Work in Progress: Drider Week 1

While away on vacation last week, I started thinking about ways in which the new Bento skeleton could be used to make a Drider – human/elf/spider hybrid – possible. As I’ve covered in the past, the Bento skeleton offers a great number of new possibilities, but has some limitations as well when it comes to repurposing some bone chains to be used elsewhere.

After sketching for a bit, I eventually came to a reasonable compromise that might test well and brought that in to Blender & rigged with Blender Avastar.

Next, I modelled something a bit more accurate, starting low-poly on just half, mirroring with a modifier (which was kept mostly unapplied until I needed to rig parts that were not standard to the existing Bento skeleton configuration).

Rig setup:

I elected to use both the wings and hind legs to articulate pairs of legs here, but also chose to split up the tail (6 bones >> 3 bones per leg) to rig the last pair of legs. This means one less joint articulated in that pair, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Of note: While it’s true you can’t ‘unparent’ bones within the SL skeleton to avoid animation issues involving bone hierarchy, you can to some degree modify Avastar’s control rig – you can turn off constraints, you can parent them to other control bones, you can even direct certain limbs to target newly introduced IK target bones. Avastar is even now sufficiently tolerant to take these non-standard target bones in to account when it comes time to export animations for use in Second Life.

In my case, Tail 4 thru 6 are no longer connected or inherit rotations from Tail 3. I also added two new pairs of IK targets to direct movement for leg pairs 2 & 4.

After a lot of jiggerypokery concerning knee IK targets (which I decided to do away with ultimately), I was able to get a mostly usable rig going. 

A few notes on animations: I had to tinker with frame speed a bit to make the walk work well without ‘sliding’. Tapple Gao makes an excellent (and free) ‘Test Treadmill’ that helps to diagnose speed issues such as these. Also, more often than not, with avatars that use wonky rigs, you will need to export with bone translations. Under other circumstances it’s ideal not to, particularly if the intent is for the animation to have reuse with some other similar avatar; unfortunately when tinkering with rigs where bones have been parented in non-traditional ways, you MUST tell the SL rig to move those bones to (X) location, since they would otherwise just inherit their parents’ transformations.

As of this week, I have a basic walk, stand, fly & jump complete and look forward to getting more done soon. I’ve also been able to unwrap the mesh to create my  UV layout, which is spread out across two layouts. This has allowed me to create additional textural details across diffuse, normal and specular maps that really create a greater sense of detail without adding significantly to the cost in geometry.

Further down the road, I hope to add some geometry to add the option for hair textures on the legs and body. I’ll also need to work on LOD optimization, additional animations and documentation overall.

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