Posts Tagged ‘Concept Art’

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Review: The Art And Making Of Star Wars: The Old Republic

November 10, 2011

Cover

Due to professional interest, but also thanks to my general love for art, I’m always on the lookout for artbooks. They’re good for reference or just ordinary perusal on a rainy day, and I collect just about anything and everything that catches my eye.

Several of my shelves, however, are especially dedicated to the realms of fantasy and sci-fi. Over the years, I’ve amassed artbooks featuring masterpieces by the greats such as Frank Frazetta or Brom, but also gaming-related books containing graphics and concept art from games like Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, etc.

Today, I want to give some love to The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I was ecstatic to add to my collection this week. Remember, I was initially disappointed that no artbook was included in the retail collector’s edition of the game, but now that I am holding this gem in my hands, I am beginning to understand why. The Art and Making of SWTOR is a masterpiece in and of itself. It’s a hefty hardcover of good quality, filled with full-colored images of digital pictures and concept art, and pages and pages of commentary to go with it.

Topics covered include the things you’d expect: class design, planets and environments, species, creatures, ships, weapons, armor, etc., etc., etc. But since this is technically a “Making Of” book as well, you also get developer insights into the creation of the game, everything from commentary on SWTOR’s evolution from its roots in Knight of the Old Republic, to the multitude of challenges BioWare faced when moving into the MMO space.

There are also other interesting tidbits on the game’s development, random facts about the game I picked up as I read through the pages. One of my favorites is the section at the back, called “Verbal Cubism”. Did you know that beyond the main dialogue, thirty-thousand lines of alien-speak were recorded for SWTOR? The book states: “To put this in perspective, [that’s] more than the entire script for Mass Effect or both KOTOR games combined. Just in aliens.” Pretty neat.

If you 1) have a general interest in game art and concept art, or 2) are a big fan of SWTOR, then this book is definitely worth it. Since both those descriptions apply to me, I must say I am quite pleased. I’ve been flipping through the pages admiring the beautiful pieces in there since I got it. I wish I could showcase them all, but there are just too many. Here are, however, some of the highlights and my favorites:

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Asura: Cute But Definitely Not Stupid

September 12, 2011

Like many others keeping up with news on the AAA MMOs currently in development, I’ve had my eye on Guild Wars 2, and I’m so excited that it’s finally Asura week!

While I follow all the gaming news websites and relevant Twitter accounts, I also rely heavily on Hunter’s Insight blog to make sure I won’t miss a single thing on GW2. In fact, for as long as he’s used it, it was actually his blog banner that first sparked my interest in this peculiar race of floppy-eared, diminutive geniuses:

I can’t help it; I have a weakness for anything that adorable. And yes, I do realize I shouldn’t say that too loud, lest I want my throat crushed by a golem.

That’s why I really enjoyed reading today’s dev post by Matt Barrett on Asura design, though admittedly I find any commentary to do with concept art and design fascinating in general. It did remind me of a time when the Asura weren’t so cute, and instead looked like something you wouldn’t hesitate to roundhouse kick through the window if you woke up face-to-face with one in the middle of the night. I liked seeing the evolution of a design for an original race, because while tiny tinkering creatures like gnomes and goblins abound in the lore of other intellectual properties, it was really cool to witness a soup of ideas and concepts like “ambition”, “complexity”, and “underestimated” on paper gradually take shape and come to life in the form of an actual creature on a canvas.

I very much love developer posts like this, especially on subjects dealing with the “art” side of things (need more artist commentary videos!) and also because in my heart I’ve already chosen the Asura to be my race of choice. Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t usually find myself attracted to the small, punt-able races, but there’s just something about these little guys and I have to make an exception. And not just because they’re cute as hell. Though they really are.

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SWTOR: Sounds Good

May 20, 2011

A quick note on the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update today, as the start of a busy weekend awaits me in approximately T-minus 3 hours. Luckily, it was a short update. I’m happy because I get to play padawan to the master of bullet points today!

  • Fan Friday revealing the usual community creations, fan site interview, concept art and forum avatars, but this time also a SWTOR event schedule for the year…listing all the huge conventions I will probably never be fortunate enough to attend. I think PAX East is plenty excitement enough for me, though some day I hope to be able to make it — at least once! — to the geek mecca that is the San Diego Comic Con. It’s on the bucket list.
  • The accompanying Studio Insider featuring a dev blog on Combat Sounds. I think it’s interesting that they hit upon many things that went through my mind when I first heard of the topic, most of all the fact (and Scott Morton puts it so well) that such a “long legacy” of signature sounds has been associated with the Star Wars universe. In a nutshell, they can play around with these — but just a little bit — as for the most part they must retain their “iconic aural identity”. In other words, don’t screw with the lightsaber whoosh or blaster pew pew.
  • I liked how they threw in that trivia tidbit about the core sound used by Ben Burtt for the TIE fighter’s screaming engines in the original trilogy —  an elephant call! Reminds me of a Jurassic Park documentary feature I once saw, where I found out the screeches of the fearsome velociraptor were actually created using a combination of walrus and dolphin sounds. When everything’s layered together, you can’t even recognize the source sounds anymore.
  • The example videos in dev blog show how it all just adds up to one big cool Bounty Hunter boom.
  • I love the idea of aural character for each class and establishing a “sonic palette”. The process behind capturing the “Zen-ness” of the Jedi extends even to the colors of the visual effects, and making the associated sounds match them with a “smooth and wavelike” quality.
  • The Q&A topic is something that I have a personal interest in — the art of the Old Republic. I’ve never made the comparison of the game’s look to the Clone Wars series, but I can see why some would. Mostly, I feel SWTOR’s style stands on its own. Clint Young’s “Old Republic’y” comment is the technical term for it, I guess?
  • Finally, the Fansite Summit Report. Recently, BioWare brought 15 fan sites around the world to their studio to play SWTOR. The PvP experience was the highlight for me, since until now we haven’t heard many hands-on stories about it at all.
  • The video is outrageous — fans actually being excited about a game that their entire fan site is built around? No way!
  • I do wish the report had gone beyond the usual “Awesome!” or “Epic!” comments and focused more on the soundbites with more substance, but it is uplifting to see that a wide range of people played and enjoyed the game, from younger men to middle-aged women.
  • AARRRRRGH! Jealous!
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SWTOR: Through Victory, My Chains Are Broken*

February 18, 2011

*Not applicable when dead.

Another month, another Fan Friday for Star Wars: The Old Republic, featuring fan creations and forum goodies for the community.

Frankly, I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that they are able to pull off such a wide range of expressions using a Sullustan. Though, what the heck, #1 and #4 appear to be the same smilie, and #6 is a good reason why this species should never ever ever be given teeth. Good god, get that thing away from me.

Of course, no Fan Friday is complete now without a Studio Insider with another Community Q&A installment, and Concept Artist Diego Almazan explains the process of how he created his concept for the Sith burial ground.

I really wish they had included a bit of lore to go with it. Personally, I find it fascinating that this Sith tomb or temple is also described as a “prison for the dead”. You see a lot of cases of cultures constructing temples and large necropolises to honor or immortalize their dead, protecting the tomb’s contents and grave goods from the outside…usually not the other way around.

I would assume that a Sith burial ground meant they interred their own people here. Did that include any ancient Sith lords? Because that really says a lot about how they viewed their masters. Which I guess isn’t really all that surprising, given what I’ve learned recently from reading some Star Wars books. At the moment, I’m working my way through the Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn and even though it takes place more than two thousand years after the events of SWTOR, it talks enough about the old self-destructive ways of the Sith Order, where Sith plotted against other Sith in a never-ending cycle of distrust and infighting.

In any case, I liked the concept art of the tomb itself. Looking forward to seeing what it would actually look like in-game.

It’s a pretty light week, even I have to admit. Questions in the Q&A are mostly from folks who are worried about one thing or another, and answers are predictably and maddeningly vague. I am hoping they are saving some big news for PAX East, at which I am definitely going to stop by their Booth 912. And if the pattern holds, next week might be the Bounty Hunter class video and update. Come on, Bioware, make it so!

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SWTOR: Regrets And Mistakes Of The Great Hyperspace War

February 11, 2011

Today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is a new timeline video, chronicling the events of the Great Hyperspace War and the role played by the Sith Lord Naga Sadow.

Okay, so it looks like “Jedi” Master Gnost-Dural has toned down on the blatant rah-rahing over the Sith emperor in this week’s timeline, but say, doesn’t he still sound awfully bitter at the end there? And I could swear there’s almost a tinge of satisfaction when he talks about the Sith return to exact revenge against the Republic. His message was like one big “you guys totally blew it” and subsequently rubbing it in the Republic’s face.

Mark my words, I think there’s something fishy up with this Kel Dor, and he’s going to come out one of these days and make them look like a bunch of fools! God knows the Jedi has seen more moles than a dermatologist’s laser.

In all seriousness though, I have to say I’m getting a bit lost. I have to admit they did less in this timeline than they have in the previous ones in trying to link its contents back to SWTOR. It’s all relevant in that it’s lore, of course, but I can’t help but think if I’m starting to feel a bit lost, how foreign these timelines must all feel to someone just generally interested in the game.

Note we’re going backwards from the time of the game to uncover the root of the conflict between the Republic and the Empire, so in a way it makes sense that the further we get the more things will start to get a little extraneous. And now we’re at about 13 centuries before the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant.

This is treading deep into Tales of the Jedi and other Knights of the Old Republic comics territory. I noticed that a lot of the art in the video, including the costumes of Naga Sadow and others on Korriban are not only beautifully done but also very striking, but these were actually concepts established by comic artists back as early as the 90s.

I think I’m going to have to dig around my graphic novel collection to brush up on the stories again, strengthening my suspicions that the goal of these timelines isn’t necessarily to show players what to expect in the game, but instead it is a means of linking SWTOR to the ideas and stories behind the world of the Old Republic that has already been floating around for years. A way of saying, “Rest assured, folks, we’re going to be doing everything we can to tie SWTOR to the Star Wars mythos!” and “Hey look, there’s more of the Old Republic out there if you want to give money to Dark Horse and check it out!” at the same time, so to speak! 😛

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A Not-Too-Evil-Looking Fancy Space Yacht

January 14, 2011

Ugh, I experienced an epiphany while perusing the Star Wars: The Old Republic update today — the X-70B Phantom is too good for the Imperial Agent. Is that a wet bar I see in the corner there? Hey, I may be a loyal subject of the Empire, but I’d french kiss a rancor before I let my hard-earned tax credits pay for some Imperial dolt to schmooze and booze his way across the galaxy.

What, envious, me?

The lengthy Studio Insider entry that was released gives us a detailed look into the design process for the Agent starship, which should be of interest to the concept design/developer types. On a personal note, I have a lot of respect for artists who can render “techy” stuff. My own artistic strengths lie in living things like people or animals, so I absolutely admire those who can do things like ships, weapons and other machinery.

I’m also once again amazed at how the creative process for something seemingly so minor can involve the efforts of a team the size of a small village. Really puts the costs and development time into perspective, in my opinion. Bioware made a good choice in featuring the Phantom’s design from the ground up, as I’ll grudgingly admit that ever since its details were released I’ve always thought it was the coolest ship — both in the looks and function department. It’s fascinating to see how the pieces come together — which concepts come into play at which stages and which influences make it through to the final product, from floor plans of the Ebon Hawk to ideas on what “a certain British spy” might drive.

Now can I please have my Bounty Hunter update? Something tells me that the ship still won’t be as cool as the Phantom, but if it’ll have its own carbonite prisoner display room…okay, probably not, but a girl can dream.

Also released today was January’s edition of Fan Friday which includes the usual fan creations, concept art, forum avatars and smilies — but also a special event announcement. Not that we didn’t see this coming, but SWTOR will be present at PAX East later this year.

Awesome, so am I!

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Flesh Raiders Sound So Dirty To Me

November 19, 2010

Yep, today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is November’s edition of Fan Friday — a community feature that showcases things like fan creations, game concept art, new avatars and a small Developer Corner.

Except today’s developer insights have been expanded into a Studio Insider article, giving us a closer look at some of the creative processes behind the game. Today, concept artist Diego Almazan details the processes behind creating a set of Flesh Raiders.

If I recall correctly, these are the brutal marauders your Jedi will have to fight on your starting planet of Tython.

Also included in the update is a new Community Q & A section. Couldn’t have come at a better time, if you ask me. The recent string of Friday updates have garnered a wide range of comments, complaints and praise. For some fans, an information downswing can lead to disappointment and frustration rather than much needed revelation. Going by the reaction on the forums for those weeks, it would seem that no one gives a crap about Fan Fridays or lore updates.

Look, I care about any and all news about the game, but I can also see the problem here. Spring 2011 is about six months away. People are anxious. They demand details. Combat! Economy! End game! Guilds! PvP! Bioware won’t release information on anything until they feel it’s ready, and I applaud them for it. But that’s not going to fly for a community in an uproar that demands to know everything RIGHT NOW NOW NOW. My guess is that’s why Q & A was added, to promote two-way communication and to attempt to mollify complaints concerning the lack of dev interaction with the community. Sure, it might not be all the information, but for now, it’s an opportunity to reach out, combat the negativity and put a few real or imagined worries to rest.

Some good questions in there, can’t wait to see more. This probably isn’t a very significant thing to get excited about, but it did pique my interest to see helmet on/off toggle confirmed. All risk of romantic kissy scenes and awkward bonky bonky moments aside, I didn’t spend half an hour customizing my character’s face just to hide it behind a clunky helm!