As players interact with an avatar of a character for the tangible, it was required to come up with one that allows for several things:
- It needed to be a design that invokes the feeling of many actions.
- It needed to be a guide for the player in game.
- It’s design needs to be appealing to both boys and girls alike.
- It needs to be stable as a tangible.
- The tangible design needs to be able to hide it’s electronics
- It needs to be comfortable to touch and hold.
That the sidekick would be a dragon was something that was decided on very early during development within the team. This resulted due to the idea that a fantasy scenario is most likely going to be the most appealing to young persons of all sexes. However while the initial prototype design was a quadruped dragon, we required something more expressive, that can be animated in game and where electronics (such as lights) can be attached on a tangible model as to create a bigger connection between game and real life and increase the immersion of the player.
While this initial design was not only large enough to potentially fit all electronics inside, appealing and stable, it had a few problems. For one the large horn resulted in a painful sharp spike on the model lead to people having to hold the model in an uncomfortable way by having to wrap their finger around it. Additionally, while not pictured in the 2D image, the 3D model had sharp spikes on the back, as well. As everything was in just a single large image file, animation also became a problem… either redraw the character from scratch every single time to create animations frame by frame, or get into the long work of having to pick apart the character into it’s individual pieces (such as legs, arms, head, etc.) and then just animate those pieces individually like a doll. Finally the question arose where and how to have an LED screen to show information to the player.
So back to the drawing board. The character was adjusted in the following ways:
- The sharp back spiked we rounded off and spread further apart so that the hand can rest on them easily
- Wings were bent upwards in the 3D model as to not have them in the way of the finger.
- Colors were more muted to fit them more with other color temperatures in the game.
- The central horn was reduced to a stump, but in return two “Antennas” were added, bent to the back so that the hand can rest on them.
- The character now holds a “frame” which is where the LED screen rests.
- The tail was bend so it wraps around the body, so that it doesn’t get in the way of a hand holding the tangible.
- The 3D model is “flying” by sitting in a cloud. This cloud also serves two additional purposes by making the model higher and in return easier to grab, as well as being able to hide electronics even further and make the base more stable.
- The image files used a lot of layers from the start, so the idea of a more “doll like” animation was implemented in the drawing from the get go.
These layers were then all turned into their own individual image files and imported into Unity. In Unity, every image files was then rigged with bones, weighted, tested, and finally added into the world.
However, in unity, after importing a boned Game Object and adding in empty objects to represent the bones, resetting the pose to make them workable in animation tends to result in this:
This little hiccup required me to rotate all the individual body parts by 90 degrees, which in return can sometimes lead to weird coordinates as for some body parts the X and Y axis are now flipped.
However after doing this, the fully boned and set up character is now ready to be animated.
This model finally finished allows us to create any and all animations we need for the future of the project… that is until another redesign may be required. But at least then we only need to change individual body parts, and not redesign the entire character from scratch.