Over the last few weeks, we've been busy working on getting the revised design of our main character - Kit - into the game. In this post we discuss the history of Kit, the idea behind his look/design and the basic modelling process.
Last year we created a playable Observatorium prototype for Dare to be Digital 2014: an event we used to gauge interest and test core mechanics. In those days, the game was confined to the boat and focused mostly on puzzles. We had a rough idea for overall progression/story but didn't know exactly where we'd end up. As a result, we constructed a demo containing live assets based entirely on 2D source assets: these were combined in Unity and animated using Mecanim to produce the following results.
Post-Dare, we decided this approach was not the wisest for the following reasons:
(1) We wanted to include a much larger variety of characters and sea-life
(2) We wanted to show some characters from multiple angles - not just top-down
(3) We wanted freedom to change sequences quickly without having to rebuild the assets from scratch
In summary: we wanted a way to turn animations around faster. The solution: build our most important/scrutinised assets in 3D and convert animations into 2D sprites we can feed into Unity.
Revised Kit Concept
Kit's new look is inspired by his old one but also our decision to set the game (1) at night (2) in a cold environment and (3) in the 1970's. Following our revelation that the boat is intentionally shaped like a rocket, we wanted to make Kit look like a spaceman ready for an important mission. This is emphasised throughout his outfit : his puffy jacket keeps him warm but is also like a spacesuit, his backpack can carry lots of useful items but is also like an oxygen tank etc. His colours are inspired by the 1970s setting and the environment itself: earthy/orange colours contrast nicely with our moonlit landscape. We did at one point have his jacket entirely white but this made the space reference a bit too obvious so we decided to tone it down.
This look is what we internally call "action" Kit - where he's geared up ready for his mission. We also have "casual" Kit - which is action Kit minus his boots, coat, helmet and backpack. This is what we'll focus on below:
Our 3D artist/animator (and composer!) Peter Satera has been responsible for constructing our new-look Kit in game. Below he provides an insight into the modelling process:
PS: "Although the game is very orthographic dependent we decided that for the best, consistent and quickest result that characters with high dependency should be created in 3D. Although the process is quite long to begin with, when modelling, texturing and rigging, once Kit is created the animations become quicker to create than working with traditional-digital (Tradigital) animation and then generating sprites. With this in mind, kit was created with low topology but with enough detail that we get a nice form across, and as close as to the concept we envisaged.
Although the concept shown for kit was of him in full gear, Kit goes through a process of building up his clothes in layers. Therefore it was best to consider his basic undergarments first as this will pad out clothing he eventually will wear on top.
As more of an old-school 3D Artist, Kit was created using detail up technique, allowing close consideration of topology where it was needed to establish a good form. Due to the character will be seen at distance relevant reductions could be used. For instance, eye socket and eyeballs were flattened out to have a flush mesh, as they were to be textured in at a later stage. There was no inner mouth or teeth. Hands had an index finger and thumb but the remaining fingers were a solid mesh. Great time-savers, that made later stages like UV mapping, texturing and rigging easier to deal with. After all, there's no point creating what you will never see!"
"Here we see Kit wearing his basic clothing setup, modelled in the standard T pose for ease of rigging, weighting and setup."
Below, Peter has provided a video showing a full 360 of our casual Kit model:
That's it for part 1. In the next part we'll show the process of UV mapping and texturing Kit.
If you have any comments or feedback please post below and we'll try and respond.
Thanks for reading!