Check out the latest 10FT video from CIG featuring Lance Powell and Elwin Bachiller!
LP – Welcome to the pilot episode of 10 for the artists, this is a pilot episode of a show that is brought to you by you. Your subscriptions help make this possible. I am Lance Powell, the supervising art director of Star Citizen, and this is…
EB – Elwin Bachiller, senior 3d artist
LP – you had to think about that, didn’t you
EB – I did, almost forgot who I was.
LP – Sorry, go ahead
EB – So yeah, senior 3D artist on Star Citizen.
LP – So yeah, lets get this going, what do you work on specifically?
EB – Specifically, I work on ships. I make ships possible in our game. By building pretty polygons.
LP – Can you describe the complexity of the ships?
EB – I can, but I don’t know if we’ve got enough time for that.
LP – Perfect, cause I”ve got 10 questions that come from the audience, and I hope one of those questions shows up, we’ll have to answer it anyway.
Okay, so, the first question is from Odielthen, the question is –
The ships in Star Citizen require functional interiors with room for things such as power plants and shield generators. How has this influenced the interior and/or exterior design of the ships which you create?
EB – So, it influences both the interior and exterior, in different ways. So, smaller ships that don’t really have interior spaces, the components that the ship carries influences directly the shape of the ships. So, the bigger a component, the larger that section of the ship has to be in order to house the component. So, good ships to look at that would have that would be the Hornet, the 300i, the upcoming new version of the Merlin, basically we have to shape the hsip to make sure that it can house all the components that its’ supposed to house. SO that’s the exterior. For the interior, it depends on what components are going to be accessible to the player from the interior so, lets say for example something happens to your powerplant and you’re on a Constellation for example, there’s a space inside the Constellation where the player can go and interact with that object, which means we have to create a hallway that’s wide enough for the player to go into, that we have panels that open up and there’s enough clearance space and things like that, so the spaces will change in size depending on the things you interact with. So all the components will shape the ships in every way.
LP – So I can’t help but notice you had a little gleam in your eyes when you mentioned the Merlin. Can you talk about that ship and specifically where you started, and how you got to where you are with those volumes, keeping those volumes in mind?
EB – Sure, so, getting the concept model of the Merlin, which I think is what’s in Arena Commander right now, that’s actually the concept model, that’s not the final one, so I had to sit down and get all the components that the Merlin’s supposed to house, get all proper sizes for them and then plop them into the ship, and then realize that none of them actually fits correctly, which means i have to go through a process of changing the shapes, making certain sections fatter, certain sections thinner, to make sure it all fits, and then once that’s done I have to go through a pass of actually finessing the shapes, making sure it communicates the right personality and things like that, so I use, lets say, a Mustang or traditional muscle cars as inspiration for that, on top of making sure that all the components work, so yeah, we went through a lot of pains to make sure that functions, cause the Merlin is an incredibly small ship. You don’t really have a lot of room to play when it comes to that, but we made it happen, and it looks pretty awesome.
LP – You talk like a man who’s been on your 10th date with the ship, and things are going well. Second question, it’s a two-parter, from two different people.
Cyberwolf / Solo: What type of reference materials do you use for weapons and ships? When you start out to design anything how do you get inspiration for the task?
Do you walk around the office, surf the internet, watch Star Trek,
EB – Sure, sure, well the absolute first thing that I tend to do, is find out how the thing works. That’s number one. Does it fold in this way, do things deploy from this location…
LP – Form follows function
EB – Exactly. So then we’ll go ahead and do a reference dig, for things that do the same thing. Like, landing gears for example, or how guns will deploy, what does the housing actually look like, so we have tons of references to help us actually figure out those sections, and then we start figuring out how do we communicate the personality of the ship, and that’ll come through, getting old Russian helicopters for MISC for example, or stealth actual contemporary stealth planes, like the SR-71, for Aegis, things like that, or like I mentioned before, Mustangs or muscle cars for things like Kruger, so we have a language that we want to define for each manufacturer, so we’ll go ahead and do reference digs for those, for the elements that we want to incorporate for that look. And it doesn’t really, we’ll look at sci-fi, we’ll look at WWII references, so we’ll grab whatever works, and take the elements that we really really like.
LP – Right. I think to also round that out is the, now that the manufacturers and the ships are starting to fit into a manufacturer, we’ve had to start defining what those manufacturers actually look like, so, if you, for example, come up with a new ship that is from Aegis or Anvil, well, there’s a distinct language that needs to be applied to those manufacturers that gives them that particular look. For example, MISC would be.
EB – MISC would be old Russian helicopters, so it’s ah, they have a lot of funky looking shapes, which is what they’re basically known for, at least their older ships are like that Some of the new ones are a little bit more streamlined, but that’s cause they’re new. They’re coming up with the times now. Anvil, for example, they have a lot of fighters, military ships, they have more of sort of a blocky look to their design, Aegis is a lot sleeker, things like that so, yeah.
LP – So, we’re taking things forward, and moving them forward is going to be a lot more refined by manufacturers. The ships will actually start becoming more distinct by that manufacturer type. Question number 4, I”ll go back to 3, from Cyberwolf
Do the artists hang out together and exchange ideas with each other, or is each artist an ‘island’ catering to their particular strength?
EB – No, we hang out, we share ideas on a minute to minute basis. Basically, I’ll call someone over and say, does this look like trash, does it look amazing, what do you think. I may love it, and someone else’ll be like, that totally doesn’t work, and I”ll be like, well, why doesn’t it work? And I’ll do it to them. So, you do it to me all the time.
LP – The big thing is it’s a team effort. You know, people are kind of tired of hearing this, but you know, there’s no I in Team, and the reality is, the artist in me wants to own a thing. But not everyone’s strong at everything, except for Elwin
EB – *Elwin shakes head*
LP – But, the idea is, you do want to play guys to their strengths. And, you don’t want to be the case all the time, ultimately you want everyone to have the same set of strengths, but given that production, that rarely ever happens, we start spreading people around and making sure that what’s getting the attention is the ship, which is what the priority is on, and not necessarily the individual. So that individual brings their best to that particular thing, and if it can’t close out with that artist, we’ll close it out with someone else on the team.
The third question is from Rodel the Great –
When can we expect to see some concept art for alien animals and plants? I’m looking forward to what trees and wildlife on other planets will look like.
LP – You can’t take that one.
EB – I can’t take that one. I wish I could take that one, I’m actually, well, I can’t. I don’t know the answer. But I want to know too!
LP – Okay, so the long and short of it is, the alien races are being fleshed out as we speak. Their home planets are being fleshed out by the writers as we speak. The details of those alien races are they’re…they’re as complex as I think you’d expect them to be, given the scope of the project, but… by that I mean, every alien on Star Trek comes from the same gravity style planet. In our world, we’ve got a handful of races that come from heavier G planets, so that impacts the way they look, some come from lighter G planets, which affects how they look. Something we’ve been kicking around for a while, and is starting to reflect the way that they look is the Vanduul, they operate on much higher spatial function than humans. They think very 3D, they operate very 3D, their entire environment’s very 3D, and by that i mean we walk on a 3D plane. We usually drive on a 2D plane. Everything we do tends to be very 2d. If you remember the Wrath of Khan, the way they beat him, is, the guy operates 2d, in other words he’s going to attack, and then circle back and attack again, and they went in depth. So these things are starting to manifest right now. Plants are being worked on by the PU team, which is manned by Mark Skelton, and we should start seeing some of the PU stuff come on-line within the next month, month and a half. PU and, I’m drawing a huge blank on the other component of the game which is the…Social module. The social module is coming along also in a month, and that’s where the audience is going to have the first opportunity to see a lot of the plants. The animals are something we’ve been kicking around for a while.
EB – cause we do have pets
LP – We do have pets
EB – I want some alien, alien pets.
LP – We’re going to have alien pets. We’re going to start concepting those out, and that is something that I think, once the PU puts a nail in a handful of environments, they’ll slowly start working on that.
Skipping number five, going to number six, from Steve Hunter,
Since the Ship Pipeline has changed (more than once) how are ships handled in the art phase? Do you draw them from the inside out, or from the outside in?
EB – That’s a good question. So far we have done it simultaneously. So a lot of the ships, the Merlin’s a great example, I did the modelling for the exterior, where Paul Forgi, which is another artist, is working on the cockpit, and he’s continuing to work on it now. So basically what we do is we define our boundaries, and we say hey, don’t cross this boundary or you’re starting to clip into the exterior, or on my end, don’t cross this or I’m clipping into the interior, so we basically just define the line. We draw the line in the sand and say, don’t go over that side. And then we can basically work in isolation in our different scenes, and we’ll go back and forth daily just to make sure things are working properly, but that’s basically how we’ve handled it so far.
LP – How do you bridge the gap? Once you meet in the middle, how do you say pull the influence from this one into this one?
EB – That’s more of an organic process. It comes down to, we’re working from the same base of references to begin with, so we should already be starting in a good place to begin with. then what happens is it depends on what’s going ot be leading the charge in terms of the shape language. SO if the exterior’s going to be leading the charge, which in a lot of ways it usually is, that will then influence how the interior must change its shape languages, so it looks like it fits. It’s an organic process. I’ll do something and I’ll say Paul, what do you think of this, and if he likes it, cool, lets make this change to the interior so it fits with the exterior, and we’ll go back and forth.
LP – What phases do you go through, to get them done?
EB – So, ideally, the process is we get a concept done, generally we have a couple of concept artists in house, but a lot of our concepts are getting done out of house with outsourcing, david hobbins, doing some great stuff. He basically defines what the ship looks like and if it meets all the gameplay requirements, then it becomes a process of getting that concept to work in game. IN situations where that isn’t such a smooth transition, cause for gameplay reasons things don’t actually work or we have to make changes, at that point we have to pivot and say, okay, we’ll start doing some concept ourselves. And at that point, it’s us, re-concepting certain sections, making sure it works, sometimes it leads to an almost complete redo of certain ships, and then we’ll go to the full modelling process where we basically do all of our geometry, after we do that we’ll do something called custom normals, which basically makes our geo look better without using as much geo, so it’s a cheaper way of making our ships look better
LP – Circling back to our first question
EB – Right, Then we’ll go through our material pass, where we basically define what the surfaces are made of and how they look and how light reflects off of them, then we’ll go through the process of making them totally destructible so that you can blow holes in all our beautiful hard work! Oh wait, there’s one more, we also at some point in there have to make sure that animation gets a hand on it, so that all the panels open, the landing gear deploys, a character actually sits in the cockpit and plays with the joystick, theres a huge amount of steps.
LP – Absolutely. So, the 7th question is from Punster –
Has there been any particular design / artwork that has made you think ‘Wow, I can’t wait to see this in game!’?
EB – I’m a huge fanboy of David Hobbins.
LP – I’ve seen your desktop
EB – You’ve seen my desktop, exactly.
LP – It’s pictures of David Hobbins.
EB – On the beach. No, I wish I had that. It’s the Reliant, which is one of our new MISC ships, which hasn’t been revealed yet, and I love that ship. I hope I get to work on it. Really excited for it.
LP – Yeah, I heard you call dibs on it.
EB – Well, I tried to, but ultimately it’s not about me right?
LP – You know, under the table, cash…works.
EB – Well, there’s one other thing. We see concepts every day coming in, and just some of the bigger ships, some of these gigantic capital ships, I literally can’t wait to be able to fly my small ship into the hangar of a bigger ship, hop out, start blasting fools, steal one of their ships, and fly it back out. The moment I can do that, that’s it, I’m done, that’s what I’ve been waiting for.
LP – Right. I think in my case it’s got to be almost the exact same thing. Going back to the Vanguard, It’s just such a sexy ship, and it does everything that I want to do in the type of ship that I can fly. So, getting that form the stage where we’re going from concept to in-game, that tiny little window is what I’m looking forward to, cause that’s where the magic happens. Tiny little secret, Elwin’s doing some tweaks to the
EB – The Freelancer.
LP – And it’s looking sexy. Something you wouldn’t normally say about the Freelancer.
EB – Well, not something I would normally say about the Freelancer, but. I may say it after this. Hopefully.
LP – So, the fifth question that I skipped over, because we’re kind of bunching them up, it’s from Amontillado –
When it comes to clothing for our characters, are you designing them with the expectation that we’ll be able to change their colours, patterns, and materials? What sort of challenge has the idea of users customizing things presented to you?
LP – the short answer is yes. THose are things we’re going to be doing…customization across the board is something we’ve been focused on for a long time. So, the ability to change your skin, the shape of your body, the clothing from the shoulders down to the ankles, the types of accessories, those have been on the books for a while. The challenges we’ve come up with so far aren’t with the customization per say, but it’s how we’re using the technology and the customization. So for example, a lot of the technology that we’re using for cloth simulation is from Ryse. Ryse did some things beautifully, and to take that to the next stage means we have to encounter brand new tech issues. So the nod that we’re taking from film is to take basically a normal type pattern for a shirt for example, not just the textural pattern but how is it cut, how is it stitched, so as you’re doing your simulations, it actually starts to fold and sit as you’d expect it to. Something we’re actually starting to look at at this particular moment.
EB – And are we going to be doing that real-time?
LP – Real time. So that’s another thing we’re looking at, which is the fidelity of the cloth simulation. The portions of the game that are coming out soon won’t reflect that, but the long term picture will have that stuff. So the characters will be completely customizable, the simulations that the characters have on them will be a mixture of something very simple and something very complex, like the eyeballs looking at center-mass chest, we’ll probably put some more fidelity into those areas, but those are still up in the air. But, in terms of the ability to fine tune your character, you’re going to have a lot of flexibility.
I’m going to skip 8 for now, go down to 9, from Deaths Talon –
As someone that would like to get into learning to do 3D art, where would you suggest starting? As in, what programs or tools would you suggest learning to use first?
EB – so the first thing is, when I was first starting to learn Maya, which is the tool of choice for me, some guys here like to use 3DSMax, and we always bicker about it.
LP – just, for the record, we actually have one guy in house who’s actually using soft image.
EB – What?
LP – Yeah.
EB – Oh wait, yeah, you’re right. That guy.
LP – That guy.
EB – So, the great thing about the world we live in right now, is that you can almost get every question that you have about how to do something from Youtube or online. When I was first learning how to do it, the way I did it was I went to the help page on Maya, and went to every tool one by one, and figured out what each one did by actually failing at it nonstop. I didn’t have this beautifully edited video showing me how stuff works. So step one is literally get a copy of it. They have student versions that are free, and start doing it. Start from step one. Just start doing it.
LP – I started in an era that was a little bit different. Mine was more CAD drawing on paper. Scan that in, plot your points out…no it wasn’t that bad. But you’re spot on. I think there’s great schools that can train you in how to be a very solid artist, they’ll train you specifically in the use of the tool as an artist all across the board. The ability to bring stuff to the table, the talents that the individual ahs is going to be different. People show up with interests that lean them towards a little more technical, a little more artistic, those things, depending on the type of person you are, will almost govern your interest and your focus. But I think to Elwin’s point, there’s enough material on youTube at the very least to get started. The things you can’t measure ever are passion, drive, and personal ability to grow, and those are independant of school. SO I think the question, from my perspective, is always as an artist, am I proficient with the technology and the tolls that I’m going to be using, but more important thing is, do I give a damn about what I”m working on and the stuff I’m doing, because that’s what makes the difference between decent, good, and great.
EB – Right, you make a good point, just being proficient at school is just step 1 to be able to actually produce work. It doesn’t necessarily mean the work will be good. So, being an artist, and knowing Maya are actually two different things, two very different things. So, the easiest one of those to get good at is just learning the tools, which you can easily do through youtube or any online resource. Becoming an artist, that’s much, much harder.
LP – 10th question, it’s from Brynath –
Can we expect to see cool graffiti in some of the economically depressed / crime ridden areas, maybe some nice regional differences on different planets, or inspired by the Xi’An / Vanduul?
LP – Yes. The PU team is working a lot at creating a huge mix of environments, spaces, that reflect various cultures. The distance between the culture and the widely populated system so, for example, if you’re from Earth, everything around Earth will be built up and bustling, the further you get from Earth you’ll start feeling a little more rough and tumble, the further you are from Earth’s influence you’re much more on that edge. Names of the NPC’s right now that we’re working with are, as boring as they are by name, ‘Frontier’, and it is, the types of frontier. Are you an outlaw, a pirate type person. A good description of Frontier could be Luke’s home planet. Serenity could be Frontier. But it’s the opposite of Star Trek, which is close-knit, the home planet which looks nice and shiny. Graffiti is really interesting. It’s something we talked abou with one of the teams, that you wouldn’t expect traditional graffiti, at least on a space station. SO the question becomes, if everyone has these digital components, this digital stuff, where do they get the spray paint? And then what kid is running around tagging on a space station? So we do have a case with the Nyx space station, which is a derelict asteroid space station that’s been run down, it’s got a feel of Akira, the question comes back to the environment, it’s where do they get the spray paint. SO how we go forward is we have a digital spray paint, it’s something we haven’t really explored yet, so. We do know it’s something that we have to do, there may be an opportunity where people can actually put their own tags in the future, so we have to solve that problem.
The very last question, which is 8 of 10, from Luftwolf –
How do you personally deal with negative criticism when you’re presenting something you’d otherwise be proud of?
EB – That’s a hard one.
LP – Best for last.
EB – Everyone deal with that differently, right? It’s something that you sort of learn to not take personally. Because at the end of the day, what we’re all trying to do is make the best game possible. And us, specifically, we’re trying to accomplish that by making the best art possible. And we may think that something works very very well, and it just doesn’t, and if we keep holding that close to the chest and we take the criticisms personally, it’s just going to make it harder for us to see how we can make the art better. So the way I deal with it is I just realize it’s not a personal thing. Although I put myself into the artwork I create, the artwork isn’t actually me, it’s the thing I made, so you’re just trying to help me make that better, and so is everyone else, so why would I take that personally. It’s not always easy to do that, and everyone deals with it differently, but that’s my perspective. We’re all on the same team.
LP – Yeah, I think to add to that, this is one of those projects that’s not like a traditional console project. It’s not a 3-4 year property, where you’re in a bubble hidden from the world for a long time and then all of a sudden the marketing machine gets turned on 6 months before hand and you’re like here’s our stuff. And the world goes, okay, that looks pretty cool. 6 months later it’s in their hands and they’re playing it and you start watching the metacritic go down. We’re not that case. We’re a really public company, it’s a huge project, we’ve got a lot of really top men and women working on the job, and it’s one of those cases where we’re slowly rolling things out ot the public, in an alpha state where they have the opportunity to see things sometimes as short as days from the thought of the original thing. So it’s a very rare case where, if somebody doesn’t like something, well, we got it out there to test it. It’s alpha, right? At some point in time it’s going to be refined and redefined and rolled back out and polished. This is one of those properties where you really put your passion into it, and you meet the vision of the vision we’re matching, and then we go forward. As long as your passion is satisfied, that’s where we usually I think we tend to kind of stop how hard we get impacted by criticism. I did my best, we did a great job, I like the way it looks, you can’t please everybody. But goddamn it looks great. And, again, like the lightsaber with the little hand-guard on the end…
EB – I had absolutely no problem with that.
LP – Right, me neither, a lot of people hated it. In the end, they’re going to see it, and they’re going to be like, oh, that’s cool.
EB – They’re going to forget about it two seconds later, cause there’s so much more to take in. That’s just one tiny little thing.
Well, thanks for hanging out with us, the first ever, hopefully not the last, 10 for the Artists.
LP – Subscriber based show.
EB – So thank you very much for making this show possible, and all the other 10 for the ‘blanks’. Leave some comments down below, tell us what you think, and thanks for hanging out with us.
See you in the ‘Verse!