Thursday, March 27, 2008

Modular Gear - Character Sketches

While working on D&D, we came up with a modular armor system that we referred to as "gear sets." A gear set is a piece or group of pieces of armor that would be parented to the base skeleton of a character model, then the verts were weighted so the gear pieces would deform properly on the body. A couple other games had done this technique before us, but at the time this was a fairly new technique for creating modularity in character assets. Before this technique, we would just swap out an entire torso for one with armor on it, or the hand meshes with one with built in gauntlets. The sketches that I did here illustrate 5 different gear sets being applied to the same base body mesh. The base mesh and texture does not change, but through gear set swaps, you can quickly get a large variety of looks. I made sure this technique was fully implemented for Titan Quest. Without designing the armor system in this fashion, we would have never been able to pull off the millions of possible armor combinations that we did. Now a days you see this technique being applied to vehicles, buildings, and weapons.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mr. Bones - Dungeons & Dragons Online

I don't do nearly the amount of modeling and texturing I use to. Now that I'm at a web company, I'm pretty much up to my eyeballs using Flash. This fairly low poly skeleton warrior was one of that last things I created for the D&D project. Like in all MMO's (massively multi-player,) you can't make it far without having to kill 100 rats. In the case of DDO, you can't go far into the caverns of the damned without cracking a few of these guys. Good times.

Ye 'Old Sketches from Dungeons & Dragons Online

Just digging through some old sketches of mine. Here is a collection of dungeon sketches I did in 2003 blocking out some visual directions for Dungeons & Dragons Online. An overarching visual idea that I was exploring was a tremendous sense of weight to the architectural elements. The scale of some of the stone work shows carved blocks the size of a 2 meter tall human. Some of the stonework has been repaired over thousands of years so somethings might not look structurally sound. I particularly like the tortured soul sculptured in the lower left, supporting the weight of the dungeon on his head. I left Turbine before getting a chance to use that idea in DDO, but I may have done something similar in Titan Quest Immortal Throne. That game took place in Hades. That visual would have fit in well there too. Good ideas are never forgotten. They just might be put on the shelf for a while.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Watch Your Head - Concept Sketches

These are just a few helmet designs that I did for Titan Quest. Many of the designs are based on actual helms from the early bronze age but some are made up from pulling decorative elements and details from other ancient artifacts. When sketching helmets, armor or weapons, one the of main things I think about is trying to accentuate the silhouettes of each armor piece. Having a broad range of silhouettes give the biggest visual impact when character customization is a consideration. I might consider doing another pass on each one of these helmets to block out material changes. Through a series of texture swaps, one helmet might start off as cloth, then leather, then reinforced with metal details. Another thing I pay attention to when sketching is I consider the distance of an object to the game camera, or how big the object will be 90% of the time when it is on screen. There is no sense in putting in detail that will never be seen or add additional visual clutter to the texture. An even distribution of small detail in a texture will cause the object to appear busy. Instead I try and block out the larger detail and focus on the silhouette. I enjoyed creating these sketches and referencing ancient Greek, Egyptian and Persian culture.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Every detail counts - Treasure Chests for DDO

When I was the Lead Artist on Dungeons and Dragons Online I was doing a number of tasks from concepting, scheduling, going to meetings and working with some of the tech artists on prototyping dungeons. I had a newer artist on my team who didn't have much experience and was eager to learn. I remember I had asked him to create a series of treasure chests that would be used all throughout the game. He just rolled his eyes and asked me if one of the interns could do that kind of work. He just wanted to work on characters or "something cool." I didn't have time to argue with him, so I just gave him some other task. I learned early on while working on Asherons Call, that if you are going to be creating a piece of art that will be seen very frequently, it better look good, no matter how small of an object it is. I decided to model & texture the treasure chests myself. It was a fun task and I take pride in every single art asset that I build no matter how small. These are just painted textures, no bump or specular maps. I can't remember the poly count but I know it was low.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Death of a good Independant Game Studio

On February 19th 2008, Iron Lore Entertainment closed it's doors for good. The independent game developer studio located in Maynard MA that created the Titan Quest franchise for THQ and the Dawn of War expansion Soulstorm, did everything they could to stay afloat in the rising tide of PC game piracy, unprofessional game reviewers and the shrinking PC Gaming market. I worked for Iron Lore for 3 years and truly enjoyed my experience there. It is very unfortunate that this had to happen and I wish it didn't. Many of my good friends worked there and are now looking for work. A former co-worker of mine sent me this link he found from Michael Fitch, our Creative Director at THQ that worker with us. His forum post best describes our frustrations during the TQ development and the difficult uphill battle that small indie studios have to deal with. I left Iron Lore in 2007, but still feel saddened by the closure of the company. Check it out.