Heroine Progress Report – 3D Modeling

Dec 21, 2010 // GregaMan


Previously, we showed you all the final version of our new heroine, “Aero”, as she would appear in the game. This time, let’s talk about her 3D modeling process. Taking about ten days, the 3D modeling process was highly involved, hence the voluminous the content! In fact, we’re gonna have to break this into multiple posts!

*Note: This installment constitutes Part 2 of our Heroine Progress Report series, the first having been posted on November 16th. Part 3 will continue our discussion of 3D modeling. 

The following post contains shocking images, difficult and potentially unfamiliar verbiage, and other adult situations depicting real-life elements of the development process. Please be advised. Also, hit the jump!


Aero’s 3D modeling was handled by Koike-san, a veteran of the trade who’sdone 3D modeling for such past works as Monster Hunter and Zack and Wiki.


Hi, everybody. I’m Hiroko Koike. This is my first time ever letting fans in on the modeling process (and possibly the first time for Capcom?!), so I’m a teensy bit nervous. . . .

Since our aim is to show you the modeling process as-is, you may see some images that are, er, less than gorgeous, but please show us the same kindness that Aero has.


Q: What do you mean by “3D model”?

A: In terms of game design, it refers to polygonal data created as a representation of a character to appear in-game, and based on that character’s concept art. Here at Capcom, we often just say “model”, the process itself being “modeling”, and one who carries out such a process being a “modeler” or “3D modeler”.


Q: About how long does it take to create one model?

A: It depends on both the character and the game console. Since Aero will be a key character in the main game with which players will interact a great deal, not to mention the fact that she was selected by the fans, she demands a great deal of attention. Combined with other various tasks, her model construction took a total of ten days.


Day One: Creating a Base Model

To start, we made a preparatory “base model”.

At first glance, you may think to yourself, “Uh oh, this don’t look so good!” ::sniff, sniff:: But actually, this will soon become our “base model”–the foundation for what will eventually be the true character model. You could think of the base model as the mannequin out of which Aero will be created.

In the 3D modeling software we’re using for MML3, all shapes are made out of simple polygons like this. Now let’s hurry up and give this block some limbs.

By adding points and lines to the polygon and moving them around, we are able to change its shape, and . . . 

Voila, you get some basic arms and legs.

Then it’s just a matter of adding lots more points and moving them around, until you end up with a much more detailed human figure. At this point, our figure sculpture is almost complete!

Incidentally, in a game such as Mega Man Legends 3 where there’s a need to create a large number of character models, we generally use one base model over and over for the sake of efficiency, altering it as needed for each character.


Once we’ve got the model’s general shape down, it’s time to insert joints so the character can move. The colored “+” symbols represent this character’s joints. 

With joints in place, we can finally move the body’s parts around as shown here:


Keep adding more and more joints, and. . . .


Voila. Once we’ve got enough joints to where the model is able to pull off some pretty good poses, our “base model” is complete. ::does ambiguous pose::

“Whoa whoa whoa, you mean this featureless wonder is our Aero?!” you may be thinking. Yes, yes it is.

Now since that was sort of an on-the-fly explanation of base modeling, it may seem like that all happened really fast. But in reality, the process of calculating the correct placement of joints required for proper movement is not to be underestimated (we’ll show you a little of what that’s all about below)*. Creating an in-game 3D model is an involved, multi-faceted process.

By showing you how a “base model” gradually transforms into our beloved Aero, we hope that this report gives you a clear introduction to the work of a 3D modeler!

It’s been awhile now since our first report. But we’re determined to make sure our model is as cute and charming as Nakashima-san’s design. And with that in mind, our first day draws to a close!


“What’s with all these numbers?! Is this part of making a 3D model?!”

Yup! We modelers have all sorts of parameters to adjust!


Day Two

Once we’ve got our base model, it’s time to balance out the proportions. In preparation, we’ve whipped up a basic rendition of the character with all her parts in place. The above image is a rough representation of Aero to help us get her proportions right.

When creating a character model, in addition to Nakashima-san’s original design artwork, we also have a set of rules decided upon by the team for our reference, which dictate the appropriate proportional balance for characters based on things like their age and gender (see image below).

Though still in the initial stage, we wanted to be sure we took great care in giving Aero a pretty look when her arms are down since her shoulders will be bare in her final rendering.

At any rate, we’ve got a basic rough model. We’ll end our work here today as we look forward to what promises to be the most challenging part of the entire modeling process–the head.


Day 3

Oh geez, oh man. . . . I’ll just apologize up front. Sorry she doesn’t even have any bangs yet!!

Anyhoo, today we’ve whipped up a more detailed version of the model. It’s difficult to grasp a sense of the model’s head size and her body balance without adding color, so here we’ve applied a temporary texture. Looking at the model in bright, vibrant colors such as pink and peach, you get a much better sense of the model’s volume than when looking at it in grey. Now it’s easy to examine her general balance.


Q: What is this “texture” you speak of?

A: Put simply, the texture is a square plane upon which a character’s color and physical surface qualities (“smooth”, “rough”, etc.) are drawn. For the sake of our current context, try to think of it as the process of applying color to our previously colorless figure. Incidentally, textures are prepared separately from the model and then applied afterward.

Without any textures, all we have is a gray, featureless model. It isn’t a complete work until the textures have been applied.

As an example, have a look at the texture-applying process for this servbot.

A flat texture is applied to a three-dimensional shape, making for one adorable li’l servbot! Get the idea?


Q: Is there a set size or quantity for textures?

A: Yes indeed. By increasing the number or size of textures, you are able to improve the quality of your model. But that’s not to say you can just use as many textures as you want. All games on all systems have limits to how much data you can cram into them. How much quality one is able to eke out with these restrictions in place is the true test of a creator’s skill.

Well, Aero still doesn’t have a face, but we’ll stop here for today. Next time, we’ll pick up in a tough spot–her head! Stay tuned!