For my cross-discipline project I have been working on a Studio 2 game called “The Apprentice”. Created for the ‘trust’ brief, “The Apprentice” features a dark warlock who betrays his apprentice by turning him into an unstoppable monster as it is the only way to keep the both of them safe from the angry mob of villagers. Having broken the apprentice’s trust in the beginning of the game, the apprentice, who is now a monster, turns on the warlock and kills him. The game is first person and you play as the warlock. An additional element of trust enters the game when you must sacrifice your own health and power in order to empower your monstrous apprentice.
Our team is made up of two Studio 2 games designers, two games programmers, five Studio 2 animators and myself. Being the most senior animator and the first to join the group, the games designers appointed me as ‘lead animator’. This basically gave me an art direction role but also meant that I had to delegate tasks and make sure they were being done on time. This was the first time I have been in charge of a group this size. It was a little scary as there was more responsibility but with such a large team we were able to accomplish so much more.
My Role and Work
As I was in charge of so many animators, I decided to create a technical guidelines document and a style guide to help keep everyone of the same page and to avoid technical / importing problems. In order to create these I had to do a fair bit of research and testing to work out the proper technical pipeline for exporting assets to Unity and also a fair bit of experimenting to nail down the overall style of the game.
Click the links below to view the PDF versions of these guides.
For the style guide, I created a colour palette to be used throughout the game:
The idea being that the main colours used are deep reds and purples with splashes of yellow and orange. For the most part, both the animators and game designers have taken this colour palette on board and it has been used in the design of the warlocks staff, the apprentice’s design, the menus and also the particle effects. The overall layout of the level also incorporates the colour palette as the yellow highlight has been used for lanterns with guide the player through the game.
I also mocked up a quick concept for the apprentice character:
Although, this was not the final design, it was used as a jumping off point and Jayde, a Studio 2 animator who is interested in digital painting and concept art, has greatly improved on this. The change of design partially came down to the narrative: Jayde made him younger and more impressionable so that the betrayal and power dynamic is more believable. It also came down to practicality and time: his cloak was removed to save on animation and texturing.
Additionally, I collaborated with Andrew, another Studio 2 animator who is interested in hard surface modelling, to design and create the warlock’s staff. Using Andrew’s original concept as inspiration, I created the following design:
This was imported into the game, as seen below:
I am still working with the game designers to get the lighting of the staff and the glowing crystals working correctly. At the moment it is a bit dark (especially in the screenshot) but already looks pretty good when you are playing.
Finally, I was in charge of creating the magic effects. In the game, the player is able to ‘mark’ a villager using magic. This makes that villager the target and the empowered apprentice will attack them.
To fit with the dark warlock theme I decided that old alchemy symbols would look good as they have a distinctive magical vibe while still fitting with the medieval English setting (as opposed to something like Nordic runes). Similar, to the magical effect in Dota 2, we decided on two ‘magic circles’ that would spin in opposite directions underneath the ‘marked’ villager while alchemy symbols would float upwards around them. Below is the original concept I created for the magic mark:
At the moment it is still a bit pink as opposed to purple (which has been fixed since this video) and the villager model is a just placeholder. However, it is extremely effective as its movement and glow makes it distinctive and eye catching.
Reflection Upon My Role as Lead Animator
That basically covers my cross-discipline work so far. Although I haven’t worked on many assets myself, I have had a hand at the overall construction, design and production of the project.
When I started this project, I expected that the role of lead animator would mostly entail art direction and would still allow me to work on many of the art assets myself. I didn’t expect for my role to have such a large management component but as our team grew it became a necessity. As a result, the majority of the role was directing the work of the other animators through collaboration, suggestions and feedback.
We used Slack as our main tool for communication and it was extremely helpful to the team. It was good as the animators were able to contact me privately for questions about the design or feedback on their work. It also helped for collaboration, as I was able to delegate tasks in mass on the dedicated animators channel.
I found that the more direction or system that was in place, the easier and more smooth it was for the other animators to work. In this way, the Style and Technical guides were extremely helpful throughout the project.
The main source of problems came from the game designers not liking certain designs or models that the Studio 2 animators had produced. It was up to me to act as a liaison and tactfully work through the design with the students. I found this quite challenging as I was worried that I would hurt someone’s feelings. However, the Studio 2 animators were all extremely flexible and professional and it was actually much easier than I initial thought.
Overall, I found that I don’t mind this sort of a role: I really like creating the overall vision for a project and directing it. I am also not as skilled as some of the Studio 2 animators so I don’t mind delegating the work to them as, honestly, they are able to do a much better job of it than I ever could. It is quite satisfying seeing a project come together around you.
I have actually had a lot of fun with this project: I got to work with great people and create something fun and magical.