Modeling the character was at the same time easy and hard. It was easy because the graphics are so low polygon that is really fast to get things modeled. But at the same time it was extremely hard because it is easy to add too many polygons and loose the low polygon aesthetic. Getting the balance of extreme low-polygon and readable shapes was difficult to get right.
Also figuring out the middle ground between realistic and stylized look was difficult. I feel that the look is leaning more towards realistic, but I am happy with that too. It reminds me of Delphine Software games such as Another World and Flashback! I love the way those games look so ending up with a similar aesthetic can only be a good thing!
I am always talking as if I would be surprised at what things turn out to look like. It is somewhat true. I am not going the professional route where I have first figured out a perfect design, but I am letting the work to happen, so to speak. I am just allowing the art to flow as effortlessly as possible. (It is not always effortless).
The most difficult part was the face. It only took me a few hours to model, but to get the look right was super hard. I started by modelling a base face with all the planes of the face ready to go and some material to build the nose, eyes and mouth of. After my base model was done, I started to reduce polygon and search for the correct facial features.
The hear looks humongous in these closeups, but it is meant to be viewed orthogonally. In that angle the lack of perspective makes the head look miniscule. So I scaled it up a little bit to make the character look more natural from that angle. Also as the character will be really tiny in-game, the little bit bigger head will make the facial expressions a little more readable.
I wanted the guy to look young, a novice. I tried to go for Ray Liotta, Leonardo DiCaprio or Matthew Rhys looking character: a basic New Yorker white guy. He will have English heritage, so that drove my thinking.
You will never see the face from closeup. so I did not need to be that careful with the details. Because of the game camera being orthogonal, I ended up tilting the face up just a little bit so that you can read the face a little bit better as a player.
The clothes for the character are layered on top of each other as I wanted the character to have cloth simulations driving the loose, ill-fitting suit. I think it turned out pretty good!
All in all I am pretty happy with the balance between readability and low poly look. I am also pleased at the “innocent” look of the character. It was just the thing I was going for. I can still say with confidence that making the characters will be the single most difficult task during this production. Not technically, but to make them feel “just right” and sufficiently professional.
As the character is wearing a suit 5 sizes too big, I wanted it to have cloth simulations. I ended up making the coat edge, tie and the ends of the trouser legs use simulations. The hair for the character is also a cloth simulation.
Unity’s cloth setup tools were a bit of a pain in the ass to use and after updating the mesh, the cloth data would usually get all messed up and I would have to redo it. Luckily my character is super low polygon, so setting up the cloth influence is a breeze.
Using simulated cloth looks really nice when the character is moving about. it really adds a new layer of polish and also drove home the loose, saggy clothes feeling perfectly!
In order to prevent the cloth from intersecting with the body, I added some simple capsule colliders for the thighs, waist and chest. These keep the jacket from intersecting with the character when he is moving about.
It was not possible for me to use colliders in the feet, as sometimes when turning tightly the feet actually go trough each other and this would throw off the trouser leg simulation completely. I solved this issue by limiting the movement in the trousers so that the cloth never clips the socks.
I added some wind influence for the clothes and a little bit more to the hair so that even when still, the character has some natural secondary motion.
I had to write a bit of code for handling the situations when the character gets in and out of his car. As I was teleporting him the clothes used to explode when he stepped out. So I am simply disabling cloth simulations while the car is being used. I made it into an animation event, so I can disable and enable cloth if there are any other animations that just can not handle it.
Oh, also turning on cloth dynamics caused Unity to recalculate the mesh normals, overriding the data I had in the FBX. Luckily I had already created a shader graph that forces the normals hard for the water. I just created a new shader for the cloth using the same calculations and thus I had simulated cloth with low poly look!
For reference I googled “Man suit 1990” and got a delightful look into the horrible mess that was male clothing in early 1990.
The main takeaway from the clothing from that era was that everyone was wearing the same stuff and it was way too big. I did not have to spend too much time thinking about what the main character, being a police detective from 1990, would look like. It is not like there was a lot of options.
Naturally I could have gone the laid back Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon look, but this is not a laid back character, but a nervous junior detective working on a case no one else is interested in.