The process of creating special characters is different than in the case of universal characters. There are many more elements and details that need to be developed. W need to show who a given character is, what are its special features, its personality. In Crossroads Inn players will interact with these characters. Therefore, during the dialogue they will see their full silhouettes. That’s why Jakub’s task in the case of these dozen or so characters doesn’t end with initial sketches, which are enough to create 3D models. He has to create a fully rendered illustration of each character, on which the current emotional state and her attitude is marked.
Jakub Balewicz: Usually I try to show classical features in characters, which often refer to stereotypes. At the same time I mix them with interesting, often contrasting details, which are supposed to bring something unique out of the character. It’s like building “visual conflicts” that are meant to extract something one of a kind.
As an example of the process of building special characters, we will focus on two of them. The first one is Martyn. The central person of the campaign and the player’s guardian, who introduces him to the flow of the game, presents the first information about Delcrys, the history of the kingdom and our past.
The second character is Kii. She belongs to the one of the most important groups in the game – Vedetas. This is a group of special workers, whose members have additional functions and requirements during the game. This particular character also shares certain features of the representatives of Courier faction, because it originates from them.
Martyn is the face of our game. He appears in a huge amount of visual materials promoting Crossroads Inn. That’s why designing him was a very important task. As a character he is a bartender and owner of a basic tavern in the campaign. That’s why, on one hand, it was necessary to show his current profession and, on the other, to smuggle information about his past. As a former soldier he wears parts of outfit that refer to years of his youth spent in the army. These are a military vest in the colours of Yorevale and a knife with a handle made from antlers of a Daer, which were used by the King’s side soldiers.
Martyn must look like an experienced and dangerous person, but at the same time he must also arouse the player’s sympathy. The balding head and wrinkled face is meant to show age, but the hairstyle (moustache, sides, etc.) suggests that he still has a lot of life and verve in him. He’s powerful, a bit thick. Strong, but also caring and a little bit melancholic. The intention was to build him as a person you can always count on and who is able to sacrifice everything for the people important to him.
Martyn was one of the first characters to be created. With the development of the game and changes in some concepts, his image evolved. From the gloomy, almost pale character, it was necessary to bring out more life, rejuvenate him a bit and make him more player-friendly. He had to become a character you will like starting with the first conversation and whose fate you will be concerned about until the last moments of game. Hence the changes that you can see on the graphics below.
Kii has a completely different task in the game than Martyn. She represents Vedetas, kamasutra masters, who have the function of special workers. In addition, Kii comes from the Kurier faction, what is indicated by her ethnic features and specially selected outfit. These mountain people, who ride on extraordinary creatures such as griffins, are inspired by the cultures of the Far East – especially the inhabitants of Tibet. Kii’s costume, which is supposed to resemble kimono, is diversified with a tunic inspired by the fashion of ancient Greece. Delicate colours and accents of feathers and flowers are supposed to make her appearance softer. The tattoo and a determined attitude are supposed to suggest that she is full of strength and a kind of wildness. Her rich outfit additionally suggests that not everyone can afford the unusual pleasures that she can provide in her private chamber.
Jakub Balewicz: I believe that each of us has a certain set of features that help to assign him to a specific group – in connection with the profession they perform, the subculture with which they identify, their hobbies or their life passion. These features make us fall into a unitary mass of people, we become a homogenous group. At the same time, these features are intertwined with a set of special qualities, very often incompatible with the rest. Those qualities make us stand out from the crowd and give us our own, unique voice. If we look at somebody long enough, we will get to know them, we will discover that everyone is an extraordinary, unique person. And this is what I try to show in the characters that I design.
The workshop of a 3D graphic designer
The process of creating 3D models begins with the analysis of concepts prepared by Jakub. First, Tomasz chooses the right body for the hero from among several types that occur in the game (e.g. ordinary, muscular, slender).
It is always good to set up an action plan. That’s why the order and priority of creating individual parts of characters is set first, so that the working time is well distributed among them and unnecessary complications are avoided. For example: If the characters are wearing long coats, it is a good idea for them to first create their lower body parts. Otherwise it may turn out that the coats are unmatched and penetrate the legs, for example.
Tomasz Kuczyński: I use classic workflow, that is I create a very detailed highpoly model first. Usually this stage is the most crucial during the creation process and often takes half of the whole process. Then I create a simplified variant of the model, which will be used directly in the game. I move the details from the detailed version (chiaroscuro, normals, accents on the edges, etc.), thanks to which it seems to contain almost the same amount of information, but it does not overload the computer so much.
The next important step is texturing. Our graphic designer has a database of different materials and procedural tools at his disposal to improve production. Almost all texturing of characters takes place in Substance Designer, which in the case of character creation is quite an unusual method of work.
Thanks to the visual scripting system, the appropriate materials are allocated to different parts of the model and colour variants are created by changing the values of several variables in the program. Certain fragments of such completed graphs are often copied between different assets, which saves even more time. This way, despite a small team, we are able to texture a whole group of characters very smoothly.
Tomasz Kuczyński: I often modify the characters and their clothes from concept-arts, styling them in such a way that they look good from afar and do not get lost visually in the crowd. It is very important how a given character looks from a bird’s eye view. I focus on this perspective, because most of the time Crossroads Inn heroes are seen this way by the player. At the same time, I try to maintain the appropriate level of detail, so that after zooming in on the camera, the player has something to keep an eye on. It is his experience and the pleasure of spending time in the world of Crossroads Inn that are the most important for us in the end.
This part concludes the tale about the creative process of our graphic designers. Hope it was informative and inspiring for you. If you know anyone who might be interested in our project give him or her a shout. We still need your help to finish our Kickstarter campaign successfully!