When I started ‘Find the Gnome’ in December 2017, my goal was to do it all myself so I could experience what I was good at and what I was bad at. Creating a model for the gnome, texturing, animating: it was all part of that.
Now in 2021 modelling is much more easy for me to do and actually fun. Animating however is not something I enjoy doing.
If you take a look at the gnomes in my 2018 game, you will notice them being not that smooth on the animation. Further more, some are even broken. I ended up abandoning on fixing it back then. Even worse, I used a not-so-common way to record the animations in Blender, so all animations are broken by now.
That is the premise of this blog post: how to fix the gnomes?
First I did a remodel of the gnomes. I think it is an O.K. low poly model, but some dimensions are a bit off. And the texturing is not matching with a low poly look.
As you can see, the old models use a ‘smooth’ look but in reality they are low poly models. Further more I textured them without knowing how to do it properly, hence the white-ish lines you see on the models. For insiders: I didn’t know how to properly use UV seams.
This is the same model as before, only with slight changes to the face. But now with smoothing off so it matches with the low poly look of the environment. And the texturing is now done using some sort of a color map technique, common for low poly models, so there is a very limited set of colors used in the scene.
The color map I currently use in Find the Gnome is the same as on Manage the Universe. The ‘ImphenziaPalette01’:
For animating the models, things have changed massively over the years. Currently, you can get at 90% without even lifting a finger. Ok, a few mouseclicks maybe.
Previously you had to give the model a ‘skeleton’, then attach the outside (the model) to the inside (the skeleton) properly, then make a few animations using keyframes.
Now you go to Mixamo, upload your model (without skeleton), point out a few key points in your model, and there you go. Then select a few interesting animations you want your model to have, see how it looks on your model and tune a few parameters (if any), then download it, import it into Unity, and: done.
It already looks sooo good, compared to what I had. Yes it can be even better than this, but that is when you want to do it yourself or to pay someone to do it for you.
The fun part is: immediately I have a gnome that has a much more interesting idle/walk/run cycle.
So that is when I need to get to work. This previous image is a ‘blend tree’: it blends between different animations. That is another piece of Unity I didn’t use before but really helps with animating. It is part of a state machine that makes switching and blending between animations really easy to develop and debug.
I am still not finished. Yes the animations look way better already. But I can now also see that a few animations aren’t that well suited for my gnome and the type of walking he is going to have in-game. But that is the benefit of Mixamo: I now know what works and what not without too much effort, and can spend my time (or money) on animations that are certain to be useful. Or just switch them out with something else from Mixamo and see where that takes me.