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Workflow for building Customizable Character

Hi there everyone! I’m pretty new around here, so any help would be greatly appreciated. I’m an artist/animator currently working in a company doing simulators. We’re in the midst of building a game engine which allows players to customize their characters according to various professions. As such, I’ve been tasked to come up with a workflow in which we’ll have a base character, but the costumes can be swappable ala Dark Souls or Skyrim, based on chosen occupation. From what I’ve read in most forums, at least for Unity and UDK anyway, one way to do this is to model the costume as a separate mesh(es) and then skin them to the base character’s skeleton, after which we just import the meshes into the game engine and the programmers will do the rest. To my understanding, if the mesh detects the same base skeleton structure within the engine, it will begin to move with the base character.

Not sure if this is how it works in UE4? Or are there any alternatives/workarounds for this?

Once again, greatly appreciate any advice… been stressing over this for a few days now.

P.S. We’re planing to model the characters in 3DS Max, and subsequently rig it in Maya.

This thread may be of interest

For sure the technical requirements are there to make it happen and our team is currently looking into standardizing some of our player model designs to make it easier to build as many player models as we feel is needed so it’s the set up where things get a bit tricky and needs planning.

The first trick is to build a standard frame/rig that you can bind pose your assets off of and the rule is all things has to fit the rig. This way all of your animations will work with all of your characters with out the need for custom sets to fit a given character.

The advantage is the rig/skeleton needs to be imported only once into Unreal 4 so all of the goodies you want to attach, physics and sockets, only needs to be done once and the animator only needs to deal with the single asset to make it all work on everything.

Next trick is to build all things to fit your base and then conform the asset to fit the characters in you line up and us that as a morph target to create a single item fits all asset. Lets take boots for example as they are simple enough. Lets say your base character is Tom and you have two other characters **** and Harry and you make a set of really cool boots that fits Tom but is to big for **** and not small enough to fit Harry. With a one asset fits all approach the content crew would only need to rescale the boots to fit the other two, with out remodeling, and then is imported as a target for the base boots that fits Tom and the morph triggered to fit either of the two other characters.

The long way around to say workflow wise is to start with a single “does it all” character as to needs and then keep every thing else that comes after that on the same single channel pipeline and then think about how to make a given item fit.

For further research check out how Daz3d and Daz Studio works. They been using the bind pose technique for years using the same Genesis base frame.

Thanks for the referral! I’ll link this to my programmers to see what they can do

Hi FrankieV. Thanks for the explanation! Just some clarification: by morph target you mean bind skin right? Could be just a difference in terminology, so I’m not very sure. To my understanding, 3DS Max has this ability to transfer skin weights of from one rigged mesh to another mesh that’s above it.

I referring to the use of the morph modifier available inside of 3ds Max that will morph a master mesh to a target shape that if you set the FBX exporter to export morph shape will included the morphs target shapes as part of the export process.

The shapes are then included as part of the assets parameters details and if you set it’s value to 1 the object will take on the new shape.

The long explanation.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=qsaEWz7vg8w
So in the boots example you have one skeletal mesh but you can have an asset that can be made to conform to any player model you make and create a data set to fit the items. The other option is since boots, and some clothing, are simple objects and not as complex as the character they are attached to you might need only a dozen or so shapes to make the asset conform to any player model.

The morpher in UE4 is actually a really cool tool and based on what you are describing that you want to do I would recommend that you look into it as not only can you morph clothing but you can morph character models into completely different characters and keep the resource hit with in reason.

Someone is currently working on a plugin for this. You can follow his progress here.

Wow thanks for all the help guys!

@FrankieV so if I do opt for the simple method, does that mean I have to skin, say, the multiple boot meshes, to the base skeleton, and export them out as a separate .fbx files? And when they are imported into UE4, they will follow the base skeleton? As of right now we’ll be exploring with just one character, so I don’t think morphing is an issue, just need various iterations of an object to be swapped on and off the character

@Ray Jones 312, I will look into that. Thanks for the link :smiley:

Well no boots are boots so you make one rigged set rigged and then with the morph modifier under the skin solution you add the target which is recorded inside of the modifier and you can then delete the target and handle it, composite to what ever player model you use, as a one of asset as you would with out the blend shapes. You can have hundreds of player models all using the same single asset.

Ray that looks like the Genesis model to me. If I’m wrong it’s something I would be interested in purchasing.