Developer commentary on what it took to create our main NPC of the first episode.
Posted by HexenEdgeOfChaos on Aug 16th, 2011
"As the foremost Librarian amongst his fellows, Roden is widely regarded as having the greatest cohesive sense of the history of Cronos. Before founding his grand library, he feared that records of the past could one day be destroyed - either through mere accident or malicious intent. To safeguard against such an intellectual loss, he set out with his most trusted allies to create a bastion against the march of time.
Roden is, as he has always been, simply an observer. It is then horribly poetic that he is fated to continue this role now that he is stuck somewhere between the bounds of life and death. Korax was killed. The world rejoiced. The world rebuilt. But Korax's existence set the current stage, allowed a new darkness to lead that march of time. And Roden must watch as he always has, and watch, and watch..."
This month we'd like to formally introduce our main NPC of the first episode....Roden. From start to finish it took the collaboration of several people and input from the entire team to get the character to where he is today. The following is a developer commentary that is hopefully both interesting and informative on how many things are done internally. Enjoy.
For me, Roden always seemed the most necessary character in the first episode. The player was always going to learn of him, his research, and the world's past in the Library, but there was something too emotionally detached about that idea. Reading about the man was never going to be as powerful as actually meeting him. He is, I think, a visual metaphor for a theme running through the Cleric's story: impotence in the face of overwhelming circumstances. As knowledgeable and wise as Roden may be, he is now bound to an existence where he can do very little. In terms of practicality, he functions as a means to explain the situation to the player - in my mind more in a System Shock 2 Janice Polito sort of way, as opposed to Atlas a la Bioshock. Further, he is a presence of stability. We opened the game in a ravaged city, thoroughly raped and left for ash. The Library presents a calm disparity, as does Roden. True, the building has seen better days, as has the man himself, but what I wanted to accomplish most at this point in the narrative was to allow the player an opportunity to get a sense of what our Cleric has been thrown into and what might be done to fix it.
Like any other project it began with the idea which was written by Spookt, our writer extraordinaire. The main air about the character I'd specifically mention is one of weariness. He's trapped in the library and can really do nothing else but chronicle what he sees. While the player is his long hoped-for savior (for himself and the world), he has long since given into despair.
I began doing some early concepting and at first I was going for a simple monk feel until our Art Director/Viking- Andreas told me the design was looking too bland.
"Keep in mind he's a ghost, and we're talking about a magical entity whose existence for a very long time has been all about chronicling. You have an opportunity to play around with his appearance here, and I don't think we should limit ourselves to the "old man in a robe" option. " Andreas then drew notes over my concept, I went back to the drawing board, and we ended up at our final concept.
Once approved, I started doing the actual 3d model. I'm using blender 2.5x for all of my 3d work, and I must say its a fantastic piece of software. It comes with high resolution sculpting tools and low resolution modeling tools so, all in all, it's like having Mudbox and Maya in the same package...extremely handy.
When I completed the high res model it was just a matter of baking the normal and AO maps into the low res meshes, and painting the diffuse channels with Photoshop. Blender has a really good .md5 exporter which allows us to import the asset and its animations directly into id tech 4 with out any problems which has been another great perk of using Blender in the pipeline.
I have a thread on the Blender artist forum about this character at Blenderartists.org if anyone has further interest in its progression. Currently I have finished weight painting him and now begin setting up rig controls and then finally onto animations. Wish us luck!
When I saw Spookt's description and then Maxetormer's concepts, I immediately knew what type of voice would be perfect. Old, strained, and gritty but rich. As an audio engineer in the Voice Over production field I work with voice artists every day and have many relationships with those I've recorded. I knew exactly who to ask to fit this character and he was more than happy to lend his voice. As luck would have it we actually had a project scheduled together that very month! He loved what he saw of the concepts and well, we recorded his whole script while breaking for lunch.
Until next month...happy gaming! We'll have more developer commentaries in the future if it is well-received!