I wanted to add a lot more detail to this character than was visible in the last turnaround. I could add millions of polygons into the mix and sculpt them all perfectly, but this would present a couple problems:
- Animating high-detail characters is frustratingly slow and prone to crashing everything
- Loading, transferring, or saving high-detail assets is troublesome
- The source engine has a limit to the number of polygons a single object may have
So rather than make my character cumbersome and risk breaking the source engine, I cheated. I took this character and bumped him up to about 5 million polygons. That's enough to basically murder Maya on an average computer, so I did this in ZBrush and did some sculpting there. Then stamped all that detail back onto the original low-polygon character.
The result is a 9k character that has a *similar* level of detail to the 5million character. Shadows will play across his shirt as if the folds were actually there, but in reality he's a pretty simple dude. This technique is called 'Normal Mapping' and it's been used extensively in both games and films for years.