Nackanas- Valkyrie

Nackanas: The Forbidden Realm is a Nordic themed soulslike game, focusing on the accurate representation of Norse Mythology.
My role for this was to design and create the main playable character, which I chose to be a Valkyrie warrior. This meant it could be a feminist take on a very masculine theme, which will give a fresh new perspective to a well established genre.
Because one of the main goals of this project was to focus on accurate representation of 11th century Nordic culture, a lot of my research was from historical sources, and interpreting designs from the poetry and prose written around that time period.

My first design I made as splash art to get my initial ideas out. She is very literal to the descriptions, fair and on horseback with a spear. Her outfit is a mix of the male and female 11th century Nordic clothing, which I chose because of the logical reasoning that horseback riding is near impossible in a full dress, and fighting even less practical, but also because of historical sources describing female warriors who fought in men’s clothing. I didn’t want the character to feel like she was just a woman in a mans role, because Valkyries have always been warriors. So I gave her feminine features like the iconic twin brooches and the beaded jewellery strung between them, attached to the smokkr.

After receiving feedback, I iterated the designs to have the fur hat and swan cloak.
Most of the feedback was that my design didn't stand out enough for a main character, especially with the hairstyle. I think this was partially due to a lack of texturing, and that the feather cloak wasn't in the picture I was showing, but I changed up the hairstyle nonetheless by adding a hat. (source from where I saw the hat)
The hat design started off as one of the classic conical Viking helmets, but then found sources about pillbox style hats worn by the birka warriors, and decided they looked more fitting with the rest of the design.

My sculpt was done in Zbrush, then taken into maya for retopology and rigging.

Hair cards was a new process for my that I learned for this project, and experimented with various ways to achieve the result I wanted. First I attempted to place the cards in maya, but this was time consuming and difficult to control, so I tried using the curve tools in zbrush to achieve the exact style I wanted. This works great for placement, but as it does not produce an automatic UV map, you have to make it in post, which takes far longer.
I then tried using groom tools in both maya and zbrush, those being xgen and fibermesh respectively. I found xgen has a wider range of features but fibermesh was very quick and easy to use.

Rigging the wings was one of the biggest challenges during this project, because I was limited by the mocap data we had to use, where the cape would have to be weighted to the unreal mannequin rig.

I did this by flooding each of the feathers 100% to the upper arms, then each feather getting 10% more than the last weighted towards the back (for the back feathers) or to the centre spine (for the front facing feathers) .