While listening to a remix of Perfect Dark's soundtrack, I was inspired to give its main character that sort of high fidelity reinterpretation. I had never modeled a realistic human nor a firearm, so my primary goal was to make them believable by focusing on authentic details. I wanted to give Joanna Dark a proper update in the vein of the original game, which grounded its conspiracy-driven story in realistic visuals.

In the climactic level Carrington Institute: Defense, characters are dressed to the nines when their offices fall under attack. And it is up to Joanna to rally defenses, rescue hostages, and defuse explosives. Even in a cocktail dress and sandals, she's still our best defense against the malevolent forces, corporate and cosmic, vying for control of Earth.

Every asset is a chance to strengthen the narrative, and I tried to bring forth backstory visually. For instance, anti-gravity propulsion was the Carrington Institute's breakthrough technology, so it should be the centerpiece of their lobby statue. Joanna was unable to walk until the the age of five and, even though she overcame her limitations, she wouldn't have perfect posture. Look closely at her dress and you'll see allusions to war and peace, commemorating an imminent meeting with the Maian delegation.

Perfect Dark was always about the line between light and shadow. Technological limitations kept this from being reflected in gameplay, though these variations are still seen in story and character. Joanna is lighthearted, but has a tragic backstory and a dangerous profession, her playful personality contrasting violent actions and intense habits. I wanted to reflect some of these wrinkles in her character model. She should look tough but pleasant, strong but lean, and fashionable but not preening.

In particular, the contrast between playfulness and intensity is essential to Joanna Dark. I see many athletes with that same combination of traits and, along with previous versions of the character, they were my main reference and inspiration. Her round cheeks, defined brow, neatly coiffed hair, overdeveloped quads, long biceps, and indelicate hands are all features I saw as illustrating her personality and capabilities. Everything that goes into a character helps define them, and you have to be concious of the choices you're making if you're to depict all aspects of their appearance appropriately.

That is one of the reasons I wanted to build this model from scratch. Even though digital human creation is being taken over by automation, you should still be able to make a character bespoke to your project and manifest one out of nothing. With that said, I think it's important to layer photographic information onto your sculpt, so texturing.xyz displacement maps and albedo references proved an invaluable resource. If this result is lacking compared to a photogrammetric approach, it's missing the 1:1 coincidence between texture and geometry that makes minor details so vivid. My sculpted detail need be more pronouced to stand out under the softening effect of subsurface scattering and real-time shadowing.

Carrington Institute's primary service rifle, the AR34, is based on a FAMAS-F1. Compared to other weapons in the game, it doesn't closely resemble its real-world couterpart. But the French bullpup is modeled with much greater accuracy for Perfect Dark Zero's plasma rifle, and a close copy is likely what was intended for the AR34. I decided to adhere to this design when possible and incorporate elements from other models where preferrable, focusing on what makes it look the part of a futuristic firearm while replacing dated design cues.

For example, the buttstock and recoil pad still look cool and very much at home in 2023, thanks to their vivid angles. For the clumsy curves that needed replacement, I looked to the original AR34 as a starting point. It's most distinguishing feature is a reddish-brown foregrip, with vertical hash marks and a flared end cap, and the the IWI Tavor provided the perfect real-world reference. I adapted this design to fit the AR34's square shape and suggest its unusually wide cross section, even as the dimensions of the final model are more in line with a practical firearm.

I made the dress in Marvelous Designer based on a traditional cheongsam pattern. Though it would not have elaborate folds, simulated fabric is still a great option for producing natural wrinkles in an otherwise form-fitting garment. It was even possible to add a detailed version of the dragon design so that it could contribute to the simulation. What Marvelous was not well suited for was creating the leg slit, as an open outseam led to extreme warping and asymmetrical fitting.

My solution was to leave this seam in place but separate its edges, then export the mesh to Maya and enable it to drape properly with nCloth. Instead of a wide arch, this produced the expected result of a narrow triangle. This is not necessarily because the calculation was more accurate, but because the simulation was applied to an already fitted garment. I imported the modified dress as a layer in Mudbox to combine the changes with the original mesh, seamlessly blending the best of both versions. Similar changes could be made manually, but I felt these overlapping simulations would yield a better result.

Along with simulation, surfacing would be my main means of adding interest to this simple silhouette. Some of the details I modeled in 3D, while others I designed as 2D displacement maps. The scales comprise 758 instances of three different models positioned manually and resized randomly. Finer details I developed in Photoshop, with many geometric displacements overlapped to create swirls and striations embellishing the dragon design. Combined with a variety of textile patterns, this yielded multiple maps I could layer over the Mudbox sculpt.

As with most other assets, I created the color and specular maps using Substance Painter. For the most part, this process was pretty straightforward, but with uniformly black shading I struggled to produce much visual depth. In depicting a brand new garment, I had to limit wear and tear to minor amounts of dirt and dust, so I found a different method to enliven its flat appearance. With a color ID mask, I assigned heavily desaturated but otherwise complementary purple and gold to the weft and warp of the fabric. The resulting texture is still basically black, but more iridescent than my plasticky first draft.