Dev Diary 1: Raiders Concepts & Art Direction
About four months ago we started the project RTS Arena with only a small art team in place. We already gained significant experience in creating characters in RTS/MOBA genre during the development of 4Sight. So we knew the challenges we would be facing when creating the raiders' concepts for RTS Arena.
RTS Arena is set in a military sci-fi setting and we've chosen the stylized realism art style - a middle ground between realistic and cartoonish style with its hyperbolized shapes. We wanted to have a certain level of stylization to give our characters heroic and distinctive look but at the same time avoid a significant disproportion of body parts so they wouldn’t look funny or ridiculous.
Although the internet is full of diverse art and concept designs, the best source of references is definitely the real world. For example, this massive guy in the photos below was inspiring the artist during the process of making concept art for the Enforcer class.
For alpha-release, the design team defined the first 5 raiders classes – Paramedic, Technician, Enforcer, Ranger, and Sniper. Each of these classes have very different tactical roles and therefore their visual representation should reflect these roles very clearly.
Next, we created several mannequin models which we use to determine body shape for each raider class. Raiders of different classes should be easy to distinguish not only on the squad setup screen where they are big enough to see small details of their armor and equipment but also on the battlefield with a top-down view. That is why each class silhouette should is designed to be unique and clearly readable.
Since our raiders are elite commandos and badass guys, we decided that they would have stylized idealized proportions, like comic book heroes. They are taller, display well-defined musculature and have longer legs and arms. For the huge Enforcer to not look like a scaled-up model standing next to the standard tall Paramedic or Technician, we made his head just a little larger than the rest of the characters.
Each character’s appearance should answer the questions “What does this character stand for?” and “How does this character accomplish its objectives?”. That’s why the silhouette and posture of each raider should easily explain his tactical role, behavior and be intuitively recognizable for the player at the same time.
On this point we were looking for major differences which would be typical for each class: Enforcer’s heavy armor and a big gun, Sniper’s cloak and long-barrel rifle, Technician’s repair tools, Paramedic’s reanimation equipment, and Ranger's grenades belt and reconnaissance devices. What we want to achieve with that general appearance should reflect the game design specification of the class, e.g. speed, stamina, carried weapon or type amount of equipment.
Once the main silhouettes were roughly defined and major ideas about class appearance and equipment were established, we created a detailed concept for each character. During this phase, we discovered that the Enforcer had been equipped with huge mechanical arms which made him look larger than anticipated, while the paramedic and the technician were not sufficiently distinct from each other. So we decided to remove the mechanical arms from the Enforcer and attach them to the Technician's exoskeleton.
Trying to add more differences between characters we looked for distinct color schemes that would also separate heroes from the environment and would increase the contrast in the upper body of raiders. Each class received its own color scheme and accent color: digital blue for the sniper, white-red for the medic, camo green for the ranger.
As you can see, defining art direction and creating concept art is a starting point in producing game assets, the goal being to help the team to understand how the game should look. Then the 3D artists and animators get to breathe life into those concepts - creating in-game models, animations and visual effects.
Thanks for reading. We’re always thinking about new subjects to cover in our Dev Diaries, so if there is something that you’d love to see leave your suggestions in the comments.