This blog post is the third of a series focusing on the creation process of our upcoming Umbral Choir. We covered the game design aspect, now the art, and if everybody's on their best behavior, finish with a G2G vote or two! Ever wondered how the secret sauce was made? Here's your chance!
Today, we spent a long time hovering riiiight behind one of our concept artists & illustrators, Thibault, to watch him in action.
We made a little video of the results (shown below!) at the end of the day, and we sat down with him to ask a few questions:
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us what your role is within the team?
My name is Thibault, I've been at Amplitude for a few months now. I'm a concept artist and illustrator. I've been in the gaming industry for about five years, and before that I used to illustrate mostly sci-fi books. At Amplitude my role is that of illustrator, with a side of concept, so the tools I use are mainly Photoshop, with some sketching before, sometimes a bit of ZBrush. I try to create a visual support for the world the narrative designers tell me about, to try and match the factions, the quests... whatever needs to be shown!
What were the inspirations and challenges behind the creation of the Umbral Choir?
As far as inspirations go... smoke! Just kidding, although to be fair what had already be done by Ronan (other concept artist & illustrator--ED). It was a waft of smoke, mostly shapeless, with small eyes, and what appeared to be a smattering of dots like a constellation inside. Very spooky. So that's what I started with, and then came the challenge: how do you come up with a waft of smoke that you can tell apart from other wafts of smoke, that you can recognize? You can't just make a cloud of smoke, you have to give it a bit of a shape. If you stick to what's inside the smoke, it wouldn't be enough. In any character design, what comes first is the silhouette, so good luck recognizing the shape of a puff of smoke. So I made the decision to give it a shape, something a bit snake-like to stay away from humanoid shapes, but just to make it so that we could recognize it. Some differences in smoke color and the eyes would eventually be the only differences, along with the constellation inside. That... that was the biggest challenge, making them distinctive, and making them all interesting in their own right. I took inspiration from Starcraft's Protoss, for the echoey voice and the color scheme, and also from Warhammer 40000's Eldars and Necrons, for the unfathomable aspect of their technology and origin. You get that there's power there, but you can't explain it, or where it comes from.
Please walk us through the creation process for the visuals of the Umbral Choir Heroes?
At first it was Photoshop, making a few drafts for the silhouette so I could show it to the rest of the team for their input. A star to start and a single line. I went with a snake-like shape, because it seemed the most appropriate. I worked on the composition of the picture, but again, I asked for a lot of input, because it's very tricky to personify smoke, not only that but to also make it a distinct person, rather than a cool-looking VFX. Then I started adding color, blue, black, stuff with a very high contrast. I created some meshes as a base on ZBrush for the backdrop, since it's pretty much the only solid element in the picture. For the smoke itself, I started with reference pictures, as it's a good way of getting some very realistic-looking drafts, and then hand-painted my own smoke, and started creating the character from there. I made it a little lighter in parts to give an impression of depth, reworking the shape of the smoke to suit the character and the composition of the picture better. Brushes are cool to work with since they're made of particles and so are a little different-looking than the real thing.
In the end, I worked on the little distinctive details, the eyes, the stars, the red antennaes... and then you pretty much had it. We don't know its name yet, and the writers are still working out how their society works, but we know this is somebody and they're their own person.
Oh, and the blue potato thing comes from me trying my hand at making a shape I could drop texture on, to make it pop a little more, at least the "head". I mostly ended up painting over it with the smoke, so when I'll do the others, I'll probably do away with that bit of the process and stick to the 2D part, it's sufficient.
Watch the process here:
Here's the full result!
We hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes at our art creation! More on art next time, with a blog in which we'll show you how we created the ships of the Umbral Choir... and for now, is this how you imagined them?