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Metal War Online: forming of the art-style of the combat cars

A few months ago (almost 5), our team (at that time there were 5 of us) started the preproduction of a new project – session-based MMO in the Sci-Fi setting - Metal War Online. Though, at that time it was not Sci-Fi, but more on that later.

Sergei Babaev, Blogger

June 11, 2012

8 Min Read

A few months ago (almost 5), our team (at that time there were 5 of us) started the preproduction of a new project – session-based MMO in the Sci-Fi setting - Metal War Online. Though, at that time it was not Sci-Fi, but more on that later.

We were thinking for a quite long time about what is worth telling. Details about the game? It is not the right format for publishing self-reviews. Technical difficulties in Unity3D + SmartFox and ways to overcome them? That, probably, would be interesting, but most of you would agree that it is premature to talk about the problems and solutions before launching and field testing these solutions. Therefore, we have reserved such material for the future, i.e. for the time when we will be sure that we have collected and stepped over the all rakes.

Perhaps, of all the available topics, the one that can be told the most compactly and informatively, is the development of the art-style of our project. Also, such material can be read at ease with a cup of coffee - several key promises, the description of milestones and a bunch of pictures. Here you see a brief chronology of our search for a suitable appearance of combat units.

About the project

To understand better, where our search for style began, we should tell you a bit about where the project itself began. It was originally planned as a such a hurricane successor of Quake on machines where riders take part in the show along with the caustic remarks of the commentator and hooting crowd. Game levels were planned as all sorts of arenas, while the cars itself must have been modernized to resemble roughly contemporary models. Moreover, because of the ideological similarities project had a working title (anchored in the documents to this day) Twisted Metal Online. Later we changed the concept, and style of our "main characters" had made some contribution to it.

The first sketches

Since we planned a hurricane, hell and Satan, so the first sketches seemed appropriately:


It was such a Mad Max. Actually, this is the first thing that comes to mind of almost every person at the mention of battles on the machines. After looking at the quite a stereotyped sketch from all sides, having taken into account all the pros and cons, we quickly came to the conclusion that all the primary association with the Mad Max must be driven out, because they rigidly enforce the setting, style of car, kind of conflict, the essence of the event. The post-apocalypse theme, which is known to have many failures, began to take the shape. It is hardly the case is only in the setting, but we didn’t want to come to the "slippery" theme once again. We quickly came to believe that it would be better not to try to fit the cars to the setting, but to do opposite: firstly, we needed to go through a bunch of concept cars of various styles, and only then we could fit the rest to the favorite sketches, forming a common direction.

The next iteration was predictable:

 car 2

The message was simple and familiar from a pile of projects (e.g., Armageddon Riders). The end of civilization, the war is not pronounced, but the people are armed and cover their cars with tons of armor and iron. Along with this, the familiar car brands machines should be read in the outline of the – but not too well, not to offend brand owners.

The sketch seemed good to us, but it was still close the Max, which had already set our teeth on edge. After some thinking, we unanimously decided that we wanted to see the machinery, which combines the idea of ​​a more organized, even a professional army, but not the gang of bandits on the makeshift troughs.

No sooner said than done. The military "Humvee" went in the work. Here is a bright representative, showing the thinking of artists at that time:


Everything would be fine, but this approach has its drawbacks - stereotyped, excessive repetition, too modern army. In other words, "combat jeeps" (see below) and "militarism" began to sneak into the art.


Then there was nowhere to go, so we had to add a futuristic touch to the design and form. And then the fun began: our leading 2d-artist began to give a lot of futuristic concepts. To begin with, the “hammer” turned into such car:


Then decided to play with "funny shapes" and get away from SUVs themes:


Even brick-style had a response in our search works:


The theme was developed a little more (see figure below). We couldn’t choose any longer because of the time: it was the second month of preproduction, and the style which was popular within at least a majority did not appear.


The formation of the final style

In the heat of the work one of the versions of the jeep took the following form:

 car 9

And we became interested in this option. We put the car as adopted in the work and tried to repeat a common vision on any other vehicle, keeping in mind the idea that these two cars will meet on the same map and they can’t contrast greatly.

The very next day it appeared (called later Fury):



The production of these jeeps was allowed, and meanwhile we went to look for artists who could become imbued with a similar style and would help to draw all the transport. The first draft had an impressive look.



If you take a look, despite the overall similarity of the concepts the machines are very different in style. The first concept - a modern-military, i.e. it is easy to believe that nearly such modification of the jeep drives somewhere at the U.S. testing areas. The lower model has a shape and style with a touch of futurism.

A little later we received a revised version, and no doubt in our choice was left:


All that was left was to pick up the style and replicate. So, for example, is the most basic model in the class of engineers:

Rank: 1.
Name: Jumper
Description: The fastest car in the class of machine engineering support. In a difficult situation when it seems that the death is inevitable, only it can arrive in time. Always at the forefront, always under fire, always there - it can only be a Jumper.

Rank: 4.
Name: Keeper
Description: Designed for engineering support heavy storm troopers. In addition to engineering equipment, Keeper has the strongest armor in the class and the most powerful weapons. To stand in a protracted and difficult battle, to support friendly forces, to ensure reliable protection of weakly protected combat units – only Keeper can do that.

Only the most interesting perspectives are represented above. For modeling we needed detailed drawings, for animation - the mechanisms, that are worked out in details. For example:

Drawings of the Mist combat vehicle in a class of mobile artillery system (MAC)

The impact on game design

Oddly enough, but, despite the rather late appearance (near the end of preproduction), the art style significantly changed the understanding of the project. Whereas previously we had planned to arrange hurricane encounters with firing in all directions, later, along with the development of the machines, the gameplay became more serious and measured (though for reconnaissance jeeps, it has remained hurricane, with firing at 360 degrees). Also we gradually declined both the idea of ​​the show and the predominance of speed and reaction. Close to the reality combat situations replaced them. Fans of Twisted Metal will be able to jump out with a laser at the ready in the center of the map and pour the enemies with burning out beam. Players who prefer a measured gameplay, choose one of the armored cars, or an engineer (shown above).


It is impossible to say that a change in design concept was inspired only by art. Many things had their influence: playtests, playable prototypes and other factors. In general, an updating of the concept is a normal thing for preproduction. This creative approach to the selection of machines through distancing from design documents and imposed settings allowed to reproduce our original car style and successfully implement it in a modified game play.

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