At first I wanted to model a koi fish to be the character, which blows out bubbles in the sushi bar, mainly because the koi is a known Japanese symbol. When modelling I found it increasingly difficult to make the koi sit upright in the position I wanted, this is due to the koi’s natural structure where it’s spine curves on the horizontal frame not vertically, which made my model look unnatural and awkward looking.
(below are images found on Google for reference for how to model the Koi fish)
When creating this model I noticed that it increasingly looked like a seahorse, and with a bit of tweaking it could be a really lovely model. I then had to decide the importance of using a koi or if I was able to adapt my designs to make it into a sea horse, and what the hidden connotations might be. As it was a Japanese sushi bar I really wanted to have elements of traditional Japanese culture and symbols, but I had already decided that my game was primarily about the modern day Japan, which meant that as long as I made the model fun and enjoyable to look at I would be fitting my design idea.
(below is an image I found on Google for reference for how to model a seahorse)
I decided to add a glow map to the seahorse model and use bright yellow colours to express joy and playfulness. The model itself has an interesting shape with a mix of smooth curves with blocky modelling in places, which I think adds to the playfulness. Below are some screen-shots to show the development of my initial model and how it developed into the finished thing.
Here is a screenshot of my first attempt of modelling (left) with a slightly more developed model (right), showing my development process. I decided that the head shape needed to be changed quite drastically as it still looked quite humanised, that it needed finns to look more like a seahorse, and that although I liked the bottom curve of the tail on the first model it definitely needed to be resized and shaped to look more realistic.
I then streamlined the face by making it a bit slimmer and elongated the nose. I also brought down the crown of the head and reshaped it slightly so it didn't look so large. I also disliked the spikes of the finn on it's back, so I decided to go back and smooth them into a more curved shape which felt more natural looking and joyful.
I then added a torus for a mouth, but rescaled it slightly, making it slightly more podgy and cuter looking, which fits more with my aesthetic style.
After this I made some final tweaks, mainly with the vector tool, before going onto UV mapping.
I decided to use planar mapping as I knew I wanted my model to have a symmetrical texture. I chose to take it from the side as this is where the most detailing will be, but also due to the curve in the tail that would be impossible to texture well if done from a different angle.
Here is a test I created to see if the texture stretched at all around the front and back and how to combat this. I decided to incorporate this into my design.
At first I decided to use a Blinn texture as I first wanted the model to have a shine to look like plastic, but I soon decided, even with tweaking of the presets, that a Lambert would look more natural and less shiny and off putting.
I looked into glow maps and decided to have a go myself, changing the alpha channels so that I can reimport the texture, much like when making a bump map. I was really happy with the result after dimming the effect slightly, but found out that unfortunately Unity doesn't support this sort of texturing.
I then added some small details to the face such as eyes and finns which are all textured and modelled separately, and the parented and grouped to the object.
And there we go! One seahorse!