Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hoodie up, head down

Dance Central avatar clothing is now up on the XBL marketplace.  There is a wide range of clothing assets available for both male and female avatars, ranging from 80 - 320 Microsoft Points. Sign in with your Gamertag here, and peruse the selection.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the deal

Creating the characters for Dance Central was a serious breath of fresh air for me; not just in the sense that it was a thematic shift from a "world of rock" [Rock Band] to a more hip-hop / pop infused universe, but because this was the first time in roughly four years that we re-visited designing one-off characters.

There has been a huge movement in the games industry this console generation to give users more and more control: more tools, customization options, and influence over the look of their avatars or in-game player characters. Franchises like Rock Band and many others, including the latest Call of Duty title "Black Ops", utilize a paper doll like character creator that allows the player to assemble different combinations of pre-constructed clothing assets to achieve their desired effect. While a fun time for the end user, from an artist's perspective you lose a ton of influence in regards to how your designs are perceived during a given play session.

In Dance Central we have pre-designed and constructed characters which gives us as developers more flexibility and freedom in the early design stages, and less to worry about down the road as it pertains to animation and clothing movement. It also allows us to dig a little deeper into the personality of the characters and how they interact with one another.  By eliminating the variables [thousands of possible clothing combinations], I'd like to think it creates the kind of environment suitable for spawning the strongest, most iconic type of character [and as a result, one that the player appreciates and grows attached to].

When I'm designing a character, I always go into the first sketch trying to find the answer to one question, "what's their deal?" By that I mean, what is the seemingly insignificant detail that makes this character unique, believable, or memorable? In the case of Mo, the thing I narrowed in on early during the concept phase was "obscuring the eyes". I talked a bit in my last post about Mo's "default" hoodie outfit [posted below] I consider this his more iconic look. I wanted to carry some of those themes into his secondary "unlock" outfit for consistency's sake, and also to ensure that Mo felt like Mo, even when he didn't have his hood synched tight. [which is where the oversized knit cap comes in].

Saturday, November 20, 2010

enjoys wearing slippers

Now that Dance Central is in the wild, I'm pleased to be able to share a few concepts and character renders of "Mo" [the dude I consider to be the main man of the DC cast]. 

Mo was the first character I designed when the project kicked off. I had a very clear vision of him before I actually started sketching; and once I did, his look changed very little between the time of his original inception and his in-game appearance.

Generally, along with an initial batch of concepts, I like to scribble down a few notes about the character. [attitude,vibe, social hangups] and then, in most cases, a name quickly follows. It helps me solidify those drawings as a person that exists in my brain. One of the biggest quirks I had come up with for Mo, was that he loves wearing slippers. That's just how he rolls. This was a topic of much debate in-house, and I eventually ended up having to replace them with sneakers in his final model. [though they may or may not have been snuck back into the shipping build] Accessible via code? maybe. 

Let's just say, Mo is my buddy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

elbow deep

As "Dominance War V" approaches, [a sort-of annual game art competition] I went ahead and decided to dig up my submission from last year; figured this might be some decent content to kick off the new blog.

"Dominance War" [or "Dom War" as we like to call it around the office] is a world wide contest backed by industry sponsors. The focus is entirely on creating game art that adheres specifically to the limitations of today's hardware. [asset cost vs. platform processing power / memory] Therefore the goal is to create "game ready" models. This means that the end product comes from a process that mirrors the industry standard art pipeline.

Every year a new "storyline" is released at the start of the competition. Your character submission must fall within the guidelines of the established lore. I'll spare everyone the nerd-core details, but the general idea behind this thing is that game artists across the world [and aspiring game artists] band together with their friends and co-workers and represent one of several game industry art websites. Then participants post work-in-progress to a personalized thread on their chosen forum [for crits and comments] up until the deadline.

This competition marks one of the few times a year where I get to create art outside of a licensed product or franchise [which generally translates into going off the deep end and creating some bat-shit insane characters.]

Below are some initial concepts, model construction screen captures, and texture maps.

Meet "Shiv".