Alfier Devblog: The naked Truth. Literally
June 12, 2013
1. Introduction: who is Veritas?
Being the principal character of the universe of In Verbis Virtus, we wanted to give Veritas (in Latin meaning ‘Truth’) a very special look both remarkable and background appropriate.
Veritas is a supernatural entity that, during the events portrayed in game, helps the main character teaching him the arcane secrets of magic.
As the name suggests, she is the personification of truth and doesn’t hide herself behind marks or cloths: she is naked as she is. For this reason her appearance exalts her nature: she is transparent (literally!) and her crystal skeleton can be seen directly through her skin.
Her beauty and heartwarming voice, contrasting with her cold complexion, make everyone before her at ease. The little garments covering her sway without gravity, as for her hair, shining in its own light. One of the shoulder pad has a soft line, the other one is sharper and stiffer, representing respectively the soft worship of truth and her harsh inflexibility.
Together with Denis, our Concept Artist, and starting from one of my sketch in manga-style we examined several preparatory drawings, which let us obtain a satisfactory design. One of the biggest challenges was finding a way to put some boundaries to the explicit nudity of Veritas, which represents her.
2. High-poly & base mesh
I used Blender, en excellent and versatile 3D software, to prepare the base mesh to be exported in zBrush.
Once loaded the female base mesh, I started to model the collar. The concept left me absolute freedom. I really enjoy this approach, because it allows embellishing details directly in 3D rather then on the artworks, it saves you time and it leaves more freedom to the modeler in experimenting more interesting shapes. For these reasons I decided to modify a bit the back of the neck, which even if it really seemed good on paper, practically it wasn’t so captivating as I wanted.
The tiara was quite easy, same as for the crystals on the left shoulder. I wanted to detail them better in zBrush, so I left them in their base shape. The dress was a piece of cake: I just had to snap the summits on the surface, follow the design and apply Solidify and Smooth in the end. Then things got more complicated...
The internal skeleton was a real challenge. As I said, Veritas has a transparent skin. Meaning: I had to make visible the inner parts of her body. Muscles and organs would have been too out-of-tune for the overall game and environment design, where Veritas appears, so we decided to show just her skeleton. Obviously it couldn’t be a skeleton as everyone else, since her shapes are much more abstract and mystical. I used a classical extrusion procedure for most of the parts, but in some others, like thigh-bones, I had to use curves.
Once on zBrush I started with the tiara. I always prefer finishing the faces and having a general idea of the most important part of the model. So I used zSpheres and zSketch to get the right shape and then dynamesh before beginning the sculpt.
Even this part on the concept was just outlined, he general shape was enough to have a base to start. I wanted to conceive the cranium with a crystal-bone protrusion, which should had resembled to the natural complement of the skull.
After some final touch at the bottom tiara started in Blender, the adding of the general shape of the hair and the definition of the somatic types, the face appeared like that.
The shape of the eyes still didn’t satisfied me, so later on I modified it and I gave her a more oriental and severe cut.
In the meanwhile I started sculpting the physical details and the figure already started to assume her final shapes. We did more or less important anatomic corrections, like a slightly abdominal liposuction and a butt stiffening.
I started sculpting the right shoulder pad and, beginning from a dynamesh I composed three different shapes, which I disposed to form the final design. Meanwhile, to simulate the shaders I was thinking of, I added a bit of color to the subtools. The collar was already satisfying, but I wanted to insert some small inlays and the result in game comforted me.
At this point I started taking care of hands. Veritas has two more eyes, contemplating and observing: one on each hand. I let you guess the horror movie from which we inspired for this detail. :)
After I retouched her curves. You know, women do that on us: we can’t stop (re-) touching them when needed :P
I ended the sculpt making the two bracelets. The right one is a small circle, while the left one is more complex: I chose to extract the bracelet separately in a subtool. Some smooth and that’s it! While I’m doing the retopology of this piece I already know it will take me some time...
Finally I corrected the face of Veritas (who now has brand-new eyes) and then I came back in Blender to create the real mesh, which will go in the final version of the game.
After reducing everything at the 1% of the initial polygonal density (we passed from 4 millions per piece in zBrush at barely 40k imported triangles in Blender!) I started the retopology with a patient snap of the summits on the surface of the mesh in high definition. The enormous quantity of the face polygons is justified by the fact that facial animations need to be the softest possible and don’t create that irritating low-res effect, typical of faces of most console games (and often pc too, unfortunately), which you could have seen a while ago and sometimes you still can.
The whole retopology procedure went on without a hitch, even if some parts are more difficult than others. The biggest obstacle was having already in mind the textures division: such a complex model can’t have just one texture and at the same time maintaining a satisfying definition for modern games resolution.
I tried dividing everything in as few textures as possible, but since the environment in which we can find Veritas is sufficiently controlled, I had the chance of going a bit over the common characters standard limits.
Each different texture assigned to the model needs the use of a new material and the more the materials of each mesh, the more the mesh becomes heavy for game performances. Finding an equilibrium between the number of textures and their definition is often a trial 'n' error procedure you learn while you experience game engines and hardware.
As I said, the place where Veritas is moving will be really controlled, so I could move resources from the surroundings to the character without compromising the frame-rate.
For the hair we used a solid amount of polygons and the result is a series of tufts in a Japanese classical style, as I called it, since I have seen it several times in the Final Fantasy games. I create different base tufts and I multiply them all over the nape of the neck to give the illusion of thick head of hair.
As final result, the low-poly mesh stays in the foreseen 25k tris (skeleton included), 7 materials (face, body, armor, dress, hair, eyeglass and skeleton) and 5 groups of textures.
The textures are the result of the combined work of me and Denis, who prepared the concept and knew better what should had looked like in-game the colored character output.
5. Finally in-game!
It’s finally time to admire the beauty of Veritas in-game and in real time. Aside from the technical realization, we are really happy with how the character came out visually.
I’m sure she will thrill you as much as creating her thrilled us.
Veritas is a really important character, despite the clothes she is (not) wearing and she will be your one and only ally all along your journey, so… Enjoy. Cya!
Giovanni "Alfier" Vadalà
3D Artist at Indomitus Games