Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning 3D stuffs, part two: Getting started

Part 1 is below

Now to the part where things get really messy: Importing and starting to work in Blender.
Sadly this is probably where most misunderstandings occured in the past when people like Jester tried to give me some hints - the problem isn't really how to import or sticking to NWN2's specific conventions (well, once we get to exporting that's not quite true), but the main Blender workflow itself that most people who have experience in 3D apps take as given, like "then just paint the vertex weights..." - lolwut?

Well, let's start with the things I have covered already. Import.

Importing a NWN2 mdb works. I'm using Jester's nude as a base here because it comes with everything I need and armors can't be slimmer than that. Importing with the standard settings + "find amature" I end up with this:

Just for the record, I also managed to get textures in somewhere in the past and even on this import they show when rendered (F12), but that's another topic. So what I have is the main mesh and an amature to work with. The amature is actually not the NWN2 skeleton, only a replacer to give you an idea where what is. Posing this or making changes to it is no option if I understand correctly, you can only use it to make sure the mesh fits it as good as possible. So much for mdb files, let's hop over to Blender 2.49 and .nifs:

Again using the default settings for the nif imports, I'm ending up with a model that looks quite okay for now. Note: I'm only using this one for testing, I only plan to convert content I'm allowed to convert ;) ). But, if you compare the picture with the mdb import above, you should already see a difference - the pose. A comparison pic from an older post:

So the main problem with all the new models is getting them into the same pose as the NWN2 skeleton. And booooy, that's where the trouble starts. I'm not even talking about making it fit exactly already, only about... lowering the arms?
The .nif model for example comes with no skeleton... or rather, there's some sort of amature included which I can't quite figure out how to use. When I try to move/rotate/etc, I get....

So. And that model should fit the base human mesh from NWN2 some day? I don't see that coming... I assume I have to make a new amature, and paint new weights... which, frankly, is only sentences I have picked up while reading the webz, because, hell I have no idea how to start with that.

What I know so far from resources like the Blender Noob to Pro is basic manipulation, I know how to grab, move, add verex points, edges, faces and cut them off, I also can scale bones... but that's it, and learning even that is very hard in Blender because it's the damn most unintuitive thing ever. I'm no computer illiterate, I learned the toolset, Photoshop, whatever, but.... this? This is rocket science. Anyway, rant over... switching to Make human now because the problem there is similar and yet different...
In make Human I created a slim female figure I'd like to use as a new base (I know people start with easy things usually, but I'm not interested in creating a new barrel for NWN2, I want to work on what I really want! ;) ). The big problem is that you can't pose in Make Human, but you get support for that in Blender. I export using the usual settings and import it, scaled to 0.13 which is the closest I can get to the NWN2 model. I end up with this:

Not too shabby, isn't it? The problem is, even though it comes with a skeleton and already set up for posing, actually posing it is much harder than I thought. Some rotations are completely impossible, like turning the hand. I found it almost impossible to come even remotely close to the NWN2 mesh. Here's what made last night:

Left you see the NWN2 model, right the Make Human. Yes, I managed to lower the arms, but it looks already less natural than the NWN2 one, even though the mesh is of a much higher quality. Look at the hands, I can't get them into the same position (important later for gloves or bare hands). And I can see the exact same problem coming with any Bethesda models too, all of them, even if I could manage to pose them, would be very hard to pose in detail. Details like... the Make Human skeleton doesn't even have all the finger bones, just one for each finger where the NWN2 skeleton features every knuckle (you want to make a fist later to hold a weapon, yes?).
Another issue is the heavily deformed mesh once you start posing things in Bender. Take shoulder and armpits...

You don't even see it that much here anymore because the arm is too low, but if it's at say... 20 degrees more upwards the armpit looks ridiculously deformed. The shoulder already looks absolutely unnatural. This is the problem with posing in Blender. If you compare it to Jester's base (posed in DAZ), the result looks much better:

Pity the DAZ body isn't to my liking and you can't pose the Make Human one in DAZ... anyway, you might say "who cares for nude bodies", but the same problem will probably occur with .nif models too (if they were even posable in Blender), I'm not looking forward to it.

All this is still very basic stuff. I've not talked about cutting heads off yet etc, but I managed this. Where it really gets over my head is the posing for one, then the whole "rigging up to NWN2 skeleton" thing which is absolutely mindblowing for me. But as you can see, my problems already start long before that.

To be continued.

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