At some point in time in your game career, you’ll need to create a character to move within your universe. The character may be the main character that the player controls, or it may be an AI character that is part of the universe. Either way, proper character development is crucial to creating a realistic world and seamless environment.
One of the most common software’s used in character creation is Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine is a 3D design tool used in games, film and tv, architecture, broadcasts, and more. As a creator and artist, this will be one of the most crucial tools in your arsenal.
Of course, creating a professional mesh involves more than just following some basic steps, but we’ll get started with the basic workflow of creating your character.
The Basic Workflow
Unreal Engine outlines a great workflow that will give you a general outline to follow when creating your character. Now, you’ll likely have different sub-steps for each main step depending on your individual design, but this is the core foundation of creating any character.
- Create your art assets (Skeletal Meshes) and animations, using a 3rd party digital content creation (DCC) package such as 3ds Max or Maya.
- Import your Skeletal Meshes and animations into UE4 by creating a new Skeleton asset for new Skeletal Meshes or by reusing an existing Skeleton asset for identical or similar Skeletal Meshes.
- Create a PlayerController script or Blueprint to handle inputs from the player.
- Create a Blueprint or script for a Character or Pawn to parse inputs and control the actual movement (not skeletal animation) of the character.
- Construct the Animation Blueprint for the character.
- Create a GameMode script or Blueprint that utilizes your custom PlayerController and any other custom script assets.
- Play your game!
While this is just a general outline of the steps for Unreal Engine character creation, let’s take a deeper look into each step.
1. Creating Art Assets
As the first step in the process, you’ll be creating art assets. You may find that this process is the most difficult and time-consuming. This is often where new artists feel challenged due to the scope of design, modeling, surfacing, rigging, and animation time before you can utilize Unreal Engine.
2. Importing Skeletal Meshes
Next, you’ll be importing your skeletal meshes. This is in FBX file format, which is owned and developed by Autodesk. This file format allows for seamless content creation between different applications such as Autodesk MotionBuilder, Autodesk Maya, and Autodesk 3ds Max.
Luckily, Unreal Engine has an FBX import pipeline feature which makes the content transfer process smooth and simple. Unreal’s importing system is also very robust, so the importing process is sped up significantly.
3. Creating a Player Controller
Next, you’ll be creating the Player Controller. The Player Controller is a special blueprint that is used to drive a character. For example, moving the analog stick on the controller to the left will translate to moving the character to the left on the screen.
A Player Controller is already an existing class within Unreal, and you can also create a new blueprint with a parent class of Player Controller. This will allow you to set up your own events based on the desired inputs from the player.
4. Creating a Pawn or Character Blueprint
Once you have your Player Controller setup, you can now create your blueprint for your character. This means that you can tell the system how to respond based on inputs from the player. These inputs will eventually translate into actions that move the character on screen.
5. Animation Blueprint
After you have defined the ways that your character will move in the character blueprint, you will then be able to assign specific animations based on the movements in the animation blueprint. This will determine the speed that your character moves.
6. GameMode Setup
The last step before moving on to playing the game is the GameMode setup. A GameMode is a type of class that defines your game. Unreal Engine will have you define the following:
- Default Pawn Class – This will hold the Character class you set up for your in-game character.
- HUD Class – This contains any special heads-up display (HUD) classes created, which are not covered in this document.
- PlayerController Class – This will hold the custom PlayerController you set up for your in-game character.
- Spectator Class – This holds any special classes used to control spectators, or passive players that just watch the action. These are not covered in this document.
- Replay Spectator Class – This holds any special classes used to control spectators when in a replay. These are not covered in this document.
- Game State Class – This class controls any special rules or setup for how your game will be played, but is not covered in this document.
- Player State Class – This class defines any special rules for replicating relevant player information to all clients.
The Key to Professional Game Design
While these are just the bare bones of the process for using Unreal Engine for character creation, there is so much more when it comes to achieving professional game design. Many artists take years of self-teaching and still never achieve the professional look that they desire.
When it comes to creating a professional-looking character for your portfolio, it’s important to stand out… especially if you’re looking to land a great job within the industry. You can fast-track your success with this by enlisting the help of teachers and mentors. The key to professional game design is learning from the best in the industry!
If you’re ready to take your art to the next level, then you can learn from the best artists worldwide in the Unreal Engine Character Creation Course. This course is designed to help you create a game-ready character from start to finish.
With the Unreal Engine Character Creation Bootcamp, you’ll have a portfolio-ready character that will impress your future employer. You’ll learn to sculpt the face and body in Zbrush, create clothing in Marvelous Designer, create low resolution topology and UVs, create materials and light your character in Unreal Engine, and more.