CREATE THIS DARK ELF
Discover Creative Assembly’s triple-a techniques for realising a Games Workshop character in 3D with character artist Danny Sweeney
This tutorial concentrates on the development of the Dark Elf faction from Total War: Warhammer II – in particular, the Female Dreadlord unit. When establishing a new race for Total War: Warhammer, we need to build a strong visual foundation from which the artists can reference before full development can begin.
The introduction to this guide will look at the preparation that is required before we can start developing the bulk of our character art, as well as the techniques we use to help ensure that each character within a faction looks consistent and of a high quality.
Following this, we will talk in depth about the methods we used to create functional hard-surface armour while re-creating the Dark Elf visual style in 3D, taking weight, proportion and gestures into consideration as we build our assets. We will also talk about getting the most out of your normal maps, how we create different armour variants for each character, using the rules of composition to add life and story to your character, and easy methods to create real-time hair and fur.
Develop your base mesh When you start creating a character, you’re going to want to build a strong base mesh that other artists can use to develop their sculpts from. In this case, all female elves use the same female elf base mesh. Using Zbrush, start with Zspheres and block out the character. At this point, we are focused only on proportion. Having a proportionally correct base mesh to work from will speed up the final sculpting process and it also gives our riggers enough information to start looking at building an animation skeleton. Once you have a solid starting point, convert your Zsphere rig into geometry and begin your sculpting, again focusing on the scale, proportion and silhouette of your character. 02 Even flow – why topology matters To control how much fidelity we can have when it comes to sculpting, we create our final base mesh using a method called retopology. To make sculpting easier, keep your polygons evenly sized, four-sided and use edge loops extensively. If you don’t, you will probably end up with pinching in parts of your sculpt, which can be cumbersome to deal with. Once you’re happy with your mesh, bring it back into Zbrush. Creating polygroups for each body part will help to break up your character during the sculpting process and this is the point where you want to start looking at anatomical structure. Don’t worry about skin pores or blemishes just yet – focus on bony landmarks, fat pads, musculature and striations.
Creating your ‘bits box’ When you start developing art for a new group of characters, like we do for Warhammer, it’s important to research what type of clothing and armour the group wears, what trinkets they carry, and other visual elements that they share across units and roles. Creating a bits box – a file populated with assets that can be reused across multiple characters – not only saves time, but it also aids in establishing a sense of visual unison across a group of characters. Use these to store trinkets, buckles, belts, chainmail and scalemail links, and other assets that can be re-used wherever possible.