As some of you know, I’ve had trouble finding the aesthetic that I want—particularly for the miniatures. I tried a number of approaches, but I never achieved the dynamic poses and “chunky” look of old school miniatures. A few weeks ago, my brother sent me a care package with some of our old gaming gear. In the dice pouch of the package were a few Ral Partha miniatures from 1979. These were definitely the look I’m going for.
I picked two of minis (a dwarf with a torch and an ogre with a large club). I took a ton of reference photos and built a rough representation in 3DSMax .
That mesh was then imported into Sculptris for detailing. Sculptris was a lucky find. While Z-brush is the “industry standard” for sculpting, the UI was apparently designed by a blind man describing it to a deaf person. I’ve never been able to overcome the dreadful interface to produce anything useful in Z-brush. I’ve tried Mudbox, which is a huge usability improvement, but I’ve given enough money to Autodesk already. Sculptris is both simple and free.
Once in Sculptris, I sculpted in the details and then exported back out to 3DSMax to render the new high-res mesh into a normal map for the original lo-res representation. I’m definitely getting closer to the look and feel of miniatures, but I obviously cannot blatantly lift all the designs from Ral Partha. I ordered some more generic plastic figures from Amazon and they look to be a good basis to add custom details.
Along the way, I wound up writing a custom mesh exporter/importer. Unity’s default support for FBX files is nice, but it carries with it a lot of overhead I don’t need. Worst of all, to convert the 3DSMax z-up models into Unity’s y-up coordinates, the FBX exporter adds a 90 degree rotation to the model’s transform. Carrying around the transform was polluting all of the rotation code for the miniatures in game. Additionally, Unity insists on applying a 0.1 scale on all FBX model imports. This can be changed, but it’s on a per model basis and a new default can’t be set.
I’m not reinventing a perfectly good wheel just to do it. I’ll be setting up groups of vertices in the future to allow the players to change the colors on the painted miniatures and I don’t won’t to try to piggy-back that on an FBX export.
Next up, we’ll talk about line-of-sight visibility and how that kept me up at night.