A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I made an Optimus Prime model for Warcraft III.
Prime was never finished because I never found a texturer (the UV map was actually a horror anyway). But I’m big on reuse and recycling; so I thought to myself, “how can I shove this into Project Y4…?”
A Prime Cut
I think it must have been around the time of the first Michael Bay Transformers film that I decided to embark on the Prime project. Of course I’m a man of cubes, so I chose to do the original “Generation One” Prime instead of the terribly cluttered movie reimagining. This was made awfully difficult by the fact that I didn’t actually have access to the Prime toy I used for reference (the “20th anniversary” version, I think), so the model didn’t come out perfect… But it came out quite good enough for me.
The model was finished, and not just in terms of geometry and animations — aside from the aforementioned terrible texture layout (should have done more with the truck form in mind to avoid seams), it was all souped up with particle emitters, attachment points, even a proper portrait where the mouth-plate squidged around just like in the original cartoon.
But ultimately, nobody came forward to give him a proper texture (see the hilarious block-coloured texture festooned with graffiti above), so he never saw the light of day.
Some more animations (I love my Photobucket):
With the advent of Project Y4, I’ve been snooping around my ‘OBSOLETE” folder for inspiration. You know, old models that are absolutely dreadful but have an interesting concept or some fun design features. And I naturally stumbled upon this glorious folly.
Project Y4 currently doesn’t include much in the way of civilian vehicle props, so I saw a spot for Prime… at least in truck form.
It turned out, however, that the model suffered from a number of issues. Namely, the fact that it was made before Milkshape implemented the snap-cursor-to-grid option (I remember thinking, “why the hell do I want this? Ctrl+G already snaps vertices to the grid”, then realising that this worked on bones and movement… never looked back), so the bones are all off-grid. You might not think this is much of an issue, and in an organic model, it might not have been — but when you’ve got a robot, and you need all his parts to line up perfectly in the alternate form…
This posed a problem, because although I discovered a snap-bones-to-grid tool in the Tools menu, that didn’t deal with all the animation keyframes that actually implement the transformation.
There were a few possible solutions:
- Complain to Mete Cirigan (the creator of Milkshape). This wouldn’t have been very pro-active, and would probably have taken ages to implement (if it got done at all; I mean, really, how often do people want to truncate all their translation keyframes?).
- Write my own plug-in. I know that I know a bit of C++ nowadays, but delving into the unfamiliar and magical API of a 3D modelling program seemed like another long-term solution… Especially for a one-shot (I don’t recall any other animation sets worth saving in this manner).
- Export to a text-based format, dick around, and re-import.
Of course I went for option 3. Out came Eclipse, and a frenzied afternoon of juddering around later (well, plus a little of the next morning), out popped a working Java program. In went Prime, out came PrimeSnapped. Quick and dirty, no beautiful object orientated design — but job done, and surprisingly well done to boot.
“Success. Come back to the control room.“
— Tracer Tong, Deus Ex
So once the animations were all in place and happy, Prime had to be remade appropriate to the theme. That is, he had to become RDZ Industries style. Not as hard as you’d think, considering his wonderfully angular appearance in the first place.
The make-over delightfully entailed tearing off high-poly accessories like wheels in favour of repulsors for hovering, and getting rid of nasty wheel arches and bumpers that caused me no end of trouble in the original. The skeleton is simpler, the geometry is simpler… Much better.
Appreciate the new RDZ Industries hover-truck, complete with robot form.
Then all I needed to do was make some kind of red-and-blue texture variant…