In a couple of weeks, there will be a new set of Box O Zombies toys demoing at C2E2. I was fortunate enough to design several of the new figures. Among these figures, is a special edition that will debut at C2E2 and will only be available at trade shows. That special edition figure has been named, Zomic Book Guy. In this developer diary I will take you through a relatively brief overview of the process of taking something from my brain, to paper, to the imaginary world of a computer screen to the imaginary world of reality. So if that sounds very uninteresting to you, just scroll to the bottom to see what the final digital sculpt looks like.
The first step was wide open for this character. Unlike the others, he had no written description. All I knew was that I needed to have a figure ready for C2E2 and that they wanted it to be a play on a convention visitor. I usually let things cook in my head a bit before putting them on paper. Meanwhile, I gather reference and inspiration. This process helps be develop a better idea of who the character is and where I might find the appeal. This is something that is a pretty standard approach and for good reason. It usually works out for the better.
For quite some time I had made the full transition to digital. However in developing this character I was reminded not to phase out the traditional materials completely. I came up with some initial thumbnail sketches while away from my desk. It was the early stages of transferring thoughts to a page. It was a small sketch pad and a relaxed moment when I found something that clicked (A good reminder that it is best to forget the certain pressures and trust your stream of consciousness). I found a shape, posture and personality that struck a chord. In most cases I would keep going through a couple more iterations to see if something better comes along or just dig out some other ideas. Unfortunately time was dwindling and I needed to trust my instinct and run with something.
(I eventually decided to go with cartoon-ish damage to the eye to help cut our the silhouette and make it stand out more. I also played around with different hats and bag designs, trying to find a proper balance of shapes and line work.)
I scanned the pencil and ink sketches and brought them into Photoshop and began to knock out more rough iterations of a particular design. I hacked away flesh, swapped hats and played with accessories until I found a combination that worked best for the character, printing constraints and thegame's art direction.
Early on there was concern over the character's size. I chose the size in order to create an interesting silhouette, movement and some character contrast. This contrast not only comes with the body size in comparison to his accessories, but his intimidating size paired with his somewhat nervous expression. Also, the contrast in size and accessories helps create define the humor. I wanted this character to have immediate pay off in the game's universe, as a reference to the sights of C2E2 and as a statue you wouldn't mind having displayed amongst your collection. I felt his size and the motion in his pose helped create the appeal we needed with out mocking his wright.
(These are the iterations building up to a near final concept. I tried different color and accessory combinations. In some cases I'm figuring out the logic of the details and in others I am looking for something that just feels right. Usually, there would much more iteration, but deadlines change things.)
After deciding on a general size and accessory combo, I then carried it through the concept stages. This involved figuring out scale in comparison to other characters, color pallets and smaller damage details. The advantage I had with this character was that I would also be the sculptor, so I could leave some room and further define the character in 3D.
From 2D Thing to 3D Thing
(An early look at the sculpt progress, as well as a glimpse of what Zomic Book Guy looks like under the mask.)
I decided to sculpt the head and body separately in order to allow myself a good amount of resolution without my PC chugging. They could later be decimated (a process of reduction in ZBrush) and combined if there were any file size issues. I don't usually like to work this way but it helped me focus on the bust and really develop the personality in the face.
During the sculpting stage I did quite a bit of adjusting. The pose needed to be tweaked to make sense in a more realistic space. Although I think it works in 2D, it looked a little awkward in 3D. It also made it a little tricky to balance. It changed his personality a bit, which I liked, but with more time I would have fleshed out his pose a little better. I like that he looks apprehensive, but it looks a little too light footed, as if he is sneaking around. He looks to be in mid-transfer of his weight and it probably would be a more effective pose if I planted his weight on the leading foot.
The uncertain, socially awkward reminiscence of his personality was pushed through out the sculpting process. I gave his facial expression a little bit more life to animate the statue. I wanted to inject a little more character into this statue compared to my last one that was a bit lifeless (which I guess is fitting in a way). Yes he is a zombie, but I would like people to feel a connection when looking at him, a feeling that he was once a person and not just a monster. I tried to do all this while keeping the details defined by simple shapes and cuts to ensure that it will transfer to the 3.5 inch print. The limitations in this case helped assist the style in a satisfying way.
(The final concept alongside the final sculpt. There a good amount of changes when looking closely, but I think the general feel of the character was captured. I do feel like I could have done a better job of figuring out how to make the wings play more of a part in the 3D silhouette.)
So in terms of the sculpt, there you have it. I spend a good amount of time playing around with subtle color changes when poly painting. I usually paint skin temperatures, but in this case I wanted more of a flatter, cartoon feel and cut that step out. So I blocked in the colors, then painting in highlights and shadows, finishing with smaller details like the blood and the swag bag design. The base was a bit rushed due to the impending deadlines. I would have liked time to do something a little more interesting, detailed and story oriented. However, the production must go on and it was on to the next phase.
(A peak at the digital version of the Zomic Book Guy. The blood had to be changed from red to green which was a concern at first, but I found my self pleased with the way it turned out.)
(Close ups of the final sculpt, I try to push the detail with out crushing printing costs. I learned my lesson with the Samurai Zombie from last year.)
Not Done Yet! Printing and Adjustments
(This nonsense is a sheet calling out the color codes for the printers. This is always tricky, for there is no way to say for sure how accurate the colors will translate. In some cases I trust the printers, while in other spots I call out a few colors within a gradient.)
Although it feels finished, it never is. After turning in the sculpt for printing it bounced back several times. Adjustments needed to be made to accommodate the strength of the toy. I made the bag strap thicker as well readjusted pieces to overlap more in order to make it a but more structurally sound. There were also renders that needed to be mocked up to ensure scaling was properly translated. The renders seen above were prepped to assist in the coloring of the figure. The colors in this case, were not pulled directly from the poly-paint, so a Pan-tone code was provided for the main colors.
So there you have it, this is the process and amount of work that went into the figure. The process took a little over a month, with various eyes constantly reviewing the progress. It may have been shorter, but my attention was split between this and the art direction, which was a challenge in itself. Anytime you have a work split like that, you always feel with more time you could have done things differently. That is just the nature of production art. At the moment, it is coming down to the wire and I will be seeing the final toys the day before the show. I did get a chance to see some prototype prints and they looked great. So here is hoping you guys will enjoy it as well.
We will be showing 3 of them on the C2E2 floor. This one in particular is a special edition, meaning it will only be available at C2E2. We will also have the 10" Samurai figure available, alongside personal prints and BoZ prints for sale. So check us out at Booth #1018 and I also will have a table somewhere in artist alley, so find me in the sea of prints. Thanks for reading my ramblings.