Monday, September 2, 2013

The Making Of: Lycan's Sanguine Moon Set - Dota 2

Set Name: Sanguine Moon
Time Of Completion: 1.5 months (With breaks)
Final Store Link:

Well awesome news, and another item crossed off my bucket list..Our Lycan set got accepted a while back into DoTA2 by Valve and is now on sale. At the time I couldn't believe it, but we've been fortunate enough to put out quite a few new sets and items since then. Thanks to the awesome founder of Polycount, I was put in touch with a very talented artist called Brent (BounchFX) to bring a concept to completion in 3D. Originally created for the Valve endorsed Dota 2 Polycount contest, I decided to go with a less popular character that I really liked, Lycan. Despite his unfortunate ultra-nerf, I though his lore was really cool and decided to go off a set themed after 'The Fall' event in his story.

This is the quick fiction written up to support the entire concept based off his official fiction:
"Following the fall of the house of Ambry, Banehallow crafted his armor from the remains of any unfortunate soul unlucky enough to stand in the way of his vengeance following his exile from the Kingdom of Slom. In the darkness of the woods and in the company of his new feral brothers, Lycan's bloody search for justice continues."

After a few hours of discussing high level ideas, I springboarded into doing some rough thumbnailing to get some ideas about color schemes, high level visual language. We came up with some phrases to drive the design: Feral, Damaged, Regal, Tossed Together. The thumbnails came together relatively quick, and I even strayed to offer some ideas off the beaten path.

The set was still called Blood Pact at the time. I placed myself on a one week schedule to get this done from start to finish in concept, just to kick my own ass.

Following some discussion we narrowed it down. The main idea was to combine elements of a few of the sets (Specifically A, C, E) to create some new combinations. I personally really liked both of them, but we decided that the blue crystal just didn't fit him at all. We actually went down the route of the left design.

A few sleepless nights and I busted out these orthographics/turnaround for Lycan. If you notice the difference with the helm, we opted to make it more wolf like at the time to tie it into his theme more. Problem is we weren't aware of one rather major problem at the time...More on that later.

I also took a first shot at creating a Zbrush alpha (think 3d Stamp, white is the most raised part, black is not raised at all) for Lycan's medallion. Took a little research to figure out how to do this.

After handing off the concept, Brent absolutely busted ass and sent me an update on the model..Pretty kickass, right? Using a mix of Zbrush (A digital sculpting tool) and Maya, he busted out this graybox (Untextured) version in just a matter of days. Excited with how well it red, Brent recommended taking a pass on wolves that would work well with his 'regal exile' lore. My tablet had just died, so I went down the mouse painting route.

Loose and sketchy, I took his armor language and concepted up some armored nerfy wolves to fit.
Buff me please.
The final design would have been this wolf (a combo of B and C), but we ran into a technical issue which prevented us from getting to work with it. After Brent took a look at the in game wolf summon models, he realized that the models were over the polycount Valve had set for them by a few hundred polys.
  • LoD0 Triangle Limit: 5500
  • LoD1 Triangle Limit: 3500
To break those numbers and LOD down. LOD's=Levels Of Detail. When you zoom out, the characters switch to a lower polycount model (LOD1, 2, 3, etc) seamlessly to facilitate showing more stuff on screen. As a result we would have had to A) Shear geometry off the top to place armor on or B)Remodel it entirely. We opted to leave the wolves for a future project, as this would have slowed us down way too much.

Onwards..That wasn't the only bad news, due to the low polycount on Lycan's head, his helmet's visual quality would have suffered greatly at the highest LOD's (Lower poly), to the point where we feared that Valve might reject us for biting off more than we could chew.

We chatted on Skype and I created an updated paintover on the fly of the model with the new eyepiece, based off of the earlier Sanguine Moon variant. Just so it wasn't a straight eyepatch and that people wouldn't interpret it as blindness, we also modeled in some geometry for a scar that would be extruded from the face, seeing that we couldn't modify his base model.  Considering how delirious we were from multiple nights spent up late working on it, it was nice to find a solution that still fit the lore. Keep in mind, twas just a flesh wound, not blindness.

Following Brent's model tweaks, we collaborated on textures and did a few rounds of back and forth painting to figure out what we wanted specifically. We noticed that quite a few people were doing flat textures, so we attempted to spice things up a little by handpainting. I used photoshop, Brent had the benefit of using a tool on Steam called 3DCoat, an amazing multi-tool that allowed him to paint directly on the model. I need to pick that up. Worth every penny for its ridiculous feature set.

Following addressing this issue, this is where the time consuming part kicked in..Fine tweaking. During this stage you'll spend hours obsessing over every detail, tweaking colors, rigging, design details to the point of exhaustion. At our worst we logged a 6 hour skype convo into the early hours of the morning, while addressing the shape and color of Lycan's back sash. His back sash...

After multiple days of second guessing and lost sleep, we finally reached a point of mutual satisfaction/exhaustion. And moved on to the marketing phase, which posed the interesting challenge of creating thumbnails that would pop. A bit of graphic design mixed with concept art and paintovers.

This phase included testing our thumbnail read compared to other items in mockups like the one above. We didn't want the set to be lost in a sea  of other thumbnails, even more so considering Lycan's somewhat dampened popularity as a commonly played hero. I think the thumbnails ultimately contrasted really well.

And last but not least, Valve had just added an option to add a splash page for your items as a collection (With Youtube embedding). Some more design work, integration, popping Lycan off the background, drawing attention to all the right places.

Bounch put this image together to show off how well it read in game, the most important read of them all. That is, unless you enjoy sitting in Loadout screen to admire your kitted out champ with a glass of cognac.

Last but not least, Bounch captured some footage which I edited together into a bite sized video to show the set in movement, which made a huge difference in my opinion., especially for read. And....SUBMIT! Revenue share set..and go.

And then the waiting began. Hearing people's feedback on something you've slaved over for weeks is nervewracking to say the least, and Bounch and I maintained back and forth throughout it all to strategize if anything aspects would need to be addressed. Pessimism and optimism came and went freely...Yet just a few days later.

That feeling after countless days of lost sleep, doubting yourself, second guessing everything and neglecting your normal life pay off..It felt good to get that validation. I'd been dreaming of getting a set in since TF2, and thanks to our hard work that wish got granted. We're truly grateful.

In retrospect it was an amazing learning experience for us, especially dealing with all the technical problems, finding creative solutions to daunting problems and the back and forth. Teamwork, community support from friends and fellow players helped us get a set in, and we look forward to creating many more. We hope you guys pick this set up! Hope you guys liked this workshop perspective, straight from the trenches. Thanks for reading.

Buy Armor Of The Sanguine Moon to support our future endeavors!

If you guys want to follow me (Oroboros) or Bounch's workshop pages, check it out below:



Did we mention that the items have absolutely amazing flavor text? Thanks Valve <3

1 comment:

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