Body parts

Time for a long overdue update!  I’ve done a lot over the past two months so I’ll have to split this into a couple of blog posts.  In this first one we’ll look at the character models I’ve been working on.

Crash test dummy

A while ago I added knuckle joint connectors which, along with the ball and socket connectors, can be used to construct simple rag-doll characters.  This got me thinking, it would be cool to have some proper body parts with the connectors built in to them, which could be assembled in the game to make more convincing humanoid rag-dolls.  I figured a crash test dummy would best fit with the idea of being made up of rigid body parts with exposed joints.

The first thing I had to decide was what body parts would be needed.  I wanted to allow for flexibility of movement, but not have so many parts that building a character in the game would be unmanageable.  I settled on the following 11 parts:-

  • Upper and lower torso (initially I had a single torso part, but in the end I had to split it to allow for animation – see “Player character” below).
  • Head.
  • Upper and lower left arm.
  • Upper and lower right arm.
  • Upper and lower left leg.
  • Upper and lower right leg.

The second problem to solve was the joint connector locations and body proportions, this was tricky as I wanted to keep all the connectors on unit boundaries (or failing that, half unit) relative to one another, while keeping the dimensions of all the body parts in proportion.

After these decisions were resolved it was time to fire up Blender and make some parts, here’s what I ended up with:-


…and once assembled together:-


I added attachment points on the hands so that other parts such as axles can be connected to them:-


…and because the body parts are compatible with everything else in the game, you can create all sorts of nightmarish stuff!


Player character

One of the longest unresolved design problems in GearBlocks has been the player character model, the skinned models in the game at the moment are just placeholders and were well overdue to be replaced.  The trouble is, I couldn’t decide what the player model should look like, or how to have it fit in aesthetically with the rest of the “GearBlocks world”.

Then I thought, now that a humanoid character can be built in the game from body parts, why not utilise this for the player too?  This will require implementing a way for a character built in game to be selected and used as the player model.

To explore this idea, I decided a crash test dummy wasn’t good enough, I wanted to have a proper human.  Inspired by action figurines, I tried to make the body parts so that their joints, although exposed, are not overly obvious.  I went with a stylised appearance for the face and hair, this was partly due to the limitations of my modelling skills, but I also think this look fits the visual style of the game quite well.  Here’s what I have so far:-


Note that this is all still a work in progress, in particular the clothing and feet need some more refinement, as do the skin and hair shading.  At some point I’d also like to add a female variant, and other skin tones.  Plus it would be cool to have accessories (such as crash helmets).  I did make the clothing paintable however, which allows for creating somewhat unique looking characters:-


…and of course you can mix and match with the crash test dummy parts!


I haven’t yet implemented the system to make a built character “become the player”, this will need to hook up the body parts to the appropriate animated bones (replacing the old skinned mesh altogether).  For now I’ve hacked something together so I can test these character models out with the player animation system to make sure they work properly:-


The animations you see here are all new, in fact most of my time over last two months has actually been spent on the player animations, and this will be the topic of the next post…