Figuring out the style for the 3D characters is going to be... "fun". One thing I've noticed about daggerfall mods is the inconsistent art style. This is by no means surprising, since everyone has their own abilities and interests, and the community is rather small. Thus we end up with a game with high-res textures combined with upscaled textures combined with painted models combined with pixel art and lowpoly models.
If we do decide to make characters 3D, I think we need some sort of agreement of some kind. It doesn't really matter what style is chosen, as long as it is consistent. This becomes especially important when dealing with characters, since a characters body mesh and clothing mesh needs to be designed for each other, otherwise you end up with a lot of clipping.
Proposed Style - Lowpoly, Atlassed
This is just a proposed style, something I would personally choose if I could. Obviously if we do decide to do this project, we would need a discussion and arrive at a real conclusion. But here's my thoughts!
Here are some examples of what I mean by "Lowpoly Atlassed": Example 1 Example 2
These are both models for my personal project, however I would be happy to use the base humanoid mesh / rig for this project, if we decided to go down the lowpoly route. The beauty of lowpoly in my eyes is its ease-of-modeling. Instead of UV-mapping high rez textures, you merely need to create an atlas, and put whatever polygons you wish to color into the correct color squares. In other words, blindingly easy. This alone makes pumping out models much easier to do. Another gain is the fact that anyone can make a simple lowpoly asset (although it may be less quality, of course) - this would allow anyone who wants to make a new weapon in the game to be able to do so, without worry! Finally, another gain is that in my opinion the style fits with the rest of the game - in fact, some meshes in the vanilla game are already lowpoly+flat colored!
As I said, this is just one possible style we could choose from
In Stage 3 and on, there will be characters with complex mixtures of clothing. This becomes especially relevant with Stage 4. Thus, a system needs to be put in place that does 2 things:
- Correctly figures out which clothing needs to be visible / hidden
- Combines all clothings + bodyparts into a single skinned mesh
Stage 1A: 3D Hands
In this stage, we simply replace the 2D hands+weapon animations in the game with a real animated rig. This is by far the easiest stage, and even alone could function as a good mod. In this stage, all weapons are modeled, but merely have texture swaps, just like how weapons icons are done in vanilla. Similarly, the character's hands/arms are gloved, and aren't affected by armor, just like vanilla.
- Animated Rig - Basic melee idle/swing animations, basic cast animation
- Every weapon modeled (Basic Form)
- Hands (Gloved)
Stage 1B: 3D Hands, Extended
This stage doesn't need to be done at this point, technically. It's essentially a extension of Stage1A, with varied animations and armor swapping, as well as skin swapping (skin color dependent on race)
- Armored Hands
- Colored skin
- Animated Rig - Different swing animations per weapon
This stage can be done slowly over time. Essentially, creating all of the different monsters rigs, models and animations. Building a basic animation system that can be shared across everything (including the player and npcs) would be good.
Stage 2: 3D Humanoid Body
This is a very important stage. This defines the creation of the base humanoid characters, from Elf to Khajiits. This includes a base mesh for both female and male, as well as a rig with all of the desired features (IK). I personally vote for it being built in Blender, since that would allow anyone to grab it. This rig and mesh needs to stay somewhat constant after this stage, since any changes would need to be propagated across all animations, armor, body skins, etc. Other notes:
- Feet, legs, arms, and heads for both male+female humanoids sizes should be identical. In other words, most clothing modeled should work for both races when possible, and only creating custom models (chest, obviously) when needed.
- Same goes for races - as many models as possible should work on all races without tweaks
- Race scaling can be implemented - changing leg lengths, arm lengths, etc. This is done by scaling the bones of the rig. This allows for races to be different shapes, but still wear the same armor, bodyskins, and animations.
The next stage is to introduce 3D models for the various NPCs walking around town. This could be done by creating a "costume model" for each NPC. Alternatively individual clothing pieces could be modeled, and then randomly put onto NPCS. However this is proposed to be done at a later stage. Also, walk + idle animations needs to be done here. Also, we can make basic costumes for the custom NPCs (such as the mages guild quest giver).
Stage 4: The Big One
This is the final stage, and is very drawn out. This stage essentially involves modeling all armor and clothing in the game. OH BOY! Luckily this can also be done in stages! During all of this, various animations must also be made, such as attacking animations.
Stage 4A: Single Variants
First, only a few models need to be made. A single pair of pants. A single cuirass. A single shirt. Then each piece of clothing/armor can merely either be invisible for now, or take the form of one of the simple clothings+texture swap
Stage 4B: More Variants
More variants, such as brassieres, can be modeled. Woo hoo. Also more variants for armor! As this goes on, this means we can start distributing clothing to town npcs, if we wish. They will look flashy!
Stage 5: Extra details
Finally, new faces can be made. In truth, these can be done at any time after stage 2, so that's cool. Hair is also needed, as are beards, and rings, and... you get the picture. Extra details!
There are a lot of questions with this proposal. One is - can we make npcs look special and cool, when compared to the special and cool npcs of vanilla (Guild npcs, for example)? Another is - do we have enough firepower to do this at all? And finally, can we come up with a unified style to make this work?
This is obviously just an idea for now, but I would be happy to lead the project if other modelers are interested. Also, a lot of these stages can be done at the same time, or in a different order, I just figured putting them in a list from easy to hard would be a nice idea.
As I mentioned I am no professional modeler, but I can do well enough with low poly modeling. I also have a bunch of models we can use as a base )