Armor and Clothing modelling Primer

About this primer

This primer is a slight re-write/formatting of the internal Funcom modelling guide, written by Jenni. All credit to her for giving this information out. This primer will not go through every detail about modelling armors/clothes for Conan but there may be information here that is otherwise obscure.

Rules of the modular character system

Chestpiece: should end at the seam between Upperbody and Lowerbody with a slight leeway; it can extend a little lower but the extension should be thick enough to fit over the waist areas of most bottoms. It's safest to cut off precisely at the seam.

Chestpieces can be long-sleeved down to the wrist, and we have a tucking feature, in which equipping long gloves can switch the chest model to an alternative '_tucked' version. The _tucked model should always end at the seam between the Upperbody and Forearms.

Bottom : can begin at the seam between Upperbody and Lowerbody or lower. Should be close to the body until around crotch height, at which it can flare out more. Can go all the way down to ankles, in which case it also needs a _tucked model to fit into boots. The _tucked bottom is cut off at the seam between Lowerbody and Legs.

Hands : Can be short gloves or long gloves or jewelry, bracers etc. Short gloves should go up to the wrist. Long gloves should go up to the seam between Upperbody and Forearms and completely cover the seam all around it.

Feet : Same convention as hands. Either max. ankle height shoes (will not tuck bottom) or long boots that go up to the seam between Lowerbody and Legs, covering the whole circumference of the seam. Long boots will be set to tuck the bottom piece.

Head : 4 different available conventions. Full cover (hides head, hair and facial hair) which must also conceal the neck all the way down to the Upperbody seam. Open face (hides hair) which has the head model and beard displayed. Helmets can also hide facial hair if the design includes a mask.

Finally, headbands and circlets that don't hide hair, facial hair or the head.

The tucking and hiding rules are set in the EquipmentVariationTable under the Items folder.

Technically any asset can be set to tuck or hide any other part, but we use the following:

Modeling conventions

The detail and poly distribution of the model should be prioritized by how visible the piece is in average play. The priority is as follows:

  1. Head, neck area and hands. These should be the highest poly density areas and have the most detail, as well as the most texture resolution & texel density (area occupied on texture map).

  2. Torso and legs. We look at the characters' backs a lot but the midsection doesn't need that much poly or texel density.

  3. Feet. Seen the least. Focus should be on silhouette and distant read. Spend the fewest polys and lowest texture resolution here. For the female figure, chestpieces should have extra poly density in the breast area to avoid blockiness when scaled up in character creation.

Complex mesh detail and patterns should be avoided in the chest area because scaling WILL mess it right up.

Necklaces should sit further up on the sternum on female chestpieces. When in doubt, look at the polygon flow and distribution on the bare body models for reference.

For form-fitting clothes and armor it can be a good shortcut to duplicate and scale the actual body geometry for a retopo base. This is particularly useful for gloves.

Texturing conventions & materials

Textures should always be authored in greyscale to allow for the dye system to take care of colours.

You can still preview the desired colour scheme by keeping a folder set to Hard Light in your Substance textureset and using flat colour fills in Normal mode inside that folder.

The textures should be kept in midrange values, with lighter greys and whites used for emphasizing wear, scratches and material definition, and dark greys and blacks sparingly used to add to ambient occlusion and cavity detail.

Each armor piece (per body slot) can have up to 4 dye channels which should be utilized as much as possible. Armors consisting of several materials will still be restricted to the same 4 colour channels as it's handled per equippable item.

Materials need to read clearly based on roughness, metalness and value, since colour is handled through the dye system. As a rule of thumb the materials on the armor should be obviously readable even if the player uses the same dye on every element.

Texture sizes: (estimated, some variety based on design and coverage and complexity)

Consider obvious exceptions like the helmet being a pair of earrings. That doesn't take 1k maps. The cloth map is a simple black and white mask to define areas where the fabric shader is applied. This makes materials like cotton look more physically correct. The map should be low resolution.

Authoring the Tint-Map

The tint (dye) map follows a simple logic of R+G+B+A where each consecutive channel gets layered on top of the former. Thus, R can be filled completely white and any white areas in G will be placed on top of it as another solid colour in the final material. Any white pixels in Alpha will in turn overwrite whatever is below them in G or B.

The masks don't have to always be solid black and white. In some cases it can be used to create gradiented tints, like in the reptile hide armor. This has to be used very deliberately and with consideration though.

It's by far the easiest to create the tint map in Substance by baking a colour ID map of the model and using ID picker to mask out areas in a colour fill layer. The alpha channel mask can be made in Substance by just using a white fill, exporting the map and moving the white areas to the alpha channel in Photoshop.

The tint colours are applied over the greyscale texture in UE with a Hard Light blending mode. Any area of the armor that should be excluded from tinting needs to be black in the tint map. A finished, correctly authored tint map looks like this:

Male to female armor conversion

The proportions of the bodies are very different, so quite a bit of careful scaling needs to be done, and stretching can happen easily if you're not careful. While the male figure has a strong V-shape and broad shoulders, the female figure has an hourglass shape and much narrower shoulders and slimmer arms.

If the female armor isn't made separately but converted from the male version, it's good to use the FFD4x4x4 modifier and Paint Deform to do most of the scaling and fitting to avoid distorting the mesh too much. For Maya users, this is called “Lattice” and you can find it under “Deformers”.

On the female figure it's particularly important to keep the hourglass silhouette, so the waistline needs to be nipped in – pay attention to where the narrowest point of the torso is and be careful not to lose it under the armor.

Waistlines should be moved to the appropriate body part seams. Long gloves are the trickiest to fit from male to female and it's best to work in an additional Edit Poly modifier so you can start over if the result doesn't come out as desired.

For trousers, bringing the low-poly mesh into Zbrush and fitting it to the female form there can be easier. Paint Deform under 3ds max Graphite Modeling Tools can also produce similar results, as it allows you to work with symmetry. Always keep the bare body parts as a reference point in your scene and fit the armor around them.

One exception to this is the chest area – breasts are shaped by what's worn around them, and they can be lifted and compressed. This depends on the armor so judge this case by case and ask when not completely clear. The chest area might also need additional polys to allow for scaling if it's been directly imported from the male version.

Polygons on the body that are not visible under the armor meshes are deleted. The body mesh is attached to the armor piece so it's possible to do things like optimizing body part geometry and changing the bust shape.

APEX Cloth Physics

In Conan Exiles, we use the APEX cloth tech.

Areas with cloth sim should have super clean geometry and no layered geo if possible. If there are layers they should be very thick, and the geo should be matched between the layers. Including edge orientation on quad meshes. That also needs to be matched.

The easiest case is a simple non-closed physics mesh like a loincloth, scarf, or a flap or a sash hanging off the waist.

The biggest challenge is a full closed skirt or something with a lot of bits and pieces on it.

Multiple flappy bits (reference Vanir armors for a good example) likely need to be split into 2 or more physics meshes.

If you're making earrings, we can reuse an existing physics asset from Items/Armor/Blackhand

Prepping the model for export into UE4

Make selection sets for each armor piece. Use Endre's SelectionSet tool from P4.

  1. When body part seams are visible, eliminate them when possible.

  2. Check that each piece is skinned, Skin Wrap any stragglers.

  3. Check that everything that needs to use the same material in UE has the same material assigned to it.

  4. If there are multiple physics assets, each part that uses a separate physics asset needs a unique material on export. Physics assets are assigned to materials in the engine so you need to break them up.

Notes on structural plausibility

As a principle, things should attach to other things in a way that makes physical sense.

Whenever you're making something, ask yourself how it's been put together and how you'd get in and out of it.

Character Artist's Modeling Checklist

Sculpt Stage

Retopo stage

UV Mapping and Texture Grouping



Assembly and Engine Prep

Final Touches