The story of the dog. Character Creation for the new Evolution: Battle for Utopia game

    Every game, whether it's a small indie project or a global AAA class game, starts with pre-production. This, if you did not know, is a time of troubles, when developers are trying to understand what kind of game they are going to do. As an artist, I really love this stage of development, since it was during this period that the process did not yet get on a smooth track, there is no exhausting routine, and you can be creative from the heart.

    Most of the ideas pre-sales are sent to the basket, but even among this stream you can sometimes catch something valuable, which eventually ends up in the project and comes to life in the game. Actually, this is exactly the case that will be discussed in this article. I divided it into several chronological stages, so that you understand that the development process is “spread out” in time and some tasks do not have a clear time frame.


    Pets of the post-apocalypse

    Since I was appointed the leading artist on the Evolution project, in July 2012 I was given the task of drawing the very first promotion for the future game - a high-quality drawn poster, usually with the characters of the game. Here you need to understand that the pictures taken during the pre-production (when it is still not clear what the game will be) are usually just a search for some general ideas from the point of view of the visual embodiment of the game - design, atmosphere, some basic things that would allow us to better imagine what kind of game should be the result. Therefore, at the very first promotion, it was necessary to depict a few simple things:

    • show the main character in heavy armor;
    • show the terraformer and the process of terraformation itself (since then we already knew for sure that the game would be landscaping of the occupied territories);
    • well, in general - draw cool art.

    There were no frames and restrictions at that time, and I was free to draw everything that comes into my head. But it was necessary to do everything quickly and efficiently, while being guided by those few points that I listed above.

    Creating characters is an interesting process in itself, and creating heroes for a new project is a real pleasure. As a result, I got such a picture:

    Since I am self-taught, for me each picture is a way not only to make interesting art, but, as they say, to “pump skills”. In this picture I’ve mastered the new Photoshop brushes to paint all kinds of greens - trees, bushes, leaves, flowers, bindweed, etc.
    I will not describe in detail the drawing process itself (this is a separate and very extensive topic). I’ll tell you about only one element of this picture - about the dog.

    Doggie arose from nowhere. There was no assignment for her. But I knew that we would have pets in the game. In order to dilute the brutality of the heroes and the general gloom of the post-apocalypse, I decided to add some kind of “cute” and “mimic” element to the picture. So I immediately planned that I would draw some little robot.

    Another thing is that it was possible to draw a million robots of any shapes and proportions. I was inclined to make a pet based on a real animal, because players usually do not perceive “unknown crap”. And so, thinking about the future design of the pet, I turned to my girlfriend:

    - Here you need to draw a pet. Who do you think?
    “A dog,” she answered without hesitation.

    Why not a cat - I don’t know. Seals at that time were very popular on the Internet. My girlfriend is probably a “dog person” (a person who loves dogs more than cats). I liked the idea, and I decided to design a little dog. Mentally, I christened her Claudi, in honor of my own dog.
    So, I started designing a new, “fun” character. Since the plot of the game, the technology of earthlings who arrived at Utopia should be advanced, it was necessary to make a dog high-tech. By the way, in the game "Territory-2", on which I worked at one time, there was also a robo-dog, but, frankly, she was not very touching:

    I quickly sketched a couple of concepts, not bothering with the technique and quality of rendering, just to understand which way to go. It was obvious that streamlined shapes and light elements needed to be made, since now it is an archetypal sign of high technology.
    When you come up with a character, you need to think not only about the overall design, but also about some basic functionality so that you can believe in fantasy. Therefore, during the work, I try to think about what and how it works (however, without going into details, since the time for game artists is always limited). For example, I immediately decided to make a dog on the head a screen for the eyes and nose. It is the screen, and not, say, stationary eyepiece lenses. Why? Because I wanted Claudie to be able to show some kind of emotions on the screen. Plus, by that time, the idea had arisen to make her two basic states - peace and aggression. Two colors became their indicator - blue (peace) and red (aggression).

    I developed the general design very quickly, trying to make it as simple as possible and closer to natural forms. There was only one problem - the dog must shoot, because this is still a fighting pet. Without thinking twice, I chose the easiest way to solve the problem: mini-machine guns built into the body, which during the fighting just appear from the back. This decision was prompted by the fact that it was necessary to preserve the "elegant" design of the pet without weighing it down (which would certainly happen if I hung on the doggun rocket-launcher-machine guns). And so even in a fighting state, the pet looked quite ergonomic.

    I added light elements on the chest solely to support the armor design of the main characters. The irony is that the armor design did not end up in the game, but the robo-dog entered almost unchanged (like the terraformer, by the way).

    When the character design is ready, it is sent for approval. Usually, the art director is responsible for the approval of the design, but we did not have this position on the project, and all art went to the project manager for approval. Sometimes the design is adopted immediately, sometimes you can draw 10-20 sketches, or even more, until, finally, the right one is "extorted". Fortunately, this time there were no problems with coordination.
    The head approved the dog and gave the task to make a “run-in” of the pet for the modelers so that they could make a 3D model without any problems. Which I did:

    After some time, I got such a short video clip in which the dog, which received the name Fido (no, not the network, but the “Ball” in English), appeared in all its three-dimensional beauty.

    I was delighted. One of the happiest moments in the life of a 2D artist is to see how the fruit of your imagination takes on “flesh,” and even without any distortion.

    Animated Evolution

    In December 2012, I was given the task of drawing a Fido character avatar. Since the deadlines were allocated minimal and there was no time to draw from scratch, I requested a render to make an overpaint.

    It works like this. I draw a quick sketch in Photoshop to indicate the dog’s pose and send it to the modeling department. They put the 3D model in the angle I need. Everything is simple, and it looks something like this:

    The resulting render image has to be finalized. The result of such processing can be seen, for example, here:

    Having received the render, I suddenly saw that my initial design was slightly modified. I expressed my bewilderment in the picture with the eloquent name “wtfdog”, which I sent to the modeling department.

    It turned out that the design was changed due to animations. Since I have nothing to do with animations, I took my word for it, especially since the edits were not critical, and I was ready to come to terms with them.

    In general, it is very rare that the final 3D-model is fully consistent with the original concept. Firstly, the development of the game is a team work, and each participant tries to bring something of their own to the game. Modelers are also creative people, and often add something from themselves to the character’s image. Secondly, there are some technical problems associated with the development. For example, sometimes the character design just needs to be changed so that the model works fine in the game (including animations). Usually we try to find a compromise, especially when the arguments of one of the parties are reasonable.

    The war for the dog's skin

    The next task is to draw a loading screen for the game. The pattern repeated. I drew a quick sketch (the dog is sitting on a box, his head bowed to one side) and requested a render. I got this picture:

    О ____ о
    To say that I was in shock means to say nothing. My high-tech, brilliant, elegant doggie turned into something dirty, green, pokotsennuyu and collected from the garbage in the nearest garbage. As a result, I made sure that the old render obtained in December was used for the loading screen. For comparison, here is the final version of the loading screen:

    Despite the fact that I completed the current task, I did not have the moral right to endure the presence of this greenish-dirty nightmare in the game. The fact is that all this sloppiness and pokotsennost, perhaps, looked good in the surroundings of the post-apocalyptic world of "Evolution", but went against the history of the game. Fido could NOT look like the picture I received.

    Therefore, I did not leave the case and continued to rage. The classic confrontation of the “Conceptor VS Modeler” and the return to the dog of its former form took a month. As a result, a new texture was made for Fido. It was already too late to edit the model’s geometry; there was still hope that the dog’s design could be pulled out with little blood.

    Taking the current model and “pulling” a new clean “skin” on it, we got what we wanted. Fido found its original form:

    On this my work on the dog was over, and I switched to other tasks. I am very glad that in the end the character retained the very appearance that was born at the promotion. As I already mentioned, earthlings have advanced devices, and Fido is literally the personification of this technological progress, so there was no talk of any grunge. Fortunately, my efforts were not in vain, and the little dog appeared in Evolution exactly as I intended it to be.

    Roman Papsuev, Leading Artist of the Evolution: Battle for Utopia Project

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