What are the best option to do character animation on xbox 360

Just starting with xBox 360 development
And wanted to know what is the best way to create and animate character.

For the game that I want to create, I'm after 1-2 high quality avatars
And control there moments.
Where can also update the avatars with different clothes options.

So what tools should be used to create avatars ?
And what sdk do you use with development to animate these avatars?

I have seen site like turbosquid (http://www.turbosquid.com)
That I can buy avatars, can these be used as a quick starting point
Or will it mean that I cant change my avatar later if start this way?
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Lots of questions to answer.

Mostly this depends upon file formats.  Whatever model you get, whether from turbosquid or making your own, it needs to load into your 360 app and display.  Many API's have tools for loading models from certain formats.  obj is probably the most commonly supported format in general, X files are often used on 360.  If an API doesn't support a model format, then you either convert the model or write code to load the format yourself.  Most modelling tools can load various formats of model and save in a different format.

To make models you can use any tool that supports that format.  3DS Max and Maya are most common in the game industry.  Blender is a very good modelling tool and is free.  There are quite a few simpler modelling tools, like Wings 3D and SketchUp.  These are focused on certain types of modelling and can be easier to learn to begin with.

One thing to watch out for is that model formats have different capabilities.  Some support static mesh objects, some do complex materials, some do not support animation.  Others can do complex scenes with hierarchies, lights and cameras.  Also if you buy models, make sure you get ones that will work on the 360.  Models designed for rendering video are usually much higher poly count than models for realtime use.

What SDK to use?  XNA is good for the 360, it has a lot of support for the kind of things you're trying to do.  Then there are cross platform engines, like UDK and Unity.  They all have websites, it's best for you to match the features of each system and against your own criteria.

Of course you could always try making your own API with DirectX. That has a steep learning curve and takes much longer than using an existing API but you would learn a lot about rendering.
true_solnAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the information, its a good starting point.

With the avatar am I correct in assuming that I can swap files easily if I have more that one?
What about clothing the avatar, is that just a simple step change clothes if provided with avatar?

With using xna to animate the avatar,
Can you recommend any tutorial link with steps to try a first animation ?
Yes, you could swap files, or use multiple files.  Either load one, remove it from RAM and then load another in its place, or load them all at once.  By pre-loading them you can swap very quickly, and display a choice of avatars rather than one at a time.  You only need to do the one at a time thing if they don't all fit in RAM at the same time.

To change clothing depends on exactly what changes.  Changing the colour of a shirt is just changing a texture (the image mapped onto the model).  You can have lots of different textures.

For doing something like swapping a bowler hat for a crash helmet you would need two models, a bowler and a crash helmet.  You would draw the basic avatar model then draw whatever accessories it has.  The accessory models would have to follow any animation, if the avatar turns its head for example.  How that works depends on how you choose to do animation.  The simplest way in the case of a hat is to have an attachment point on the models head which is animated with the rest of the avatar model.

I haven't linked to a specific XNA tutorial because I've never used one myself so I can't judge their quality.  But one of the nice things about XNA is the amount of developer support.  The web has lots of it if you only know what to look for.  Microsoft gives example code, programmers write about it and people ask questions.


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