I have a fairly strict gym schedule that started shortly after my career in game development. Turns out lifting weights has more that just health benefits. I learned a lot about how the body moves. How muscles push and pull limbs. How they flex and stretch. The end result is that I’m a better animator and rigger because of it.
The animation challenge with third person action games is making the freakishly muscled characters deform in a authentic way. Inevitably the wrist twist to noodles, the torso doesn’t move with the arms and the shoulders, well, lets just say really bad things happen when the arms go above the head. No amount of skinning is going to fix these problems.
I use a broad definition for muscles in rigging. Forearm roll controls? Yup, that’s a muscle! Basically, anything that simulates muscle sliding over bone. In the past I’ve used joints constrained to curves that are then deformed by the control rig. This approach works in a pinch and is good for games with low bone count limitations for characters.
Recently I’ve been exploring the use of NURBS surfaces and hair follicles. The idea is that the NURBS deform in a muscle-like way as the rig moves around. Follicles are then used to rivot bones to the surfaces at a defined UV coordinates.
This is of course just the first phase. I came up with a much cooler idea while building this rig. 😀 Look for this in a future video.