Dev Dispatch #01: Designing the Guardian Mech

By Emmanuel Alzaga, 3D Art Lead

Hi guys! How are you? It’s me again, Emman –3D Art Lead for Nyan Heroes. We heard from many of you who wanted to get a deep dive on how we bring our Guardian Mechs to live, so I am here to give you an in-depth look at our process for designing the 3D Model of our Guardian Mechs.

First, before we embark on designing a character, common character parameters must be set. This gives the character a sense of existence within our games. I will give you a few examples below:

➔ Role: Hero

➔ Personality: Righteous, Upstanding, Justice, Do-gooder

➔ Class: Tank

➔ Size: Heavy

➔ Backstory: (Play the game and discover it yourself. ☺)

➔ Inspiration: Tank, Shield, Bulky

Once we establish the character parameters, we will formulate important keywords so that our mechs will have a ‘catchy visual’. The importance of this step is for you to be able to describe them easily to your friends. You will be able to give details about the mech inside Nyan Heroes. There are tons of video games that have mech characters, so we needed something to make ours unique. For our mechs, the keywords were: bipedal robot + big dome as a head with cockpit + cat pilot.

Catchy Visual is incredibly essential because this is the crowd’s tool to easily identify our character from the other characters in a one-off sentence. No need for further complicated details.

To know more about our upcoming characters, you can check out Dev Blog Ep. 04: New Guardians Concept Reveal by our Creative Director Tore Blystad.

Now let’s move on to the process of bringing the mechs to life.

➔ Research

For this part, we needed to acquire the iconic traits from the Concept Art Team. In some cases, these will still need to be enhanced by the 3D Character Team because whatever looks great as a 2D image does not necessarily translate to it being good enough as a 3D model. We would still need to do a lot of research on how to convert them into 3D models that are logical, believable, and what kind of joints are applicable. Therefore, we have a separate 3D Art Direction for these situations.

➔ Primitive Shape

Once a strategy for converting a 2D image into a 3D model has been developed, we will send it to our 3D Character Artist. For this example, we will highlight our awesome 3D Character Artist Elijah Sparshott’s work on our Tank Class mech, the Bulwark.

This is a walkthrough of the process we go through to get a polished model:

To begin this, we will create a primitive shape.

Then we will send it for an animation test, handled by senior animator Selen Atiker. She will check how aggressive we can exaggerate the mechanical parts to improve the silhouette. This is also to check potential issues like visual and animation errors.

Upon completion of the animation test, we will make all necessary adjustments. We will do a further deep dive into the details of this process and go into the art of animation on future Dev Dispatches, so stay tuned for more!

➔ High Poly Modeling

We can now successfully identify the important parts and pieces, optimal shapes, and parts that are lacking that will need to be added.

During the high poly modeling phase,, we work on high details and polish while adding visual details like the mechanical details noise. We also need to add an area where to rest the eye so that the model is visually balanced. If every part of the image has the same level of detail, the eye will be overwhelmed and quickly turn away.

So, details are only added to certain areas because the eye’s tendency to be lured into areas that contrast with the open areas. Then the eye turns away and is shown a less populated area where it can rest before striking gaze to another detailed area.

At this part, once we have the approved high poly mesh, we will proceed to optimize it, by creating a low poly mesh version.

➔ Low Poly

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the reason is game engines calculate polygons of assets in real-time. If we’re using exact high poly models, it could be millions upon millions of polys which directly impacts the performance of the game. Of course, none of us would want laggy games, do we?

As for everyone’s burning question… if we’re creating low poly mesh, what about the awesome details we created for the high poly mesh? Will they disappear? The answer is: NO. ☺

➔ UV Map and Baking

When you create the low poly version model of the high poly, the UV Map and Texture Baking is included so that we can preserve the details from the high poly model.

When we finally have the UV map for our character, the next part we need to do is Texture Baking in order to project the high poly details onto the low poly mesh.

➔ Color and Composition

Finally, we’re going to color them! ☺ This is the most fun part of the process besides creating the high poly models. To come up with great looking textures, you need to have a better understanding of materials, colors, and shaders. We will also test the textures in different lighting conditions in the engine.

For this part of the process, we begin to add colors to see how they affect the composition. The tiniest of color changes can drastically change the design and flow of our mech. This typically happens when we go from a light to dark tone shift.

When we do this, we make use of a dominant color and add in maybe one to two other colors for accent. It is important at this stage to not overdo to prevent them from clashing with each other. This can be avoided by utilizing neutral tones to complement the primary color.

Once the coloring process is complete, we will finally have the Mech Character for our awesome game!

Hopefully, you’ve learned bits and pieces about 3D Art Direction, especially for our characters on Nyan Heroes. We cannot wait to meet you all again right here on our next Dev Dispatches entry from our awesome team. Stay tuned for more!

- Emman

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