Advice on Cutting up a Character

Hey guys, was wondering if anybody could offer up any advice about how we can go about cutting up a customizable character for a typical RPG style equipment system.

The idea is that the player can obtain and swap out many different clothing and armor pieces and in THIS case, they would also be separated by left and right sides of the body.

So you can have a bare-chested character with a Copper Left Thigh Armor, and a Silver Right Thigh Armor with different Shin Guards…etc. Hopefully you already know what I’m talking about but I can expand if you need.

The problem is that it’s often very difficult to just slap deforming clothing or armor pieces on a character without first removing the underlying geometry so that interpenetration doesn’t happen between the skin and the armor. If this is done, we can just swap meshes on these parts instead of going through the literal phone book number of possible mesh configurations.

Given that this is what we’re trying to do, I have gone and cut the character up into every major segment (Torso, R&L Upper Arm, R&L Forearm, R&L Hands, Pelvis, Thighs, Calves, Feet…etc etc etc).

I then used Set Master Pose Component on all these parts of the body to synch up the animations. All is swell.

However, as expected, seams are visible between every segment. It’s using a tangent space normal map so obviously the lighting is dependent on the geometry’s normal angle, blended to the next loop of faces down the entire mesh. With a cut, there’s no longer the next set of loops to tell the lighting to curve…blah blah blah right? You guys are WAY smarter about this than me.

So what I tested was using a World Space Normal Map and unchecking “Tangent Space Normal” in the material. This actually annihilated the seams altogether, (Hooray right?)…but that presented another problem.

Balls.

The engine isn’t factoring the product of the WS Normal against the facing angle of the geometry. So basically the character is shadowed on the same side no matter which way the actor is actually facing.

This is then compounded with the fact that the character is skinned to a skeleton, which further changes the angle of the geometry normals and this too is not factored into the lighting.

Not only that, but the character is also displaying an ungodly amount of Specular shine when viewed from the opposite…? side of the mesh than the light is facing. Like he goes glowing white. I duplicated the actor 4x and spun him to face all 4 cardinal directions and it was true on all of them.

So the question is how can I cut a character up into a bunch of segments and still hide seams?

From what I’m witnessing, I think the only viable option left to me is to not cut the geometry, rather change the material to Masked and use textures to hide the parts. I already know for a fact this will work, but is this the only thing left to try or can I attempt anything else?

Thanks in advance, I know it was a long read.

Did you find a way ?

Hi Hitpawz,

As long as you baked your normal maps correctly you shouldn’t get a very noticeable seam even if you split the edge along the arm for example. As long as the verts stay perfectly aligned to where they normally would be if they were still attached it shouldn’t be an issue.

Now there are a few ways you can hide parts of a skeletal mesh. In addition to what you mentioned earlier. You can also use the “Hide bone by name” node in blueprint which basically scales it down to 0. Keep in mind this will hide any child bones. You can use this node to hide the limbs pretty effectively.

Hope that helps,

Ed

Thanks Ed, those are good bits of information. I didn’t try baking a normal map onto the mesh before cutting it up. That might solve my original issue.

I have, however, moved way past this post. I do appreciate the time people took to think and answer on it.

I went with a material masking system, similar to what I did for this gibs tutorial: