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Developer Diary: From Sketch to Game

by Gorath, 2007-04-10

Master Creating´s Creative Director Jan Beuck gives an insight into the development process of their upcoming action-RPG Legend - Hand of God.

From Sketch to Game

During the planning stage of the game our first step was to formulate a so-called asset list. This list describes the necessary buildings, enemies and objects for all areas. It’s a long way from an idea to a game, and today this way will be our topic!

Usually I start with a rough sketch in black and white to give others an impression of what I want. The concept artist will go from there, creating one or more detailed drafts. If one of them is approved by the whole team, it is sent to the 3D artists who create a model with the Maya software. This first step – from a two-dimensional sketch to a low-poly object - can take several days.

Goblin concept art, color

Since the final concept drawings are very elaborate (out of a wish to present the 3D artists with as many details as possible), these can be used for marketing and advertising; we even had some of them printed on canvas and then pimped our offices with them! It would be waste to imprison them on a HDD – after all, they were painted by the artist Paul Campion who will also be doing the concept art for the upcoming Harry Potter movie!

When the object has been modelled, another, more detailed version of the object will be built with a program called ZBrush. ZBrush was used in the making of the Lord of the Rings movies, among other things, and allows the construction of exquisite objects with millions of polygons! Unnecessary to tell you that this steps usually takes another few days…

The same goblin after its recreation with ZBrush

A so-called ‘normal map’ is computed from the difference between the Maya and ZBrush models; this normal map is used to trick the eye into believing that the Maya object – as used in the game – comes with the additional detail of the higher-poly ZBrush version.

This picture s a mix: the upper part is finished, arms and leg are without normal map, clothes are ‚b
The pic shows a mix. top: finished, arms and legs without normal maps, bottom without anything.

After this, a Photoshop texture with the object’s colors is created by mixing photo and classical painting techniques. Then this texture is placed on the 3D model, which isn’t as simple as it might sound: the texture is square, the model usually isn’t. Try to imagine wrapping a multi-poly object in a square piece of plastic foil… without creasing the foil or leaving vestiges. Okay, those of you who know how to do it will say that my description is a bit off, but there is no better explanation of this process called ‘UV mapping’, or is it?

The textures

Now we have a model, colored textures and a normal map, but we are far from done: we also need a specular map. This texture defines a model’s gloss. If the model is a knight in plate mail, the specular map on the metal parts must be light; this will result in a bright glow and sometimes even fading effects. The specular map on the skin parts must be dark, or the skin would look like plastic. Once this map is done, it is saved in game format via a special exporting tool. Now a programmer must write an ‘entity file’ which explains to the game if an object is an immobile house, a figure with multiple animations or an effect, and then the object can be placed in the game world by the level designers!

So you see – it takes many steps from a simple sketch to a finished object. Please think back of this entry when you strike down your first opponent in LEGEND: with one slash of your sword you’ll destroy the work of several days, even weeks! ;-)

Box Art

Information about

Legend: Hand of God

Developer: Master Creating

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Action-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: 10-20 hours
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2007-09-28
· Publisher: dtp

North America
· Legend - Hand of God
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-08-01
· Publisher: THQ

More information

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