Let’s take an art-dive into the inspiration and iterations on Tiny Starpilot’s transforming player jet/robot.
Like many venerable 3D games before me, my character started as a block of tofu.
I’m particularly proud of the squish on landing.
This design actually does a lot of lifting early-on. It cuts the overhead of iterating on character root motion, and clarifies little details like how when the tofu flies it can lean-forward 90° and point it’s local-up-axis forward to avoid having to swap from a tall to a long hitbox.
There’s a vocal contingent of indies who argue that this is also good to ship. After all, if the game is already fun as a greybox, what function does the art serve, except to demonstrate that you’re a big company with money to spend?
But indie games are more than mechanics – they’re a parasocial experience amongst and between creators and players. I’m not just building an experience to tickle your proprioception-pleasure-centers, I’m expressing solidarity by positioning the work within a shared enthusiast genre: stylish anime mecha shiiiit.
I could watch “booting up cockpit computer” sequences all day.
The more specific proximate motivation for me to investigate character art was seeing the cool process-posts and sizzle-reels Ivy May made for Coquette Dragoon using Blender. Now I wanted to learn Blender!!
Girls love + alternative mecha VN series Coquette Dragoon is now out in early access! ~50k words. Contains full first two chapters and preview of chapter three! Coquette is for adults only and contains dark/suggestive themes, read at your own discretion. https://t.co/mh62zNIE0h pic.twitter.com/nnBO7ZuKVu— iby (@burgeroise) July 19, 2022
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I vocalized a lot of transformation and impact sounds while drawing this.
finished the arms and shield-panels. now just for the wing panels which I... forgot to draw in my reference images -__-;; pic.twitter.com/6mYJDNb81o— Max! (@xewlupus) March 9, 2020
TL;DR Review of Blender: great modeling workflow, but character rigging was a pain.
One afternoon of game-engine-noodling and IK-wrangling later, and we were in business.
Skull Squadron color scheme, Naturally.
This looked sicc, and left me feeling pretty chuffed, but shortly it became clear there were some dealbreakers.
- The asset was too detailed, and didn’t match the environment.
- It was too labor-intensive for other props.
- The “jet” shape lacked personality.
So I went back to the drawing board and designed a simpler character that more naturally decomposed into a “boxy”/low-poly"/"fifth-generationy" model.
I still wanted to retain the the boyish/feminine figure.
The legs swing into trusters, and the arms fold between them, centered under the chasis.
My personal innovation was to make the knee slide-up along a track on the back of the leg to form v-shaped thrusters, which exagerates the thrust-aperture-narrowing animation in game and makes the afterburner feel more responsive.
I didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I did put my fingerprint on it.
This was a triumph, I’m making a note here: huge success. I’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. It looks great next to other low-poly assets, it’s easy to make quick changes, and it has a lot of personality.
I think I did a Good Job!
Now for the really hard part: picking a name. 🤦