In the preceding installments of Camelot Unchained's three-part armor dev blog, you've seen the images Lead Concept Artist Michelle Davies and Concept Artist and Animator Sandra Pavulaan have provided on the Vikings, the Arthurians, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. Now, hear about the thought processes behind their work!
This exclusive series concludes with these two artists joining Mark Jacobs to talk shop about the development of armor, ruminating on subjects like customizing armor pieces to accommodating non-human body parts and using different combinations of materials when crafting the armor. Oh, and it's got lots of early mockups to marvel at as well!
Mark Jacobs: Now that you have seen some of the inspiration that Sandra and Michelle used at the beginning of their studies, it's time to hear from them and to look at some of their initial concept work. Please keep in mind that these sketches are simply that: a series of thoughts expressed via the artists' skill, not "money" pieces or the kind of finished concept work you would offer for sale. And for each one shown here, Sandra and Michelle have created over the course of a few weeks at least a couple of dozen more. Time is a precious commodity for us, so the number of concepts they can bring to the table quickly is pretty special.
Michelle Davies: In many MMOs, armor is designed with a mindset of making it that "tasty carrot on the stick" that gets you through the constant grind. But for Camelot Unchained, our armor must be designed with a thought process to enforce strong visual cues and clear recognition. This can be things like material decay that indicates a weak link in the pack, native design and armor shapes for a quick read to what realm a fellow user is, or the engraving on armor for a quick tell as to what resistance your enemy is packing. Being able to quickly assess on the field who your greatest threats are, not to mention creating on-the-fly strategy with your guildies, is crucial in PvP. This is where the art is key to assisting the players as whole in an enjoyable and engaging battle experience.
Now this doesn't mean that all elements of looking cool and super kick butt are thrown out the door. We want to see given to the players a mass amount of stat variety through crafted armor that still allows them to be able to enjoy the way their characters look when off the battlefield and feel good while wearing something that has the elements of function and believability. Female armor design particularly are moving in a design direction of form with function without giving up looking feminine or a sense of strength. And this is not just because there is a lack of quasi-believable armor design for the average female game model.
Imagine this: You are standing on the battlefield in game and two enemy players are running toward you. One is female and the other male. They are wearing the same crafted armor, same weapon, same class. These should both read as equal threats and still read the male from the female. Now, if they were the same everything again but the heavy armor bikini design was used on the female. You might in the heat of battle but not reading said female user as the same kind of threat despite their having the exact same stats. Here are a couple of my Arthurian concepts for female armor.
[Click images for larger versions]
So really armor design to us is more than just some good-looking frosting for the Camelot Unchained gameplay cake, but really we want to make it a good-looking frosting that has flavor to make the Camelot Unchained cake even tastier.
Sandra Pavulaan: One of the many important things we also want to remember when designing armor in Camelot Unchained is the unique culture of the different races. Many games I've seen try to differentiate races solely through size or just colors and patterns of skin and essentially use the same type of armor for all the races. But what fun is that? And how believable is that? The thinking here when we concept armor is these aren't just the same human-shaped characters with the same type of armor as the next. These are three separate realms with their own customs, their own ways of living, and their own ways of crafting and wearing armor. You can see this illustrated by the differences between the Arthurians, Tuatha, and Vikings in some of my early concepts.
For example, Arthurians may have learned full plate armor is the most effective way to protect themselves in battle, while the Vikings may have found that chainmail is equally effective when worn with under layers of clothing. Some may even have their own tricks. Arthurian plate armor may help deflect or slide a sword off to the side, while Vikings found a tangle of bones can help trap a weapon and gain them some advantage. It makes customization and crafting far more fun and also keeps things interesting. Having armor reflect the culture of the realms really adds to the believability that these characters are as unique, alive, and different as the players themselves.
Mark Jacobs: One of the things that we are talking about for our armor system is to make it like a certain animated ogre, with lots of layers. Traditionally, armor in MMORPGs isn't layered on like it was in real life. So, we want to do this a little differently for Camelot Unchained. Here are possible examples from Michelle and Sandra as to how we might do some basic and more advanced layering.
Our art team also has to focus on accommodating races that might have tails, wings, and other non-human body parts. Here is a very rough sketch that Sandra used to illustrate some of the associated challenges with not only non-human races but also all the possible areas for player customization. Of course, we've narrowed the list down a bit, but this image shows some of her initial thought process.
We also want to give our crafters the ability to use different combinations of materials in creating the armor for the game. Here are some examples of plate mail that does just that.
I hope you enjoyed seeing some of our very early concept work and learning how Scott, Michelle, and Sandra regard our armor system. Our next step is to take this direction further by creating Camelot Unchained's first armored character. We hope to reveal it before the end of this winter (which does seem a bit endless right now). Per these sketches and words, there will be no chainmail bikinis, no dental floss armor, and to borrow a term from a recent opinion piece here, no hyper-sexualization of the female characters.
Thanks for taking the time to read these three pieces brought to you by our friends at Massively!
And thank you, Mark Jacobs and team, for sharing your armor ideas with our community!