From the Creator’s Desk: The Valkyrie Battle Cyborg

By: Vladimir Silkin, Lead 3D Artist at Plarium Global

In the following article I'm going to detail all of the creative processes & technical methodologies that were involved in creating the awesome character of Valkyrie -the star of the show in the best-selling online browser MMO game, Total Domination. I'll take you behind the scenes and reveal the design programs I prefer the use, so that you get to enjoy a character that really comes alive on your screen. Sit back, relax and enjoy the creation of the Valkyrie battle cyborg!

Character Concept Development

Let's get right to it – there's a lot to share with you. The design process needs some sort of inspiration – a catalyst if you may. There are all sorts of concepts and ideas that creators use – myself included – to get the ball rolling. Originally, I envisioned our Valkyrie unit to be a female volunteer soldier with the ability to transform into a flying battle cyborg. It was really important to me to implement a strong, assertive female character in Total Domination to allow many more people to experience the awesome appeal of Plarium’s games. That was my point of departure. The next step for me was to do some research. Great resources to use at this stage of the game are Google images or even CGHub. 

Then I put together my preferred image references onto a high resolution image for the purposes of having a single reference point. I constantly refer back to this point throughout the character development process:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg process

The Sculpting Process

Right! Next up in our process is sculpting. I go through loads of Cyborg & Robot images, before I develop a Character Model Vision. I prefer to create a base model with zBrush ‘DynaMesh’, as I find this to be the ideal solution for free-form sculpting. It's great because you don't need to focus on topological constraints. During the creation process, the technique that I use is based on Eat3D. It's really important for me to maintain the right female body proportions so I use a sub-tool, from another female character that I created - a project named Armor. Next up, I layered the Armor sub-tool beneath the Valkyrie sub-tool layer and then converted it to DynaMesh.

From there it’s off to the Armor sub-tool to begin construction of Valkyrie's armor. This I did with the Clay Build-Up Brush. By this stage of the character creation process, you can see how things are progressing below:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg full body

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg profile

The Modelling Process

This is where things get even more interesting. Next, I move the model in zBrush to 3Ds Max by using GoZ. This allows me to use Fair Copy Modeling and it also allows me to retopolagize the Armor Elements of the character. The reason why I prefer to use 3Ds Max is that it has a built-in Graphite Modeling Tools feature – it's pretty awesome. The next step for me is to create a regular Plane, which can then be converted to Editable Poly. Following this, I set the On Surface, Step Build and Off-Set parameters – found in the Freedom tab. I use the zBrush template by clicking the pick button. After I’ve set the points, I drag across them LMB (while holding the SHIFT KEY). I don't particularly like too much density in the mesh, so I opt for the Turbo Smooth feature during this stage of the process. When modeling parts of armor, I tend to start at the top and work my way down. Functionality is always important to me when it comes to moving parts in character creation.

In our case, Valkyrie needs to be able to move her arms freely, sit down, or move around in the most realistic way possible:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg suit

The Texturizing & Material Adjustment Process

When the model was initially thought up, it was supposed to be used in illustrations and video, not 3D engines. Therefore I wasn't actually trying to create all of the elements with a single texture. I decided to split the projects into multiple 4090 x 4096 pixel textures. I started UV mapping these textures into zBrush by using GoZ. This was constructed with the UV master plug-in. The textures were created using Photoshop since I was determined to maintain the structure of the layers. In order to create this, you need to use as a Diffuse map and then simply copy it.

Next up, you create a map from the copy while simultaneously creating a mask for fractures and flares. For the purposes of model visualization, I opted for VrayBlendMtl for the material slots found in Vray Render. Texture is important to me, and I felt that it was the perfect complement for my original concept. If you're wondering about the materials for other parts of body armor, they are created in much the same way. Below is an example of the Material Settings as well as a Texturized Model:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg testing design

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg testing costume Valkyrie Battle Cyborg draft

The Weapon Creation Process

The weapon creation process is pretty awesome! The Valkyrie unit uses a Silenced Automatic Pulse Rifle. In order to create this, I use the exact same Texturizing Algorithm as I used to create the general armor parts - you'll see it all listed above. Take a look at the weapons that were created during the modeling stage:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg weapon

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg weapon 2

The Rig & Scene Construction Process

Now that the texturized model has been completed, I can move on to the rig & scene construction part of the process. To do this, I use a standard Biped for the base component and for great reflections I use a 3-Radiant Scheme and HDR card. The visualizations were created using Vray.

Take a look at the render settings that I used during this part of the character creation process:

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg positioning

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg positioning process

In Conclusion

It’s an exciting world when you're dealing with gaming character creation and functionality. I’ve tried to give you many insights into the world of gaming character creation - perhaps some of you will be inspired to give it a go? Personally, I recommend becoming a 2D/3D artist as a career choice; it's challenging, rewarding and thoroughly entertaining at the same time. Now that you've got the inside scoop, you'll no doubt enjoy Total Domination from Plarium so much more!

Valkyrie Battle Cyborg final design