Making of — Tia’s Voyage — 3D Character Art

    During the course of the 1st semester in my final year at Teesside University, we had a module called Beta Arcade. This module focused on team work, recreating as faithfully as possible, a work environment similar to that of the games industry. During this module, students across multiple courses needed to form into “game teams” of 10 to 20 people and over the period of 12 weeks, create a fully playable game demo. We had Games Programmers, Designers, Animators and Artists all coming together during this module.

     The team I was a member of, called the Beta Bunch, consisted of 4 Artists, 3 Programmers, 2 Designers and 1 Animator. I can truly say that I was extremely fortunate in having met some of the most fantastic people I could ever hope to work together with. The chemistry in our team was superb.

     My role in the team was to be the Character Artist. We decided to create a Pegi-7 rated, third-person role-playing puzzle game, which, eventually was titled Tia’s Voyage.

poster1

The trailer for our game can be viewed here:

Trailer created by Robin Coils.

    In the planning phase, we decided to go with a Polynesian look to our game, but then added a touch of Mayan/Aztec influences to everything. Not yet certain whether we wanted a male or a female protagonist, I created some quick concept sketches for both genders:

concept_mainchar1_sketches
Player character concepts

    Due to the limited time and number of our team, plus other modules running parallel with the Beta Arcade module, we could not afford to have too many non-playable characters, so we decided to go with 3 out of the 7 originally concepted.

concept_npc_1
Non-playable character concepts

    I created some final concept sketches once we agreed on which characters we’d go with. Which characters to keep and which to discard was decided based on a number of factors, including the time it would take to create them, difficulty of rigging/skinning and animating them.

final_char_concept_NPC
Final character concepts.

    At this point, our main character was named Tiare, or Tia for short.

    Having agreed on the characters, I’ve started work on the sculpts for each of them:

    Our Panda, now named Shao, lost quite a bit of weight from his initial concept. This was due to animation limitations. Our animator, Maximillian Stanley, created two custom rigs. One for Tia, and one for the NPC’s (non-playable characters). To make skinning easier, all NPC’s had to fit upon the same custom rig. However, as the Panda was originally represented in his concept art, his hips would have been too wide to actually fit on the same rig. Thus the loss of weight between the concept art and the final sculpt.

    Once the team approved, I retopologized and textured all four of them.

    Our animator, Maximillian Stanley, then rigged/skinned each, and started working on their animation cycles. Here is an example of the characters animated. All animations were done by Maximillian Stanley.

Tia_new_walk
Tia Walk
ginleon
Ginleon Idle
skotchy1
Scotchy Idle
shao1
Shao Idle

    The 3D models of the family of characters I created can be viewed here:

MarmosetViewer1

    Once the characters were done and ready to be implemented into the game engine by our programmers, I turned my attention to creating an intro video for our game. This should be a small video in the beginning, which should introduce the main character and give a short explanation as to how she ended up on this island.

    Yet again, due to time constraints and the fact that we only had a single animator, we were looking at easy, simple ways to create such a short video. My suggestion was that we should try parallaxed illustrations. This method would mean having a 2D image, on separate depth layers, moving in opposite direction from one another, thus giving the impression of a camera panning. This could be done entirely by me, and thus, not burden further our animator.

    I created six such illustrations which I then rendered out into a short 1 minute long intro video that can be viewed here:

 

    My final task was creating a poster for our game, which should also function as a potential cover:

poster1

    I have been most fortunate to have held the role of Lead Character Artist in my 2nd year for our Journeyman Project module, which implied managing a team of 19 artists. That was a fantastic group project, but it pales in comparison to the pleasure and joy that was this year’s Beta Arcade module. The level of dedication, professionalism and quality that I witness within this team was astounding. This was, by far, the best team experience of my life and I hope to work together with all of these amazing people again in the future.

 

The Beta Bunch

Artists

Cameron Dean (Environment)

Sandrine Neill (Environment)

Robin Coils (Generalist)

Mathia Arkoniel (Character)

Programmers

Kristina Blinova

Henry Bell

Craig Belshaw

Designers

Matt Pearson

Robbie Diamond

Animator

Maximillian Stanley

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