Greetings, lovely people of the Internet!
This week I have the awesome pleasure of introducing you to the work created by Flix's resident man-of-many-suits and Lead Character artist; (Sir) Toby Rutter. In this weeks reveal Toby will provide an insight into the sculpt of one of the variations of Pioneer-class playable characters in Eden Star. The number of initially playable classes is still TBC, but this armor-set and configuration is almost definitely going to be one of them.
So, Toby, talk us through the process...
Beginning a Character Model
When I start a character design I'm often working from a piece of concept art often from our lovely concept artist Gavin Li, who did a recent blog post with one of his speed paints. So usually most of the design work is already done, collaboratively between the two of us.
But you start with broad strokes, you look at the overall form of the character, you want to try and get proportions, silhouette and form established. Then you get progressively more granular, going into smaller and smaller details until it starts to become a realised character design.
There were some points in this process where I'd go back to Gav and say "can we re-concept or add detail to this place?" that weren't too defined in the original concept, and I'll screenshot the model and paint over it. There'll be a back-and forth and we'll come up with some new details or more features and amendments to the design.
Challenging Aspects of the Character
Whenever you're modeling a character there are always fiddly bits, hands and fingers I still leave til last. I wouldn't say I struggle with them, but there are things that are you least favourite bits that you put off the longest. Often times it would be areas you won't see as much, whenever I'm modelling a character I focus on the areas that will be the most visible. This is a 3rd person character model and we are also going to use it for promo shots so hands and feet are going to be less likely the focal point, you are going to be looking at the face or helmet and upper torso, so that's where I tend to focus most of my attention.
Favourite Aspects of the Character
I think probably my favourite bits of the model are the helmet design, initially the helmet was just a visor under a hood. I went back Gav and we discussed some other ideas for the back of the helmet which hadn't been designed, so when you removed the characters hood it was more detailed. I love what Gav came up with but he gets credit for that. I think the hard surface gauntlet design on the characters left arm was mainly my design, which I'm quite pleased with. We already had the tool design very established within the game which had been designed before character and trying to come up with something that contrasted nicely for the other arm, I'm really pleased with the result.
In the end result I experimented a lot with pattern work on the clothing of the character and i think it added a lot of the detail, and a lot of subtle depth to some of the larger areas of the character.
Interpreting Concept Art, and Working Collaboratively
When you are doing a collaboration or working from a piece of concept art there a lot of interpretation because a design is very different on paper than in 3D there's a lot of interpretation of what lines up to what and how you are going to take it from the page.
If you are a 2D artist it's much easier to get your ideas out, but at the same time there are things that don't quite communicate in the way you had intended in 3D, if they're taken literally. One of the fun parts is having this great road map of design in the form of concept art and I have to make it work in 3D. Thats an under appreciated part of the process because it means a lot to the quality of the finished piece but at the same time its quite directed because you're working from an existing design.
Another part of the collaboration is sometimes I will model a design in 3D from scratch and take it back to the concept artist and say "what do you think of this" and get their very different input. Some of our characters have been modeled in this way without concept art or with the concept art coming later along in the process to refine things. We tailor the design process slightly differently from character to character based on its needs.
Design Futuristic Characters, and Finding Reference
The thing with designing for sci-fi games set in the future is you will always be referencing the present day. When I'm creating sci fi textures, I reference materials used for making outdoor performance clothing. These clothes have the combination of being made for a specific purpose whilst still having to look attractive to sell units. As a result you get this combination of good design and it serving a purpose. Which can be really good as a reference. You are often also doing an amalgamation of things to create new designs.
One of the things I loved about Deus Ex: Human Revolution was how they combined dystopian sci-fi and renaissance aspects including renaissance fabrics and costume design to create a new aesthetic for their game.
Other Pioneer Characters
We get asked quite a lot if any of the Pioneer player characters will be female. One of the great things about work in the Unreal Engine is there's no kind of restriction that would stop us from having female player characters. We are planning at least one of the initial Pioneers to be female. I also have some ideas for another female character class which could be a bit different to the normal stereotype, but more on that in the future.
Thanks for reading, and remember to keep updated!