NieR: Automata character modeler Hito Matsudaira shared some tricks of the trade in a PlayStation Blog feature, where he explains his thoughts going into the creation of protagonist 2B with some in-progress images.
Creating the Model
Generally speaking, character modelling follows the flow below:
- Predict overall form and its final image with a rough model
- Create high quality and precision modelling
- Implement into build as a model to be used in game
I first began by creating a rough model based on the rough design I received from character designer Akihiko Yoshida.
Yoshida-san’s tastes were clear to me through the images I hid in the above image (don’t worry, they aren’t weird or anything, they’re just reference images I can’t show), and with that, I understood what he was looking for without even talking to him. I love it.
And this is the rough model I created. This was my first job since I joined the NieR: Automata team. I believe it took me about one to two weeks to create this rough model.
I then had our game director Yoko Taro check the model as well and received a “great!” from him! I had referenced many things to create this model, such as games that Yoshida-san had worked on in the past (the character models for Final Fantasy XII are amazing…).
When we mention a rough model, you may think that it can be very rough, but this is actually where I have to tax my brain quite a bit.
Is this silhouette going to be final? Is it created in a way that the animators won’t have a hard time animating? How many bones will it have and how will we control the parts that will move?
2B was also a character that would become the benchmark for the project, so I had to think about the basis for body proportions and modelling, designing the shader, and even the cost associated with mass production, all while creating this rough model.
It is difficult to regress 3D models these days, so it is also necessary to design the data while looking ahead to the impact that it may have on the project in the future.
Next is the part that is the most fun: I work on adding details on a high quality model.
I create it digitally like I would knead clay. I get absorbed during this process, refining the character model bit by bit.
Lastly I implement it as a game model:
In basic terms, the process involves pasting the images onto polygons, but the number of polygons and images increase each time a new generation console is released.
The polygon count for the PS2 was a few thousand, so only one to two types of images were necessary. However, the polygon count for the PS4 is approximately 100,000 and it needs about eight types of images. You’ll also need more than that if you want something more detailed…
The image below is where I’m adding image data onto raw polygon.
Here’s how it works. I take the raw polygon → add images with surface contour information extracted from the high quality model → designate textures using different types of images → designate colour information using images → one last bit of creativity to bring out the texture of the model and – boom! The model is finished.
On top of this, there is a dark side to 3D modelling. This involves figuring out how to configure the model when it gets wet, how things should move, and reducing the data size for the game so it would move at 60fps … but I’m only going to remember the fun times.
You can read more about the role of a character modeler and a summary on the PlayStation Blog.
As an extra bonus for you cosplayers and designers, Matsudaira-san was kind enough to provide 2B’s official pattern design:
NieR: Automata is available on PlayStation 4 and PC.