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Game Character Creation Series: Kila Chapter 10 - Level of Detail Variations

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Well, it had to happen eventually, but we have reached the final part of the Game Character Creation Series. We have had fun over the previous nine tutorials, and hopefully you have learned a lot, but even though this is the last in this series it’s still a crucial part of the real time character building process.

Throughout this course we have talked in detail about optimization. Whether that was geometry, texture size or even joint limits, we have always had restrictions to work within to maintain an economical and game friendly model and rig.

In Part 10 we will take model optimization to the next level as we look at making Kila even more efficient when she is viewed at any distance. To do this we will need to be harsh and strip her down to her base geometry, reducing her to mere shapes and colors as we create her various level of detail models.

What are LODs?

Every game, be it for a high end PC, a console like the Playstation 4, or even aimed at the more modest mobile market will utilize level of detail models. These models are simply lower resolution versions of the main character, prop or vehicle which are swapped in as they move away from the game camera.

If we take Kila as an example. She currently weighs in at around 10,700 polygons, which is quite modest by some of today’s standards. This is fine as she is close to the camera, but as she moves into the distance you lose most of her details as she occupies fewer pixels on screen. The problem is, the game engine will still be processing most of the geometry. Take the rest of the environment into account, plus non player characters, vehicles and particle effects and the processor starts to quickly reach its limits.

In order for things to run smoothly you need to keep an eye on the overall polygon count, so to do this, Level of Detail models or LODs for short, are used.

As Kila walks into the distance she seamlessly swaps from her 10,700 polygon model down to a lighter 7,000 polygon version. This then eventually changes to a 3,000 polygon model, and continues to drop through each version until she simply can’t be seen. If done correctly you may not even notice.

Watch as you play any game and you will see this happening as the character, (or vehicle, or prop) suddenly pops as the models swap to a lower, boxier version.

1. Creating Your LODs

There are various approaches to creating level of detail models. Some more advanced systems are code based, meaning that the model is dynamically reduced by the game engine at set distances. Others are a little more involved with the artists’ 3D application having a built in “reduce” option to do some of the work for you, although in practice these often leave the artist with more clean-up work to do.

There are even stand along applications which will optimize the geometry for you and output the various resolutions, ready to use.

In this tutorial you will be going back to basics and taking a much more traditional, hands on approach which means you can be in full control of just what is removed from where. This means you can ensure deforming areas work correctly, at any distance, and you can also strive to avoid the dreaded and sometimes obvious LOD pop mentioned earlier.

With the approach decided the next question you should be asking is what are the target polygon limits for each model? Ideally, to remain economical, the total polygon count of all your LODs shouldn’t exceed that of the main model.

If Kila is 10,700 polygons then you should be looking at the following limits.

  • LOD 1 – 10,700
  • LOD 2 – 7,000
  • LOD 3 – 3,000
  • LOD 4 – 450

So all the lower level of detail models add up to 10,450 which is below the polygon count on the highest, allowing for a little wiggle room should you need it.

Step 1: LOD Preparation

So where do you begin with Kila?

You have the main model which is the primary LOD. This is good for use when she is closer to the camera as she has all the major details so you can move your focus onto the second level of detail.

  • Begin by loading Kila_LOD_Start.ma.

  • Now rename the model of Kila to Kila_LOD01_10666, which shows which LOD it is, and the current polygon count. Feel free to adjust this to match your own polygon count if it differs.

Initially you will need a copy of this model to work upon, but as she is currently rigged you need to make sure the duplicate is in the default pose. This is so each new version you create has an identical pose, meaning they all match and line up with the rig when you come to reattach them to the skeleton.

  • Go to Modify > Evaluate Nodes > Ignore All.

  • Now select the Kila_LOD01_10666 model.

  • Go to Skin > Go To Bind Pose.

You should notice the head move slightly, which is exactly what you were looking for.

  • Now duplicate the Kila model and rename this to Kila_LOD02_7k so you know which level of detail it is you are working on, and the desired polygon count.

  • You can now hide everything else in the scene so you can focus on just this model.

Note: You might also need to unlock the models attributes if you want to move, rotate, or scale her.

Tip: To work in a safer environment why not delete the rig and save this scene separately. You can always import all the LODs back into the rigged scene once you are finished.

2. LOD 02 – 7,000 Polygons

Now you have the first duplicate you are ready to start working, but before you do it’s beneficial to visualize roughly how this 7,000 polygon level of detail will be seen in game.

  • To do this simply zoom out slightly, so she is roughly half the size, as demonstrated in the image below.

It’s a basic step but it’s crucial to see the model like this so you know exactly which details can be removed as they simply aren’t seen at this distance.

  • Spend some time now examining Kila while keeping her at a distance. Rotate around her and look at what can be sacrificed.

There will be plenty of obvious places you should spot straight away, but remember that this LOD also needs to remain as close to the original as possible, with no drastic reduction happening at this stage. This will help to reduce the amount of LOD pop as the models swap.

  • Now you have examined the model for a while you can zoom back in and start chipping away at the polygon count, removing enough geometry to reach your 7,000 polygon goal.

Obvious places which just can’t be seen at the target distance should go first, but then the focus should shift to topology. Tiny polygons and ones which don’t add greatly to the volume of the model should be deleted next, as should any geometry which is essentially hidden.

Note: You must always keep in mind that areas which need to deform, like her face, knees, elbows etc. will still need to at the target distance, so don`t remove too much geometry from those areas at this stage.

Let’s work through some key areas to focus on.

Note: In this tutorial we won’t be walking through the removal of each and every polygon. Instead we will focus on key areas to work on to give you the general idea.

  • The first area to remove would be her eyelashes. These are relatively quite small, and from the test distance not really noticeable.

  • Next you should reduce her inner mouth elements, so in this case that would be her teeth and tongue. At the target distance you won`t see every tooth so this is a good place to chop out a good amount of geometry.

Step 1: Head Reduction

Densely populated areas, like the face and hands should be the next area to work on but, as mentioned, you do need to be careful as they will still need to deform convincingly.

  • At this level you are simply looking to reduce hidden geometry, or small polygons. So with the head you can safely work on her scalp and ears which are hidden by her hair for most of the time.

Note: The best workflow for reducing textured models is to use the Edge Collapse, or Delete Edge tools. This will remove the geometry while also maintaining the UV layout.

  • With her face, try to find smaller geometry and follow edge loops and rings to keep the topology clean. Her lips and around her cheeks can easily be optimized here, with little noticeable effect.

  • Kila's eyes can also be simplified. The main eyeball can be reduced, and her iris can also be less rounded, again, you won`t tell the difference at the target distance.

  • Finally move onto her hair and strip out any dense edge loops over her scalp.

Tip: Remember to use the Isolate Selected tool to quickly hide areas you aren't working on. This is a great way to focus on the eyes, or just the head without the rest of the model being in your way.

Step 2: Hand Reduction

The hands are next to work on. You will see that there is a lot of extra topology in each finger which only adds to the shape in a slight way. This is mostly over each knuckle which helps the fingers to bend, and between each knuckle along the fingers length which adds a slight bulge.

  • Go in and remove these now by simply selecting the edge loops and deleting the edges.

  • You can then focus on the back of the hand and the palm, removing a full edge ring which flows around the hand.

  • While you’re here you might as well chop some geometry out of her bracelet too.

Step 3: Foot & Lower Leg Reduction

Moving on you can now drop to the lower end of her body and look at Kila's feet. Again, looking at them you can see you added lots of extra geometry to round off her shoes and reduce the jaggedness of the model, this can now all be trimmed away.

  • If you look around the side of the trainers, above and below the red stripe, you will see a slight bevel. This is so small that at a distance it won't be seen. Perfect to remove!

  • You can also work around the circumference of her footwear, collapsing every other edge ring. Close up it will look more angular, but from a set distance it looks no different.

What you will find now is since you removed geometry from around the outside of the trainer, the upper part seems almost out of balance. It’s this effect which will happen frequently as you work. One area will be reduced, and in doing so another will suddenly become an obvious candidate for optimization.

  • Continue to reduce the upper trainer, and feel free to follow the natural flow of your work onto her lower, and then upper legs.

Note: When reducing the geometry on any model with normal maps you may notice that the resulting area may not appear as smooth as the original. Areas may also appear darker, but don't worry about this now as we will look into a quick way to combat this later in the tutorial.

Step 4: Torso Reduction

We have looked at Kila's extremities so it’s time to now focus on her core. There is plenty you can remove from her torso, and in doing so should highlight other areas to work on.

The chest is an obvious candidate for reduction. This area has lots of smaller polygons simply because in the original model needed a nice curve in its silhouette.

  • A good place to start with the chest is to collapse alternate horizontal edge rings. This will quickly half the amount of geometry here.

  • If you stay on the shirt, the rim around the bottom can also be collapsed. It’s quite slim so again, won't be seen at a distance.

  • You can then focus on her stomach and shoulders, removing an edge ring initially before zooming out to see if you can afford to collapse any more.

Note: Keep an eye on your UV seams and make sure you correct the UVs if the model is altered in a dramatic, and noticeable way.

While working on the front of her torso you will inadvertently end up editing her back. As you select and collapse edge rings, they obviously flow around the whole model, saving you time in the long run.

However, there is more you can do.

  • Originally, geometry was added to Kila to enhance the creases in her shirt. These are prime for removal as they only add a slight hint of detail at a distance.

  • The upper section of her jeans can be reduced. The edge ring around the center only adds a little curvature here which works up close, but won't make a difference on this LOD.

  • You can also remove the bevel which adds a lip to the lower part of the same section.

  • Finally, the curvature of her buttocks could cope with losing a horizontal edge ring or two.

Now those key areas have been reduced continue to work around the model, collapsing and deleting more edges until you reach your 7,000 polygon goal. Remember you are looking for hidden geometry, small polygons or edges which don't add greatly to the volume of the character.

If you aren't confident make sure you zoom out to the target distance before and after you remove the geometry. At the end of the day, if something doesn't work you can always hit Undo!

With the first pass complete you can see that once zoomed out there is little, if any noticeable difference between the two levels of detail.

Ideally you want to zoom out and let Maya automatically swap the models for you so you can visualize just how close they are. This is something we will look at later in the tutorial.

Tip: Don't worry if you haven't reached you target polygon count. If you feel like you are getting to a stage where you can’t see many more geometry to remove then leave this model and start to work on the next. You can always come back to this one later.

3. LOD 03 – 3,000 Polygons

The first LOD is complete, or at the very least you have taken a huge chunk off the polygon count and intend to revisit it later.

For the next level of detail you follow exactly the same process, except you duplicate LOD 2, rather than the main model to give you your starting point. The good news is that you have less geometry to play with, plus this version is further away from the camera, so you can afford to be a bit more aggressive with your polygon removal.

  • Duplicate Kila_LOD02_7k and rename this to Kila_LOD03_3k.

  • Hide the other models in the scene and focus on the new duplicate.

  • Again, begin by zooming out so this LOD is half the size of the previous so you can visualize how it will be seen in game.

You are further away now, and at a point where her eyes are just a few pixels in size. It’s this that you need to keep in mind as you work because it’s easy when your close up to keep small details which aren't needed.

Tip: As you’re working on this lower LOD, keep an eye out for extra ways in which you can remove more from the previous LOD if you need to go back to it.

So, the process begins again, exactly as you did before except you can be less conservative.

Step 1: Head Reduction

Judging from the distance test you should be able to remove a lot of geometry from the head in general.

  • Begin with the inner mouth again, reducing the teeth to flat, curved planes.

  • Next work on the eyes. Remember that at the specified distance these were mere pixels on the screen, but it’s probably a good idea to keep the iris, just in case.

Note: It’s important to state that the distance test is a rough guide, so it’s better to be safe and cater for the model being slightly closer. The distances may change depending on how the game is running, so don't eliminate important features just yet.

As you reduce the face further remember that she may still have facial animation, even at this distance, so retain some topology to ensure it’s still able to deform.

  • Her lips, cheeks and chin can easily lose a few edge loops now, as can her eye lids, so optimize these areas next.

  • The ears are a prime target and could even be reduced so they are now almost flat.

  • Kila has two layers of hair, at this distance it would be safe to remove the inner layer which will free up lots of geometry.

  • Moving down from her head, remove the extra edge rings in her neck and don't be afraid to work a little on her clavicle and shoulders too.

Step 2: Hand Reduction

Moving on to Kila's hands and arms, and for this LOD you don't need the nicely rounded fingers you kept previously. At most as she animates you may spot individual finger movements, but no actual shape detail.

  • This time you can afford to delete vertical edges along each fingers length, essentially turning them into four sided digits rather than eight.

  • Once the fingers are reduced you should naturally get a feel for where to head next, which will be around the base of the fingers where they meet the hand. This edge ring can be completely collapsed, which will take a bit more work afterwards to get nice and clean topology, but it’s worth it.

  • You can follow this by reducing the hand to match the fingers new resolution, which in turn should follow on to her wrist and eventually up her arm.

Step 3: Foot & Lower Leg Reduction

Back down to Kila's feet and lower legs now, and this time you don't need all the extra geometry added to give the creases in her jeans more shape. Again, judge for yourself what you can safely remove at the target distance before you begin.

  • Looking at the feet first and the slight curve along the inner and outer sides of each trainer can now be removed as this will add nothing to this LOD.

  • Now work on the upper foot, reducing it to match the side’s new topology, but keep a slight curve over the top of her feet, don't flatten them just yet.

Note: Remember to keep enough geometry so the toes can still bend.

  • This should lead you nicely onto her jeans, and for this LOD you can safely remove almost all of the added crease geometry.

  • Finally, you can reduce the actual divisions around her legs now from eight to five, but keep geometry available at the knee so it can still bend.

Step 4: Torso Reduction

Back to Kila's torso now and here you can continue the work you were doing for the previous LOD. Working on the same areas, except reducing a step further.

With that said, the belt can now come in to play and be worked upon first.

  • There are two ways to optimize the belt. The first would be to remove the inside and edge geometry, essentially making it a flat cylinder. So here you have more than halved the amount of polygons used.

Note: You may need to check with your team to see if your game engine can handle double sided geometry for the belt to work this way, and if it does, how do you flag it so the engine will know to enable it for this area.

  • The second step is to simply collapse every second edge ring, again halving the amount of polygons.

Now you can move onto her torso and continue the steps you followed for the previous LOD.

  • Start by removing edge rings from her chest area. Yes, this will mean they are more angular, but this won't be an issue when she is in the game.

  • Next remove more edge rings from around her middle, both horizontally and vertically.

When you remove geometry vertically, like around her stomach for example, this will inevitably impact on her shirt and also her jeans. This will then lead you to follow that vertical reduction through to these areas, and so on etc. This is what was meant earlier when I mentioned that reducing one area will suddenly open up another, obvious point to work on.

That’s your third level of detail model complete, and by now you should be getting a feel for how to approach model optimization and reduction.

If you look at the new LOD now at the target distance you shouldn't be able to see any differences, which is exactly what you need.

4. LOD 04 – 450 Polygons

You’re now onto your final LOD, and as this is the lowest iteration all bets are off.

With this version you are looking for a basic representation of Kila, and as she will be the furthest from the camera any major details won’t be seen. You may not even see her talking, or her individual fingers moving and bending. What’s more, accessories like her bracelet, MP3 player and belt may well be so small that there is no point including them.

  • Duplicate Kila_LOD02_3k and rename this to Kila_LOD03_450.

  • Hide the other models in the scene and focus on the new, duplicate.

  • For the final time begin by zooming out so you can visualize how this LOD will be seen in game. Around half the size of the previous level of details distance should be a good starting point.

As you can see, at this distance she is reduced to simple colors and shapes. Her facial features have all but disappeared, and so have her hands. Her feet also now only occupy a few pale pixels on the screen.

Step 1: Head Reduction

At this distance all you need is something which will move and look very roughly like Kila, so don't be precious about any form of detail and remember not to be too concerned by what she looks like close up. No matter how horrible she appears it doesn't matter.

  • An obvious starting point is to simply delete her eyes and inner mouth, in fact her eye sockets and mouth can also be closed.

  • Her face just needs to hold a general shape, so try to retain the basic structure. Head, chin, nose etc.

  • Kila's hair can now also be reduced to a simple shape, rather than individual strips. This should also allow you to remove more geometry.

Kila now looks like some hideous creature whose eyes have been torn free from their sockets. Her face is deformed and the UV`s are all over the place, but remember to keep zooming out to remind, and reassure yourself of how she will actually be seen.

Step 2: Hand Reduction

Onto the hands and even though they are no longer visible it’s important to have something to represent them, even if it is a simple triangular shape.

  • Feel free to simply weld all the fingers and the thumb to create a simple pointy, mitten style hand.

  • You will need to also correct the UVs in this area, but don't worry too much about how they look, so long as they are at least connected with no major seams visible.

  • This reduction can then be followed through to the wrist and up the arm, turning them into simple four sided limbs.

Step 3: Foot & Lower Leg Reduction

If you remember, the feet at this target distance were just a few white pixels on the screen, so there is no need to retain any curvature or depth on this LOD.

  • The feet, just like the hands, can be very basic models. The edges can be removed, almost flattening the trainers, with most of the curvature around them being stripped away.

  • Again, this can then follow on to the lower legs, turning them, like the arms, into four sided shapes, but keep a few polygons in the knees so they can still bend without collapsing.

Step 4: Torso Reduction

The torso for this LOD is the last area to focus on, and at this stage all you are looking for is some basic geometry with enough vertices to enable her to have simple waist and upper body definition.

  • The area around her stomach and lower back can, just like her limbs, become a simple four sided shape.

  • This can then be followed up to her chest which needs a little more definition, but not much, just so when she is viewed from the side there is a hint of shape.

Don`t worry about the texture looking wrong at this stage. Remember that as you work you will be looking at a high resolution texture which will most likely be reduced by the game engine using Mip Mapping, so in actual fact this lower LOD may eventually only have a few simple colors applied.

With the final level of detail model complete you can again zoom out and see that at the target distance there is no difference between the higher resolution model, and this, except the obvious fact that one has over 10,000 polygons less.

5. LOD Group

With the LODs built you could now safely attach them to the skeleton and export everything. You would then be able to see an economical Kila running around in game, regardless of how far away she is from the camera.

However, before you do this it would be great if you could visualize the models swapping at set distances without going into the game engine. This way you can check to see how seamlessly the models swap, and make any final adjustments or tweaks before everything is sent into the game.

Fortunately in Maya there is a simple way to do this, and that is by creating an LOD Group. This essentially groups the models, and allows you to set their visibility depending on how far they are from the camera.

What’s more, this data could also be taken into the game engine meaning you are in control of how, and when they will appear in game.

Before you create your LOD group it’s a good idea to do a bit of spring cleaning.

The first thing to do is quickly rename your models, just so they are up to date with the correct information. This is just a personal step, so it’s not essential, but I like to keep my scenes organized so if someone else were to view these models they will know their statistics instantly.

  • Rename your LODs as follows, but add your own polygon counts on the end –

  • Kila_LOD01_10666
  • Kila_LOD02_6986
  • Kila_LOD03_2970
  • Kila_LOD04_410
  • Now select your models in order, highest to lowest.

  • Go to Edit > Level Of Detail > Group.

Your models will now be placed beneath a new group called lodGroup1. You will also notice that three have vanished, leaving just one visible. This is because that LOD is being told to be shown at that distance from the camera.

  • If you now zoom in and out the other LODs will swap into view at different distances.

The issue you may have at this point is the default distances are no doubt completely wrong, and at some stages you’re probably seeing nothing at all.

  • Select the lodGroup1 node and look in the Channel Box.

You will see the usual transform attributes but beneath these are a series of new attributes called Threshhold[0], Threshold[1] and Threshold[2]. These dictate at what distance each model will be shown, so each Threshold attribute simply refers to a certain model in the group.

Beneath this you will also see a greyed out Distance attribute. This shows how far away Kila currently is from the camera, which is ideal as you can use this value to judge the best distances for your characters LODs.

  • First of all experiment with the Distance value. Zoom in and out of Kila in the viewport so you get an idea of what values work for her. These should be distances where the lower level of detail models don't appear to have an obviously smaller amount of geometry, so it’s almost as if nothing has changed.

  • Set the Threshold values to 500, 1500 and 6000 as a starting point.

Now if you zoom in and out of Kila, the models will swap in a much more predictable way, and you may not even notice them doing it. In fact the only way you might be able to tell is through the lodGroup1 nodes Active Level attribute, which tells you which LOD is currently visible.

If this is the case then well done! What you can do now is finally see the model swapping at set distances, which will also highlight any modeling issues for you to attend to next.

6. Check Your Volumes, Edges & Normals

As you’ve been chipping away at your models you have been focused on each one in turn. This isn’t a problem, and is exactly how you should be working, but now, with the LOD group applied, you can finally see how they work together.

With the new group in place you should be able to zoom in and out of Kila and see the models swapping, as they would in game. As an artist, this gives you the perfect opportunity to tweak each one to make the transition as seamless as possible.

As you compare each model to the previous you should be checking for three main areas. The Volumes, Edges and Normals.

Tip: You can quickly force any model within an LOD group to be visible, or hidden through the Display Level attributes.

Step 1: Volumes

What you may see on the lower iterations, where more geometry has been sacrificed, is a more obvious change as the models swap, and this could be due to the change in volume.

As you removed the geometry around her torso, arms and legs, they will inevitably lose their shape. This is because you are essentially changing a cylinder with eight sides down to four, so from some angles the volume has simply vanished.

In most cases this is unavoidable, and hopefully it only occurs on the lowest of LODs, but it’s always worth checking and compensating by making the limbs a little thicker, or the head bigger.

The easiest way I find to combat this is to do the following –

  • Place the highest level of detail into a new display layer, and set this to Template. This will basically give you its wireframe to refer to.

  • Also make sure your LODs are all visible through the LOD group node.

  • Next bring in your lower LODs in turn, and for each simply rotate around them and where the volume is lacking compared to the original, adjusting the shape to fill her out.

  • You may find on the lowest level of detail that over compensating slightly will also help to flesh her out more.

Step 2: Edge Flipping

Another issue you will find with lower resolution geometry is when a quad isn't being evaluated correctly, so the hidden edge is spanning the wrong vertices. This results in the quad looking concave and can also make the model lose precious volume.

You can see an example of this below, where the edges on her buttocks, stomach, chest and neck are all flipped incorrectly.

Luckily this is easy to correct by simply triangulating the quad and flipping the edge, but it’s important to check and correct these as often as you can.

Step 3: Vertex Normals

Finally we come to vertex normals. As you worked, removing geometry from around Kila you will no doubt notice some areas turning black, mainly around the edges of UV shells, or key areas like her hands and feet.

This will become even more noticeable when you are swapping between level of detail models.

With the highest level of detail, the normal map was generated based on the models surface. As you have worked this surface has changed, so the normal map won't fit as well as it did. What this can cause, especially on the lower LODs, is a darkening around acute angles.

This is due to the vertex normals being “soft”, which means they are shared to smooth out the surface. In these areas on the higher LODs the normal map was used to create a harder, creased edge so this wasn't an issue.

Now you are focused on the lower LODs the normal map can't compensate for the lack of geometry, so you have to, by simply hardening the edges manually.

  • You can do this, as illustrated around the feet below, by simply selecting the edges which are worst affected.

  • Then go to Normals > Harden Edge to harden them.

The blackening should now be gone, and your model looks cleaner.

7. Attach Your LODs

With your level of detail models complete, tweaked and finalized you can now reattach them to the main Kila rig, meaning they will all move together and animate just as the higher resolution version does.

If you worked through the previous tutorials in this series you are probably thinking back to all the skinning and weight painting you did originally, but don’t worry. As always, there is a quick and simple solution. Then again, if you did work through the previous nine lessons you probably already have a good idea of what to do now.

  • First load Kila_LOD_Start.ma, which has the original, rigged version of Kila.

  • Now import your new level of detail models, along with the LOD group.

Note: Don't worry if you have two versions of the highest version of Kila in the same scene. You can always delete one later once the weighting has been successfully transferred to your new models.

With everything in the same scene you now need to ensure the skeleton is in its neutral pose, just as you did before you began creating the LODs.

  • Go to Modify > Evaluate Nodes > Ignore All.

  • Now select the skinned Kila model.

  • Go to Skin > Go To Bind Pose.

All you need to do now is attach your LODs to the main skeleton and transfer the weighting information from the original, down to the other version. To do this you can follow the exact same process as you did in Part 8 of this series, which I will briefly repeat below.

Ideally you want to bind the new models to the exact same joints as the original. It’s not essential, but it helps to keep things consistent and clean. A quick way to select the joints which directly influence the original model is to use a little bit of MEL.

select –r `skinCluster –q –inf (insert the name of the skinCluster node on Kila)`;

  • Once selected, you can then add the new level of detail models to the selection and go to Skin > Bind Skin > Smooth Bind.

  • Now that all the models are all connected simply select the original model, and then work through each LOD, copying the weighting information to each using Skin > Edit Smooth Skin > Copy Skin Weights.

  • When done, and the weighting has been tested, feel free to delete the original, higher version of Kila which came with the Kila_LOD_Start.ma file, so you are only left with the four you imported which are sat quietly inside the LOD group.

This will give you the weighting information you need to allow the lower level of detail models to deform, without the headache of painting the weights individually.

  • It is important at this stage to go through and check everything deforms correctly, particularly the face, and any issues rectified with the Paint Weights Tool.

  • As a final step clean up the scene by removing any duplicate shaders, unused groups and any other redundant items left in the scene.

Summary

So there we have it. Over the past ten tutorials, you have built, UV`d, textured, rigged, applied dynamics and optimized Kila so you have a fully working, game friendly character complete with level of detail models.

There is so much more we could cover on game development and level of detail models, not to mention rigging and animation too, but what you have now is a good foundation to take forward, refer too and improve upon as you create many more game characters and creatures in the future.

I’ve enjoyed creating this series, and I’m a little sad to see it come to an end, but we have taken Kila as far as we can for now. With that said I’d love to see where you take Kila now, and how you did throughout the series, so please feel free to drop by my Facebook page and upload a screen shot or two.

Thanks for following, and I'll see you on the next course!