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Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.

Update #43: Pretty and Technical

Posted by Obsidian Entertainment (Creator)

Rob Nesler, Project Eternity's Art Director

Hello everybody it's me again, Rob Nesler, Art Director on Project Eternity. I had intended on presenting our Art Style document to the world by this update, but it still needs work. So, you have to wait a bit longer for it. So that’s sad. However, with the last art update, I glossed over our Technical Animator Antonio's work 'cause it was 3 o'clock in the morning and I couldn't think about how to describe intelligently what Antonio does for us. Some of you professed extensive knowledge of rigging and skinning, as well as profound disappointment in my patronizing tone, and demanded to be better informed of this horribly complex facet of game development. So...okay!

Before that we have some eye candy.

A Godlike concept by Polina (click to see full size image):

And can’t have a larger version. Google "estoc" if you want a sense of the weapon she's holding.

The godlike are the children of humanoids (most often humans) who have been "blessed" (or cursed, depending on personal or social view) with the physical manifestation of a divine spark granted by the gods. Godlike manifest their divine heritage in a variety of ways: wings, horns, strange birthmarks, talons, odd eyes - but they always manifest it somehow. BTW, in case you missed it, this is a playable "race". Below are some further examples of the possible deviations/conditions they inherit:

Okay back to technical animating.

If you recall, in the last update, I wrote this little nugget:

"Antonio Is our Technical Animator. He makes rigs, writes scripts that make rigs, and rigs the rigs. It’s all very technical. You wouldn’t understand. He’s a professional."

Some of you wanted more... so... here’s more.

His primary responsibility is rigging and weighting characters for skinned forward kinematic and inverse kinematic animation. Daily, he also uses his expert technical knowledge of animation techniques and the underlying idiosyncrasies of 3D animation software to assist our animation team as a problem solver, a mentor, and a scripter to improve animator workflow and overcome deficiencies in the applications we use. So that sounded intelligent; vague and awkward, but intelligent.

So, specifically ROB, what does Antonio do that will make Project Trenton/Eternity awesome?
Generally, technical animators program scripts using languages like MEL or Python to extend or enhance the functionality of existing off-the-shelf apps like Maya, Max, or Softimage. These scripts are often programs running within the larger app, but sometimes they are utilities that exist outside the application to assist in conversion or batching operations. These often can be purchased, but sometimes they themselves don’t have all the features our animators want so...

NO! Specifically ROB! What the hell does he do???
Okay, okay, for Project Trenton/Eternity Antonio has written, a few, and re-written a couple times the following, and it's all called DNA (Design New Actor).

Firstly, there is the Export Rig, and this is not so unique to 3D character animation. This is a highly optimized skeleton that represents only the bones that the actual actor mesh is weighted to. For a humanoid character these bones would be named: Pelvis, Femur_Rt and Femur_Lt., etc. Vertices of the visible textured geometry, that the player sees, are all attached to these bones with various amounts of strength, so the character will appear to bend and flex more naturally. Sometimes these bones will have physics applied to them, like pony tails. This is less a rig and more of: simply the skeleton that the other rigs interact with, but these are the only bones that go into the game, and we call it the "export rig". Antonio builds this skeletal hierarchy to fit the expected proportions of the character, and character modelers build character meshes to match visible body parts to the locations of bones, so that -- for example -- the bendy part between the upper_arm_rt and lower_arm_rt ends up being where a humanoid creature, as designed, would expect an elbow to be.

Then there is this nifty rig that was discussed a little bit, a couple updates ago — fricken’ Adam (PE's Executive Producer) always stealing my thunder! I think we call it the “stretch rig”. As he mentioned, it allows Dimitri, our dutiful Character Lead, to scale, even non-proportionally (with volume adjustments) meshes with the export rig already weighted. This way we can make a human character mesh, rig him to a human-proportioned skeleton, animate him, then take that same character and deform him to a new size and proportion, export him and use the same animations that were created for the human on this newly scaled/deformed mesh. This is a very useful asset multiplier, which allows us to leverage costly armor set and animation development across the spectrum of our races.

(Click for a larger image)

...And last, but most certainly not least, we rely on Antonio for creating rigs that provide controllers that allow the animators the maximum amount of flexibility when creating animations. These 'control rigs' are specialized for each character/creature type, after they've been stretched. They provide controls for jumping, crouching, twisting, grabbing, etc. They provide inverse kinematic and forward kinematic transformations, physics blending, following, squeezing, etc.-- whatever is required, actually. These controllers and extra bones are for animator manipulation only; they do not get exported. That's why when I said, "he rigs the rigs" I wasn't actually joking. These are rigs of rigs. These are the animator’s most essential bread and butter. Using these tools is how they actually create character animation.

And that's it. The update is over. I know, not so fun, but this is serious stuff.
We’ll show some animated examples sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Rob Out!


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    1. Missing avatar

      Sindharta on

      Very interesting ! Any chance we can hear about the approaches used in creating this control rigs ? :D

    2. toby on

      In game art brom style please :)

    3. Mordred on

      Love the godlike concept art.

    4. When I do, you won't know. on

      Art proportions = suck. Rigging tools and info = badass. Nice update.

    5. Azureblaze on

      Nice Update!

      Thanks for all your hard work Obsidian keeping us informed!

      I've been playing Arcanum in tribute to Chris Avellone playing it, having a blast with my dagger wielding backstabbing Halfling!

      heh i just had to add "Arcanum" and "Halfling" to my spell check list!!

    6. Missing avatar

      Rob on

      @AndersTN We do intend the attack animations to be consistent with the weapon in hand. Estocs and Stilettos are thrusting weapons, made for piercing armor. That will be reflected in their ready pose and attack animations, as opposed to how one might ready an attack with slashing weapon.
      Rigs are character specific, not weapon specific, as anybody can handle any weapon in our game.

    7. Anders T.N

      Any chance that last rig will be in game. Makes sense that a sharp edged sword would be able to cut someone into pieces. A bit morbid but after all that is how it works in the real world. BTW I would love to see a traditional Katana in the game. Also the old "Viking" broad sword would be nice. Obviously the different types of sword's would require different tactics and techniques. Do the game take that into account? Are there for instance different rigs/animations for different types of sword's?

    8. T.J. Brumfield on

      At what point do you reticulate the splines?

    9. dal on

      I say not "A Godlike concept by Polina" but a Goatlike concept :)

    10. Pierre Nilsson on

      As a bedroom hobby programmer this was very interesting! Please spill the beans on the entire production pipeline and include all relevant scripts and snippets to the community please. ;D

    11. Missing avatar

      justjake on

      As a 3D artist myself....more! :D

    12. LordCrash on

      Great update, I'm officially impressed! :)

      And special thumbs up @ Polina, your art is beautiful as ever!

    13. Chris on

      Wow, that's the best technical updated I've seen from anyone on KS. thanks much for all the great info. Now if I could just convince you to let me have a basic rig you guys made so can play around?... :D

    14. Brotacon on

      I do quite a bit of 3D modelling and animation myself so the last part of this update was really interesting! Thanks for being this transparent with the tools and methods you're using.

    15. Botond Sarkadi-Nagy on

      Ooh. That goaty girl has strong legs. I like strong legged girls. They are realistic :)
      Good post by the way. The tech-talk was good too.

    16. Johan Munkestam on

      Great info, always fun to see how other developers do content.

      In other news, fun to see that Yoda apparently supported this project too.

    17. William Wiklund on

      Those are some real pretty concepts. I love the look. :)

      As for the technical animation stuff, I'd love to see more like this. As a 3D artist/animator with a technical bent, it's interesting to get some insight into how you work at Obsidian.

    18. Missing avatar

      Christopher on

      I still think its a Bitch doing a deal with a Publisher, getting things funded via Kickstarter, because that is not what "kickstarter is "there fore"....

      If such Companies could refund all the People who spend Money and "did not want that", everybody would be Happy.

      In any Manner we share.

    19. Missing avatar

      Turo Janka on

      Very interesting update. Looks good. :)

    20. S.D. on

      Ugh. Sleepy. That probably made no sense... sorry :-P

    21. S.D. on

      When he builds the FK/IK rigging scripts, does he build animator's UI tools as welll, so that non-programmers can utilize and configure each specific rig style he's created for the model they're working on, or do they have to get their hands a bit dirty in the scripting? Or does he end up applying the rigs himself in some automated fashion (that can't be done, right? the modeler would have to use labels or something to mark specific segments of the skeletal mesh prior to "export" I suppose?).
      Also, awesome stretch rig! Great for quickly generating some natural variation between characters within a single race, if not others.

    22. CletusVanDamme on

      No idea what you're talking about there fella but those pictures are shiny!

    23. Igor Brainfog on

      Burning face? Guess he'll never find a girlfrend.

    24. Missing avatar

      KillerFrogs on

      Yay, I basically caused the majority of this update, therefore I made a difference. (insert silly smiley face here)

    25. DeeK on

      Not sure what you're going on about, Rob. This IS a fun update! It's interesting getting to see some of the behind-the-scenes technology and learn a few new terms.

    26. Missing avatar

      Thomas on

      So is it rigs all the way down?

    27. James on

      I feel like I was just Rob'd.

    28. Silver on

      Nice update - the mesh scaling point makes it a bit clearer how you can stay within the schedule/budget. Thanks, Rob.

    29. Morgan Loomis on

      Antonio! Good to see your smiling face, looks like you guys are all doing great work.

    30. Missing avatar

      Qihong Bao on

      There is some seriously epic level wizardry going on here.

    31. Missing avatar

      sassydad on

      obsidian please tell me this game will have HUGE SCARY ROCK PEOPLE as playable characters

    32. Missing avatar

      Emily Smirle on

      Thanks for the guts and grit explanation. I didn't email in, but I do have a background in programming, weight mapping, figure rigging, non-proportional re-scaling, and conversion so I've been *intensely* curious about what he does :D Very cool hearing about it, and thank you for the details. It's really appreciated.

      You're doing a brilliant job with investing in ensuring asset re-use. One of those cases where a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure down the road.

    33. C. Clayton Cameron on

      After reading this update I'll have to agree with your initial description; it's all very technical and I don't understand. But there are pretty pictures, so it's wasn't all lost on me.

    34. Jeffrey Sithi-Amnuai on

      Cool they remind me of the races in Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader.

      I think Avellone wrote that too if I'm not mistaken

    35. Missing avatar

      Ken Chen on

      I have no idea what's going on but I do like the idea of godlike beings. I think I have to go back and look at the last update, I must have missed it.

    36. Missing avatar

      Adam Sheridan on

      Great work on the explanation. I am sure even those of us with very little rigging understanding, enjoyed the explanation. Was easy to follow.

      Although I do have fair bit of enviro modelling experience, so maybe it helped me to follow, who knows.

    37. Céline .S. Sauvé on

      Ooh. Pretty eye candy!

      Also, I understood most of that, and have the greatest respect for those who can actually get that sort of thing to do what they want them to do.