Socially Bright | Creating the Gnome
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18 Jun Creating the Gnome

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been swept off our feet at SBHQ with the development of our game. If you missed out on Sam’s explanation of our concept, you can find his latest blog post here.

From the initial ideas I began to sketch some concepts of how the gnome could look, and then took them into 3DS Max to begin construction of our 3D character. I used a technique called box modelling to create ‘Gnome 1.0’ – as I knew that it was the best way to reduce the polygon count (if there are too many polygons in the game it won’t run on an iPhone or other similar devices).

gnome sketches

In 3DS Max, the basic idea is to create the blocky version of your character and apply a ‘Mesh Smooth’ modifier so that it becomes smooth. When I applied this modifier to the model, the polygon count became too high – for film it would be fine, but for a game it was too much. After this I deleted the modifier and applied a texture instead. Shown here:


After further group discussion we decided that this isn’t what we were looking for and that animating it wouldn’t work… so, onto the next one!

This time around I wanted to experiment with a software package called ZBrush which uses a sculpting technique, giving me more room to play with detail. However this method creates a vast amount of polygons, meaning that it has to be made at a high quality, and then reduced for use in games. In hindsight it isn’t the best technique to use for game development, but it was certainly a learning experience.


As you may have noticed, both of the designs have been created with their arms stretched out. This is called the ‘T Position’ which is the standard for creating animated characters. This position makes it easier to place the bones in and it also assures symmetry – which couldn’t be achieved in a dramatic pose.

After a painful day of rigging, ‘Gnome 2.0’ was finally ready to animate. We decided that it would be best to stick with 3 simple animation loops; run, slide, and jump. These would be called by specific commands in the software that Sam is using (Unity).

Once the animations were finished and integrated into the game, we thought it would be a good idea to work on an alternative gnome that has longer skinnier legs. This modification would allow us to exaggerate movement with ease. This led onto ‘Gnome 3.0’.


To create ‘Gnome 3.0’ I went back into 3DS Max to box model it with no concept sketches. Personally, I prefer this version of the gnome as the extended legs are similar in style to those of Flint Lockwood – the main character from animated film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and appear to be formed of rubber.


Animating was fun and gave me a chance to experiment with loops. This meant that the first frame of the animation had to link with the last frame, so that it could loop seamlessly without jumping. I began animating by making a very basic run cycle, then from here I was able to create layers to add onto the existing animation – this is called secondary animation. For example, the original animation wouldn’t have the fingers move, so that would be added in the secondary.

Check back next week, where I’ll be starting to talk about creating the game’s environment!