How should I go about creating a custom character?

Hi, I wish to start creating a character for a game but I am unsure as to how I would do it. I am using 3DS Max as my modelling program.

  1. Would I create a character in 3DS Max with the materials all in place and then import it into UE4
    Or would I create the character without any materials, import it into UE4, and then apply the materials?

  2. Is the Hair of a character a material that I can apply in UE4 as well or do I complete the hair design in 3DS Max?


This is such a vague question, I’m only posting it as an answer because of the character limit restriction on comments.

First things first: are you familiar with rigging and armatures to create animations? Yes? good, you can move on. No? Well, you should probably learn all about it before making a character.

Second thing to note:
Will the character change in any way?
Will it have different attire? will his hair / eye color / base mesh change or morph in any way?
IF yes, then you need to learn all about Morph targets before continuing on.
IF the character has different attire you may want to study up on using Control Rig, as well as Sockets and mesh syncs.

Third thing to note:
What is your character for and How will it be used? defining this first can help you in finding the correct tutorial to follow.
Defining this before hand will also prevent you from making a good 200 animations only to realize that 50% of the ones you created are not necessary since you are making a simple side-scroller and therefore you don’t need to walk towards the player ever - for instance which leads us to point 4.

Fourth thing to note:
Are you capable of animating custom walk cycles and actions? No?
You can either
4.2 Are you familiar with Re-targeting? No? You need to know all about that before moving on.
You better learn how to animate things and export them into UE4 before moving on.

Fifth an final thing to note.
Assuming you can deal with all the steps above and learn all the intricacies, then you can model a mesh out to taste, weight paint it onto a custom skeleton, re-target the UE4 animations, and you’ll have the basic thing done in a few hours time.

To address your specific questions for
I would assign a basic material in 3DS, but would untick the box to import and just create a custom material in UE4.
This though, is highly dependent on WHAT the character is.

Say i’m making a Golem and he’s a complete cumulus of rocks, I would make 3 or 4 versions of the mesh with increasing detail and different LODs - but then just export the normal map and apply it to the overall character in order to get LOD_0 to also look almost as good as LOD_4
I guess since I didn’t touch on that, learning LODs is also a must.

Personally, I like the “lazy unwrap” technique. Basically most of my meshes are unwrapped into a flat power of 2 sized texture - and that way I can manipulate portions of the mesh/materials as if they were specific sections.
For that, here is a good tutorial that sort of explains the same technique - While he illustrates it for landscapes, it’s easily applicable to any mesh. And actually helps out a ton with things like clothing and texture.

2) Different uses have different purposes. Generally speaking you can create the hair directly onto the character if you do not intend changing it. However, if you intend to animate the hair movement you really have to look into different solutions or additive skeletal structure bones.