con­cept­ing a sa­mu­rai as­sas­sin

As­sis­tant art direc­tor An­drew Jang­woon Im ex­plains why re­search was key to creat­ing his favourite char­ac­ter

ImagineFX - - The Art Of For Honor -

“I first got as­signed to do a char­ac­ter by my art direc­tor, Chris­tian, and he ex­plained mi­nor de­tails about the char­ac­ters. This was a time when I used all my cre­ativ­ity and spent most of my time re­search­ing, to learn about the char­ac­ter.

When we had our next meet­ing, we ex­changed our ideas us­ing early sketches, and tried to solve any prob­lems. This was when the de­sign boundary kicked in, which means I learned what was pos­si­ble for rig­ging pur­poses, an­i­ma­tion and so on.

I made mis­takes at the start of the project, which meant my art couldn’t work for ei­ther mod­el­ling or an­i­ma­tion. I learned my lesson: al­ways check with ev­ery­one be­fore sub­mit­ting a char­ac­ter! Af­ter many it­er­a­tions, I met the lead 3D artists and rig­gers to check if my con­cept art was func­tional. Once I got their ap­proval, my art was pre­sented to the up­per man­age­ment.

My favourite char­ac­ter is Orochi, a sa­mu­rai as­sas­sin. It was the first char­ac­ter I was asked to do and it sur­vived all the way through the project. I col­lected hun­dreds of ref­er­ence im­ages from movies, games, an­i­ma­tion, comic book, il­lus­tra­tions, fig­urines and pho­tographs of real ar­mour.

I would nor­mally spend al­most 60 per cent of my work­ing process find­ing ref­er­ences. Not only im­ages, but read­ing ma­te­ri­als, to learn about the his­tory of ar­mour. Be­cause I like to com­pletely un­der­stand what I’m de­sign­ing, some­times it takes even longer to start sketch­ing.

Orochi was my first char­ac­ter, so I learnt a lot about sa­mu­rai cul­ture and their ar­mour dur­ing the game’s de­vel­op­ment. I cre­ated many it­er­a­tions, be­cause there were lots of flaws in the de­sign. But when­ever I see this char­ac­ter, he re­minds me of the ex­cite­ment and pas­sion I felt at the start of the project.”

re­fin­ing each char­ac­ter un­til the im­age on­screen matched the ideas in their heads.

“A lot of re­search was done on each fac­tion – their cul­ture, their tools, ob­ject art, how they live – in or­der to find what re­ally sep­a­rated them,” say Remko. “It’s a harsh and dark uni­verse where war, clans, suf­fer­ing and the search for power rules. Peo­ple are fight­ing since the ages. Prob­a­bly they don’t even know why they’re fight­ing anymore. Live and die by the blade!”

The me­dieval set­ting in which these blades are swung is as cap­ti­vat­ing as the char­ac­ters who swing them. As Lu­dovic Ribardiere, con­cept artist on the game, says, “The big­gest chal­lenge was cred­i­bil­ity: will the player be­lieve what they’re see­ing on screen?”

“Even if – or maybe, be­cause – we’re not a his­tor­i­cal game,” Jeong Hwan Shin says, “we have to be con­sis­tent. The se­nior con­cept artist says the team wanted to be re­spect­ful of the art, cul­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture for the three

groups of war­riors. But at the same time, each had to have a strong iden­tity.

“You have to to­tally rein­vent parts of a real world,” Jeong con­tin­ues. “The re­sult is gritty and grandiose, with a des­o­late beauty.” He ex­plains how each mem­ber of the team was given a lot of free­dom to put their own ideas into the game, but they al­ways came back to Chris­tian’s orig­i­nal pil­lars. “We were told to look at the shape and de­sign of ar­chi­tec­tures. Look at how we em­pha­sised or ex­ag­ger­ated things. And also look at some other lay­ers of dec­o­ra­tions on top of the ba­sic struc­ture of ar­chi­tec­tures, set dress­ings and graphic de­signs such as em­blems and fac­tion lo­gos. These were added to give some more mod­ern touch Chris­tian wanted, to en­hance the colour and tone of the over­all look of the game.”

The team stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture and left no stone un­turned in their at­tempts at make their set­tings cred­i­ble, re­search­ing the kind of roof­ing, col­umns and en­grav­ings each war­rior lived among. It wasn’t just a case of repli­cat­ing what they found, but rather get­ting the facts straight and then adapt­ing de­signs to make them their own. “Some­times we had to re­ally study, to un­der­stand how the build­ing was made,” Jeong says, “what ma­te­ri­als were used, what func­tions the struc­ture has, why the ar­chi­tec­ture has a cer­tain shape.”

Yeah, ba d-ass

An­drew Jang­woon Im, in charge of vik­ings, gives a good ex­am­ples of how facts were twisted to cre­ate some­thing new. De­spite the idea we all have, he says, vik­ings never re­ally had horns on their hel­mets.

“We de­cided to add horns to vik­ings be­cause that was within the boundary of fan­tasy we had al­lowed our­selves. Vis­ually, with horns, they looked bad-ass.”

For all the blood­shed and be­head­ings, the game is lovely to look at. And it’s more tech­ni­cal that you might think. The Art of Bat­tle fight mode – hold­ing your sword in one of three stances to de­fend and at­tack – gives fights a tac­ti­cal el­e­ment. There’s also a strong nar­ra­tive ty­ing all these bat­tles to­gether. But mainly it’s a tough, meaty brawler of a game: the art team has captured per­fectly the no­bil­ity and stu­pid­ity of war. For Honor is fun. But, above ev­ery­thing else, it’s be­liev­able.

“Hon­estly, I never had a sin­gle doubt for our game,” An­drew says, “Even when there were only stick men fight­ing each other. The game­play, The Art of Bat­tle, was just amaz­ing. I’m a hard-core gamer. I’ve played this game for about four years and I still en­joy play­ing it.

“Bad-ass. I hope bad-ass is the word to de­scribe our char­ac­ters. Yeah, bad-ass.”

You have to rein­vent parts of the real world. The re­sult is gritty and grandiose

The Cho­sen The samu­rais are known for their bru­tal ef­fi­ciency, but will they win the fight? An­drew’s con­cept art shows the calm be­fore the storm. Orochi For the char­ac­ter Orochi, An­drew com­bined el­e­ments of the ninja and sa­mu­rai aes­thetic.

cursed lands Like a lot of lands in the game, forests are cursed, poi­sonous en­vi­ron­ments. Lu­dovic de­picted trees as tor­tured shapes mixed with parts of wrecked ships and other ob­jects.

In­spi­ra­tion Guil­laume says that when he came up with his char­ac­ter de­signs the TV se­ries Vik­ing was a big in­spi­ra­tion, as was Game of Thrones.

Knight Sa nc­tu­ary Back­drop To give a wow feel­ing to the player at ground level, Jeong ex­ag­ger­ated me­dieval ar­chi­tec­tural wall el­e­ments.

Fight­ing stance Is the axe might­ier than the sword? Each of the game’s three archetypes has their own strengths and weak­nesses. Remko’s vik­ing favours the axe. Home sweet home Lu­dovic’s early con­cept for a vik­ing fortress. He aimed to de­pict some­thing quite rough: a mix of huge en­graved wooden beams, old stones, tar­pau­lins and ropes. Fight them on the beaches For all its vi­o­lence, For Honor is a beau­ti­ful game to look at, and Maxime’s en­vi­ron­ment art re­flects this aes­thetic well.

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