Portraits Revisited, and Community Group Admin

Hey Folks! Michael and I are still due for a chat, and I'd like to see how that goes before I decide on my next gameplay change. We both have some ideas to kick around, and it makes sense to coordinate.

So in the meantime, I decided to look into portraits again to see if I could make them a bit more stable. I tried to tweak one of the expression anims a few weeks back, and noticed some issues. First, it was a real pain to nudge all the bones around in Unity, and hard to see what I was doing without saving and launching each nudge.

Second, there was some ugly pixel smearing around the mouth when I moved it on some texture combos. And I think part of this is due to the way the meshes are subdivided in Unity.

Now that I've survived a crash course in mesh skinning, modeling, and UV unwrapping, and produced a decent humanoid mesh. I'm going to see if there's any benefit to me using that newfound knowledge to make a better face mesh. (Without invalidating the current face texture library I have from Emily.)

As you can see, the setup is quite similar to the old one: a series of overlapping sprites, with things like the nose in front, eyes and face in middle, and pupils, teeth, and background further back.

The difference here is that they are not all the same quad size. Using a full 166x258 texture for lips that might only be 40x20 pixels is a huge waste. It's mostly transparent. Similarly, the pupils, teeth, and nose can all be made into smaller textures. (Or more likely, texture atlases.)

I also want to see if I can use Blender to cut edges exactly where I need them, and tweak using it's more powerful UV unwrapping tools. The old version was done entirely in Unity because I didn't know what I was doing in Blender enough to do what I'm doing now. But this is the real way to do it.

As an aside, it's amazing how much productivity I lost leaving BioWare's 3D Studio MAX world and having to re-learn everything in Blender. The workflows are so completely different, and almost impossible to map to each other. But I'm starting to achieve basic competence in Blender, and thankfully, a lot of the more foundational skills still translate: how to organize meshes, unwrap them, materials setup, skinning, etc. Between this and my renderer/shader overhaul last winter, I almost feel like a tech artist again!

Anyway, I'm going to give this a fair shake. But be watchful to make sure it doesn't explode into too large a task. And hopefully, Michael and I will be off on our next gameplay upgrade soon!