Hi there! As we get closer to launch, we wanted to start throwing a little more in-depth content at you, to give you a better idea of the game we're about to release.
The first in this behind-the-scenes series has to do with how we created our characters and made them fit the visual style we wanted Arkhangel to have.
Neither of us are true 3D character artists. We pulled a lot of reference to get a good idea how people would dress and how they would decorate their houses in 19th-century Alaska, so even though we didn't have the skill to create models from scratch, we knew how we wanted them to look. So after researching and brainstorming options, we decided the path that made the most sense to us was Adobe Fuse (though at the time, it was still called Mixamo Fuse).
Fuse has limited capability, but as long as your needs fall within that capability, it is a godsend for those without the resources to create their own models. It works much like creating an avatar for your character in a video game. In using scores of sliders, you can adjust height, stature, skin color, lip thickness, eye spacing and many other metrics. You can decide what style of clothing your character wears as well.
After designing in Fuse and getting the model to look pretty much the way we wanted, we'd rig it for animation by uploading it to Mixamo's online utility called, "Auto-Rigger", download the rigged model as an FBX, import it into the Unity game engine, and then immediately re-export the texture pages for each model's specific "body part" as individual PNG files.
The next step of our process was to open each PNG in Adobe Illustrator, and redraw the textures as flat vector files. I realize Illustrator sounds like a really odd choice for video game art. But we wanted our game to have sort of a graphic novel look to it. We decided the approach we'd like to take was to use flatter textures that could then be lit within Unity. This simplified the look of not only our characters, but also the props and geometry in our world (we might do another post based around our environment art in the future). It was also during this step that we could tweak the clothing or the skin of the model. It was in this way that we took some more modern looking characters and modified them to look more era-appropriate for our game. Then we just exported from Illustrator as a separate PNG file.