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Arnie
06-18-2012, 03:13 PM
We've had our hands full with all sorts of art for the Banner Saga in recent weeks. We've been busy designing cities, UI, icons, environments and what we'd like to cover today for you which is characters. There's a process by which we design the look for the them and implement them into the game and it goes something like this:

The sketch
http://stoicstudio.com/images/concept/axeman_sketch_843x750.jpg
We start every character (Re: class) with a sketch phase where we try out different looks and styles. What's this classes job in combat? Are they heavily armored or are they a damage dealer?Since we've set the Banner Saga in a low fantasy setting it's important to us to make a viking look like a viking, not some random fantasy barbarian with huge shoulder pads and spikes and...whatever. Keeping every class looking like they could exist in a real world is the major motivating factor behind each design. Here's the final sketch of the Axeman, which eventually became the Backbiter, one of the upgraded, or promoted versions of the base Axeman.

The Combat
http://stoicstudio.com/images/concept/axeman_combat_950x534.jpg
The next step is to take the sketch we've got and design it to be used in-game on the combat board. Even though the combat design is, in this case, different than the sketch you can see the similarities and the reason for doing a sketch phase previous to this. You may wonder why we didn't do a larger, more detailed phase before this, but the way a class appears in combat is of the utmost importance to us. I've kept the details in his design simple, not just to help time estimates during the hand animated process, but also because I believe this is in keeping with what I see in the older animated movies. I favor burly beards and macho mustaches on my vikings so I went that route for this guy. Since we're using an animated style it's important for us to use colors that aren't garish, but rather a bit desaturated to go with our real world approach. We throw the concept onto our game board and see what he looks like in context with all the other classes. It's very cool and rewarding for us to see all the classes in our game on some big combat board all sized correctly and posed next to each other to see how they interact with each other visually.

The Rough
http://stoicstudio.com/images/concept/axeman_rough_648x750.jpg
Okay we've got the combat design complete after some back and forth with the other guys up here and we're happy with it. We then take the combat design we've got and convert it into a rough that will later be used in close-ups for dialogue and UI screens. It's a time to finalize the details of the combat design. You'll notice his axe is just a viking axe as you'd see them use in a real world setting, it's not some huge, highly ornate epic fantasy weapon. The shield is what vikings actually used, it's a worn wooden shield which keeps the weight down, important during long combat, overlaid with metal to add rigidity and support. His jerkin is what you may see an average northman wearing, and so on and so forth. As average and normal as this man looks you should also get the idea that he's pretty serious and could kill you if need be. He's not called an Axeman for nuthin'!

The Final
http://stoicstudio.com/images/screenshots/axeman_final_648x750.jpg

This is the final stage for a class where we take the rough and convert it into a style that looks like an old animated movie. I start with line-work, tracing over my rough, then use flood-fill colors that are color-picked from the combat design to fill in the character. I then take some of the black holding lines and hue shift them to change their colors, the axe handle was changed to brown, the blue shirt/belt went to a blue holding line and the skin and hair went to a deep red/brown, as did the wood on the shield.

The style you see in the Banner Saga, whether it's regarding the characters or environment or anything for that matter is not done by accident. It's done deliberately and with forethought to provide an experience that harkens back to hand drawn, frame by frame hand animated movies that we were so impressed by years and years ago. We sincerely hope you enjoy it.

The Animation
quality=high width=679 height=429 parameter=parameter_value

Once we've nailed down the design, we film all the animations we need, break them out frame-by-frame and send them to Powerhouse Animations to do the final animations. Powerhouse takes our raw video footage and creates a rough pass based on that. We do a revision pass or two before getting the whole thing cleaned up and finalized. You can see the whole process from video to rough to final pass here.

As you can tell, this isn't just flash puppeteering where limbs just rotate at the joints; we're really having each frame drawn the way you would in a classically animated film. Between all the actions a character can take in combat we have sixteen animations like this created per class. This is the axeman's attack and death animations and we've now gotten every animation for the axeman cleaned up and ready to put in game.

Midnitte
06-18-2012, 03:32 PM
The Animation
quality=high width=679 height=429 parameter=parameter_value

So how fun was it to push him? =p The artwork (and animation!) looks amazing, keep up the good work!

Arnie
06-18-2012, 03:34 PM
It wasn't so much fun for me, the guy getting pushed, as that was probably take #32.

Midnitte
06-18-2012, 03:51 PM
It wasn't so much fun for me, the guy getting pushed, as that was probably take #32.
http://gifsoup.com/webroot/animatedgifs4/2963329_o.gif

Poor Arnie!

Lorddirk
06-18-2012, 04:13 PM
It's been a blast working on this, and seeing all the great characters we get to animate! :) I'd also like to note that we take care to not just trace over the footage, but add blur drawings, and overall push the animations so you really feel the impacts.

Chaille
06-18-2012, 04:14 PM
It was worth the pain. Great death animation! Maybe knee pads would have gotten in the way of art.

Tsuga C
06-18-2012, 04:45 PM
Huzzah! No anime-like silliness, thank goodness. Check out the Hurstwic stuff on YouTube for more Viking fun 'n games. Also, http://hurstwic.org/ their website.

LoliSauce
06-18-2012, 06:00 PM
Ah man, this is amazing. Brings me back to the art school days dabbling in traditional animation. Grueling process, but it really makes you smile to see it in motion at the end.

balnoisi
06-18-2012, 07:04 PM
juicy update ! everything looks great. i'm even considering not checking the forums again because this just boosts my impatience up.

MaximB
06-19-2012, 12:50 AM
Hello !

The sketch has shadows and more depth and looks way better the the final "colored" flat image.

Please add shadows.

Thearpox
06-19-2012, 02:56 AM
I know I'm nitpicking, but I saw the animation where the axeman drops his axe after being killed, and I was thinking that it does not match the idea that vikings die with their weapons in hand. You would think he would hold on to his weapons as he dies. Or maybe his hand would reach for it and grab it after he falls on the ground (very dramatic).

Also, I may again be demanding too much, but what kind of attack would cause someone to lean backwards and then fall forwards? Doesn't seem very realistic to me.

Oh, and it's awesome by the way, don't think I'm rude.

Mudfly
06-19-2012, 05:12 AM
Looks great, can’t wait to see how it all looks in game!
(also its very sensible that you used a rubber mallet instead of the axe in the death animation video :) )

just a quick question... are the 16 animations groups of animations, or do you count attack left, right, up and down (if these exist) as different animations? im having trouble trying to figure out what animations besides attack, death, move and taking damage could be in the game.

Avantre
06-19-2012, 07:02 AM
The sketch has shadows and more depth and looks way better the the final "colored" flat image.

Please add shadows.

Don't forget we're seeing this animation in isolation without the background landscape or the (presumably) seperately added body/weapon shadows as we saw in the original kickstarter vid at around 1:14. It probably looks a bit different when in its full surroundings.



Also, I may again be demanding too much, but what kind of attack would cause someone to lean backwards and then fall forwards?

At a guess, the kind where they hit you hard with a weapon to push you back, maybe even embedding it in your body, then they rip that weapon out of you (pulling you forward again) in preperation for their next attack. :p

Arnie
06-19-2012, 08:55 AM
Looks great, can’t wait to see how it all looks in game!
(also its very sensible that you used a rubber mallet instead of the axe in the death animation video :) )

just a quick question... are the 16 animations groups of animations, or do you count attack left, right, up and down (if these exist) as different animations? im having trouble trying to figure out what animations besides attack, death, move and taking damage could be in the game.

Good question! We've got idles, walks, get hits, die, attacks and specials in the animation round-up.

Arnie
06-19-2012, 08:58 AM
Hello !

The sketch has shadows and more depth and looks way better the the final "colored" flat image.

Please add shadows.

Part of the reason I put up the sketch was to show that we could be doing different styles, but we've chosen an older animated look which didn't have shadows. He's rendered the same as Rook and Alette from the KS video. I was wondering when people would start picking up on this. I do believe that when seen in context it looks really striking. It's how all the parts come together that we're focusing on. Thanks for the comments!

MaximB
06-19-2012, 12:35 PM
Well....I must admit that I wasn't following the blog up until this post.... but I definetly love the sketch much more, could you at least add some shadows to the colored version (and animated version)....they look so simple.

belamoor
06-19-2012, 03:26 PM
As you can tell, this isn't just flash puppeteering where limbs just rotate at the joints; we're really having each frame drawn the way you would in a classically animated film. Between all the actions a character can take in combat we have sixteen animations like this created per class.
Well i think that's really cool, the animation does indeed look very carefully handcrafted. Can't tell if i saw anything like that in any other game, great job.

It's been a blast working on this, and seeing all the great characters we get to animate! :) I'd also like to note that we take care to not just trace over the footage, but add blur drawings, and overall push the animations so you really feel the impacts.
Oh hi there mysterious new developer !

Thearpox
06-19-2012, 03:53 PM
At a guess, the kind where they hit you hard with a weapon to push you back, maybe even embedding it in your body, then they rip that weapon out of you (pulling you forward again) in preperation for their next attack. :p

In other words a spear. But if it's an axe or a sword (unless it's a gladiolus) it doesn't work that way. On the other hand, I have no idea how it would look with claws or something other mythical. So, I am I really disappointed in the animation? No. Will it look weird if you are hit with an axe? Yes.

Will the developers look at this animation in three months and decide that the need [random number] more animations to match all the different attack types? Maybe. Would that result in extra time? Yes. Am I afraid of that, and do I think that they should plan for that in advance so they don't have to redo it? Yes.

Thanks Avantre, for helping me to formulate my thoughts. Also sorry if anyone doesn't like to read the Yes/No arguments. It was easier for me. Also, I'm not seriously worried.

rubyhope
06-19-2012, 08:16 PM
Awesome Job Arnie.

I hope we get a lot more of these to come.

Gyro
06-20-2012, 09:06 AM
I have to say that I am extremely impressed with both the sheer artistic talent on display and your remarkable transparency in development. I don't mean that in a book-keeping way; I mean in terms of, well, sincerity and giving us a look at what developing a game is really like. It is so impressive to see the team's attention to detail, and I am convinced that the Banner Saga is going to earn every penny it raised on Kickstarter and much more besides.

LoliSauce
06-20-2012, 02:37 PM
In other words a spear. But if it's an axe or a sword (unless it's a gladiolus) it doesn't work that way. On the other hand, I have no idea how it would look with claws or something other mythical. So, I am I really disappointed in the animation? No. Will it look weird if you are hit with an axe? Yes.

Will the developers look at this animation in three months and decide that the need [random number] more animations to match all the different attack types? Maybe. Would that result in extra time? Yes. Am I afraid of that, and do I think that they should plan for that in advance so they don't have to redo it? Yes.

Thanks Avantre, for helping me to formulate my thoughts. Also sorry if anyone doesn't like to read the Yes/No arguments. It was easier for me. Also, I'm not seriously worried.
There is absolutely no need for multiple death animations. Why, when people are animating everything so painfully detailed, would you even ask to have multiple death animations made for a single unit? Do you realize how much work goes into just giving each individual class a single unique death anim? Not to mention that they already have a hefty amount of required animations.


Well....I must admit that I wasn't following the blog up until this post.... but I definetly love the sketch much more, could you at least add some shadows to the colored version (and animated version)....they look so simple.
That's the style they've been pitching from the very beginning. It looks a lot more amazing in motion than in stills, and I think that's one of the big reasons why they settled on it over anything else. Watch the original Sleeping Beauty (thanks for the fix gaelvin) animated movie again and you'll see.

gaelvin
06-20-2012, 03:26 PM
Or "Sleeping Beauty" because the backgrounds are what those in the game are based on, at least stylistically.

lamaz
06-21-2012, 05:21 AM
Nice the blogs just keep on coming :) I was wondering if you will show us your working methods in more detail, Arnie? Like how you do the research for the characters, draw the sketches and finally how they end up in animation. Would you be able to get some Powerhouse employess do a like a guest appearance in the blog?

Anyway, excellent work!

LoliSauce
06-21-2012, 03:48 PM
Or "Sleeping Beauty" because the backgrounds are what those in the game are based on, at least stylistically.
Oop, thanks for the correction.

Violentvixen
07-13-2012, 03:09 PM
So neat to see the process!

RocksandKittens
08-02-2012, 12:07 PM
Very nice to see this behind the scenes stuff. The artwork is so lovely, and the animation is very nice!

Goombaka
01-25-2016, 01:02 PM
i got inspired by the amazing work you guys did, and i tried to do some things based on your style.
But of course, i'm not half as good as you guys ^^
http://i.imgur.com/0k9SJNT.jpg
The background is a beautiful Eyvind Earle art
http://i.giphy.com/l2JHWyfIGhY6ZwTLO.gif
And this was the first animation i have ever did, still working on it though

Thank you guys for the wonderful work
Waiting for the sequel :)

Aleonymous
01-25-2016, 03:26 PM
This lancer is pretty awesome! :)

Arnie
01-25-2016, 03:43 PM
This is absolutely cool! Thanks a ton for sharing!

Yellow
01-25-2016, 05:59 PM
i got inspired by the amazing work you guys did, and i tried to do some things based on your style.
But of course, i'm not half as good as you guys ^^
http://i.imgur.com/0k9SJNT.jpg
The background is a beautiful Eyvind Earle art
http://i.giphy.com/l2JHWyfIGhY6ZwTLO.gif
And this was the first animation i have ever did, still working on it though

Thank you guys for the wonderful work
Waiting for the sequel :)


Awesome stuff man!

Goombaka
01-25-2016, 09:52 PM
Thank you everyone for the support, and thank you Stoic team for posting on facebook, really glad you guys liked :)
http://i.giphy.com/26tng6pXoAdNuGEvK.gif
I'm just posting the final version here without the sketch part ^^

Kuba
01-27-2016, 05:54 AM
Really nice artwork.