How to create an online game character with personality

Character modeller Inho Kim shares his workflow for this unique take on a character from video game Alliance of Valiant Arms.

Alliance of Valiant Arms – or AVA to its fans – is an award-winning Korean video game, and the world's first online game to use Epic's game engine Unreal Engine 3.

It's also the game that character artist Inho Kim has been working on for the past seven years. Using 3ds Max with V-Ray to create the base, and then using ZBrush to add all the smaller details, Inho spent six weeks creating this image, which he calls simply 'Qipao Sniper Character'.

"I really enjoyed creating the character's eyes," Kim says when describing his work process. "When it comes to creating a character, I think the eyes should be given more weight as they are the windows to the soul, and they describe the personality and appearance of the character. I did a lot of testing on how to create depth in the eyes."

Inho currently works as a video game character artist, but this wasn't always the case: "I started working as a video editor then changed my career path by becoming a 3D artist," he says. "At that time, I was involved with the Korean TV animation series for children Ducky the Perky and Bumper King of Zapper."

But now, video games are Kim's passion, and beautiful female game characters in particular. So how and where does he find his inspiration? "I really love finding nice images through the Internet, especially of beautiful women," he says, unsurprisingly. "When I get some photos of models or gorgeous images from other artists, I am inspired by them to create new 3D stuff."

Kim will now take you through nine stages of his character creation process.

01. Pretty poly

Initially the Qipao character was made with a low polygon count

Initially my Qipao character was made with a low polygon count so it could be exported to Unreal Engine 3 for use in AVA. Then I needed to create a high-poly model for a 3D illustration image. When it came to creating the woman's body, I focused on describing her sophistication as I did not want it to be overtly sexual.

02. Rigging and posing

The character is rigged and posed with Biped and Skin in 3ds Max

I rigged and posed my character with Biped and Skin in 3ds Max. I set up the camera to create a strong scene that highlighted the character's silhouette.

03. Move into ZBrush

Move into ZBrush and add some detail

I exported the low-res version into ZBrush and then used ZRemesher to get a basic geometry. I added some detail, focusing on elements that highlighted the character's natural beauty.

04. Creating the character's eyes

The cornea is a very important component to this area because it gives the eye depth

When it came to creating the character's eyes, I tried to make them photorealistic. For example, I used a pinkish map with some small vein-like lines to give the eyes depth. In addition, I think that the cornea is a very important component to this area because it gives the eye depth, so I made them transparent and added a light reflection map.

05. Baking out Normal and AO maps

Bake Normal and Ambient Occlusion maps from the high-polygon mesh

I baked Normal and Ambient Occlusion maps from the high-polygon mesh I made in ZBrush, and then used them for the elaborate textures.

06. Creating textures

Collect colours that suit the character concept and mixed these tones with some material patterns to create some basic textures in Photoshop

I collected colours that I felt suited the character concept and mixed these tones with some material patterns to create some basic textures in Photoshop. I then used the green channel of the Normal map to add a sense of depth.

07. Assigning the textures

After creating the textures, assign them to every part of the mesh using V-Ray shaders

After creating the textures, I assigned them to every part of the mesh using V-Ray shaders. Then I added VRaySun and VRayLight to the scene, and also used HDRI lighting before rendering the image in V-Ray.

08. Creating and styling hair

Use V-Ray Hair & Fur for styling

I set splines as guides for the hair, and used V-Ray Hair & Fur for styling. A few stray hairs were rendered separately and then I composited all of them in Photoshop.

09. Final editing stage

With all the rendered images complete, move onto the editing stage

With all the rendered images complete I move onto the editing stage, including harmonising the colours and optimising the background in order to create a romantic and elegant atmosphere.

Words: Inho Kim

Inho Kim is a senior CG artist, creating characters and weapons for video games. He also creates 3D illustrations for advertising clients. This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 181.