View Full Version : EEK, PEN: character set up for games and game cinematics?

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 07:36 AM
hi everyone,

appricate any knowledge any one shares for this.

i'm starting my disseration early. the title isn't finally but its basically a comparison and evaluation of character rigs for in game characters and game cinematic characters of the same character, if that makes any sense. So i have to look at exsisting set up's, pro and cons, custom rigs (like pens/eeks amazing rigs) ,character studio, customised character studio rig, what game engine limitations there are if any, and then make my own set ups.

in a couple of months i'll put the concepts up for the characters, probably humanoid and then some kinda strange character for a boss. then for these two characters there will be a high poly model for the cinematic and a low poly for in game with different rigs.

if theres any knowledge any one wants to share, advice,if u your self have made 2 different rigs for a character because one is for in game and the other for cinematic.


(really tired so don't know if i'm making sense)

04 April 2006, 08:49 AM
We actually use the same rig for both cut scenes, and in-game here. If we were to switch out the mesh we would probably use the same rig, but 'hot-swap' the meshes out (don't think that's a technical name, but everyone uses it here!). :cool:

As for limitations, it's really down to your game engine. Too much stuff will slow the frame rate down to an unuseable level. Or at least it does in our engine! :wip:

I dunno why we would need different rigs for the same character to be honest. If it was something that was a one-off sorta thing then I would just add it into the existing rig, so that the animators know exactly what they are doing, and then send them some docs on the new feature/s added.

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 09:01 AM

thanks for replying vyntax. what kind of limitations does your game engine have? do u use character studio?

04 April 2006, 09:46 AM
We are using max, but not character studio. Our character's are rigged up in max (base skeletons etc), then transferred into Motion Builder for facial rigging and animation. Then re-imported back into max for rendering and exporting to the game engine. (Who ever came up with this workflow is... well, I don't think it's the best anyway!)

So, as for limitations, we can't use any blendshapes, or deformers (morph angle defs etc). Meaning our facial setups are all bone driven. We have a limit of 4 joints per vertex on the weighting side. The rig has to have X running down them for motion capture data to be placed correctly.

Umm, I'm probably forgetting some stuff here, hope that helps some anyways. If you have any other stuff you wanna know just let me know and I'll get back to you.



Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 10:08 AM
thanks vyntax

ye that workflow doesn't seem very efficent

i was gona ask u about morph targets, but u already answered. well i guess how complicated to your rigs get, are they just pretty straight work ik setup or can u run any scripts, or use constraints and can have things like an auto clavicle? oh and seeing as u can use things like skinning gizmos, how do u get round that , just good modelling and weigthing ?

whats the most complicted rig u made for a game? (don't need much detail, just basics if u can)

how come you're company decided not to use character studio, pro's and con's from your point?


04 April 2006, 10:21 AM
Well, judging by how many times I've answered you can tell how busy I am... ;) Haha! I'm joking of course, but I do browse these forums probably too much!

We can run scripts as long as they are only manipulating the bones, so an auto-clavicle is fine. I've been working for the last month on and off with our artists getting a good mesh ready for the main character, and then weighting it up. It's took me a while with the restrictions, but now the shoulders and such are looking great, but it's all down to taking our time on the mesh and weights.

Our current rigs don't need any real advanced setups as once we take them into motionBuilder we are using their basic skeletal structure, with a few add-ons, but nothing too fancy.

My more complicated rigs include the standard IK/FK setup, squash and stretch, and automatic overlap. For stuff like this I get a lot of time to produce them (well, longer than normal anyway, there's never enough time!), and I normally have to create the tools that work with it.

For the current project we didnt use character studio... Well, I have no idea to be honest, I jumped in after all the groundwork was in so I don't know who made that decision. Personally, I haven't used character studio too much. From what I did use I didn't like it very much, although it does seem great from quick animation, stuff like an animatic and such.

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 10:37 AM
thanks again vyntax.

was just looking at venom website. did u work on that 'prey' game for 360?

i was gona experiment with modelling a bit for my project, but do u think it would be better to make it a major starting point expriemting with different topolgy because i guess making the rig is just getting the character to move the right way but the mesh deforming properly if pretty much down to good topology and weigthing?

is there anything you can think of that i should research or learn?


Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 02:43 PM

wanted to get this thread going again.

Any Riggers out there with game/game cinematic experience? have u ever had to make a different rig for the ingame and cinematic version of the character? what are pros and cons of of using Character studio / custom rig. what kind of limitations are there when rigging a game character? has next gen allowed more freedom when rigging?

will think of more questions


04 April 2006, 06:09 PM
Thanks for the invite, I will see what question I can answer. The problem is the answer can be different for so many reasons.

I"m working on cinematics at the moment for content that will eventualy play in game, how ever the target harware that we are looking at is 3 years old so we really can't do every thing that we would like to. What I will end up doing is stripping back the rigs that I have until they meet the mark of the engin and hardware. I will have to remove things like Skin Morph from the mix as well as other methods that I use for deformation that would create over head in the engin that we can't afford.

Our current work flow is the mocap is getting first pass clean up in Motion Builder and then imported into Max and dumped to a fully IK driven animation rig. I have set up a layer system that allows us to either clean up the mocap or layer animation on top of it as well I have written several Max script that help with the process. I can also take it from the IK system and dump it to an FK system that I can blend to if needed. Some motions are easier cleaned up in FK mode and some in IK mode. All this will remain when it comes to the engin but the final rig that is exported will change.

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 06:46 PM
hi PEN

always appreicate your knowledge

have u had a chance to rig for next gen? r u looking forward to next gen? do the engines/hardware allow u greater flexibilty? how do u go about rigging clothing for ingame , i've seen mostly bones used but are they generally handled by the engines phyics or is it handled in max and then baked some how? when u say the rig is stripped down , how stripped down , just a basic IK rig?

my weakness when rigging is maxscript, i'm not saying i want to a master like u , but how can i improve on it? i'm getting some CGacemdy DVDs and been brushing up on my maths but if it really isn't a strong point do u think i should concentrate on my strength (modelling /texturing), i'm not trying to be good at everything , but i want to be invloved with character creation , any area of it , concept art , modelling , texturing and rigging, maybe animation too.

anyway, how long general does a game character take to rig? how long does a high poly character with the works (clothing , hair , so on) take? by this i mean on average, like in industry whats a avaerage time before people start saying your taking too long.

erm.......kinda stuck now, haven't really started disseration yet, just trying to get a feel of what things i should cover , any suggestions, will be looking at Character studio, custom rigs, advanced techniques , comparing them , evaluting them, test animations, skinng low poly and high poly characters

any help most appricated

thanks everyone

04 April 2006, 07:45 PM
have u had a chance to rig for next gen? r u looking forward to next gen? do the engines/hardware allow u greater flexibilty?

Well I might not be the best person to ask as most of my work is in broadcast and feature film but I will try to give you what I know.

I have worked on a next gen game demo for microsoft and it does allow for more to be done but there are still alot of variables that need to be taken into consideration like what kind of game is it. You can still bring it to its knees and have a look at what they are doing in movies like Kong, there is still a very long way that it could all go if the engines and hard ware could keep up.

how do u go about rigging clothing for ingame , i've seen mostly bones used but are they generally handled by the engines phyics or is it handled in max and then baked some how?

The only time that I have had to deal with this in game we just skinned to bones and animated them, I automated much of the dynamics but it still needed to be tweeked for things like looping and the final result was just an FK bone system.

when u say the rig is stripped down , how stripped down , just a basic IK rig?
I think that I said "stripped back" and what I mean by this is I need to start removing ellements that can't go out to the game engin like skin morph and lots of extra muscle bones and stretchy bones.

anyway, how long general does a game character take to rig? how long does a high poly character with the works (clothing , hair , so on) take? by this i mean on average, like in industry whats a average time before people start saying your taking too long.

Well this is a loaded question, again are we talking King Kong or cel phone. I can generaly create high quality rigs in about an hour or two but that is just the base rig with all the IK/FK blending and tools, ofcourse it is all scripted and just customized for the character. The skinning and extra bones and set up to get the character skinned correctly could take days for a complex character or hours for a simple one. I think that the longest that I have ever worked on a character rig was a couple of weeks but in something linke King Kong there would have been multiple rigs and custom setups on a pershot basis. Non-human characters take longer usualy as you have to use more custom setups and you dont know what to expect.

will be looking at Character studio, custom rigs, advanced techniques , comparing them , evaluting them, test animations, skinng low poly and high poly characters

I suggest sticking with custom characters as you will learn alot more. No matter what off the shelf rigging system you use you will end up in a corner if it doesn't do what you want. Learn to do it from scratch and you can do it in any package for any character.

Good luck and I can't wait to see the results.

04 April 2006, 11:56 PM
Wow, ok sorry for not replying i must of missed it. Anyway..

Ive done mainly rigging for games and a little for film. There a ton of differences, firstly being that with film you can use tricks to get away with, having key rigs on a shot by shot basis. Have special custom rigs, and ofcourse the heirachy can be broken. With game stuff, you have tons and tons of rule: how it works with the engine, the bone count, how it will be exported. Remeber also that morphs dont generally exist in game engines atm, some do but not many. With games your rig has to basically survive everything the animators throw at it, it also has to be stable and general enough for 20 animators to use. At the end of the day your dealing with a hierachy of bones, what you do with that is up to you, facial rigs in film that are done with morphs, or custom setups are generally handled with bone rigs in the game engine. One massive herdle in games is that the character can essentially be seen in any view, and has to work in that view, not break not twist oddly, survive close up and far away. Theres lots of tricks with this such as LOD, animation reduction etc etc

have u had a chance to rig for next gen?

Sadly i cant tell you, if i have or not.

how do u go about rigging clothing for ingame , i've seen mostly bones used but are they generally handled by the engines phyics or is it handled in max and then baked some how?

My last place i did a bone rig that acted like 18c strut based skirt, basically a chain of bone from the waist down. For some animations i drove these with ik chain to allow twist and to automatically stop it going through the ground. I also dabbled in springs to give it little jiggles, and some key baking overlap stuff, such as a verlet algorithm in particle dynamics. Currently the cloth research im doing is underwraps, sorry.

anyway, how long general does a game character take to rig?

it really depends per the character, we had to do a 3 headed dragon that was 150ft long, four legs and wings. It took two of use about a month to finally get everything working. This brings up an important part that your developing and r&d'ing as you build the rigs - we had to work out how its 3 long necked heads would work automatically and manually, how the wings would fold up etc Simple characters 2-4 hours i guess, not long once you have a stable process worked out.

As to using automated solutions over custom ones well it depends, if you production studio has developed a process that works then all, good. Im a firm believer in custom pipe, and studio setups over CS or CAT, TSM2, etc etc Unless you can easily tear them to pieces and add your own pipe intergration to them, ive heard blur hacked cs to bits and have thier own solutions added in. So it really depends.

i've seen mostly bones used but are they generally handled by the engines phyics or is it handled in max and then baked some how? when u say the rig is stripped down , how stripped down , just a basic IK rig?

Do you mean before they hit the engine, similary to a TD lighting rig at a production house. With mocap essentially is just a bone rig with the key controls etc. Basically you exporting either skinning data or bone joint offsets - then the engine is either handling the verts or bones. Theres lots of ways to, you could have an animation rig that its animations are set to a game rig, you could use points to extrapolate key data etc

my weakness when rigging is maxscript

Same here!, im slowly learning it too, and alot of the time im learning it to resolve problems in the rig. A key thing to learn is fundementals like how world and local space work, how matrix's work, how parent to child relationship works and how transforms are relative to there parent - these are key rules alot of people dont know. Math is also good to learning, even if its basics. Scripting is important, especially in a production enviroment, the ability to make tools to aid production and speed up processes.

In the games world your constrained with time and what the engine can handle, with the film wold your constrained even more so by time and essentially the renderer, and how it uses the models the skinning, etc Also if your going for highly realistic such as kong - the development process alone can take 2 years or so just for 1 or two shots, because your on the cutting edge of technology - fur, skin, dynamics, cloth etc etc.

hope this helps,


04 April 2006, 06:12 PM
As has already been stated, the big thing with regards to rigging for games are what the game engines can handle. My question is what exactly are some examples of engine limitations? I have heard already that some/most engines can't handle morph targets. If someone can break down what the usual limitations for games are that would be great, and if you can even be engine specific that would be cool.

Another thing along the same lines of game rigs is mocap rigs. Can someone breakdown the specifics when it comes to making a mocap rig?

Thanks for the info guys.

04 April 2006, 06:38 PM
Alot of us wont be able to tell you, because were working with next gen. Sadly. And im under NDA so cant say anything.

As to building a mocap rig, its not so much the case of building the rig, this can be quite simple i.e just fk - its more a case of how it handles the data be it offsets, matrix transforms, values etc etc

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 08:35 PM

thanks so much for answering, no.1 fan of both your work

i'm starting to think about the character models i will be rigging for this dissertation. i was thinkin a humanoid character either male or female and then some type of creature. there will be both an ingame and cinematic version of the two models. i want to push myself so there will be clothing, hair (not for ingame , will use well modelled and textured hair), a muscle system like using Pens techniques but only for the cinematic version of the models, face rigs (which never done , just morph targets so kinda scary but was gona get your latest DVD Pen and was reading some thread which u did EEK), FK/IK, auto clavicle, posing, those last few are for cinematic models. managed to get hold of your Maxine rig PEN, wow , love it , kinda kills my computer but when hide the right stuff works beautifully. kinda overwhelming but i'm aiming for something close to for my final cinematic model.

afraid have to use character studio for part of the disseratation, will not use for the final rigs but just need to compare to custom rigs and look at pros and cons of each.

is there anything u think would be a good challenge for me, when i design the characters i want something that will challenge me when rigging. these 2 rigs will be the main part of my rigging demo reel, aswell as a couple of my rigs that i have done on my placemnt, but they are all mechanical. you know what i mean , something that might stand out and impress you guys.

also, one thing , i want to use Zbrush for the high poly models ( i've been learning on the side, very cool package) but , can end upextremely high poly. i know in max i can just have the render iterations of the turbosmooth high , but is there any tips you can give on rigging/skinning high hgih poly characters.

i will keep you both posted on my progress and intended course of study, i'm sure you'll both help me loads this year. a soon as got some character concepts will send you through email

thanks again guys for your useful info

p.s EEK coming to toronto this summer before 4th year to network a bit and show some people some work. nothin serious, more of a holiday but hope i get some attention.

04 April 2006, 10:08 PM
Hey no problem, glad to help.;)

Hmmm.. hardest or at least a challenging rig. Ive always found birds to be pretty dam hard, i mean with true folding up wings that still move nicely dont have herendous gimbal issue and have all the controls you need: flutter, curling, controls down the wingspan. So a rig that would impress me.. hmm. Something like an marvel character like arcangel with wings would be pretty cool. I always love transformer style characters, that fold up into something. A good quad rig is alway good on a reel, i dont seem to see enough of them. Ive seen enough stretchy rigs.

So mythical creatures i think are great: angels, griffins, cyclops, hydra, because your dealing with lots of different rigs wings with legs, and tails and all sorts those would definately push me. Id show a bipedal creature and a quadrapedal creature. hehe now im thinking about doing something like this - im a big ray harrryhausen fan. A skeleton rig would be kinda cool too!

What do you think Paul?

A good solid production rigs is a good thing to show, even if its very tame, good solid fk/ik, spine and leg setup -nothing fance but reliable. Ive had more fun out of a very standard rig than other rigs ive done.

I wouldnt be worried about CS, its a great tool to study and learn from, and the couple behind it are pretty dam clever!

With zbrush, you dont work on the hires mesh, you bring into ZB a low rez mesh, work it up into hi detail and export the normal map back to max to use on the low poly version. Becareful though as you have to check seamlines of the normal maps. Ive been told third party exporters are better for this part.

Cool, i look forward to it. Post away if your stuck or whatnot.

p.s if you need some contacts etc let us know.

04 April 2006, 12:34 PM
Dark Soldier (member.php?u=78748), I'm in Toronto so if you are wondering where to go I might be able to point in in some of the right directions.

Eek, Ya looking at rigging reels I have always noticed one thing, often you don't see the final deforming character. This is one of those things where people think that it is cool they have applied every trick in the book to create a cool rig but when they start working for me I find out that they can't skin a character and actualy make it deform correctly. Since the whole purpose of a good rig is to allow for easier animation and superior deformation then these things must be shown. Don't just have a character rig moving one joint at a time to show how the bones move. Have the character animated and show the final deforming mesh, then do a break down of how it works. Think of this, go watch King Kong, arn't you just dieing to find out what is under there driving all that, I know I am. So Dark Soldier (member.php?u=78748) if you can't animate really well get some one else to do it and give them creadit but make sure that we can see the character deforming. That way we know that you can create complete characters and not just a cool rig.

Dark Soldier
04 April 2006, 06:13 PM
thanks loads guys

definetly given some excellent pointers for my disseration and the resulting demo reel, thanks for both offering help/contacts for when i go to toronto, will definetly take you up on that at some point before i go. really want live and work there , for me canada is where its at plus beautiful place.

got a few more questions. from an animators point of view what are the most import things they need from the rig? i guess kinda silly question, kinda obvious , ease of use, can do all the things are required for the shot or game. i will do that sometimes, ask things that might seam a little silly to ask, but its just i like yours guys opinion on it.

erm.....forgotten what else wanted to ask, i will remeber at some point.

i'm gona start the characters on 1st of June because have to hand in a project for Uni on may 27th, but will start a thread with the developemnt of the models,textures, and then eventually the rigs. so look forward to crits/comments from you both, really excited!!

thanks again

any thing you can think that would help would be great, will keep you posted

04 April 2006, 07:48 PM
From an animators point of view what are the most import things they need from the rig?

Ok, well i came from being an animator and still really am at heart, so ill give you what I found out over the years.

Simplicity in control is huge in my mind, i go by the view that if you open up a rig from scratch never seeing it before, you can pretty much understand the rig from just looking at it and can start animating. I want to just go in a move stuff, position stuff really easily and quickly, make strong poses. I hate things hidden away, tucked up in rollouts, im a big fan of keeping most controls in the viewport. I go by main,medium and finite main are generally red/white controls, top level. Medium are green: lower level controls, hips,chest,head,hands, foot rool. And then finite which are either sliders or points helpers for small controls.

A fast viewport rig, i dont wanna be bogged down in fur, particles, deformation, I want to see very quick responsivness.

Automation and manual controls, this is key in my book and can be hard to setup. A foot rig that allows you to roll the foot, but also have control over the foot and toe. Should control thats automated and manual. Basically tweakability it crucial.

A good solid rig once again, nothing fancy to get bogged down in. One that does its job well, caters for the job,shot,storyboard etc requirements.

The best thing is to ask yourself is if i was animating this what would i want - it should be fast, easy to understand and crucially easy to change if needed, supports all the actions i need it to do, and be fun.

Sounds cool, keep us informed how its going etc.


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