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

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  04 April 2006
EEK, PEN: character set up for games and game cinematics?

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.

thanks

(really tired so don't know if i'm making sense)
 
  04 April 2006
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!).

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!

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.
 
  04 April 2006
thanks vyntax

hi,

thanks for replying vyntax. what kind of limitations does your game engine have? do u use character studio?
 
  04 April 2006
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.

Cheers

-Stu
 
  04 April 2006
thanks again vyntax

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?

thanks
 
  04 April 2006
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.
 
  04 April 2006
thanks

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?

thanks
 
  04 April 2006
hey,

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

thanks
 
  04 April 2006
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.
__________________
Paul Neale
http://paulneale.com
 
  04 April 2006
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
Quote: 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.

Quote: 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.

Quote: 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.

Quote: 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.

Quote: 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.
__________________
Paul Neale
http://paulneale.com
 
  04 April 2006
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


Quote: have u had a chance to rig for next gen?


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

Quote:
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.

Quote: 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.

Quote: 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

Quote: 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,

eek
__________________
Disclaimer: My opinions are not those of my employer.


 
  04 April 2006
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
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
eek
__________________
Disclaimer: My opinions are not those of my employer.


 
  04 April 2006
Hi PEN & EEK

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.
 
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