Thursday, May 16, 2013

Forging Games - Part I

On finishing any big project, it's remarkably easy to kick back, become one with the closest comfy chair and watch period detective series'  for hours.. or weeks.. But as any freelancer will tell you, the time you can take to rest on your accomplishments is usually no time at all.  While you were working quite diligently on the biggest looming deadline, the host of; meetings, promised work for friends, personal work, and all the focused self-promo to carve your way into the next big project, sit smoldering there in the corner, bent up and in states of neglect.

To my amazement, (and thankfulness, as I didn't teach one class) the whole of last year was miraculously filled back to back, with nothing but big projects, and I rode the awesome wave, just hoping that all that other opportunity didnae stick me hand in warm water while I was sleeping!  Opportunity is tricky that way. =)

The Warden in all her 3D modeled
and action packed glory, not your
run of the mill tank character.
One of those big projects came in the way of an email from; wildly skilled digital illustrator and visual problem solver, Adam Cook, and the wickedly brilliant and fun team of creatives at SuperGenius (additional links to your right).  Adam brought me on board Paul Culp's do-all video production house in Oregon City, SuperGenius just around this time last year.  Can't really describe the honor it was to work on the design and concept team for their video game Forge.  It had been a long time since I worked on any team, let alone one with so many Super Geniuses (Genii? Geniui? Genieye?Gene Kelly? I dream ah Genie?) but the results have been double down rainbow in the sky, all the way; working on my World Development skills, Characterization, the slow but interesting progression of my Digital Chops, and above all, being a visible and solid part of FORGE; a brilliantly fast paced and fun game that is now out on the Steam game engine, using some of the very latest in animation and visual tech.  It's a bloody romp of hack, slash, and arrow nocking melee strategy, with massive fiery explosions, and magical burst of mayhem stashed away in every corner.  For the sake of your inner-viking I would defo check it out!! =)

The Warden's Bear and Ranger's Wolf.  Belly tattoos, shaved knot
work, spinal and tusky protrusions, and bands of forged armor. 

I'm pretty proud of the work I did, and what seems fairly unlike a large majority of gaming studios; Dark Vale, Digital Confectioners, and Super Genius gave all Forge's concept artists the ability to show this work shortly after release, so here it comes my friends, in a three part series!

Final Bear Modeled
The Warden character was Forge's "tank" character and from the beginning she was to be something of an anomaly in the video game status quo.  I can only hope that we were able to do so in even a small way.  The Warden character was a task in balancing strength, body type, posturing, costuming and the myriad other things that make up the tank, while still having her remain feminized enough to read as such on screen.  Her shield took on many different shapes and forms, as did her helm and weapon, but the final 3D models took on all the right elements, while remaining in the ancient Nordic period we were after.  The weapons I designed for the Warden were especially fun, and although I only really had time to design out the top half of the shield, the Warden's shield attack features a ring of shields lit up something like golden lanterns!! just beautiful to watch, and brilliant to see some of my imagery make it to game play!

Final Wolf Modeled
The idea of familiars or spirit animals for each character was being tossed around throughout all waves of development, and here I had the chance to develop some fun ideas that were developed further as the initial 2 weeks were drawing to a close.  The Warden's familiar was to be a Bear, as was the Ranger character's to be a Wolf. The Thief/Assassin's familiar was to be a Panther, and the others were to become awesome ghostly and pyropocolyptic beasties

The Ranger character began when I didn't really have a great grasp on how some of the aspects of modeling and animations would actually play out, or the process that was to be followed.  Portions of his costume, and the blue lit Celtic cross chest plate remained, but the Ranger character gained largely from a couple different folks joining in on design.  The Ranger did help me understand how being ignorant to portions of any process might be a blessing in coming up with combinations that wouldn't be attempted, but also how they remain a curse.  Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learned throughout Forge, was that very few of the tricks illustrators use to direct the viewers attention two dimensionally, actually apply when designing for games or film, where it's all about the 3D all day.  Thinking about function and mobility in real time 3D while you work, is utterly different than thinking about the very same things as they're required for only a split second in time.  =)  I'd like to think by the time I finished the last character I designed for Forge, that I had a better handle on the specific hassles any particular material, or body part, or structure might pose, because of the growing pains in the first character.  =)

 Fun to see all the ways in which simple shapes, or the mention of words during the ideation process can effect outcomes, it's just an amazing thing to take part in, and much like the free association or improvisation that happens when I use Fantasy Genesis, so was working with such a creative team of folks.  Stay Tuned for Part II !!