Above is a UI mockup that Kaz has put over the original Kickstarter image. What do you think?
I know what you are thinking. What the hell have the artists been doing?? The art in this game should be half done by now! Right?
That's what I want to know! Why isn't the game half-done already?
Well, as I've said before we're "professionals." We proceed in a highly-complex collaboration/iteration loop of blending design wants and dos, programming cans, think-they-cans and dos and artist wants, cans, can-but-don't-know-how-longs and dos. As you can see - and please don't get angry - this is all very technical. Know that: work is progressing.
Yeeeargh! Enough with your silly stupid words, Rob!! What the hell does that mean??
Uhh... not sure, but I'll tell you what I think it means:
You've read about Prototype 1 and then Prototype 2. Those were efforts to implement features that represent the functional and playable standard of our goal: an Infinity Engine style of game. Those efforts were focused collaborations of designing, programming and art-ing things, trying them out, addressing problems as they came up (visual, functional or otherwise failing to live up to our standard) and repeating. The art goals were held to an 80-90% complete (aka: unpolished). The remaining 10-20% of work will be left toward the end of the "next phase," as always there will be edits and modifications after initial implementation of art. The basic truth of this interactive artistic endeavor that we are involved in is that you can't know it's a worthwhile experience, until you make it, people play it, and then provide feedback. We adjust our work to that feedback - a feedback loop. Boom! Consider yourself educated.
The "next phase" is a Vertical Slice. This is a goal in which we focus on one part of the game within a shell of what is essentially the fully-featured game - relying on the things developed in the prototypes, as well as implementing a fully-functional UI, attempting to finalize all art and gameplay to a more polished standard, and accommodate design changes that are required to make the player experience more complete - as if this part were a finalized, short game in itself.
Hector - Wilderness Areas
Our Lead Environment Artist has been developing a couple of our larger external landscapes. He's doing this on the basis of a designer's block-out: a crude-but-playable space. This includes the sculpting of terrain geometry in ZBrush, application of grass and dirt via mesh painting and masking in Maya, placement of objects such as structures, trees, and rocks, etc., lighting and rendering the scene, which generates our super-cool depth info. He imports all those results into the game, and then Design says: "Hey, something has come up and we need a temple in the village." So, Hector moves and massages the scene around to accommodate the change and steps through the process again. In the prototype, iteration of the village, a temple wasn't required. For the Vertical Slice, having a place where one can get quests and learn some spiritual-magicky stuff, is an important feature to include. So, we find a way to happily put it in.
Sean - Dungeon/Crypt and village interiors
Our other Environment Artist has been working on interiors of village structures and dungeons! He uses ZBrush less for his environments as a whole, and more as a means of creating smaller natural-looking rocky things and dungeon walls. Beyond that the techniques for implementing his work are the same. The feedback and iteration with design usually yields similar tweaks and modifications. Changes like: "Uhh...we can't have a door here, anymore. Can we make it a pile of collapsed rocks, instead?" Of course the answer is "Yes!"
The answer has to be "yes," because the game is worthless if the gameplay isn't worthwhile. It could be that an important critical path encounter needs to occur, maybe because the story evolved or it’s just too good an experience to allow an alternate route to exist. Ultimately, we trust our designers to wrestle with these issues and come to us with changes that matter. So if they come to us with a change, and the adjustment is reasonable and the time exists to make it, we will do it.
Mark - Principle Animation of All Things with Arms and Legs
Our Lead Animator has been handling much of the animation requirements for the playable races. This process is also an iterative one. Design has ideas about how they want playable characters to interact with the world and enemies, and Mark then creates a set of individual animations that then blend into each other as needed, in Unity. In addition, he has created essential animations for the Skuldr and the Ogre. Essential animations are typically basic locomotion (including: walk, run and at least one idle) attacks (melee and ranged, if applicable) getting hit and dying. There are others. He blocks them in (a term for making things functional fast), puts them in the game, then he refines them. As team members playtest the game, they provide feedback. Mark continues refining until everybody is happy or the game ships - whichever comes first. No, no, no, just kidding! Mark will work tirelessly through endless nights to make certain everybody is happy with the animation.
Antonio - Technical Problem Solving of Physical Things and Process Improvement
I told you all you needed to know about Antonio in my last update. I showed you the rigs and rigs in rigs. These things take a while to refine, as he makes them and then people (Dimitri and Mark) have to use them. As they use the tools, they discover issues and then Antonio has to fix the issues and the process repeats itself until there are fewer and fewer issues to fix. Lately he has been working on a means of batch processing all the animations that Mark creates and efficiently exports them into the game. Mark says it's "awesome." (This is making Dimitri mad. I'll tell you why in a bit.) In addition, he has been developing some cool experiments with cloth and hair. Hopefully, in some near-future update we can show you how great it looks.
Dimitri - Skaen and Visual Differences Between Playable Characters (Races, Males and Females)
Dimitri has been modeling and texturing the dirty, bloody and villainous Skaen Cultists. In-between that he has been re-exporting our characters, as new attachments, bones, weapon attachments, etc. are added to the skeletons. This is a manual process hell that eats at his soul and to see Mark enjoying the fruits of batch process heaven that Antonio has provided him, makes him think of terrible things. One of two things will happen: Dimitri will get over it, or Antonio will help him out soon. He has also been working with our graphics programmer in developing the masking system for how we can increase variety in our characters via color changes on various elements of each. We intend this ability to be passed on to the player, so that they can customize their party's colors.
James - Creatures And Colors
James has been focusing on modeling and texturing a ton of critters, including wurms! - not: worms, nor wyrms, or wirms, but WURMs! That is what we call our baby dragons! He's also been tasked with making certain, that via the tinting and masking that Dimitri worked on, we can generate an infinite variety of People and Monsters, and nobody will know better. Shhhhhh...Wink Wink!
Polina's concept of lizard-creature-to-be-named-later.
Polina - Drawerings And More Drawerings
Polina has been all over the place since the presentation of the God-like Concept. She's done a bunch of interior concepts, some really cool malevolent spirit-like concepts, the lizard-like creature (below) and more! Polina takes concept development and collaboration very seriously. If I'm not paying attention, or give her a specific number, she will draw variants upon variants of thumbnails and roughs until...I think...forever. So we've restricted her to a certain number of thumbnails before a review. Otherwise we'll have to buy her a new tablet, and that is NOT in the budget!
Kaz - Drawerings And User Experience
As you've seen in recent updates Kaz has been tasked with coming up with cultural differences in in terms of skin color and style of clothing for the various cultural groups that we find in Project Eternity. With this and other concept-y things, he also has been tasked with developing and implementing the look of the UI and the presentation for "scripted events."
Note: Regarding the image with the menubar at the start of the update, as well as the image below. You will notice that they state: "Work In Progress." In fact, the images are screen caps of the source art file for the UI that is being developed for P.E. It represents stylistic choices meant to feel very Infinity Engine-ish. We're a little curious what you might think about it. Let us know.
Scripted event image by Kaz.
Me??? - What have I been doing?
I don't know. I just run around and say some stuff, point to something and say "eww," or "nice," or grab a bunch of people to say stuff like "Yay!" or "boo" at something, draw some stuff, and try to direct stuff, repeat. I am hopeful that these efforts keep people motivated, aware and engaged.
That's it. Update Over. Now talk amongst yourselves...or use ALL CAPS, if you are feeling particularly passionate.
- Rob Nesler, Art Director, Obsidian Entertainment.
PS - Let’s Play Arcanum with Mr. Avellone is coming back soon to an update near you!
Kickin' It Forward: HEX MMO Trading Card Game
Article by Darren Monahan, operations guy
In this update's Kickin' it Forward segment, we're featuring the HEX MMO Trading Card Game from friends and neighbors over at Cryptozoic Entertainment. If you're a fan of trading card games and MMO's, HEX looks like a great game to bring these two types of games together in a unique and original fantasy world. They've got nine days left, and plenty of really cool rewards. Check it out!