Category Archives: Character Design

3D screenshots


After more than 2 years without touching 3DSMax, it was a sleep learning curve getting up to date with the new versions and remembering how to use the vast amount of settings and options available. I love designing characters, and recent games like Skyrim have given me a new appreciation for well designed 3D models, so I was looking forward to seeing what I could do.

Unfortunately, a series of major computer problems at the start of the semester really slowed down my progress, and it was more than a month before I was able to get everything working smoothly again. The programs that worked fine the last 2 years ago when I was working on 3D have been updated, and I had continuous problems getting 3DSMax to run on my outdated 2007 computer.

This constant stop and start where the program would run fine for a week and then not the next meant that I didn’t have as much time on my model as I would have liked, though I did manage to learn alot – mostly from mistakes.

I found that once I started to familiarize myself with the program I got very absorbed in the process, and there’s something satisfying about seeing it take shape. The work was – I was constantly messing something up and having to return to an earlier point, and trying to keep the polygons 4 sided became a conceptual nightmare, so more preparation is definitely needed next time. But I enjoyed it, and it’s not as daunting as it seems.

I hit a stumbling block it the outer casing of VeePees though. Being so used to Photoshop, I slipped into habits that are possible there, but that cannot be used on 3DSMax, and that also cost me time.

3d renderBeing that the computer had problems running the program, I rarely tested the render so as not to waste time. However, this meant that I didn’t realize my biggest problem until it was too late to be fixed. cutting and pasting sections of the head and body to help me keep their general shape meant that the inner body and outer shell of VeePees was made up of polygons that were facing the wrong way – inwards rather than outwards. I used the clone option to build up the polygons, and so the problem spread. I didn’t realise because it shows up fine in the working window, but when rendered the body is inside out, while the arms and head are fine.

This is a mistake I will never repeat at least.


How Does VeePees Work?


While gathering my work on VeePees, I realized that I had figured out a rather complicated hypothetical way for the character to work, but I hadn’t yet explained that in a visual way. I used images created for the Academic Poster to put together a technical concept for VeePees, helping to make his inner working clearer to anyone who wishes to take the character further.

How does VeePees work

Academic Poster


Academic Poster

VeePees is a humanoid automaton, a self operating robot with a design heavily influenced by the work of Nikola Tesla, and designed as a thinking, talking, sympathetic weapon of mass destruction.

VeePees is able to draw naturally occurring static from the air using copper filaments on his head, with two small lightning rods collecting boost charges during storms. Charge is collected in capacitors in the chest area, with a window for easy diagnosis of problems in the machine. From here current is divided, traveling down to the powerful Tesla Coils on his arms, and rotating magnetic fields which give him the power of flight.

The design of materials and colour in VeePees is purely functional. Main electrical channels  are made of copper, used for its high conductivity, while Discharge Terminals and outer casing use Aluminuim as it controls and directs the current away from inner workings.

The main body design is heavily influenced by child-like traits, with the intention of eliciting sympathy on the part of an assailant, causing a hesitation and allowing VeePees the upper hand in an assault. There are several key features in the design of VeePees that are intended to elicit nurturing instincts;

1.   Eyes

Disproportionately large eyes compared to body size serves to make the robot innocent and trustworthy in appearance. The eyes also serve as the main source of expression, adding a layer of helplessness his appearance. Subtle ranges of emotion are captured using simple, fixed eyes angled down to imitate shyness, and basic semicircle eyelids.

2.  Mouth

The eyes being the main form of expression, VeePees’ other forms of communication are limited, forcing him to use basic miming gestures.While he has no actual mouth, the head stores a small stock of pre-recorded messages resembling children begging or crying to be played at opportune moments, triggering a nurturing instinct.

3.  Hands

The basic impracticality of the cannon hands increases the appearance of neediness and helplessness. Their disproportionately large size makes the robot appear more childlike – small and  fragile.

4. Body Proportions

Simple AI leaves VeePees with a playful and infantile personality, while the body shape is an exaggerated form of toddler proportions, subtly portraying innocence and helplessness. Large eyes combine with a disproportionately large head and small button nose to imitate a child. The head is connected to the body with no clear neck, and the body itself tapers down, drawing attention up to the eyes.

Clay Character Model

Made with Super Sculpey oven bake clay

Made with Super Sculpey oven bake clay

After I finished my design for VeePees I made a 3D model using oven bake clay, to help me visualize the design from all angles for the virtual 3D model. Because the ‘hair’ and details of VeePees would make an unstable model, I focused on his arm cannon, which was hard fro me to draw from some angle as it is mainly cylindrical.

This was my first time using this clay, the though it was hard to keep it straight and smooth with so many perfect circles in the design, I found it surprisingly easy to mold, with hardly any cracking during baking despite so many small details.

Character Render

Photoshop rendering of my final design for VeePees

Photoshop rendering of my final design for VeePees

After completing the design in my sketchbook, I once again painted the character in Photoshop, which is the easiest way of representing the colour and texture of the materials he is made up of.

The Story of VeePees

My final design for VeePees was heavily influenced by Nikola Teslas inventions, both in the visual style and in the materials that make up VeePees. The world that I envision him is centered on Teslas work, essentially sci-fi universe, similar to ours but with slight differences. In this world, history ran as normal up until around 1884, where it split and differences began to show. Nikola Tesla, who originally emigrated to America to work for Thomas Edison instead stays in France, where he is able open his own company without fear of stolen Patents. The scientific community embraces Tesla’s ideas, and his work forms the foundation for revolution in electrical engineering, even replacing steam as the leading source of power.

Around 2030, with France still at the forefront of technology and engineering, a prototype for a new type of weapon was released, a humanoid robot that takes its power from static in the air using copper filaments, and so never has to return to base. They simply named the robot VeePees. Because super-powered weapons were the norm, the company tried a new angle with the prototype, using large eyes and childlike proportions to elicit a sympathy response, causing hesitation and delaying any attacker long enough for VeePees to engage.

The technology for VeePees was developed from Tesla’s original patents, which after 150 years had reached AI levels. The electricity that powers him is collected from naturally occurring static in the air by copper filaments on his head, with two small lightning rods collecting boost charges during storms. The charge is collected in capacitors in VeePees chest, which includes a ‘window’ for easy diagnosis of problems in the machine. From here current is divided, traveling down to the Tesla Coils on his arms, and down to rotating magnetic fields that give him the power to fly.

While thinking of a reason for VeePees to exist, I thought of a world where Tesla ruled, perhaps Edison didn’t exist, and Tesla’s home country would be where VeePees was built. After finding out about Tesla work in France and googling the nonsense VeePees in case it related to a French word I found a French communications company that is actually called VeePees. I though this was quite funny, it could be them that built him…

Veepees – Rendering of Childs Drawing

Photoshop rendering of original child's drawing

Photoshop rendering of original child’s drawing

One of the first exercises I did in the development of VeePees as a character was to visualise a character using the lines of the child’s drawing unaltered.

This is the first time I used Adobe Photoshop in this way – using a tablet to shade in a realistic way. The hair was a nightmare but it was an interesting learning experience, starting with large simple shapes like this was helpful.

Original drawing

Original drawing


The first time I saw the drawing of VeePees I immediately thought of flying, the way his arms are spread, the back-draft behind his hair and the angle of the body looked like he was in an Iron Man style pause during light (to look at the camera).

When I thought about it that way, the arms easily resemble Astro-Boy style arm propulsion, producing clouds of smoke

Fallout 3 – One of the Best Gaming Storylines Ever


This is a brilliant video covering the setting for the world of the Fallout game franchise, a future where a ‘2 hour war’ in which all nuclear capable nations on Earth detonated their bombs, leaving a desolate radioactive wasteland behind.

One aspect of the Fallout storyline is that it runs on an alternate timeline to our, identical up until roughly the 1940’s where slight differences appeared, changing the course of history. In this case, the drive to miniaturize technology never occurred, resulting in computers that would fill a room, Technology never becoming available to the masses resulted in the general 60’s decor and way of life.

My storyline with VeePees will follow a similar route, only in this case the timeline split sometime in the 1890’s, resulting in Tesla Coil energy becoming the worlds primary source. The resulting increased technology in this area is what powers VeePees