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I have a rigged model of Thwomp that I need to export to Unity. The eyes are animated using an armature and Lattice Deformation modifier. As I understand it, you can't export Lattice deforms to Unity (in fact, even my bones seem to do nothing after import, but that's a different problem). So what I think could be a good alternative is shape keys, but I am having trouble.

Here is my model, a regular Gary Busey:

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Here is what the rig can do in Blender. I would like to have the same capabilities in Unity after export:

enter image description here

Here are the objects that make the right eyeball. The right lattice deforms each of the right eyelids and the eyeball itself. I just realized I don't have the eyelids rigged right now but...baby steps:

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Here is the armature. You can see that each eye is aligned to a bone that points towards the target. The parent bone may be superfluous but it is there to keep all the bones together. I would like to keep this rig on export. The single target has the desired effect of making Thwomp appear to be leering, but I can also set it at a far distance if I need him to appear less cross-eyed:

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I tried to make shape keys for the right eye with the armature and lattice modifiers still active, but I found that I cannot scrub between shape keys after making them. Applying the lattice modifier and de-parenting the armature after the fact does not help. There is only imperceptible movement while scrubbing the values for the shape keys:

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Whatever solution I settle on, it needs to use the existing textures and UVs because it took me 2 days (solid days!) to bake all the textures (read: Diffuse, Normal, Roughness) for this model and the eyes were the trickiest part. This is an original [fan]project and I made all the textures myself (not including the concrete texture, which is a free texture from TextureHaven--and I have since altered non-eye textures to match the UV's at a better scale, which was more tedious work):

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I don't think ('THINK'!) animating the texture coordinates is an option for a mapping like this and the deformation would probably be too extreme anyway. But I am open to suggestions if your experience says otherwise.

So, recap:

  • How can I make shape keys for these eyes and retain my armature?
  • Is there a variation or alternative to shape keys that I have not considered?
  • Solutions must be viable with Unity

Thank you!

EDIT: I made some shape keys and they look terrible. All of them use a forward looking direction as a basis and they do not blend well together. The more extreme shapes are unnatural in the intermediary blend value even without other shapes being mixed:

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How can I get my character rigged properly for my game??

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