Game development tips: easy humans with Morph3D

Jun 26, 2017 at 07:15 pm by nemirc

Morph3D is yet another tool you, as a game developer, can use to create realistic 3d humans for your games or other interactive experiences. Unlike other packages I've covered in the past, Morph3D offers game-ready characters, so you don't need to go through any sort of 3d model optimization or modification before you use them.

For this article, I am using the Morph3D version that is available in the Unity3D Asset Store, although there is a stand-alone software as well. The first thing you notice when you start using Morph3D is that it's pretty much based on old (gen-2 or so) Daz3D figures (although I see some differences in topology, as well as LOD models). That made me wonder if I would require a special license from them. However, when you read the EULA in the Morph3D website, you see you're pretty much covered in that aspect.

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You can get a free base figure and then purchase clothing, hair and other accessories for your characters. I am still getting the hang of it, especially when it comes to creating your custom content, so I will report on that in the near future. One nice touch is that you can even mix and match clothing elements to create a specific style, and even modify the textures to get the desired look. So, you can see the business model is similar to Daz Studio and the Genesis figures, where you can get the base for free, but then you purchase the rest (save for the fact that whatever you buy is already game-ready).

When you load a base figure, you will see you have a lot of morphs. They can help you to change everything from the entire body shape and age of your character, to finer details like nose or eye shape. This is an extremely cool feature since this means you will not be stuck with a specific look and body shape for your character.

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So far, it still sounds pretty similar to Daz Studio or Poser Pro (where you can purchase a game developer license in one way or another). However, the biggest difference here is that the Morph3D characters are already built for game development, and this alone can save you a lot of work. If you are a Daz Studio or Poser user, you're already familiar with the topology of those figures, which means you already know their polygon structure is extremely bad for game development. Daz Studio and Poser include polygon reduction tools, but still those will never provide a result as good as cleaning up the geometry by yourself. When it comes to Morph3D, not only you have a good topology with a good polygon count, you also have 2 additional LODs (level of details) that you can use for low resolution, or very low-resolution models. These low-resolution models also have really good topology, unlike the one you'd get from the automated polygon reduction tools in the other 3d apps.

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Morph3D characters are already setup to use Unity's Mecanim Animator system, so it is very easy to add animations to them, as well as use them as avatars for either player characters or NPCs. Mecanim in Unity still needs a very specific setup for the animations, and that means you can't simply load in a random animation and hope it will work perfectly. You still need to do the animation retargeting all by yourself, especially if you're using animations from certain sources, like Mixamo. Of course, if you plan to use your own keyframe-animated custom animations, the best option is to simply import that character into Maya, do your custom character setup (be it with custom controls or HumanIK), animate, and then export the resulting animation into Unity.

Morph3D is yet another solution for game developers wanting to easily create 3d humans for their creations. Unlike other solutions, Morph3D works right out of the box without any other special setup or additional work. If you are using Unity, you should try out Morph3D now, it's free.

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Sergio Aris ROSA
Sr. Staff Writer

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