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Team C: Art style

Posted by souri on Thu, 02/04/09 - 12:51 AM

Initially, I was going to recommend continuing the glowing vector style of Defcon one, but we've got a team of artists who could do so much more than that.

I want to approach JohnN to see if he would be interested in the concept art (ships and everything mechanical) for this. Creatively wise, he's more than capable of it (his style is very retro, sleek, and streamlined, however I'd prefer things a bit more chunkier and modern for this).…

I was going to oversee the art direction to keep it coherent, and there are many and many space games to draw inspiration from. I'd recommend Eve Online as a big inspiration since it really is the most beautiful looking space game out there in terms of ship designs, the UI, and the vistas that you fly around in. I'd personally tone down the nebulas a bit though.

... personally, I think Sins of the Solar Empire has much better looking space scenes. Darker and just more appealing (although they do have a variety of space scenes with bright reds etc). Do a search for more screenshots as it looks great.

Other inspirations are Homeworld 1 and 2 (some awesome, awesome designs in there - do a search for the concept art for some of the ship designs, great stuff)

(This is linked off Doolwind's blog ;))

Submitted by mulletdulla on Thu, 02/04/09 - 12:51 PM Permalink

wow these shows look great.

Largely what ever style of art we wish to pursue will be dependent on the Engine we choose to build from.

I was looking at Unity because it is incredibly flexible as well as powerful.

Also the scale and focus of our game is simultaneous battles across different planets, the player will often be needing to see an overview of the entire campaign map. Here we can only effectively represent fleets as blips due to scaling constraints.

To include some fantastic scenes like these we can do what Sins of a Solar Empire does. They have a unique and very streamlined zooming feature that takes you in and out of viewing very close up to galaxy extremes. We could do something similar at each home planet but we must be careful as this could take away from the players ability to assess the entire match. Information can always be well supported by a UI however.

Submitted by suggo on Thu, 02/04/09 - 3:06 PM Permalink

Unity 3D looks like a pretty cool engine. Anyone know the price for an Indie license? or would you guys rather go for something open source and free for commercial use. Some free ones include: Ogre, Irrlicht and Crystal space. I suppose this is more a question of preference and more suited to Chris and I as programmers, the only two I have touched are Ogre and Irrlicht although only very recently. I haven't looked far into crystal space but it is probably the more game focused one of the three the others are primarily graphics engines which can be used in a game along with physics input and sound.

Also these free engines will probably not be as good as something that costs us money. What does everyone else think?

Submitted by designerwatts on Thu, 02/04/09 - 3:36 PM Permalink

Unity 2.5 on an indie level costs $200USD per developer.

To put that into a more tangible scene. Each person who directly needs to use the engine, 3D editor and tools will need to pay somewhere around $300AUS [depends on exchange rate.] for their own licence.

That sounds like a drag. But when considering how much you actually get for that $300. It's money well invested.

Submitted by souri on Thu, 02/04/09 - 3:36 PM Permalink

Prices can be seen at:

$199 (US or $282 AU) for the Indie license
$1499 (US or $2,130 AU) for the Indie Pro license

Here's a comparison of the differences between the licenses...

My main argument for using Unity is if we eventually want to do a demonstratable web version, Mac version, or further down the line do a customised iPhone version (or even Wii), it would be much easier going the Unity route and understanding its nuances than the other options available. It also helps that it has all the physics, and sound etc already.

We'd probably need to get you two programmers the indie license first off, and the rest of the team can simply send you the assets to compile. Mulletdulla would need it also to tweak the game as we go.

Submitted by mulletdulla on Thu, 02/04/09 - 3:57 PM Permalink

The Unity Indie License is US$200.

The reason I was drawn to it is its flexibility into building platforms. It can easily be deployed to web browsers which is a great platform to publish games - look at the recent success of Quake Live.

It also has a shit tonne of networking and multiplayer support which I thought would be integral.

However I am not a programmer and truth be told I can only take a lot of this for face value.

I had a look at Irrlicht - Theres a space based RTS called galatic Dream that was built with that engine. So it seems to support what we want to do. Your experience with it would also be of great benefit.

Unity is prettier tho :D but $$

Submitted by suggo on Thu, 02/04/09 - 6:58 PM Permalink

Well I definitely like cheap but I think I'll download and try out the 30 day trial of unity and see what it is like. I agree it is a much more polished engine than anything we could get free and deployment to all those different platforms is something to consider. I am starting to like the sound of unity more and more and the price is not looking too bad.

Submitted by Briefcase on Sat, 04/04/09 - 3:30 PM Permalink

Given that we are drawing gameplay inspiration from a very simple looking perhaps we should keep that in mind in terms of the art as well.
after reading the game brief i had and image in my head of a 3D star scape where the player can move the camera around at will, but keeping the fleets as 2D icons.

anyone have any thoughts on this?

Submitted by Roger on Wed, 08/04/09 - 6:42 PM Permalink

Hi all,

I've been playing around with Unity to see what it's like. While I can see its advantages I would rather use something that allows access to the source code. As a programmer having access to source code just makes life easier.
Using C# script I was able to implement working code for a solar system rather quickly in the matter of an hour. My issues arrived however when I tried to implement a simple GUI for selecting an individual planet, 4 hours later still not working the way I want.
If we do go with Unity I won't mind, I just wanted to throw my opinion out their.

Submitted by Johnn on Mon, 04/05/09 - 2:41 AM Permalink

I suppose this is the right spot to post this, the thread diverted into engine talk for a while.
Some initial sketches to warm up for the task at hand. Designs are loosely made in sets of 2. If anything is jumping out as potentially worth expanding/exploring for fleet designs to anyone please post your thoughts.

Do we have any documentation that addresses back story or thematic settings for the game? might help narrow visual design goals if we do.

Submitted by mulletdulla on Mon, 04/05/09 - 2:45 PM Permalink

I love these, you have captured some really cool feels here.

Standing out to me so far are:

1) as an orbital bombardment type ship
7)/8) could both easily be Engineer Ships
11) suites the purpose of troop carrier drop ships - ie the pods launched to the planets surface carrying troops
2)/12) seems like a good fighter type ship
I also like 3) as another artillery ship
6) is another good fighter type ship

However the gothic machine style of 1) and 8)is my favoured theme of the lot.

Currently there is no back story or thematic setting written into the design of the game. I have however reduced the scope of the game to be set inside only one solar system so perhaps the technology of the ships is not as far reaching as what we normally perceive in galaxy based sci-fi settings. From this a more simplified, industrial theme could be established? I'm not entirely sure.

If anyone has any ideas for themes, settings and back stories feel free to post about it.

Submitted by mulletdulla on Tue, 05/05/09 - 4:02 PM Permalink

Hey Chris or any other Artist,

I just released an updated GDD. In this includes a new Node system for the planets. The idea is that the Nodes are directly represented in game on the planet's surface by a series of circles that appear embedded into the planet. These nodes are purely a GUI aspect of the game - the player interacts directly with these node circles to build structures or attack structures. If they are a resource node they will also display what type of resource they contain.

I drew up some simple 2D diagrams of how I anticipate the nodes to work both visually and interactively. What I need from you guys is some concept art that will show how the node system can work when rendered in 3D. So imagine a 3D planet with a GUI Node system embedded into the 3D art/model. You will also need to keep in mind that when a structure is built onto the node that the structure becomes part of the planet but rests in the node area. You would have a 3D representation of the structure as well.

Currently the game is played on a top down 2D plane with an X and Y axis. While the player may not be able to enjoy the full 3D open world that space is, we can still create the illusion that exists with fantastic 3D models, art and depth. These nodes are designed to be interacted with on a 2D level so it doesn't matter to much if the system no longer makes the planet's seem true to life but as long as you can create something that maintains the illusion of space that would be awesome.

I hope this makes sense? Lets see what cool concepts you guys can come up with :D

Submitted by Johnn on Wed, 13/05/09 - 2:53 AM Permalink

my final post for the evening on this project. I'm hoping this might provoke more feed back with focused direction to head with next round of sketches. My aim is to reduce the each fleet to a handful of design features/principles then build up each fleet from these.

I'm entertaining the idea of attempting some distinctly alien ship designs with the idea of the game being Human vs Alien. Any comments on that as a potential scenerio for the game?

I want to condense the variety of designs down. On coming back to the sketches:
I think the bulbous base shapes of #9 and #10 could be a distinct fleet trait, but no one has warmed to them :(

I also think #7 and #8 could make a distinctive fleet. They are based on modules and scaffolding. Some might say these designs suffer from 60's sci-fi styling too much but the angles/shapes of #11 and #12 could be incorporated into these designs to lend a contemporary look. (In retrospect #1 and #2 were warm ups for #7 and #8, so lets chuck them out)

#3 and #4 are starting to head into the relm of alien design. they were based on the idea of segmented shielding over an inner structure. I'm luke warm on them but if they are poplular I can work them further (I actually have preexisting thumbnails that i really like based on the same design ideas).

#5 has curving lines from modern automotive design. I really like this sketch and think a whole fleet could be modeled on that principle. #6 was a failed attempt on the same idea, it got a bit bitsy.

Does that shed any more light on potential directions with art? any validation or dismissal of paths to go down would be greatly appreciated.

Submitted by suggo on Wed, 13/05/09 - 9:16 AM Permalink

I like your idea about merging the angles of 11 and 12 with 7 and 8, 7 and 8 looked a little boring to me. I suppose it is just my personal taste but the ones I like most are 3,4,5,6,11 and 12. I definitely agree that the silhouettes should be quite distinctive which could easily be implemented with an alien versus human type scenario.

Submitted by mulletdulla on Wed, 13/05/09 - 2:03 PM Permalink

Nice clarification there Chris, it does shed a lot more light on what you are trying to achieve.

"I also think #7 and #8 could make a distinctive fleet. They are based on modules and scaffolding. Some might say these designs suffer from 60's sci-fi styling too much but the angles/shapes of #11 and #12 could be incorporated into these designs to lend a contemporary look."

- You've hit the nail right on the head there. I think merging those two for a distinctive fleet feel a lot better.

"I think the bulbous base shapes of #9 and #10 could be a distinct fleet trait, but no one has warmed to them"

- they sort of remind me too much of the Dragonball ships; I was never a fan of them heh. I vote to scrap those ideas.

"#3 and #4 are starting to head into the relm of alien design. they were based on the idea of segmented shielding over an inner structure"

- These two I like quite a bit for the purpose of alien ships. Although I prefer the design of #3 over #4 - I would suggest maintaining a design similar to #3

"#5 has curving lines from modern automotive design. I really like this sketch and think a whole fleet could be modeled on that principle. #6 was a failed attempt on the same idea, it got a bit bitsy."

- Interestingly I actually like #6 much more than #5; #5 feels to curvey and sleek for my liking. What I would really like to see is a merge between #3 and #6 in design.

You keep pressing for a story driven design to emerge and I think you're right about that. I definitely like the idea of having Alien Races and Human Races. For the purpose of your concept art, if you want to develop further #3, #4, #5 and #6 into a more complete fleet based around alien life forms - blending together especially the designs of #3 and #6. For the human fleets definitely look at merging #7 and #8 with #11 and #12.

If you can, can you conceptualize each individual ship type I have currently written up for each race.

- Engineer Ship (I really like the look of #7 to suite the purpose of a human engineer ship)
- Artillery Ship
- Troop Carrier (perhaps a more bulky version of #5 to suite the alien troop carrier)
- Assault Ship (#6 would be my preferred alien assault ship)

I hope these ideas help. Please dont hesitate to reply with more questions

Submitted by Briefcase on Wed, 20/05/09 - 4:00 PM Permalink

just out of interest.. do we know what units setup and scale to work for in 3D? I've been messing around using johns concept art to get a start on some modeling and then it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea to know what restrictions we need to work to i.e poly count, texture size, etc.

Submitted by designerwatts on Wed, 20/05/09 - 4:13 PM Permalink

If your creating initial assets, greyboxing would be the first step. Which is usually a low but clean poly count and mesh construction, and very small textures that are also clean, usually just a solid colour.

Starting with greybox assets will allow you to make tweaks to the units scale and look fairly easily instead of jumping right into high detail asset creation. And by making many you can use them as temporary asset placeholders that programmers can link to when creating ships and stations, instead of having to rely on programmer art. :)

Submitted by Johnn on Wed, 27/05/09 - 12:53 AM Permalink

I've been chipping away in the background still! sorry for gaps between posts I've had some unavoidable hiccups that have upset my apple cart so to speak. Anyway, here is my next update to follow up feedback:

These are not to scale and i only had a loose idea of ship roles as I sketched. feel free to suggest your own interpretations as it might help me refine and create new options. All three ships are designed to be from the same fleet.

1)Artillery/planet attack ship. Very, very large scale compaired to others.
2) Engineering or troop drop ship. Could elongate it and unlarge scale to consider it as an option for planet attack ship
3) Small fighter.

Briefcase & USSMC, you might want to hold off on modelling until we have finalised basic shapes of both fleets. Iexpect to do a few more rounds of refinements and options before moving onto smaller details.

Hope you are all happy with progress,

John :)

Submitted by mulletdulla on Wed, 27/05/09 - 12:46 PM Permalink

The unified theme is really sweet. You can tell there is good cohesion across the three different ships. I feel #1 is a step in the wrong direction, looks too thin and too alien compared to the uniform look the second two really exhibit. Referring back to your original concept art, 1# really carries the size and weight of an incredibly large cruiser and if you blend the uniform exhibit in these artworks into the shape and size of that original drawing then I think we have an awesome artillery cruiser :D.

hope that helps

cheers for the sweet work

Submitted by ussmc on Wed, 27/05/09 - 1:24 PM Permalink

Nice and neat. #1 and #3 doesn’t look threatening to be an Artillery/Planet attack ship/Small Fighter; maybe you could add wings like the B-2 Spirit bomber, and sharpen the front a bit like today’s modern aircraft fighters. But hey, maybe it’s just me:) nice work!

Submitted by Johnn on Thu, 28/05/09 - 3:14 AM Permalink

Agreed #1 is too alien in design. below are 2 more attempts, I think #5 might have promise.
ussmc, I'll revisit details once I got basic shape & proportions of a full set of craft done. I'll keep your comments in mind as I progress.

Submitted by Johnn on Mon, 01/06/09 - 3:39 AM Permalink

More thumbnails to look at. These are all working the same design. #6 is a medium sized verison for engineer or troop ship and the rest are attempts at larger variations as artillery. I was entertaining the idea of the nose sliding out and back to reveal a planet destroying sized weapon.

I like bits of them bit none are quite working for me in relation to the other designs.