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Inspiration Project Time Spirit - restless soul

This inspiration project was not only a first for me, as I had never completed an organic character model before, doing mostly robots, but its was also a chance to give a friend's art style some love, expanding their character universe and expand my skill set all at the same time.

The starting point for this inspiration project was Polaris Nadya's time Spirits. The easiest way to learn about these creatures is to log into VRChat and join the Time Spirits world, but for now I'll try and give you all a brief on what a Time Spirit is.

A time spirit, is essentially a human soul in the afterlife, guided by two gaurdians and left to travel time as the please and keep it running smoothly. These souls don't look like humans, tho, but rather tiny fox/mouse people, with no fur, with mostly a black appearance apart from a certain color existing on the outer edges of their body, such as legs, hands, and ears, and their bright white eyes.

A good example of a time spirit on the left in blue.

Polaris has actually made quite a large community based around the Time Spirits, having tons of lore herself, and many people creating their own fan-characters! And so, loving the idea of these time spirits, I instantly wanted to create my own, but I also wanted to put my own spin on the idea to make it unique. And so the process for the Restless Soul began!

I started with a very rough sketch in Aseprite (a pixel art program I use) and looked at as many references as I could find and drew a proportional sketch for them, from both the front and the side (this is also the very first time I had ever used the size of the head of the character to measure the height and width of the character, and it made it sooooo much easier to model)

Both a side and a front view of the sketch

As you can see, this was a very rough design, but being that the character is mostly the same color anyway I didn't need to get extremely detailed, and as you can see some of the details, like the hair, didn't even make it to the final model, in favor of being truer to Polaris' art style.

With these two sketches in place I then took to Blender and started modeling!

Time spirit face!

As you can see, I started with the head and the scarf area first, as I wasn't 100% sure if I'd end up making the head a separate model from the rest of the body with the scarf being the seam or if it would all be one cohesive character model. In the end, the body and head were all the same model (mostly because the scarf wasn't going to cover up the seam where I had wanted it anyway) but from looking at some poly modeling clothing tutorials they said that it was a possibility so I wanted to leave it open as long as possible.

references! Woot!

Now having a head and a (colored!) scarf, it was time to begin blocking out the body! Using the reference sketches I had made previously as background images in Blender, I quickly modeled out the body's proportions. Having the outlines to go by in Blender helped out a ton, especially with the stomach area, getting the widths right.

Get that camera out of there! xD

I then began doing several things:

A) I pulled out the arms

B) Added a little cuff on his left arm (this didn't make it to the final model, was too high poly for Unity)

C) Began to sculpt his ears! this one definitely the most challenging part of the whole model, as I'm not great at 3D sculpting. After spending an hour or so on it however, I was able to make some ears which look like mice ears!

I then experimented with the cuff for a little bit, trying to make it look more realistic (hence why I didn't make the final cut)

It was then time to add in some color! I had to UV unwrap it in a very specific way (I wanted the ears, eyes, hands, and legs to be on their own UV islands) and then I started painting the model to add color! Blender has a nice painting tool for painting right on models, it's not perfect but for the look I was going for it actually works great! I definitely wanted my character to be reds-based, so I took two different shades of red, one for the legs and ears and one for the hands, and blended them in so they fade out to black the further away from the extremity you are. (as you can see, it's very organic painting so the legs don't match up exactly, but that's fine).

Spooky Scary Skeletons!

After this, it was finally time to set up the avatar's armature! this rig follows the basic skeleton for VRChat, a humanoid unity skeleton, simply missing one chest bone. I began setting it up...

pose for the camera!

And tested out the bone weighting by doing some posing! Most of the model look great, there were just a few things missing... Like fingers! You can see I've added them in here. And because this is supposed the be a spirit interacting with the real world, I wanted his fingers to look sort of detached, as if they were not supposed to be there. Hence the skeleton-looking fingers.

blue_scarf.jpg

Scarf bones! I have a package for unity called Dynamic Bones, which allows certain bones on a model to be affected by in-game physics, sort of giving you a wobbly cloth effect if done right! to do that, I needed to have a bunch of bones in the scarf that physics could affect, so I added them and edited the bone weighting a bit (before this the scarf had simply been bone-parented, meaning it didn't deform the model at all, so I had a decent amount of clean up to do at the start.)

ratatouille

I wanted to do the same thing for the ears too, so I added some bones to the ears, and the avatar was complete! I exported it to an fbx and headed into Unity!

Now, being that this was an inspiration project, I wanted to do something with their textures to make them look close to the way the spirits did in-game, but also wanted their to be a big difference between the two species to differentiate them. Time Spirits have an emissive texture on their colored parts letting them send off a glow in-game, and I wanted to replicate that, but I also wanted my character to have an outline, so I searched the Unity Asset Store for a free shader that would help me do that. In the end I found the MK cartoon shader's free version did exactly what I wanted, as well as giving me some other features I didn't even realize I wanted, like cell shading and a nice glow! you can see the cell shading best around the face, where a light gray rounds out the top of the face, and also on the scarf, where you can see that gray making the creases stand out.

He moves!

Finally I set up the avatar with the proper unity components for dynamic bones and VRChat's avatar components and uploaded it to show everyone!

Here's a video created for you all! The camera's stuck to my face, sorry if it's a bit wobbly. xD

I really hope you guys enjoyed this project, I can't wait to see what you all made! If you want to see the model for yourself, click the link below! Thank you all!

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