Saturday, June 8, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry III - Poisonous Grub Start to Finish

 (This is a quick gathering of some of the concept iterations. There was actually quite a bit more of color and silhouette iterations but chose the landmarks to represent the production.)

     When I was assigned this asset I was pretty excited. Not only did I get to concept the creature which is always fun, I was going to get an opportunity to sculpt it and prep the in-game version. There were a set of paramters given. It was to be featured in part of the fortress of solitude along with a collection of other aliens. So it needed to fit the environment and look as if it belonged to the same planet as the other creatures. I was given further direction and a concept for one of the other creatures to help narrow it down. This little grub was to be designed to look like it could be a larvae or very early stage of the much larger creatures development (I am unclear if I can show the reference concept, so sorry for not showing). That really helped shape what kind of eyes, limbs and body structure this grub should have.
     It had a couple of constraints related to game play. We knew early that it would be part of an intractable object. You can smash the crystal casing it is confined in. It would squirm back to it's feet and fly away. Initially there was the idea that it would release a defensive, poisonous gas. Again, two very informative constraints. It needed wings, needed to look poisonous and have vents to release the gas. I had my orders and a batch of photo reference was provided.

 (When in production, renders for approval are quick screen grabs of works in progress.)

      Daily check-ins allowed my leads and co-workers to provide an outside eye. The "gas vents" were to flat, creating a boring circular silhouette. Protruding them a bit made it feel more organic and changed up the form. I got some help from my co-workers Max and Ashton. We would occasionally check in on each other to see how things were going. We would look for critiques and provided our eyes to each other. That really helped create an awesome environment of growth and learning.

 (A look at the sculpt in it's final form before being painted in Zbrush.)

     A good way to expose weaknesses is to look at the sculpt with no paint. The details and different textures should read in gray scale. Better design would have improved the limbs. The long spiked nail seems a little too simple to me. The structure of the body could have used a little more flowing forms from front to back. Mass distribution is a little to uniform and it looses a sense of weight. A quick fix would be to bulk up the shoulders and chest area a bit and pinch the connection to the bulb in the back. This would create a more exaggerated silhouette and give it a little more movement and appeal.
 (I have grown very fond of doing about 80% of the texture by poly painting in Zbrush. I have received positive results and feedback. I need to continue to improve to really nail down the process.)

       I have mixed feelings about the results. The skin pulling over the lumpy muscle forms in the body could have used a little more tension. It needs more photo reference to tighten up the sculpted detail and really give it an organic feel. The poly paint needs a little more contrast. The decorative color on the head get's lost due to a lack of saturation and contrast. If I were working in it now I would have pulled more reference of my original inspiration for the color, which was the South American tree frog.

 (Final renders for my portfolio. I still need a lot of work on my rendering to really bring my work to life but that will come in time.)

     The final version of the creature changed in color a bit. I am not quite sure if it was a texture change or if it comes from the shaders applied in the Unreal engine. I would have liked to learn a lot more Unreal pipeline but my work station didn't have access since I was technically part of the concept team. That is an area where I really need to take initiative and learn a little more of Unreal or another advanced engine beside Unity. 
(A brief overview at the stages of production. There are a lot of things that I could have done better, but at the time was a confidence booster and also showed my leads I might be able to handle some bigger sculpting projects.)

      So that about does it. This was during the first couple months at the studio, so my nerves lead to a bit of a rushed production. A little more patience and calm would have fixed some mistakes. Overall I'm happy with what I learned and the end result. It is in no way as solid as it could be, but shows my potential and ability to build an asset from 2D to 3D. 
       So if anyone gets a chance to play the game punch someone through a wall and you will end up in Superman's personal zoo. Now that I think of it, it isn't very nice of Superman to trap his native creatures in such tight confines. In that case, this creature with multiple "gas vents" is hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the battle arena. Smash it open and it will squirm and let it fly free!

Referenced Artist
Max Hudetz -

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry II - Weapons and Doggie Biscuits

     After the first run of Harley Quinn props it was on to some awesome creature and concept work. Before I cover that, I figured I would get through all the props and build up to the bigger assets. Plus it helps me review how I improved in quality and efficiency as far as prop building goes. So this brings me to a set of props for Deathstroke and a Harley prop I forgot to include in the last post. 
     I got to concept and build some of his weapons which was fun. His sword was a concept created by Ashton, whom I worked with as an associate artist. It was fun to collaboratively build a set of aesthetically harmonious weapons with him and concept Lead Pav.

 (Next time around I want to start working more interesting perspectives into my props. It helps 3D artists visualize the object better and provides a better sense of size, weight and shape. I should have also included a hand for scale.)

     One of the inspirations for this pistol was provide by Pav. The cut in the barrel was interpreted from an airsoft gun. It created a nice silhouette for the pistol that made in stand out from what an audience is used to seeing. That along with the unorthodox, hard edged design in the trigger and handle. When working on this concept I made sure to have an image of the character and his sword up to keep things in synch.
     Unfortunately, the pistol never made it to 3D. It was approved for production but in it's place was a more standard looking pistol that was easily adapted to the characters militant feel. I assumed the change in pistol was a matter of saving time and resources. Although it could have been a change in direction, I was never informed. During production most of what you make goes through development and once final approval is made you toss it in a folder and move on. There is no time for post-production critique which is why this blog is time well spent for my progress.

 (Knowing I was going to make a 3D version ahead of time, I did a version of the concept with a mock wireframe painted over it. This did wonders in helping me figure out topology before evenn opening Maya and sped up the 3D construction a great amount.)

The rifle stock was a focus for this prop. It would be the most visible aspect as it would be seen sticking out over his shoulder during battle. So we wanted to make sure that it created an interesting and unique silhouette. That would help define it a little more and make it aesthetically pleasing. Initially the first direction was to go with an open window frame stock, but after going through a bunch of real world reference I found a very unique stock to pull inspiration from.
      Since the government is really into collection all our communications, I sure hope they don't get the wrong idea when they see all the Googling of heavy weaponry. It was just for the game I swear! There, now when they collect this they will get their explanation.

(When playing with Deathstroke these props get quite a bit of screen time which was exciting. I was able to create a few more things that stay on screen longer than half a second.)

     When I began at Netherealm I had a bit of tunnel vision. When building characters all I cared about was their story and appearance. I always treated  props as an after thought and quite frankly didn't put much time into them. This lead to a lack of some basic hard surface modeling and modular techniques. Fortunately this gambit of props that I was put through solved that issue.  I quickly picked up a batch of techniques for building props. It also taught me the importance of giving proper attention to extra accessories that seem secondary at first but can be just as useful for telling a character's story than any other aspect. A character isn't just a face or body. It is a collection of puzzle pieces that build a narrative of varying depth depending on the universe. The face, clothes, scars and props are all just puzzle pieces. The big challenge is creating an interesting puzzle that forms an interesting story.
     Now Deathstroke isn't the deepest character nor are his puzzle pieces that complex, but working on pieces of him lead to this understanding. It helped improve my technical ability and allowed me to grasp a deeper understanding of how I could use the theories behind character development.

      I had finished a run of assignments that included props, creatures and characters. I was hungry and looking for something bigger and more important to work on. Here came the reality check. I was assigned a Bat Biscuit. It's intended use was very cool and an entertaining sequence but not very challenging to produce after sculpting an alien bug. I had to make the most of and wanted to do my part. So I set out to build the best damn biscuit this generation of consoles has ever seen! I knocked it out  same day and got a lot of detail without going over my limitations. Ultimately there was life beyond Biscuits and I was given plenty of very cool challenging work afterward.

The next entry will go over some of that work and have a bunch of letters arranged in a certain order that it recreates a perception of a passed reality in your mind.

Thanks for reading.

Below are links to the work for the artist mentioned in the blog:
Ashton Gallagher -
Pav Kovacic -

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry I - Harley and Hawk

     So holy crap! My first triple A title shipped happened this year. It was an amazing experience and having grown up a Batman and Superman fan, this title was especially exciting to work on. The first month or so I worked primarily on 3D props for in-game combat. As I got more comfortable, I began working on more concepts and even carrying them through the 3D phase.

     (The pie landmine was a combination of new construction and existing assets. I built the landmine and icing ring, then grabbed the topping and cherry from an existing cupcake grenade.)

     The syringe was the first asset I created. I was nervous about getting things looking polished in a short amount of time. I later found out I was putting too much pressure on myself and I was actually getting things much quicker than they expected or needed. After relaxing a bit things started looking better and production went smoother with less mistakes. The first couple of props were not only about creating game assets, but also learning the studio's pipeline, quality standard and language. Below are some the props I worked on.

 (Another example of a mash up for the sake of saving time but also keeping some stylistic consistency. I built the barrel, hammer and cork and attached it a handle of one her guns that had already been built.)

(At this point I was working extremely fast, knocking out a prop in a day or less. I tried to push resolution and tri counts to the limit to get things looking their best. This prop flashes so fast you literally can only tell its a picture frame. I still stand by the detail on the off chance the designers or cinematic team wanted to use it in a closer shot.)

 (A spike mace that was great practice for modular production . I built one of the spike extensions and duplicated it around. Then adjusted and merged them to save time. The texture is one side mirrored over to saved time and make the most of resolution.)

(This was a surprisingly trickier asset for me. I still need to get better and re-topologizing a sculpt with tools like Topogun. The spikes and their seals created a lot of weird geometry.)

     As always I appreciate anyone taking the time to check the blog out. There will be more props, creatures, characters, concepts and tech art renders in future entries so if you are interested be sure to check back in over the next couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Portrait and Imagination: Working On Texture and A Natural Feel

(A military portrait for the forgotten veterans.)

      This portrait started as a study for a character that will feature in a comic project I am working on. What I mean by study is the practice of finding some inspiration for a concept; then doing a handful of sketches of those things before working on a new, original piece. For example, I am also working on an alien concept inspired by old dock workers crossed with certain animals. So I sat down one day and sketched some of those animals and people. This not only gives me practice, it also gives me time to study and break down design elements that are the most valuable.

(A few landmark save outs during the course of the painting. I meant to include initial rough sketches but lost the older layers when merging without thinking.)

     It provided a lot of opportunities to paint different surfaces and finer detail. So I kept picking at it before starting my work day. An hour here and there. A specific character brought me to this place, so ideas started flowing into the piece making it a little more than just a study or practice piece.
      Eventually, some of the character and narrative ideas made their way into the portrait. Now this isn't meant to be a character concept. I like to start from scratch with those, in regards to pose and form, then bring in the reference later. So the reason for working in some of the character elements was more of a mental exercise. That lead to different layers of meaning and social commentary getting worked into the portrait. All these flowing ideas will eventually be reworked for the character.
(A collection of the reference I keep up on my second screen while painting. Some images are for direct reference where others are more for general inspiration. The man with the goggles as you can clearly see, was the base of the painting.)

     The idea behind the portrait was eventually solidified while walking down the street in the South Loop and witness the homeless men scattered about. A good amount of them holding signs or injuries, indicating they are veterans (One guy was shirtless and grabbing his genitals with both hands, but he didn't make the inspiration lineup). One often sees polish portraits of successful captains, generals and soldiers and their finest. I began to contemplate the idea of a portrait that represents the unfortunate path of some veterans. Looking at old soldier portraits helped construct this piece as a homeless veteran's military portrait. I thought it was an interesting take on how war is represented through images. It is a representation of an aspect of war that often and ironically goes overlooked considering the very pro-military culture we have in this country.
     Unfortunately, a lot of of homeless people deal with mental illness. I tried to work in characteristics of a homeless man who may have slipped mentally. This was done through collection of scraps and thrown out materials re-purposes for decorative reasons. The banana stickers replace what would be stars (ie. Patton). The ears are swelling at the insertion point of misplaced earrings and at the other hole where a paperclip serves as a replacement. Even the helmet with what appears to be a bullet hole, raised questions of whether it was originally his or if it carries a hint at his mental damage.
      This provides a great deal of inspiration and confidence when moving onto the actual concept. The extra thought will help create an authentic character that accurately represents an aspect of our own world. As usual when painting directly from reference, I feel I should have pushed it a little more and made it my own. The nature of the exercise was about capturing a likeness and photographic detail, so I feel pretty good about what I learned along the way. It would be a better image if I worked in more interesting shapes and forms in the design. I kept the helmet shape and the forms of the additions pretty safe. After this piece I will make a point to start working more dynamic shapes into my designs. I was able to create some rhythm with the spherical forms and circle, but there could have  been a better developing of the visual language.

Thanks for reading this entry, here are some extra words to give to the silent voice in your head.