Gears of War: Creature Design
Gears of War has become one of the biggest gaming brands of recent years, with novels, comics, merchandise and a proposed movie fleshing out the universe established in the two Xbox 360 games. In this video series, available on DVD or as a digital download, Epic Games concept artist James Hawkins reveals the exhaustive creation of just one of the many creatures in Gears of War: the Hydra, which plays a major role in Gears of War 2 after a cameo in the original game.
James’ process starts with a side-view concept sketch of the creature. You’ll see how he uses Photoshop to copy and rework different body parts until he feels they look right. This stage is essentially a search for what he calls the visual hook – the design element that sets this drawing apart from the thousands made by artists before him, and a strong identifier for the creature. He also discusses how he and his colleagues achieve different looks for each side of the game’s central conflict.
Getting the sketch right accounts for about 30 per cent of the running time, and is the strongest part of the video. Dominating the disc, however, is an extended look at building a 3D model based on the sketch, enabling him to render the design from any angle. James uses 3ds Max, although many of his techniques can be reproduced in more affordable 3D software.
Talking at length about working practices in the video games industry, James is an engaging companion as he constructs the model, but he offers only a superficial discussion of his tools, which may be frustrating if you want to incorporate 3D into your own work.
Digital painters will be equally disillusioned by the cursory 25 minutes or so he devotes to painting over the 3D render in Photoshop. You should enjoy this glimpse at life in the games industry, but you may be disappointed by the lack of technical detail.
1. A beast is born
2. Fleshing out ideas
3. Wrapping up the initial sketch
4. Starting the 3D concept
5. Working the model
6. Getting into details
7. Finishing the 3D concept
8. Polishing it off