Divine Defender Concept Art

October 7, 2017 | PC

Divine Defender Concept Art

Dear Backers,

Today we are going to share the first piece of new concept art with you, but I don’t want to over hype this. Before we get washed away in a flood of comments and critiques, just remember this is just one piece of art from pre-production. I happen to like it for a number of reasons, but we’re still a long way from locking in the overall art style.

With that out of the way, I would like to take a moment and talk about the art process, pre-production, and our decision to stay with a 3D art style.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Right now there is a lot going on in the art department, but it is important to let you know we are not in full production yet. As I mentioned in our August Update, Little Orbit is starting from scratch to bring Matsuno’s design to life. This means we are in the experimental stages of pre-production, which is where we create a number of Design Documents including the Art Design Document.

The Art Design Document will eventually form the roadmap for each visual component of the game. It will spell out in great detail the techniques we need to use to create our heroes, monsters, environments, and items. It will also map out the User Interface style guide and visual elements we will use to convey information to the players. Some of this document will be technical in nature with definitions for texture sizes and polygon counts, and other parts will contain the initial length of time it took to create each type of asset, so that we can build estimates of how long it will take to complete all of the artwork we need.

The fun part of pre-production is where we bring in various external artists to submit creative ideas – concept art.

We started by reviewing all of the existing Playdek concept art, and then exploring what we liked and what we didn’t.

I want to go on record saying that there are many beautiful pieces of art that Playdek shared with the community. However, everyone on the art team shared two central problems with what was produced:

1) The pieces were overly gritty and realistic.

For myself, I kept looking back at earlier Matsuno games, and they all have a much brighter color palette with more visual fantasy elements. And while a number of the Playdek pieces are lovingly painted and hauntingly epic, they mostly portray neutral to muddy color scenes with realistic characters that could have walked right out of medieval Europe. This isn’t the vision I had at all when I first started thinking about what the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre might look like. A quick glance at a tumblr of Akihiko Yoshida’s work (he was the character designer on many of the original tactics games) will show you what I mean.

2) The pieces weren’t from the perspective of the game.

Many of the Playdek pieces show external views of distant locations. Again there is nothing wrong with the art itself. But none of these scenes are rendered from the proper angle or distance of a tactics game. None of them help an artist visualize battle fields or location elements that the player might interact with.

We felt it was important to stick with concept art that will help us flesh out the look and feel of the game before we dive into true production.

FULL 3D OR NOT

Given that we needed to build out our own concept art, we next had to answer a major art question: Did we want to do full 3D art, or did we want to try and stick with something closer to Final Fantasy Tactics with 2D sprites against 3D environments?

I have mentioned before that we have engaged a couple members of the Final Fantasy Tactics modding community, and two of them are pixel artists who spent time exploring the 2D approach. We had a couple renders done for each direction, but we ultimately decided for a number of reasons to stick with full 3D like Playdek originally promised.

So how do we capture the feel of a game like Final Fantasy Tactics in full 3D?

In my opinion, the goal of the Unsung Story art is to honor the games that have come before while still creating something unique and fun in its own right. We spent time analyzing the hand drawn 2D art, the pixel art, and then sketching out ideas for how that might translate into full 3D. We also reviewed the work of many classic tactics artists as well as sought contemporary inspiration.

Alongside this entire effort, our design team has been redefining each aspect of the game by going back to Matsuno’s original ideas and narrative. We felt it was important to have a fairly locked down story line, game play mechanics, and class progression before we got too far commissioning concept art.

DIVINE DEFENDER

With some of these important decisions settled, we could now start commissioning concept art. When we commission these pieces, we want them to help us visualize the following things:

  • How to translate the feel of a 2D sprite into a full 3D character model
  • How to create distinction without too much detail that will be lost at the size and angle this character will be on screen
  • How to capture the thematic feel of the School this class / armor set comes from
  • How to bring Matsuno’s original fantasy themed Unsung Story ideas to life

Here is my favorite so far that comes closest to addressing each of those issues:

Divine Defender Concept Art

Divine Defender Concept Art

The artist who submitted this piece is Tyler James, my incredibly talented Art Director on HEX: Shards of Fate. You can see more of his work on his website http://www.artofty.com/. I also want to thank iijyanaika for his feedback on the design. Iijyanaika is one of the early Art Consultant backers who signed up on the forums for access to our Art Discussion forum on the little orbit website.

Hopefully you enjoyed the sneak peek and this gives you some insight into our process moving forward. We are looking forward to showing you more as pre-production continues.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Sincerely,

Matthew Scott

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