In this article I’ll explain the process and methods used to create the popular “Valkyrie” unit found in Plarium’s MMO strategy game “Total Domination”. Get ready to see how a combat cyborg goes from concept to finished product!

Concept Development
The process of concept development always starts with some kind idea from which to base your preliminary concept. The first idea for me was that the “Valkyrie” is a female soldier who can transform to a flying combat cyborg. I worked from this key concept to create a strong and visually interesting unit that would please the Total Domination audience.
The next step was to search for basic reference images. I usually do this with the help of Google Images and CGHub. For convenience, I compile as many relevant images as I can into one high-resolution image. I’ll refer back to this throughout the whole character creation process.

Sculpting
After scanning through hundreds of pictures of cyborgs, robots and other iconic sci-fi references, a rough image of the future unit appears in my head, and it’s time to begin. ZBrush Dynamesh is the first program that I use to start my work. I find it useful for experimenting because there is no distracting topology or moving dots.
For the model I used a technique that I had seen in the Eat3D video course. To preserve female proportions, I took a woman’s sculpt created for a previous project, duplicated the sub-tool and named it “Armor.” I put this sub-tool under the sub-tool with the girl and turned it into Dynamesh. After that I chose the “Armor” sub-tool and using the ClayBuildUp brush started making the future Valkyrie’s costume. The process is illustrated here:

Modeling
This was the most interesting part for me. I started by opening the model in 3ds Max using GoZ and making a re-topology of the costume elements. I prefer doing this in 3ds Max and using GraphiteModelingTools.
I created a common Plane and converted it in EditablePoly. Then on the Freeform tab I set the following parameters: OnSurface, StepBuild, and Offset. Clicking the Pick button, I chose the model from ZBrush. Then I located the appropriate dots, held the Shift button and LMB, and just traced the mouse between them.
It’s important to not make the grid too dense while you’re doing this next part. You can start modeling with any part of the costume, but I began with the head and moved down, paying attention to details and making sure the movable parts of the costume looked natural.

Texture mapping
The character was created for illustrations and videos, which is why I tried to use different textures. I divided the model into parts and created several textures (4096х4096 pix).
I sent these parts to ZBrush with the help of GoZ and used the UVMaster plugin to start UV mapping. The textures themselves were made in Photoshop, since I wanted to keep the structure of the layers. First I created the Diffuse map, then I made the Reflect map and the base for highlights and textures.
For the model rendering I used VRayRender and VrayBlendMtl. The other textures were created the same way. Obviously, textures play a very important part in completing the main concept. In the image below you can see the list of texture settings and the texturized models.

Weapons Design
This is definitely my favorite part. The “Valkyrie” is armed with an Automatic Pulse Rifle and portable suppressor. The process for modeling the weapon and making its textures was the same one that I used for the model’s costume.
Examples of the weapon at the modeling stage:

Rigging and Posing
The model with all its necessary textures was ready, which meant it was time for the rigging process. Biped was the program that I used in rig-making. As for the lighting, here I applied the tree source lighting scheme and HDR map to create attractive reflections. VRay was used for rendering.
Rendering settings can be found below:

Conclusion
I hope you can use some of the tips and trade secrets shared here, and that you enjoyed a look into the world of 3D modeling. Hopefully some of you will be inspired to try to venture into this world yourselves. Being a 3D modeler is not only an amazing job, but an exciting adventure. As for me, I’ll keep working to make Plarium’s Total Domination™ game a little more awesome every day.

Author: Vladimir Silkin.