Custom skeleton or the UE4 Mannequin based characters?

I am using the Manuel Bastioni Laboratory (MBL) characters and the work is amazing. However, retargeting the model to suit the mannequin involves a lot of steps, especially when you include the expression shape keys. There’s also a minor twist problem. I haven’t actually done much but download a number of videos to look at when I have free time on my ipad. But I know Blender and admire the awesome weight painting that the models currently have.

So my question is this. In your opinion is it easier to conform a model to the mannequin or should I break down and animate the MBL bones in Blender, completely replacing the mannequin?

Pros to the replacement

  • If I need a new body type (I plan on using attachments for everything so there will be only two base characters) It will be easy to reuse the animations that I made.
  • There is only one or two bone layers so it will be easier to animate things.
  • The webcomic will be completely mine.

Cons to replacement

  • Hard work, since I’ll have to animate from scratch
  • The animations might be jerky or unnatural and require lots of tweaking
  • I cannot use any of the UE4 animations, I would have to duplicate them.

Pros to mannequin based characters

  • I can use any animations in the store
  • It would be faster to take off running
  • Easy fix

Cons to mannequin replacement

  • It could get expensive to buy animations
  • the animations would not be mine
  • If I need something just right to happen, example, the character must pick something up, then I may have to fight with the mannequin to animate it right
    Anyhow, let me know your opinions. Thanks
  • The comic/game would look prefab and generic.

I would add some twistbones in both cases.

If you would create a game with UE4 then I would recommend to invest some time to get a UE4 mannequin friendly character as it would speedup your development if you could buy some anims and put it together with your own. If you buy some from the marketplace they are not exclusively yours but you could still put them in your game… and if you are an indie-dev then time matters a lot.

If you would create a comic (movie) with UE4 then it’s probably not worth the affort. You would use way less of those generic loops like “idle”, “walk”, “run”, “aim” but you would animate many minutes or hours of individual animations that would most likely never be on the marketplace as they have to fit to your story and not to a predictable gameplay. For example think of an animation where a character sits down, drops slowly relaxed into the chair, put one hand for few seconds to the hair while he grabs a book with the other one and pulls his feet on the chair.

yeah, I can see myself animating all that, but if I decide to distribute a mini exploration game to my fans, or make a running game I might want to fall back on the default rig, however, that would also lose my uniqueness. I cant have Sophie suddenly running around like a default game character after establishing she has a sultry walk due to her larger than normal hips as a narwith (human/mer crossbreed) Id have to try using a walking editor.

If the character expression is an important part of your game, the benefits of the standard mannequin go away, so then you should make your own animations.

Assuming you know how to animate, the pipeline from Max/Maya/Whatever into Unreal is alright, and you can actually use a number of the existing blueprint-level constructs (walk/run/stand, aiming blends, etc) as long as your animations are made with the same intents as the original ones.

I could probably import and adjust animations, or at least use them as a reference. And yes, the expressions built into the Manuel Bastioni Laboratory is pretty important. With a few clicks, I believe that I can make expression presets inside UE4. Currently MB has shape keys you can manipulate to make your own expressions, which I really like. For instance Sophie’s eye brow arch can be slightly different from Jackie’s eye brow arch.

I do know how to animate, sepecially in Daz studio, and I have played around with Blender’s animation tools. Once you learn how to animate with one thing, you can pretty much animate with anything. It’s all just key frame adjustments and transitional frame flow. I always got the timing off, but since I normally just animated the character into a pose because of dynamic cloth then moved him as I needed it was all pretty straight forward. I animated strictly for this shirt. I really miss making comics, Unfortunately Daz 3d passed out on me and refused to render, this ending my old webcomic career. Once I got that and learned how to use it I had to try it live. I loved the effect but it took so long to work that I dropped down to once a week. Eventually it got to the point I was making my own props and learning how to make clothes before Daz corrupted all my save files.

Ah well, it was for the best. I don’t want to pick up this story again, until much later but I do want to make a brief webcomic on UE4 then perhaps redo the characters for IoX again. I’m currently juggling learning UE4 and revising my first book but once my book is done I’ll really get busy and learn how to play with UE4. It will just take me a while.

A question. Can UE4 animate bones/morphs or must they be done externally?

UE4 can drive the animation of bones/morphs using either imported animation data, or procedurally calculated values. You cannot (easily) generate the actual animation data inside UE4, other than as part of the cinematics editor.

Procedurally calculated values, eh? So that means I can spin the dials and save them as a preset? Or is that too much for UE4 and it would be best to just save the expressions as shape keys and use them as morphs.The video series I have covers the cinematics editor, but it’s late in the course. I’m only at like episode 5 in the short videos but very instructional and 69 video playlist. I downloaded them so I can watch them on my ipad. I know I want it more for animating but I’ll be learning it as I go and might end up making a game out of it in the long run so it’s all good. I’m not sure how I would turn my story into an RPG or action game but I’m sure once I start working with UE4 the idea will come to me. I have a few scenes planned that might make it difficult, like a club contest scene and others but who knows :slight_smile: