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More Synth Droid WIP

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Work on the synth droids is slow. Life is getting in the way, as usual, but I’m hopeful that progress will accelerate. One of the things that has slowed me down (not family related) has been a ‘re-tooling’ on my part.

The screen grabs you will have seen in a previous post were from ZBrush, which is a new package to me. So I’m essentially getting up to speed with everything it can do. My previous experience with sculpting packages has been the excellent, and free, Sculptris. Now it is also part of the Pixologic stable of programs. But I’ve probably done most of my sculpting in Mudbox over the last few years, but never in anger – not for a ‘live’ project. We teach Mudbox to the students at Solent University on the Computer and Video Games degree course in the South of England. So I knew it well enough to really enjoy it (it is a great program) and to be able to teach it to the students.

My experience with creating game characters is a little dusty. In short, at the start of my career in games (at the end of the nineties) I was an animator and character artist. Gradually I because more of a technical and lead artist, and if I did do much asset creation myself it was, more often than not, environments. So I missed out on the great sculpting revolution that has occurred since then with ZBrush leading the way. Now I want to create characters again it is a real pleasure to use these tools.

I wanted to make sure I was using the right tool. Mudbox is great to work with; it has a fantastic interface and excellent sculpting ‘feel’ (something really important) BUT, and its a big but, it needs decent base meshes to avoid stretching out the polys during a sculpt. If you are freestyling and want to push your sculpt in a radical direction you start to encounter problems. There are work-arounds. The new(ish) retopology tools in Mudbox are good. They solve some of this issue. The thing is they don’t solve it nearly as well as ZBrush with the amazing Dynamesh and Zremesher combo. Amazing! So fluid, it hardly interrupts the workflow.

I also felt I had to explore 3D Coat as I have trusted friends who use it and swear by it. I tried it and liked it. The voxel sculpting and live clay tools are equivalent (nearly) to the ZBrush tool set. You don’t feel restricted on ‘form’ like you do in Mudbox. However, what let it down for me (and your experience may differ) was that the ‘feel’ of the brushes was patchy. Performance in ZBrush and Mudbox was good, for me. Sculpting was silky smooth with almost all brushes. But 3D Coat, I found, had some brushes that performed well, with very fluid ‘feel’, while others were unusable. It’s a shame because many aspects of the package are great.

So that’s a very long-winded explanation of why I’m taking my sweet time. It’s a big decision, choosing the right tool. It’s a pity that ZBrush’s interface is such a nightmare to learn. Another reason progress is sluggish.

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