Do you remember these little animation videos with stick figures fighting each other with guns, swords and magic powers? All that with cool visual effects and sounds. It didn’t take long and people started making games with stickmans. But how to actually create a stickman model in Blender? Or maybe you should start from detail-rich, real human model?
This article is second lesson of my RPG game making tutorial that covers how to use free game engine Unity and 3D modeling tool Blender. If you want to know how to make your first 3D game (of RPG type), learn C# programming, use Unity and make first models in blender, then you should give it a try.
The main program we use is Unity, that’s why I started this guide from getting Unity and registering account. If you don’t know how to get Unity, then check the last chapter where I explained the process of installing, downloading Unity and registering an account as well as the price and royalties of this game engine.
A lot of aspiring game designers give up right on the start. That’s because to make a game, you don’t only need to learn how to code it, but you also need to know how to make assets for your project. This is often done in third party software, therefore you have to learn a lot of interfaces in the same time.
That, and the less than ideal Blender’s UI and controls, were making it even harder. However, Blender got updated recently, and now it’s a pleasure to use it.
Not only that, but you can actually do the whole modeling, rigging, and animating part for free. In fact, you can create your whole game for free and with some skills involved, the results may be of outstanding quality. So let’s get started.
Table Of Contents
Introduction To Blender Modeling
You will be using this tool during your whole journey, so let’s explain the fundamentals.
Cost Of Use
Blender always was, is, and most likely always will be free to use. Anything you create in it can be legally used in games, videos, anything, even sold directly.
Actually you’re making quite a good deal when using this software, because you’re learning a valuable skill in most popular software in this field.
It means if you will ever want to work as 3D modeler for other people videos, animations and games, you will most likely use Blender, as it’s most common modeling software. Because it’s free. Companies want to save when they can. And alternatives are quite pricey.
Is Blender Bad?
People think free and easily obtained things are worse than alternatives. Is it true? You for sure can’t change what people think in general, but in this particular case, no one counts one, pillar factor. The brand.
Free and cheap things can be for sure of worse quality than its paid and expensive alternatives. But that’s only the case when you don’t count the brand into account.
Is Blender Foundation a bad company? They deliver valuable world-popular product containing huge functionality. If they wanted, they could give it a price and sell it instead. Or implement paid membership alternative like Unity, locking some features for free users.
It is a good company for sure. And the modeling tool itself isn’t any worse than its paid alternatives. The only rational reason someone would switch to paid software in the past, was how confusing the application was in usage.
Blender wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable software to use in the past. It was doing same work if not even better work, that its paid alternatives did, but using it was a tough.
Past & Future
There’s a huge difference in look and usage between past version of Blender and current.
Till recently, Blender always had very ugly, gray GUI. Even despite assuming beauty is subjective, you could go as far and say that Blender was objectively ugly. Even before you started working in it, its ancient look was spiking daunting feelings inside you.
There were many times when I closed the application as soon as I launched it, because of how negatively it looked. It changed, and the ugly GUI is gone. Now it has a modern looking, black skin.
It always had counter-intuitive controls. In every program you used for editing photos like Photoshop or Gimp, for making models like Maya, or even in systems like Windows, Linux, the left and right button were doing same things.
Left would select an object, or draw a selection window. Right would open a context menu. But Blender? Totally opposite. The controls were reversed. 3D modeling software are already hard on their own, there’s no need to additionally reverse the controls!
There was an option to turn it off in settings, but it made other things harder to do. And that’s why along with how program looked like, people were paying for alternatives. However now it changed, and it works just fine. Program is in the state where it’s pleasure to use it with default options.
Is Blender Best?
We already explained whether its a bad software or not, because its natural to think badly about free things. But the answer raised another question – is it best program for 3D creations? I haven’t used all of the alternatives, therefore it’s hard for me to say.
If you don’t have an access to a paid, pricey product, read the reviews. Some opinions may be fake, but in most cases if a product is suggested by the majority, then you could say it’s either best or second best choice.
Best Alternative Modeling Software
Here’s the list of Blender alternatives:
- Cinema 4D.
- 3DS MAX Design.
- Lightwave 3D
Maya and Autodesk are most widely preferred when Blender is not used for some reason. However, they are locked behind a high price, and it’s not an one time payment either, but an yearly subscription. I am confident that even if Blender is not the best tool, its either in second or third place, so you shouldn’t buy alternative unless you have a very good reason.
Blender Download & Setup
If you have older version of it (or don’t have it at all), then make sure to download the newest version from here. Then install. Blender beta versions need to be extracted from archive, and stable versions contain installers.
Most likely if a download is featured on their homepage then its a stable version. You need the newest version because the things I will explain during the tutorial would be done differently in previous versions. The better version, which I talked about through the article, is currently in beta.
So make sure to download 2.80 instead of 2.79 if at the time of you following this tutorial, the 2.80 is still in beta. If there’s newer version than 2.80 then go ahead and download it.
If you want to put the beta in default installation folder for stable versions, then the path is “C:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender”.
Creating Player Character Skeleton
We will start our character creation from a skeleton. You can create trees, stones, dragons, and many other things this way. Probably the biggest positive of using this method is how it changes troublesome and hard into quick and easy.
First Program Run
Time to finally run Blender and do the job.
After installation, an shortcut should appear on desktop. I like to change it from small “b” to big “B” so it looks better. If you use beta version, then the shortcut wasn’t created.
I recommend creating a shortcut pointing to “blender.exe” inside program directory and putting it on your desktop, as we will use the program a lot.
Such window will pop up:
You can either click New File > General or just click on the background and it will disappear.
This step is not necessary, but I like to save all new projects instantly so press Shift + CTRL + S and save it on your desktop or somewhere.
Its advised to save from time to time anyway so specifying the path right at the start is good thing to do.
Deleting Camera & Light
We will have our own light and camera in Unity so there’s no need to keep them. Click camera, then Shift + Click the light, it will select two things in same time without cancelling selection. Now press Delete or Right Click > Delete.
Front Orthographic View
The reason why we will use front orthographic view is because the way the camera is now, it would be hard to design our character. Press 1 on numeric keypad (numpad – the small keyboard on the right that you never use). Box should look like this now:
Merging Cube Vertices
We don’t need the box. But we need one of its vertices. When in default, Object Mode, Click the box. It should highlight. Now Press Tab, it should switch to Edit Mode and change the way it highlights objects. Right Click the box, then Merge Vertices > At Center. You should have a small point in the center now.
Drawing Stickman Skeleton
We’ve changed box not only into our first vertex but also into our first bone. The first bone a model gets during creation is called root bone, and is used to move the model without modifying it.
So lets create our second bone, which is always the pelvis. Press E and place it one “point” below. It doesn’t have to be pixel-perfect, but put it close to the place where lines are crossing:
So it looks like this:
It looks almost pixel-perfect. We will make the tool automatically do this for us.
Snapping To Grid
Right Click the vertex we just created, then Snap Vertices > Selection To Grid. It should move the selected vertex to the nearest grid point. Click this at the top center of our program window:
So it highlights this way. It makes all vertices we will create pixel-perfect. Draw a skeleton of our character. You don’t need to worry about head.
Select all his vertices afterwards so he highlights like on screenshot.
Designing Player Character Body
We have to give him a body now. Make sure that all the vertices are selected and highlighted.
Click Modifiers on the right:
Then Add Modifier > Skin. Then Add Modifier > Subdivision Surface.
Customizing Skin Modifier
Click Smooth Shading in Skin’s window. So our body doesn’t look like skeleton from Minecraft. Press CTRL + A, and pull the drag the mouse till you get preferred body size. You can also type a number on keyboard. I gave my model a number of one and a half. Type 1.5 then save it with Enter.
Looks pretty good for a start.
We could even leave the character the way it looks now and it could still appear well to some people. However lets make him look more like a human.
Adding head to an object with Skin Modifier is not the wisest thing to do, because such head, is full of vertices. And Skin Modifier will create additional vertices to every of our vertex! So that may cause program crash. So Press CTRL + S to save in case you do this unintentionally despite knowing the risk.
To avoid the infamous crash, deselect everything. Make sure our character is not selected here:
Therefore its not highlighted. At the top of our program, Click Add > UV Sphere:
It should add new mesh.
The default size is a bit too big. After creation, Press S, then Type 0.9, and Press Enter. The head spawned at the center. Lets drag it to our neck. Press G to go into moving mode. Press Object > Shade Smooth to make it look like our body.
Finalizing Our Player Model
Our person/stickman character model is done. It is not an detailed human model like in World of Warcraft or Guild Wars and you may wonder why I went with a stickman.
I did it because it would be simply wrong to stuff huge tutorial for creating super detailed human models here considering that its a part of bigger guide and we still have to create our game.
Select body with Click and go into Material on the right:
Then Base Color > Black (or any you want). Do the same for head. It will not update in our view, but it will have our new color in Unity.
Rigging is the process of either automatic or manual bone creating. In our next lesson we will use automatic rigger so we don’t need to do place bones individually.
Select our body in Blender and in Modifiers, in Skin’s window Click Create Armature.
It will create bones for us. Now we have to name them sensibly in our hierarchy panel.
CTRL + S to save. To export, Click File > Export > FBX. I called my model “Character.fbx” and exported it to Desktop. FBX is the format preferred and supported by Unity, Unreal Engine 4, other engines, frameworks and programs.
See how easy it was to create our first humanoid character? But before we use Unity, we actually need to create animations for this model. We need them for situations when player decides to run, jump, or attack other players. Animating our model can be done in programs like Blender, but there’s also easier way of doing it with Adobe’s Mixamo. So head to our next chapter where we will be creating character movement animations, character animation is something that most indie game developers try to stay away from, because it’s hard to make smooth movement clips, however with the little trick I’m about to explain to you, it will take only few minutes!