The Wearing of Many Hats.

If you have done game development for any length of time, you know that you will have to play many different roles as a project moves along. From texturing to coding, you may be required to do a little bit of everything. That is where I have been for the last few weeks.

Completing the control rig in Unreal’s Control Rig plugin has been a challenge, but it has been an interesting experience. I definitely have a lot to learn when it comes to rigging. There are technical artists that spend the majority of their time creating rigs, and it is as much an artform as any other discipline. Getting Suzy’s bone structure to animate properly was difficult, and compromises were needed, but I am happy to say that she is done*.

I began to do her first animation, her walk cycle, when I discovered a serious problem with her tail. I had used a certain type of IK system in Control Rig (FABRIK in case you are curious), and while it is a great IK system, it just wasn’t even close to what I was looking for. So, back to the drawing board. I have been working hard to replicate the Rigify control rig available in Blender. While I haven’t achieved such a lofty goal, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But, I was able to capture the over-all feel of Rigify, if not the high-powered end result. The tail in particular was quite challenging and I really wanted Suzy’s tail to behave the same way as Rigify. What I thought would take an hour or two turned into a full day’s work. You just never know with these things. But I was able to get it to work, and get the results that I see in Blender. In some ways, this is unfortunate, because Suzy’s tail isn’t nearly as good as I had hoped it would be.

Weight painting is another part of rigging, and there are no unimportant parts to rigging. Getting the weight painting correct is a perfect example of this. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get her tail bones to deform the tail in a smooth way. No amount of weight blending would cure the problem. More bones in the tail seems like the only solution to this problem, but I am way too far along to change the bone structure now. I will just have to make it work, and remember this lesson in the future. You live and you learn.

The last hat that I have had to wear recently is that of a programmer. This isn’t something that concerned me. After all, I have more experience as a C++ programmer than any other skill that I have used on these game development projects. But this situation was new. The developers of the gFur plugin decided to drop support for the free version. This means that they are not updating the plugin for the current version of the UE4 engine (4.26.0 at the time that this is being written), or any of the future versions to follow. Luckily, they include the source code for the plugin which allowed me to recompile the plugin for the current version of the engine. There were a few little things that needed to be changed to satisfy some dependencies, but nothing difficult. A change to the plugin’s build file in VS2017 to point to the location where the FBX libraries and includes are located on my system were all that was necessary to get everything working nicely. Not a problem for an experienced programmer, but someone that doesn’t code would have had a hard time. It just goes to show how many hats you have to wear in game development.

* Is anything in game development really ever done? No, not really.

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