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How an enemy gets made: Art from concept to final model

Industrial Toys' Tim Harris breaks down the visual evolution of one of the enemy characters from the upcoming mobile shooter, Morning Star.

In our upcoming mobile sci-fi action game, Morning Star, the nasty character featured in the teaser trailer is but one of many bad guys that players will encounter as they venture through the game. He won’t be the guy you battle against the most, but his presence in the game will set much of the tone.

Recently, we broke down the visual evolution of our main spaceship in the game, so now we thought we'd share the directions we went in for an enemy character-- this particular one is called the Dust Ascended. The reason for the “Ascended” moniker is that there are various classes in the hierarchy of the game's enemy culture, and the Ascended occupies the middle of the road. On top of that, the Ascended are broken up into 4 sub-classes, and players will be pitted against all of them in the game.  Here, we’ll take a look at the base character and some territories we explored for his design…

In the early concepting days on Morning Star, we stared throwing out tons of ideas about the physicality and intentions of the Dust.

The story calls for the character to be vampiric, but not of blood or life force– of other things that one who plays the game will learn over time.  Early on, we took more “monster”-ish designs and combined them with some concepts that read more mysterious, ominous and “vampire” in the familiar sense.

Then we went a bit 
too familiar…

We really liked the four eye design with an organic “X” connecting his eyes, so we explored a bunch of combinations.

Once we had a face we liked, we proceeded to explore how we wanted them to present themselves in the game. We coupled that with the technology background that we were developing for their race, and the final design came together.

This is the “final” concept for our base Dust Ascended, with gun, armor and cyber limbs.

We then modeled this evil fellow, starting with greybox approximations for what we wanted, then moving into a high-poly, more realistic version.

Next was textures– we took reference from the concept art and types of real-world materials that we want his suit, limbs, and gunsy parts to have.

Then it was time to interject personality. The Dust are haughty, prideful and vicious. Our animators brought the character to life with performance pieces like this one that illustrate how he stands, points, shoots, etc. I left out the “Dust-guy-does-yoga” poses for obvious reasons.

The character then found its way into the game itself. Nothing says “character” like a look down an alien monster’s maw. And what IS that in there?

We have some CG sequences in the game that called for a slightly different treatment to make them look good, and the leap that you may have glimpsed quickly in the teaser is outlined here…

…and here, with a final close-up replete with a better look at those nasty teeth (Q: wait– why isn’t that cyber-stuff inside this one’s mouth? A: Just wait and see).

He’s come a long way in a few months– and that’s just one of the baddies players will come face-to-face with in Morning Star. The evolution I outlined here forced us to answer a lot of questions about this race, what they do (and why they do it), and how players will interact with them. As with all lengthy concept-to-ship processes, it led to a ton of cascading effects for the rest of the game that changed it in unexpected ways.

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