Hi, I’m Chris Arnold and I’m the Art Manager on WildStar. With the Redmoon Rising update coming up—and the first wing of the Redmoon Terror raid—I wanted to show off a bit of a behind-the-scenes look into our art process when we created some of the characters and locations you’ll be visiting.
The first step we take when developing any new visual idea (characters or locations) is exploring what we call the “blue sky” phase. We call it “blue sky” because in this stage we may not really know for sure what direction we want to go with a concept, so “the sky’s the limit.”
The more important the character, the more emphasis we usually put on exploring visual concepts. We usually push the look a bit more during this stage and focus on iteration and variation to be sure we’ve explored a sufficient number of options. In this sheet you can see an early concept of Laveka along with many possible iterations of her Mask of Mog Mog.
Design Note: After we explore the “blue sky” stage of visual development, we zero in on what particular ideas we like, and refine them into the bounds and requirements of an actual production environment. During this stage we finalize what we call production concepts, and generate drawings that define all of the possible variables that an artist would need to know to create the actual art assets.
This image shows how we took the ideas from the earlier sketch and translated them into a concept of how we would create her actual model. From this concept, the character artist was able to go on to create her 3D model.
Design Note: The undead army that Laveka recruits comes from a unique combination of voodoo magic themes and pirate marauders. To create cohesion throughout the story, we chose to tie all of the undead monsters together with a mysterious bluish tone. This helps distinguish the creatures from their original forms, as well as give rationale for the eerie existence.
For Mordechai Redmoon, we needed to take an established character and evolve his aesthetic into something new and different. In this story, he is resurrected from the dead using the magic of Laveka. When designing his new form, we wanted to be sure to convey the undead elements and tribal magical themes seen throughout Laveka’s magical conquests.
Robomination is an example of a boss that required thinking outside the box a bit. The idea of a trash compactor got our creative juices flowing, and these images show some good examples of the creative process at work. You can see some of the early versions of Robomination that we didn’t end up using. Alongside the final concept you can also see some of the breakdowns and callouts that are required to describe the finer details of movement and construction.
The design of an environment goes through many stages of iteration before reaching the final polished version. The earliest phase involves fleshing out the space on paper. As you can see in this image, first we get a good sense of the proportion of play spaces in relation to each other, and how many encounters there will be in them. After we’re happy with the paper map we flesh out the entire space in “graybox”. This is a very primitive 3D version of the whole level that we can use to hone in on the right scale and feel of the level, before we start making any finished artwork. A lot of changes can take place during this vital stage.
After we’ve achieved a good idea of what spaces we’re making through iteration of paper maps and layout of a graybox environment, we begin a pre-visualization phase of concepting. In this phase we’re not confining ourselves too much to any pre-conceived notions of what a space should look like. We’re mostly interested in exploring how we can express the ideas sought after by the design team, along with the established themes of story and setting.
Design Note: For Redmoon Terror you can see by the artwork that we were mostly interested in the pirate themes of the Marauders in WildStar. We really wanted to push the fun, swashbuckling motifs of pirate ships and bring them into the ramshackle world of a gritty sci-fi spaceship.
At the final stage of environment design we do production concepts. These concepts are meant to take what we’ve learned from the creation of our graybox map and combine them with our pre-vis exploration drawings. In this phase, we focus on being specific about defining as close as possible what the final space should look like. The 3D artists will take these drawings and build the environment to the specifications of the concepts, while adhering to the framework defined by the earlier graybox spaces.
That’s an extremely quick overview of the art process for characters and environments for pretty much everything we work on, but specifically the upcoming Redmoon Terror wing. We’ve put a lot of time and passion into getting this raid ready for primetime, and we hope you’re as excited as we are to pillage the ship’s booty on August 17!
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