Saturday, May 30, 2009

Boss of Bosses, Part 3

I spent the last few days constructing a low-poly version of Shattered Dream’s ultimate boss. With 5,208 triangles, however, this mesh exceeds the poly count of most, if not all, official NWN2 models. Considering that this creature is one of a kind, I think that the relatively large number of polygons can be forgiven. As can be seen from the in-game screenshot on the right, I’ve also textured the mesh. My next task is to rig and animate the model. Because none of the skeletons of the existing NWN2 models fits this creature, I’ll have to make one from scratch. This, together with creating the animations, will probably be easier than building the mesh itself.

Here’s another picture of the creature. If, during the game, you can see the pupils of its eyes, you are too close.

Update, May 31, 2009

Stop the presses. Feedback from Nicethugbert and Josh/Anduraga has prompted me to try to retexture the boss to make it look more natural. The new look is shown on the right. Oh, by the way, that cute little thing beside the boss is a full-grown red dragon. It's just there to give a sense of scale but won't appear in Shattered Dreams. Player characters will have enough to worry about without red dragons getting in the way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boss of Bosses, Part 2

In my previous blog post, I presented a new design for the main boss of Shattered Dreams. When I started working on the high-poly model, I realized that what looks good in 2D does not necessarily look good in 3D. In particular, the crown of heads really didn’t work out so well, so it had to go. Also, the tentacles make more sense when put in front of the model rather than behind it. Anyhow, I hope this latest incarnation of the main boss will have the desired effect on players of our module. Time will tell.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Boss of Bosses, Part 1

Thus far, I’ve constructed a number of mobs for Shattered Dreams, some of which are bosses in their own right. Nevertheless, all these creatures are mooks compared to what I’m about to make. Behold the boss of bosses, the thing that will have players’ adrenalin pumping on overdrive as their characters hang on to dear life.

Actually, the picture shown on the right is my initial concept for the main boss. When I first drew this picture, I had not yet learned about making silhouette studies. With my newfound knowledge at hand, I decided to make a quick and crude silhouette of the creature to make sure that my design is on the right track. Below is the result.

What’s wrong with this picture? Simply put, the silhouette does not look dangerous at all. It’s generally bell-shaped, which brings to mind not only bells but also pears, statistical graphs, and women in Victorian dresses. How threatening are those? Clearly, a redesign is in order.

It didn’t take me long to come up with a silhouette that I like. The general shape of the drawing on the right is that of an inverted triangle. Most of the weight is at the top, which suggests upper-body strength, unlike the bottom-heavy bell shape, which looks much less strong and mobile. Also, triangles with their sharp angles look far more dangerous than pears with their soft curves. This whole discussion on shapes and their significance is part of what is known as “form language,” which professional concept artists and product designers are familiar with. Being the amateur that I am, it takes a bit of research for me to figure these things out.

Satisfied with the above silhouette, I then painted the details. Below is what I finally settled on. Not bad, in my opinion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Angel of the Deep, Part 3

Man, I would never have guessed that animating models would be so much fun. I find it even more engaging than sculpting with ZBrush. It took me only one day to learn the basics in 3DS Max. The hardest part in making an animation sequence is getting the motion to look natural. I imagine that this is especially so for creatures that walk on land, but since my model hovers above the ground, I didn’t have to worry about how a shift in weight from one bone to another affects the rest of the bones.

Below are screenshots from my test run with the model. They are poor substitutes for seeing the creature in action, but these will have to do for now. I don’t really have time to make a nice video. There are more models that I have to build. Busy, busy, busy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Angel of the Deep, Part 2

I’m still working on the model that I introduced in my last blog post. So far, I’ve made a low-poly mesh and textured it, though I may change the texture later on. I’m having doubts as to whether the glowing hair and tentacles is a good idea.

In terms of polygon count, this thing is a real monster – 5484 triangles in all. That’s not the worst thing about this model, though. I’m planning to construct a new skeleton for this creature and animate it. Initially, I thought of re-using the skeleton and animations of One of Many, which is why this model bears a slight resemblance to it. None of the available versions of Tazpn’s MDB Import/Export plug-in properly imports the OoM model and skeleton, however, so it seems that I have no other option than to put together some bones and animate them. That’s not as necromantic as it may sound, but I’ll still have to draw upon far greater wizardry than what I’m accustomed to.

More to come in my next blog post.

Update, 11 May 2009

I've decided that as far as making this particular figure glow, less is more. Check out the latest screenshot below.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Angel of the Deep, Part 1

If you plunge the depths of your subconscious, what will you see? We may never know the answer to that question, but players of our upcoming module Shattered Dreams may encounter the creature shown on the right… that is, if I succeed in constructing and rigging a low-poly version of it. We’ll know for sure in my next blog post.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Conceptualizing Creatures with Silhouette Studies

I wasn’t thrilled with the last model I made, which I felt was seriously lacking the “wow” factor. The problem isn’t so much in the execution but in the design. My approach is to do a hasty sketch that I will wind up changing on the fly as I construct my mesh. It therefore comes as no surprise that my designs are hit-and-miss, more of the latter than the former. When I started creating a high-poly mesh for the lovely creature shown on the right, it wasn’t long before I stopped what I was doing and said to myself, “This isn’t working.”

Disheartened, I did a few deep breaths and cleared my mind, concentrating my energies on the mystical reservoir of wisdom known as Google. I soon discovered a cool technique that professional concept artists use to design creatures – silhouette studies. From what I gathered, the idea is to draw a silhouette of a creature then to fill in the negative spaces with white to flesh it out. One can come up with different designs from a single silhouette if desired.

I can see how this is a useful technique. The silhouette alone should look interesting. If it isn’t, filling in the details will probably result in an unexciting design. When a player sees a creature from afar, its details will blur into each other, and the player will perceive the creature as little more than a silhouette. One of the artist’s challenges is to try to make the silhouette look awesome.

I decided to give this method a try. I created a 512 × 512 blank image in Photoshop and painted a silhouette over it. I zoomed out to about 25% of the picture’s size so I could focus on the general look without being bogged with the details. Afterward, I zoomed in to full view and refined the silhouette further. The technique is deceptively simple, but I found that coming up with a good silhouette isn’t easy. The first few drawings I made were so bad that I didn’t bother saving them in the computer. Eventually, I came up with something that is similar to the sketch shown at the beginning of this blog post. The main difference is that the silhouette shows much more promise.

Having painted a silhouette that I liked, I laid a transparent layer on top of it and painted over it with white. As I progressed, I added shades of gray. The end result doesn’t look as polished as my original pencil sketch, but I felt that the design is better by a mile. I’ve already started constructing a high-poly mesh based on this new picture, and I really like the results so far. I’ll show a screenshot or two of the model in my next blog post.