Bringing Isabela to Life

A huge element of Polvo Oscuro is the 2D/3D hybrid style. We've decided that the final image you see in-game will be running in 3D, so a lot of the artwork that Crista Castro designs/illustrates need to be converted into 3D.

For the characters, we decided to straight-up model and animate them using traditional methods. On the left is an illustration for our protagonist, Isabela. Crista crated a character sheet which included this illustration and line drawings of the character from different angles. She handed it off to Kieran Lampert, who did a fantastic job of imagining the character in 3D

After getting Kieran's 3D model, I brought it into Maya and set it up with a HumanIK rig. This is my first time using it, and I'm really happy with the results, it gives me a lot of options for controlling the character.

HumanIK gives me a skeleton with a lot of controls, but it doesn't handle any skinning. So I had to attach the model to the skeleton myself. It was a first for me, but after some youtube videos and two tries, I'm happy with the results

Isabela's poncho has a lot of potential to look bad in motion. It can easily penetrate through her arms/body in ways that look totally broken. So I added an extra bone to bunch up the cloth when I need it out of the way. It's a subtle touch when used in animations, but it helps fix a lot of troubling poses.

I'm going to add some extra logic to the poncho in-game to give it some simulated motion. I'm hoping the combination of animation and simulation will give it a final motion that is a little bit less stiff.

After figuring out how to extend a HumanIK skeleton like this, I went on to add even more bones to the head so I can get some control over her expressions.

I didn't add much, just enough to make her feel more alive while maintaining the minimal style. So now she has the ability to blink and emote with her eyebrows.

I also added an extra bone to control her hat independently.

With all this finally set up, I gave a try at animating Isabela to test it out. Here are the results.

I have the character model walking around in an early version of the game engine, but I'll share more of that later.