Monday, December 5, 2011

Love Is a Many-Headed Thing, Part I

I'm baaack.

While it may seem that I've pretty much abandoned my modding efforts for NWN2, some things just refuse to die. Once again, I find myself creating yet another NWN2 creature model.What was it that made me return to modding just when I thought I had laid it to rest? Was it love? Was it a compulsive, masochistic desire to post a new file in the Vault that few people will download and even fewer will vote for? Was it a promise that I made to Chaos Wielder years ago to create a new monster model for him?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Three months ago, Chaos Wielder emailed me, asking if I still intended to make good on my promise to him to make a hydra model, a promise that I made in 2008 when I was very much active in the modding scene. Truth be told, when I saw last year that few players still cared to download NWN2 mods, I decided to lay to rest my dream of creating Faithless and anything pertaining to NWN2. The iron was no longer hot, so there was no point in striking it. Then along came Chaos Wielder, gently, almost sheepishly reminding me of my promise to him, although he assured me that he wasn't holding me to it. Regardless, I grew up believing in keeping one's promises. I realized then that like vengeful ghosts, the things you say may come back to haunt you.

Last week, I finally got around to creating the model that I promised to make. Chaos Wielder wanted a hydra that looked like the creature from Jason and the Argonauts, not the D&D version of the monster. I downloaded a few photos that I could find on the Internet and went straight to work. My hydra started life as a bunch of ZSpheres in ZBrush, an excellent 3D modeling application. Rather than making all seven of its heads, I decided to create only one head and leave six neck stumps for me to replicate the head on later. The finished ZSphere model can be seen here. Kind of looks like a mutated ginseng root, doesn't it?

I then transformed the ZSphere model into something that is known in ZBrush as an adaptive skin. I sculpted this skin into something vaguely hydra-like, as can be seen in the screenshot on the right. It looks rather like a lumpy mass of modeling clay, but that's just for starters. The next step was to make a more refined model through a process known as retopologizing, which basically means creating a new model by plotting a set of vertices over the old one.

I had actually gone as far as retoplogizing the hydra last week. Unfortunately, when I attempted to save the model, the application crashed, and my model was lost forever. I was so frustrated that I didn't work on the hydra for the next five days. In fact, I probably would have given up on creating the hydra altogether if it weren't for my six-year old son. He saw me making the model, and he said he wanted me to make a blue one for him. Ah, love. It's what makes a person strive onward with redoubled effort after stumbling down, rather like two fierce heads that sprout from a bleeding neck stump. I still had my lumpy modeling clay version intact, so yesterday, I retopologized the model one more time. The fruit of my masochistic compulsion can be seen here. The model looked more like a hydra at this point, although the neck stumps weren't convincing at all. That wasn't a problem because they were intended to be placeholders for the actual heads.

The next step was to export the model as an OBJ file for importing into 3DS Max. I replicated the central head and neck of the hydra and replaced each of the neck stumps with the head clones. I had to painstakingly adjust the vertices on the necks and shoulders of the creature so that I could weld them together.

When that was done, I exported the model as a new OBJ file, which I imported to ZBrush. Below, you can see how the model looks now. There is still much work to be done, but at least I've nailed the basic shape of the creature.


Shaughn said...

Welcome back!

The hydra looks great, definately look forward to seeing it in action.

Jclef said...

Frank - Great to hear from you!

It looks like you have a nice base constructed for the hydra. Definitely reminds of the one from that movie. zBrush is definitely a great program to work in.

Good luck with the rest, bud - I'll be checking out the progress for sure!

Frank Perez said...

Hey guys, thanks for the encouragement. I hope I can do justice to the hydra.

Chaos Wielder said...

I am pretty sheepish(a wolf in sheep's clothing?) Not sure, but I do *really* appreciate you helping me.

Amraphael said...

That's a very cool creature! Looking forward to see it ingame (and give it a taste of my sword)

Anonymous said...

Gah my computer would break day the day you post this. I still found it though :)

Excellent work there, Frank. Didn't think you'd ever return to the NWN2 field. Old habits die hard eh?


nicethugbert said...

NEAT! Glad to see you're back!

Eguintir Eligard said...

I know exactly what you mean about the iron not being hot anymore. Nothing gives you energy like a large, loud crowd with fresh energy pouring in. Too bad there is not another toolset on the horizon.

Is faithless in any kind of playable state that can be released as is?

Also kind of wondered where your tutorial series went about learning to model from scratch, into NWN2. I don't know how useful it may be now that Expotron's vault entry is dead, mind you.

Keep posting :)

Frank Perez said...

While I don't want to speak with finality regarding Faithless, it looks like it's pretty much dead in the water. It is not even remotely playable.