Today’s blog post is about weapons, and focuses on how their art style was defined after going through various stages of concepting and simplification, before they were broken down into their most basic elements.
The most important thing for the weapons were that they were easily distinguishable from each other. They are 3D models, but they actually appear more like icons within the levels. The goal for each weapon design is to be easy to read and understand and clearly visually distinct from each other. There are currently 22 weapons in the game, so we want to make it as easy as possible for the player to learn which weapon is which, and then be able to tell what weapon options each level has at a glance.
The first step in the weapon design was to draw some simple silhouettes for some of the weapons, we knew we wanted the weapons to be angular and to sit comfortably into the low poly ‘crystal-like’ look that defines Fragmental visually, but we were unsure to what extent, and how far they would be removed from traditional weapon elements like grips, rails and iron sights.
So I drew two pages of thumbnails for the Crossbeam and Disc Gun weapons focussing entirely on just the overall silhouette.
Then, along with Gary – Artist / Animator – and Billy – Creative Director – we agreed on which one we liked the most, then I created the model. I knew due to the distance of the game camera and the low poly style of the player characters, that creating an initial high poly was out of the question, so I went straight into creating the low poly in game version which you can see below.
At this stage I was still leaning towards creating physically correct materials, which had consistency issues down the line with the visual style we had defined for the characters. Even though the weapon is low poly for a modern game, it was still far too high poly to match the visual style of the characters, which take a more stylised, abstract approach using low poly faceted triangles. At this time it wasn’t clear how the overall weapons would look in 3d space, as all I had to base anything on was a flat black thumbnail. With no guide to work from apart from the black silhouettes, I found myself simply making things up as I modelled it, which can be dangerous when you’re supposed to be staying true to the art style we had defined.
So, I decided to concept the rocket launcher in more detail, I drew four more detailed concepts than last time. Focussing on trying to show the angled faceted look, and hopefully retaining something which read as ‘rocket launcher’, while trying to reduce any recognizable real world elements.
This additional detail wasn’t sitting well with the characters though, as they used very simple and limited materials and we wanted the weapons to do the same – these new concepts had too much internal detail, they had to be more abstract. At this point Gary – who has previously written about weapons – drew some very simple but distinctly different silhouettes for each weapon based on what I had initially done, but was thinking of them more as icons within the map.
It’s important that the weapons look somewhat like their real world counterparts, but it’s more important that they fit with the art style and they’re different to the other weapon models within the level; this way the players can quickly learn what each weapon is as they play.
So I took one of Gary’s very simple outlines for the flame thrower, quickly blocked it out and embellished it with as much detail as I dared. I followed a number of rules which I try and follow for each weapon, which along with the consistent material work also helps with the consistency of each weapon. These weapons had the benefit of looking more grounded in the world, not more detailed than the player characters, and due to the low poly blocky look, they relatively fast to create, iterate and change if required. I don’t even have to worry about UV’s being stretched or warped as it’s just block colours with additional material work.
Once we had a pipeline of Gary creating the initial icon-like shapes, and that being agreed on, I could quickly take these shapes, embellish them and add the required mapping and materials. Then I could create the fracture mesh, apply the node placement for positioning on the spawn points. When this was all done, we could have a look at them in game.
We now have a good first pass of all of the weapons in the game. We’ll obviously need to tweak them as we go on, but at least they are all in game and are visually consistent with the rest of the game. There’s still some work to do, but at least we have a solid pipeline and process in place, so any additional weapons we add to the game will have a far more streamlined journey from concept to final game.