Sunday, January 15, 2012

Horny Monster

Let me start by apologizing for that awful pun.

Now, with that out of the way, this time around I'm doing a monster concept.

The idea for this fellow is that he's supposed to be one of the first monsters the player encounter. So visually i wanted him to look a little less threatening, almost cute, but still looking like he could be dangerous. I imagine his horns are mostly defensive, and his main form of attack is spitting some sort of poison. The jagged shape of his mouth is not teeth, it's actually his lips, each "tentacle tooth" has small barb-like teeth on the inside. So to feed, this creature poisons it's prey, then attaches itself to it and sucks the life out of it.

This design is also throwing things on the wall and see what sticks. It took about an hour to paint, at that speed and relatively rough details I can throw lots of ideas on the wall.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Introducing Luis, and the summoner character!

I wanted a character with the ability to capture and summon monsters. I knew that the design should be somewhat exotic and tribal, I wanted her to look like someone who’s been living in the wild among monsters for some time.

A while ago I convinced and old friend of mine to help out with models and animation. I met Luis in Prague in 2005, and we’ve stayed in touch since. I always enjoyed his art, especially his ink pieces. When last year he joined a mod team I’ve been involved with for a while, I also learned that the talented bastard also does modeling and animation! So naturally I had to ask him to work for me! Thankfully he agreed! You can see some of his art here:

Back to the summoner! Like I said, I had a general idea of what I wanted. I did a few small thumbnails and showed them to Luis.

He immediately saw where I wanted to go with it, and we decided on continuing with number 3. Since I have great confidence in Luis’ artistic abilities, I just let him have at it and start sculpting at this point.

What followed was a few rounds back and forth with feedback, and eventually Luis had finished a basic sculpt of her, with proportions we both were happy with. At this point I did a quick overpaint of his sculpt, to give a bit more direction.

We were also having a dialogue about styles, talking about different games that we like, and various artistic styles. I had a vague idea about the style i wanted down the line, but talking with Luis helped nail down a direction. I’m working on a model on my own, which i haven’t shown publicly yet, and we’ve been trying to have the two models match stylistically.

Luis kept sculpting in Zbrush, and sending me regular updates. I had minor issues here and there that needed to be fixed, but most of the time was spent looking at amazing progress! I know what I want, and I can sometimes be very direct and demanding when working with other artists. But while working with Luis I don’t think I had to give any major critique, he usually know what I mean right away, and takes care of business!

This is the finished high poly sculpt:

After he finished sculpting, Luis did a poly paint as a base for her texture. The color scheme was based on some tests he did earlier in the process, that I was very happy with. Here’s the polypainted version, with a closeup.

Luis then moved on to the low poly. We had a bit of back and forth about the number of tris on the ingame model, and we settled at around 2000 polies. He then baked the normal maps and texture, and here she is in UDK! This was the first test in-engine, i just threw her in there straight off the bat, and everything worked nicely after i inverted the green channel in the normal map. (That’s the kind of habits you pick up by working on idtech4, Luis! :P) . It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but i already think she looks awesome in game!

Looks bloody great for a 2k tri model, right?

After that point Luis started testing her deformation, trying to find a balance between performance and fidelity, which i think he's handled pretty well here. We've not decided on how much facial animation she'll have, we might need to omit that completely. But hopefully there will be room in the budget for at least a wink and a smile!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Concepting a character

All characters start with an idea. Sometimes it's very vague, other times you get a detailed description with full biographies from the writer. Here I'll try to explain a bit about my process when imagining characters.

It starts with inspiration. In this particular case it's obviously heavily inspired by the plague doctor mask from when the black death ravaged Europe. I've always found it to be a really cool visual, but apart from that I'm fascinated with how they would fill the beaks of these masks with fragrant herbs, since they believed that the disease was caused by bad smells. (According to miasma theory.) This is something that i found interesting, and somehow wanted to include in this character.

His weapon is based on an incense burner I've seen used in catholic rituals. Whenever I'd see one of those things I'd think "That would make an awesome weapon!". So combining the idea of an incense burner with that of a flail or a morning star seemed like a good match. (As a side note it's an interesting juxtaposition how "morning star" is another name for Lucifer, and I'm combining it with something used in supposedly sacred rituals.) So the idea of having toxic smoke coming out of the weapon to do additional damage to enemies seemed cool to me.

Which brings us back to the mask. As a child i was fascinated by greek mythology, and how oracles would inhale certain vapors to have their visions. So by adding this to the fact that the plague doctors put fragrant herbs in their masks, i get a character who has smoldering herbs in his mask, giving him protection from various things like poison etc. A side effect would be that inhaling all this smoke makes him kind of loopy, staggering and drunk/drugged-like. This again ties nicely into the weapon, which i can see being a good fit for a character that staggers and swirls around. The smoke coming out of both his mask and his weapon ties the whole design together both visually and conceptually.

I do the whole concept sketch in photoshop. At this point in the development cycle it's all about throwing ideas at the wall and see what sticks, so this kind of 2 hour sketch is perfect for that purpose. If this character ends up making it into the final game it will probably go through a process of refining, but not necessarily. Sometimes it just works early on, or you hand the concept over to someone who knows where to take it to make it awesome. When painting a concept like this i try to put some life into the character, some hints about how he moves, his posture etc. Here he is, swinging his flail, trying to keep his balance while also hitting the enemy.

I hope you enjoyed this little writeup, here's a timelapse of me painting this character. The original painting time was pretty much 2 hours on the dot, it's sped up to around 10 minutes for a less boring watch.

So, I'm making a game..

I've always wanted to make games. And the time to do that is now. So I'm making a game! This will be a production by Grüsomt Games, which for the moment has one employee - Me. I'm not going to handle everything myself tho, I've already snared two collaborators whom I will be spotlighting in future posts.

Since I'm a big fan of game studios being transparent during their development process, I've decided to do the same. I intend to keep this blog updated with tidbits of information on everything from concept art and modeling to programming and game design philosophy. This is both to try and create interest for the project and to give something back to the great internets and all the helpful people on here who have pretty much taught me everything I know about my craft.

The game is not yet named. I know this is probably something that I'll have to remedy shortly, since it's hard to create buzz around something without a name. This as of yet unnamed game will be built using UDK, and the target platform is iOs devices, and Android. (As soon as we get Android support in UDK.) I've fallen in love with how user friendly UDK is, how easy it is for a small team to be productive with it, and the great community around it always ready to help out. New distribution channels like steam, the app store and the android market have opened up the possibility for smaller, independent game developers to reach a big audience and survive without backing from a huge publisher.

Stop babbling and tell me what the game is about you say? Aye, i suppose i should. The plan is to make a turn based RPG, focusing on fun gameplay and awesome visuals. As the development progresses my inspirations would probably become quite clear.. So I might as well start talking about that now. The Final Fantasy series has always (back in the golden days anyways.) had a style of gameplay that appealed to me, and that's always been the kind of game I would like to make. But before you start typing out hate mail saying how stupid it is to aim for a style of game that requires multi-million dollar budgets, let me just tell you right away that I'm aware of the position I'm in. I know what a small team can and can't do. I've taken every precaution not to overshoot, my goals are all realistic. The game is designed to be modular, so after some core features are in place it's easy to add features and assets as they are completed. I will be making more specific posts about the topic of making games with small teams in the future.

I'd also like to highlight the game "Moonstone" for the Amiga. This old school classic does a lot of things right, and I draw lots of inspiration from this. Some people might say it's not a good idea to start things off by naming other games, since everyone wants to be completely original and do something no one has ever done before. While i enjoy originality as much as the next guy, I also disagree with the notion that the wheel has to be reinvented every time. This is another topic i intend to talk more about in a future post.

Yeah, wall of text done. Hello world!