Unity: Replacing default ThirdPersonController character (Ethan) with a Mixamo character

In this post we’ll talk about how to swap out the default ThirdPersonController character (aka Ethan) with a Mixamo character.

Question: Why use a 3D character from Mixamo in the first place?
Answer: If you’re developing a 3D game and you want to include humanoid characters, you may not have the time (or the skill), or the resources to model a 3D character yourself so Mixamo is a great option for adding characters as placeholders for your game or demo. Of course there are fantastic tools out there such as Blender which is free to use for designing 3D models (humanoid or otherwise) but if you don’t know how to do so, the learning curve can be very steep and cost you a lot in time spent on tasks unrelated to coding your game.  Knowing all that, I found that Mixamo helps you cut to the chase with ready made 3D humanoids ready to (almost) drag and drop into your game or prototype.

When it comes to setting up a 3D Unity project (or any Unity project, really), Unity provides plenty of free assets that you can use for testing or just as a template to get your game off the ground, even if it’s just as a prototype. All projects begin as kind of a “sketch” so slapping together a working prototype is one of the best things you can do when fleshing out an idea for your project or game.  The Standard Assets package is a great resource for setting up a prototype because the package is not only vast, but is full of all kinds of goodies such as out-of-the-box, ready-to-go scripts and (the main topic of this discussion) character controllers such as the ThirdPersonController.

Implementing the ThirdPersonController

The ThirdPersonController (aka Ethan) in question can be easily implemented in basically 3 steps:

1. Download and import the Standard Assets package from the Asset Store.
2. Once it has been imported, navigate to StandardAssets/Characters/ThirdPersonCharacter/Prefabs
3. Drag and drop the ThirdPersonController into your scene.

And voila! You now have a third person character that you can control and move about your scene. Go on. Run around a bit with Ethan and get a feel for the movement. You can of course change his properties in terms of speed, agility, rotation, etc but that’s another topic altogether.

Replacing Third Person Controller character Ethan with your own model

While the ThirdPersonController provides you with a great foundation with which to base your main character, at some point you’re going to want to use your own 3D models instead of the default Ethan character if you want to add some originality to your game. So while originality is definitely something to strive for when creating and designing games, in the context of creating functional prototypes Adobe‘s Mixamo is a fantastic resource for complete and functional 3D models that work very with Unity and are easy to import.  This is a great option if you don’t have the time, skills or resources to create your own 3D models and just want to get your game or prototype off the ground.

I found that the video below illustrates just how easy it is to replace Ethan with a Mixamo character model as an example. You can do this in about 3 steps:

1. Download a Mixamo character/model in standard T-pose.
2. Import the model into Unity and export the textures.
3. Replace Ethan with your model.

This short ~8 minute video explains how to replace the Third Person Controller character with your own model (or a Mixamo character)very clearly. You are basically importing the model’s textures and will then use the existing rig from the Third Person Controller. All very easy peasy. Check it out:

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