Introduction: Making a Papercraft (lifesize?) Koopa Troopa
In a madcap effort to get something made for Scoochmaroo's papercraft contest and my inability to do anything the easy way, I've gone and made a quasi-lifesize Koopa Troopa based on the Super Mario Galaxy version. Since this wasn't a painting competition, he's done in basic white, and later I will do a "Painting your quasi-lifesize Koopa Troopa Papercraft" instructable during which time you can continue being amazed at how difficult one person can make their own life. So, here goes:
So we start with the game model. This format is called an MTL, and to be honest, I have no idea how to work with this format to save my life. But a handy little program called Crafty can open them, revealing an odd wireframe reminiscent of nothing in particular. Why is this important? Well, you can use Crafty to export the file into a format we can actually use. Export it as an OBJ file, and save it where you can find it.
Now you'll need to check out your model and make sure it's feasible for a real world application. Game models tend to have overlapping sections to allow for character movement, but your papercraft isn't going anywhere unless you are REALLY talented. I use a 3D editor called "Art of Illusion" to mess with the models, and to be honest, 90% of it's guess work and overuse of the "undo changes" button. Anyway, when your done, save your work under another name so you still have access to the original file if you find out it won't work.
Now for the part that most papercrafters know by heart. Pepakura Designer. This program allows you to import an OBJ, and several other formats that I have no business messing with, and let's you "unfold" your model into flat pieces. It also adds glue tabs for you and if you ask it nicely under the options tabs, it will number your pieces for you so you can match up the edges later. You can also adjust your scale during this process. I like going big because ummmm.... ok, I don't know why, but I did and I like it that way. I scaled my Koopa up to about what I imagine one would be like in real life. I took a step here that I learned from doing my last large scale piece and saved out the file as an EPS file. The large format printer where I work understands them and saved me some splicing.
And this is how it looked printing out. I have to admit, this is where it starts feeling intimidating. I also probably should've grouped it a bit better. Live and learn..
Now the part my wife particularly enjoys...I start cutting out my pieces and destroy the living room in one go. Constructive/destructive multitasking at it's finest. 2 best bits of advice here.. stay on the lines, and have something on tv that takes more listening to then watching, or you will slowly go mad. The first pic here shows the beginning, the 2nd pic shows what will eventually lead to my end..
Once you have all of your pieces cut out you can start identifying what's what. Pepakura viewer allows you to select a part and it will show you where it fits in the general scheme of things. This is very handy. You can also start putting some parts together just to see where you're going. Just remember, you may need to do some de-constructing to get those pieces together at some point.
Now you've got your pieces together and sorted. This is where you learn where you went wrong in the design stage. For instance, my Koopa's legs were way too long and needed some adjustment. I actually used this to my advantage and inserted them part way into the shell to give him some stability.
And then you put him all together. Game designers don't have to worry about balancing objects, since there's no gravity in most virtual worlds. And so, once I added his wings, he wouldn't stand up anymore. A hastily cut piece of scrap signboard for a base makes a nice way of forcing him to stay put and once painted like a small patch of grass all should be right in the world. And that is that. Best of luck!