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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: Art Blog - Combat

  1.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #1
    Art Director Arnie's Avatar
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    Art Blog - Combat

    Here’s a sneak peek at what combat in The Banner Saga will look like and a quick overview of how we got here.

    Right off the bat I want to mention that this combat board is for our tutorial combat, where the player is learning how the mechanics work. It’s a tiny combat board. It is in no way indicative of the average size of the combat boards in the game. Different battles will vary in size, but I don’t think we have any others this small.

    We know we want the game to look and sound like an animated movie and along with that we also want the game to be rooted in reality to some degree. I begin every concept by gathering reference to get ideas that I throw into the pot of sketches and roughs. In this phase I begin by blocking in the correct scale of the environment. This particular scene takes place in the building at the top of the hill in the City of Strand that we showed last week. Now, viking great halls were rarely this large, but we need enough room to back the camera out far enough for players to actually see enough of the game board so I used some creative license and on top of that we might as well make it look as cool as we can. After getting the basic size of the area down I start sketching in ideas from the story that Alex has laid down for the particular combat space. Here we have a feast going on with the governor of the City of Strand at the main table. I play with color and lighting and materials until I feel that my brain is a good place to understand what it is we’re after. How many guests are at the feast? Were vikings sloppy eaters? Should there be a polar bear chained to the wall? Questions like these are nailed down in this stage.

    The rough pass:

    Click to Zoom In



    Once the rough is complete I show the other guys at Stoic and we do a feedback pass, change some lighting and basically just agree on a direction before I take the time to finish it.
    The next step is to break out all the assets I sketched in and paint them tightly. Nothing in The Banner Saga is painted flat, it’s all bits and pieces so that we can move them against each other to give the illusion of movement (sometimes we jokingly call the game The Parallax Saga). We also get a lot of mileage out of the assets by recombining them in different positions to build new areas and environments. I have huge Photoshop files that I need to keep open on my screen to drag the completed art pieces over from the main asset file into the new compiled image I’m working on. One file may have as many as 160 layers of different objects and I sometimes need to have 3 files open at a time. Every screen is designed at 2731x1536 pixels to support a widescreen retina display format...rather large textures for a game. I use a 3.4ghz iMac with 32gigs of ram to move it all and sometimes it struggles to keep up.

    Here’s a sample of what some of the objects look like before I drag them over into a final scene.

    Assets:

    Click to Zoom In



    Once all the bits and pieces are pulled over it doesn’t quite yet work as an art piece. Often times when game art is built in this way it can come across as mechanical and lacking any emotion. It still doesn’t look like a living breathing real place that someone would build or live in and this is where the final touches are needed, little things that give it a subtle sense of place, like the City of Strand emblem on the pillar. Since we control which layers are actually parallaxing (moving against each other) we can bake in lighting and shadows and basically whatever else is possible in Photoshop. Our engine doesn’t add lighting to a scene, we have to paint it all by hand...waahhhh....wa-wait what? That’s awesome! We can make our game look exactly how we want, there are no restrictions on the mood of The Banner Saga. We’ll soon be applying tech that automatically breaks up and re-compiles large, full screen images like this to account for technical limitations on low-end computers and tablets.

    There’s a real compelling story regarding this combat environment, but that’s an update for a different day, suffice to say the whole story is taken into account when designing it. I can say that the bear has no story, it just seemed like he needed to be in the scene. While drawing him though I started wondering if the Governor has been wrestling him since he was a little boy and still does so from time to time to amuse his guests. People like to throw him scraps of meat from their tables. What’s his name?

    The final pass:

    Click to Zoom In



    We’ve got plenty more combat scenes like this to work on, and we’ve already gotten a huge number of assets we’ll be using to build them while we continue to make new assets.

    But the scene isn't completely done! Before we can call it finished, Alex will be adding in the final particles- flickering torches, glowing embers, smoke and snow crawling across the screen, and of course, the parallaxing will really make everything sing. Can't wait for you to see it in the final game!
    Last edited by Alex; 07-25-2012 at 11:56 AM.

  2. #2
    Looking fantastic.

  3. #3
    Backer Hughes_dePayens's Avatar
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    This looks amazing, I can't wait to try it out!

  4. #4
    I can only really echo the two guys above me; it's looking really, really good and I'm still massively looking forward to seeing it in action.

  5. #5
    Backer Mudfly's Avatar
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    Looks amazing! I especially like the varl leaning up against the pillar, that guy is amazing!

    Is there any chance that you will ever release an editor to make it possible to create your own boards or maybe entire storylines? Or is the process of making ‘em (the boards and story that is) to complicated? Or maybe it’s not possible to do on the budget you have? (if so, please start a new kickstarter so I can give you more money!!)

  6.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #6
    Art Director Arnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudfly View Post
    Looks amazing! I especially like the varl leaning up against the pillar, that guy is amazing!

    Is there any chance that you will ever release an editor to make it possible to create your own boards or maybe entire storylines? Or is the process of making ‘em (the boards and story that is) to complicated? Or maybe it’s not possible to do on the budget you have? (if so, please start a new kickstarter so I can give you more money!!)
    We'd love to someday ship an editor to allow players to create their own content, but right now we're swamped. That's actually a big task but could be done should this game do well enough to warrant it.
    Thanks a lot for the words everyone.

  7. #7
    Backer Troll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudfly View Post
    Looks amazing! I especially like the varl leaning up against the pillar, that guy is amazing!
    I find the bear sitting and watching the fight even better.

    Is this some kind of new torture ? letting see those gems but not being able to touch them yet becomes harder as their number and time passes.

  8.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #8
    Art Director Arnie's Avatar
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    The Varl against the pillar is the narrator from our KS video.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
    Should there be a polar bear chained to the wall?
    The answer to that question is always yes.

  10. #10
    Backer lamaz's Avatar
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    The polar bear is neat, but it doesn't seem that ferocious, maybe it wouldn't need the chain collar?

    Great work!

  11. #11
    Backer Mudfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
    There’s a real compelling story regarding this combat environment, but that’s an update for a different day, suffice to say the whole story is taken into account when designing it. I can say that the bear has no story, it just seemed like he needed to be in the scene. While drawing him though I started wondering if the Governor has been wrestling him since he was a little boy and still does so from time to time to amuse his guests. People like to throw him scraps of meat from their tables. What’s his name?
    Hmmm… im trying to figure out what that story is…

    The varl have obviously (?) broken into the great hall.
    The ‘selection squares’ around the Vikings are red and those around the varl are blue (one of which seem to be selected). I guess that means that you play as the varl in this scene.

    The weird thing, though, is that neither the pillar varl nor governor seem very upset.
    Does this mean that the combat is not actually violent in nature, but more of a test? (this would make sense as it is the tutorial)
    I mean if the governor felt really threatened I guess he would release his bear (whose name should totally be Björn).

    Am I missing something else…?

    Maybe the varl are coming to deliver the message about the end of the world and the governor thinks it’s ludicrous, but he will agree to listen to it if you can prove your worth against his guards?

    Man, I got to go back and listen to what the varl is talking about in the kickstarter trailer now…

  12. #12
    Looking amazing, all the little details make it really feel like a living scene!
    "...And upon that banner you write down your deeds so that you cannot forget."

  13. #13
    Backer Troll's Avatar
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    The ceiling beams add a very nice touch too, but it make one wonder how huge this building is, if from that height even Varls are small.

  14.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #14
    Art Director Arnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudfly View Post
    Hmmm… im trying to figure out what that story is…

    The varl have obviously (?) broken into the great hall.
    The ‘selection squares’ around the Vikings are red and those around the varl are blue (one of which seem to be selected). I guess that means that you play as the varl in this scene.

    The weird thing, though, is that neither the pillar varl nor governor seem very upset.
    Does this mean that the combat is not actually violent in nature, but more of a test? (this would make sense as it is the tutorial)
    I mean if the governor felt really threatened I guess he would release his bear (whose name should totally be Björn).

    Am I missing something else…?

    Maybe the varl are coming to deliver the message about the end of the world and the governor thinks it’s ludicrous, but he will agree to listen to it if you can prove your worth against his guards?

    Man, I got to go back and listen to what the varl is talking about in the kickstarter trailer now…
    Hah! You read the body language on the Varl narrator and the Governor really well! The story is a bit off, but that only makes it more fun for you when you play it.

  15. #15
    Looks amazing!

    beautiful, clean and colourful. I love the artstyle you guys chose for this game.

    I look forward to seeing more keep up the excellent work!

  16. #16
    I, for one, salute the greatness and style therein contained!

    (Though it *feels* somewhat different from the gameplay footage shown in the KS!)

  17. #17
    Backer Troll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troll View Post
    The ceiling beams add a very nice touch too, but it make one wonder how huge this building is, if from that height even Varls are small.
    I guess I found an answer to the design in this Kotaku article

    This particular scene takes place in the building at the top of the hill in the City of Strand that we showed last week. Now, viking great halls were rarely this large, but we need enough room to back the camera out far enough for players to actually see enough of the game board so I used some creative license and on top of that we might as well make it look as cool as we can. After getting the basic size of the area down I start sketching in ideas from the story that Alex has laid down for the particular combat space. Here we have a feast going on with the governor of the City of Strand at the main table. I play with color and lighting and materials until I feel that my brain is a good place to understand what it is we're after. How many guests are at the feast? Were vikings sloppy eaters? Should there be a polar bear chained to the wall? Questions like these are nailed down in this stage.

  18. #18
    Backer LoliSauce's Avatar
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    Troll, Arnie posted that in the first post here. That exact paragraph.

  19. #19
    Backer Troll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoliSauce View Post
    Troll, Arnie posted that in the first post here. That exact paragraph.
    Hmm, my bad, memory is really bad these fays . Thanks for the reminder.

  20. #20
    Art updates are always my favorite. I like being able to see the visual progress more than engine progress because I'm not a programmer. :P

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