Vir's Archive

Friday, March 22, 2013

From Concept to Form (Art)

An "Imbolc" class Martian patrol destroyer  in colored glory!  

Okay, lets talk about art development.  This, I have discovered, is one of my favorite parts about developing a game.  Its not cheap, but it is loads of fun to work with talented artists and feed off each other's visions.

I found Jeff Cram on an advert off of  I shot him a blind email saying I liked his stuff and inquired if he would be up to doing some SF work.  I told him I didn't need a lot of full color cover pages, mostly development art.  Many artists, for whatever reason, don't like to do development/concept work.  Probably because it doesn't pay the same as the really detailed stuff and doesn't add to a portfolio like the expensive stuff does.  That said, my budget cant handle a bunch of large pieces, so the initial prices Jeff quoted me were more than reasonable and clearly showed he understood what I was looking for.  The formalities fell into place.

Next up was a quick note from me to Jeff outlining what I was looking for -- an oneill-like torus in the center of the ship was one of the core concepts I wanted to see put to paper.

Below was the first draft - which was a lot of Jeff riffing and seeing what he came up with:

I liked the start, and it gave some stuff to work with.  I didn't like the bridge/tower thing and asked him to pull that off and assume the bridge is buried safely in the bowels of the ship.  I did like the guns on the side - which game me the idea that they shoot Jammers (for a lot of reasons  but one of them is that a gun that shoots Jammers is cool).  I also asked him to beef up the areas around the cylinder to make it a little less exposed. 

I also shared with Jeff some art I liked to point him in the right direction.   

Jeff went back to work.  

I think of this one as the "train ship" - for obvious reasons.  I really didn't like the front - a result of not being clear to Jeff what I was looking for.  I liked that Jeff was playing with lines and angles on this one more than the first iteration, so I wanted to encourage that.  But the cow-catcher had to go.  I made some other suggestions - mostly about the front and asked for more development around the engines.  This was also the first pic where Jeff started to get a feel for how much I like arrays as an aesthetic design choice.  I shot a concept picture of the Zumwalt class destroyer to Jeff and asked him to pull some design elements from there to add a bit of future-realism to the design.  

Ah, ha!  This is the pic where I knew we were really on the right track.  I specifically asked for the fins on the back, but a buddy of mine who saw the pic was adamant - "no fins!"  Okay, no fins.  Jeff did great with this one, lots of little details here and there that really make the ship come alive.  Jeff pulled in the Torp/Jammer cannons, and I much prefer this length for those guns.  He and I worked up the torpedoes in the front - which is what really pulls the pic together.  He also beefed up with habitat.  

I debated about asking to move the canon so it was more centered, but ultimately decided against it.  At this point, Jeff was sending me a bunch of iterations of the pic and, frankly, I didn't want to keep sending small changes when it looked like we were close to done.  Part of my decision not to ask had to do with this being the first art Jeff and I have worked on together - and I didn't want to annoy him too much with fiddly changes (though I am now sure he would have been cool with it).  The reality is that I am still not sold the ship would look any better centering the canon, so I let it go.  

And the final (after inks).  This is where Jeff brought it all together.  The blocky-things between the thrusters were originally supposed to be ejectable fuel supplies.  But when I saw them, they looked more like magnetic housings -- which sealed the deal that mil-spec ships in TDE use antimatter.  Thats part of the reason I like doing art this early in the design process, seeing the vehicles and making some intuitive jumps from what the artists come up with is another form of collaboration.  

Jeff did a great job.  We are on to our next design - the big brother of the Imbolc.