Truespace Tutorial: Making Avatars for Dummies
Courtesy of Robbie
Note: The links provided are to my trueSpace 4.2 tutorial. However a great deal of it is still relevant for trueSpace 3 users.
Making avatars is one of the most difficult things you can learn to do in active worlds. It can be frustrating, but also sets people who can do it apart from your average modeler. And whilst creating the actual mesh is relatively simple, articulating, animating and texturing the avatar to create a realistic being is no easy task.
If you have any problems with this tutorial or anything problems with making objects for Active Worlds in trueSpace, don't hesitate to telegram or e-mail me, I love to help people in any way I can. :)
Creating the Mesh
The mesh is the actual AV, the actual objects. When making an avatar you need to keep the different parts separate (i.e. right lower leg, right upper leg, right foot, etc..). Also a good rule of thumb to help you keep it proportionate is that the height from the foot to pelvis should be the same between the pelvis and head. Also the arms when at your side end about halfway down your upper hip. Click here for a more information on what limbs you need.
If you don't even know where to start with your AV, as in you have any idea how to create the right shapes, I find it easiest to make limbs from spheres. By deforming the spheres along the horizontal lines you can create arm and leg-like shapes. Infact I make 99% of the parts for my avatars from spheres.
Another good idea is to have the limbs overlap slightly. Making the limbs overlap into eachother with rounded ends (which is what you'll get if you make the limbs from spheres anyway) will look much better when animated. Before careful, too much of an overlap can cause bits of arm to stick out as your AV moves.
Texturing your AV will either compliment your mesh, or destroy it. Whilst its expected that AVs are higher resolution than normal objects, you should keep your models under 3000 faces. You can keep the resolution down by using textures to add detail to your avatar instead of making actual 3d bits to put on. By this I mean for example if you wanted to put a tie on your avatars chest, you could use a texture rather than creating a 3d tie.
You may see that a lot of avatars use this technique, for example an avatar might have one single texture for its torso, this is done by taking a single texture, a picture of the front and back of the avatar and wrapping it around the mesh. This is a technique often employed. This is achieved in trueSpace using UV projection.
Your average avatar should have about 5-8 textures: shoe, leg, torso, arm, pelvis and head. Remembering that downloads in Active Worlds are beg enough and large avatars and add even more to the load putting off visitors.
This is one of the most difficult parts to get right, although the AW browser is quite good at fixing up small problems in your hierarchy, you do need to keep your wits about you. Articulation is the process of ranking the limbs in your avatar, remember the song "The knee bones connected to the...hip bone, the hip bones connected to the....pelvis" and so on. Well that's basically what you've gotta do. Click here for detailed information on articulation.
Offcourse your avatar needn't be a human, you can create anything you like and even give your avatar its own tags. See, an avatar is animated by a .SEQ file. The way it works is the AW Browser loads the avatar, then loads the .SEQ file to animate it (e.g. qwalk2.seq) and the .SEQ file consists of movement commands like "Move lower left_leg up 4 ml and across 10ml and rotate it 45 degrees". So you can call parts of your avatar anything you like, so long as these names appear in the .SEQ file. You can make your own animations (.seq files) using AccuTrans an excellent conversion/animation tool.
My trueSpace Tutorials: http://ts.oriox.com
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