When Facebook rebranded to 'Meta' in 2021, it solidified the importance of virtual worlds and characters in our social media-oriented culture. A 'metaverse' is a shared, online 3D space where users can interact with each other using avatars. The world is persistent and can be used for gaming, socializing, or other activities.
From learning to work, the metaverse is becoming an increasingly popular way to spend time online. And all it takes to enter this digital world is an internet connection and a computer-generated character, or 'avatar'.
Creating an avatar can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. In this blog post, we'll show you how to create a metaverse character using the tools available on the Flaneer platform.
Essentially, a metaverse character is a 3D representation of a person or thing. In the context of virtual worlds and social media, avatars are used to represent users and their interactions with others. The avatar culture has been popularized by games like Second Life and VRChat, where players spend hours or dollars customizing their characters.
The character might be designed to look like the user, or it could be an entirely fictional creation. It can be as simple as a cartoon character representing how the human feels or as detailed as a realistic human model. In-game, these avatars can move around the world, dance, wave, and even speak using text-to-speech technology.
Now that the metaverse and VR technology are growing in popularity, a whole new world of possibilities has opened up for avatar creation. A new economy is emerging around digital assets and virtual worlds, with businesses starting to spring up that cater to this growing market. Some freelance artists also make a living by creating custom avatars and 3D models for people to use in the metaverse.
When you're just starting out in the metaverse, you might wonder whether you should use a prefabricated character or create your own custom avatar. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Prefabricated characters are easier and faster to deploy since they require less modeling and rigging. Rigs are typically used in animation and gaming, where characters need to be able to move fluidly.
You can find playable avatars on platforms like 'Ready Player Me,' which allows you to customize prefab characters to some extent. However, since these are not designed from scratch, you may be limited in terms of how much you can change them. The cool thing is that you can use your avatar in over 2000 different games and apps, including VRChat, Spatial.io, and Nike's RTFKT.
On the other hand, custom characters give you much more control over how they look and behave. If you're starting from scratch, the process can be daunting - especially if you're unfamiliar with modeling or rigging. But don't worry! We'll take you step-by-step through the process of creating a custom avatar.
Now that we know what a metaverse character is, let's look at how to create one.
Here are the main steps you'll need to follow:
Before you start modeling your avatar, it's a good idea to sketch out what you want it to look like. You can use any kind of drawing tool for this - pencil and paper, digital painting software, etc. This step will help you visualize the final product and determine which parts you need to model.
It doesn't have to be perfect, but it's helpful to have a general sense of what you want your avatar to look like before you start modeling. Remember that different metaverses have different cultures and styles, so keep that in mind when designing your avatar.
For example, in VRChat, avatars tend to be more cartoonish, while in Second Life, they can be realistic or fantastic. In Spatial.io, avatars are limited to human forms.
You can find plenty of options online if you choose to go the simpler route and use a prefab character. Websites like Turbosquid offer a wide variety of 3D models, both free and paid.
For hand-drawn avatars, you'll need to create a 3D model that you can use as the basis for your design. You'll need a 3D modeling software for this - we recommend Blender, which is a free and open source software.
If you want to create a realistic human avatar, you can use photogrammetry to create a 3D model from photos. This process can be done with just a phone camera, but for best results, you'll need a DSLR camera and photogrammetry software like RealityCapture.
A 3D character is not much use without a rig, which is the skeleton that gives it movement. Rigs can be as straightforward or as complicated as you need them to be. For example, a rig for a human character might just consist of bones for the arms, legs, and spine. A more complex rig might include bones for every finger and toe. Non-humanoid avatars might also have extra features like a tail, wings, or tentacles.
Creating a rig consists of two parts: modeling the bones and attaching them to the 3D model. For the first part, you'll need a 3D modeling software like Blender. For the second part, you'll need a rigging tool like Mixamo. The Adobe-owned service offers a wide range of rigging options.
Once your character is rigged, you can add textures and materials to make it look more realistic. Textures are images that are wrapped around the 3D model, like skin, clothes, or fur. Materials define how light interacts with the surface of the 3D model and can include things like reflections and transparency.
Note that adding too many textures and materials can cause your avatar to lag in some metaverses. We'll review technical requirements for metaverse character rigging in the next section.
That's it! Once you're happy with your avatar, you can publish it to the metaverse of your choice. Each metaverse has its requirements for avatar files, so check those before you upload.
There are quite a few moving parts to consider when it comes to optimizing an avatar for a given metaverse, but here are the basics:
The file format you use for your avatar will depend on the target metaverse. The most common formats are .fbx, .dae, and .obj.
Texture sizes can range from 512x512px to 4096x4096px or more. The important thing is to use the smallest texture size that looks good in the target metaverse. Larger textures will take longer to load and could cause the servers to lag.
This is the number of individual faces that make up your 3D model. The higher the polygon count, the more detailed your model can be, but also the more resources it will require. For optimal performance, aim for a polygon count between 5,000 and 10,000.
This is the way that the faces of your 3D model are interconnected. A good mesh topology will flow smoothly and evenly without any sharp angles. Faces should also be quads (4-sided polygons), not triangles (3-sided polygons).
Bone weights are used to control how much influence a bone has over the vertices of the mesh. They are typically calculated automatically by the rigging software but can also be manually adjusted.
The goal is to have as few bones as possible with the most weight. This will minimize the amount of data that must be sent to the server and reduce the chances of your avatar becoming deformed.
Particle effects are special effects like fire, smoke, or rain. You can use them to add realism to your avatar, but they can also be very resource-intensive. Lighting effects are another type of particle effect that can add realism but should be used sparingly.
As you can see, there are quite a few technical requirements to consider when rigging an avatar for a given metaverse. But what about hardware requirements? You'll need a powerful computer with a good graphics card to run the software, but that's just the beginning. You'll also need a fast internet connection to upload your avatar to the metaverse and enough storage to save all of your files.
Thankfully, cloud-based solutions like Flaneer exist to take care of all of your needs.
With Flaneer, you can rent a virtual machine with the specifications you need and get started right away. There's no need to worry about hardware or software compatibility because we take care of everything for you. Choose between 450 setup options, and get started today.
Our AWS-powered virtual machines come with up to 16TB of storage and 256 cores, so you'll have plenty of space and power to create the most detailed avatar possible. Plus, our secure data center means your files will always be safe.
Flaneer is being used by Animation studios to rig future Disney and Netflix animation shows. And the good news is that Flaneer has opened its solution to independents and freelancers. You can test out our solution during 24h and get 95% refund if you are unhappy with it.