game character yourself? How can that work? Let’s take a look at the possibilities. To narrow it down a bit, let’s take 3 ways to build a character and put it into Epic’s Unreal Engine.
Cheap and good -DAZ3D Studio
DAZ3D Studio is a free software that offers an incredible amount of possibilities to build and dress a game character. The software also offers the possibility of face transfer. All you need is a portrait photo with the flattest possible lighting.
The rest goes more or less automatically. The trick is that DAZ3D already comes with basic characters (woman and man). When the photo is loaded, you choose whether the person is male or female and the magic begins. The software creates a basic character, maps the face from the photo onto the head and adjusts the mesh to the facial features accordingly. The result is usually quite impressive.
If you want to get even closer to the original, money is required. It takes a package for about 20 dollars with about 300 morph targets to bring the face even closer to the original photo. The hair is not generated automatically, but must be purchased with a matching hairstyle. You can also modify the body from thin to bodybuilder to fat. With a little skill, you can quickly create an optimized version of yourself.The advantage over an expensive Bodyscanist here the possibility of customization and expressions (facial expressions), which is very controllable.In addition, the figure can be moved anatomically correct. All joints do what they should.
DAZ3D also offers powerful free bridges to Unreal or Unity (also Blender, Maya, Max and Cinema4D) to export the built character, which you can also dress.
Not free but better – CharacterCreator and Headshot
Reallusion sends CharacterCreator and an AI-driven plugin called Headshot into the race. CharacterCreator is a leading software (also made famous by IClone) to create digital humans. Interfaces to DAZ3D, ZBrush, Unity, Unreal and many more make the software the Swiss Army Knife among character tools. With the plugin Headshot, the CharacterCreator goes a similar way as DAZ3D. The requirements for the photo are the same as for DAZ3D. As flat and shadow-free illumination as possible.
In the screenshot, the Auto mode was used, which does virtually everything on its own and also immediately creates the hairstyle -gameconfom.
As already mentioned, an AI works here on the creation of the face. The result is better than with DAZ and the possibilities for post-processing, almost limitless. With a little practice, you can get pretty darn close to the original. There is an Auto mode and a Pro mode in Headshot.
As with DAZ3D, the character created in this way can be adjusted, deformed and dressed in a variety of ways. With the available, free bridges to Unity and Unreal, the character is also quickly on the other side in the game engine.
The complete body via photogrammetry
Of course, you can have an expensive body scan made of yourself. But you don’t have to. 3DZephyr is my tool of choice here. But also the open source solution Meshroom offers good results. There are many photogrammetry software. Some good, others not worth mentioning. Only recently Epic has acquired Reality Capture. A powerful software that produces very good results. Photogrammetry is the ability to create a 3D model from a bunch of photos. You take dozens of pictures of the object from different positions and the software creates a 3D model. This can be things of everyday life, houses, landscapes (photos via drone) or even people. 3D Zephyr offers a mode for human bodies. This is interesting because the software treats the source material differently and knows that a human should come out. The person you want to put into a 3D model just has to stay in a T-pose or A-pose (it’s a little easier because the arms don’t get heavy so fast), while another person takes video or photos all around. If you choose video, you need a fast frame rate of at least 60fps in the camera to avoid motion blur. The pictures or the video are then loaded into the software (video is split into single frames) and the calculation begins. If you have done the job well, you will quickly get a very usable 3D model, which still has to be cleaned from the ground, which you have surely scanned, and from some artifacts around it. The cleaned 3D model must then be rigged. In DAZ3D and CharacterCreator the human character already comes with a rig (a skeleton with joints) to get the character running, walking, jumping etc. via animation.Character rigging is one of the supreme disciplines in 3D animation – Uhhh…. difficult! But it can also be done easily – with Mixamo. Abobe’s platform Mixamo (you need an account at Adobe) has an Auto-Rigger for this -Yey!
You load your 3D character onto the platform – rig it there and download the rigged model again via FBX export. The FBX file can then be used in Unreal.
How does Unreal understand the new character
Here you can also make your life easier, because Unreal already brings many templates to create a game level. When creating a new project in Unreal, you choose the template Third-Person, which already brings everything. In principle, you still need the level and the character. Our 3 solutions (DAZ3D, CharacterCreator and Mixamo) all spit out an FBX file. But the generated rigs are different, so you have to use different workflows. The workflow itself is almost the same, only depending on the rig some mouse clicks are different. With DAZ3D and CharacterCreator you have the least work, because both solutions already have a bridge to Unreal. Mixamo is a bit bitchier, because the designation of the joints is a bit different. Unreal provides a retargeting tool for such tasks to adapt the rig of the “foreign” character to the third-person character of Unreal.
How to proceed?
Once the project with the third-person template has been created in Unreal, the built character is loaded into the project. This can be done directly from DAZ3D with the Unreal Bridge or from Character Creator with the export to Unreal. With Mixamo you simply load the FBX model into the Unreal project.
In the illustrations I have taken DAZ3D as an example.
First of all, the Unreal Character and the new character must be brought into line. Open the Unreal Character (the white cyborg), especially the skeleton, and select the “Humanoid” rig on the Retarget Manager tab under Select Rig. Then save with SAVE in the upper left corner.
Now go to your character and select the skeleton there as well. Do the same here and select the Humanoid Rig under Select Rig. In the case of Mixamo, the work is not yet done. Under Select Rig there is a list of Joints (Something like Root, Pelvis, Spine_01; Spine_02 etc.). Here you will see “none” in the list fields, because the Mixamo joints have different names than the joints of the Unreal character. Now you just have to search for the correct entries. Root remains Root, Pelvis becomes Hip, Spine_01 becomes Spine, Spine_02 becomes Spine01 etc.) is a bit of clicking, but it works. If you do this more often, you can save the configuration and apply it later to Mixamo rigs (maybe you want to turn all your friends and relatives into game characters).
Once everything is done, the animations have to be adjusted. Go to the animation folder of the Unreal Character and select the ThirdPerson_AnimBP Character. With the right mouse button, select “Retarget Anim Blueprints”. In the dialog that opens now, you can choose the imported rig (your own game character). Select your own character and confirm with “Retarget”.
Back in the game, click on the Unreal Character to select it. Under Details you will find Mesh – Here you select your character, set the Anim Class to ThirdPerson_AnimBP, select Play and start playing.
I hope the article has aroused some curiosity. Anyone who is interested in training in this regard is welcome to request a workshop from us.