Hello, this is Taehoon Oh and James Chung. We're very pleased to share our work experience here. I'll handle the 3D part like modeling, textures and rendering, and James will take you through the concept part. The Bigun is the artwork we produced for the Dominance War 2 competition, where we won the grand champion first place.
Part 1 - The Concept
When Taehoon contacted me to design the character for the DWII contest, I first had to decline due to my busywork schedule. However, I gave it a thought and suggested to Taehoon that I would direct the project. Besides, this way, I could bring in a designer who is way more capable than I. And I am very thankful that Karl agreed to design the character.
Taehoon initially expressed his desire to go for more of a human style character in a futuristic type body armor. Much in line of characters from games like the War Hammer, Unreal series or even the Gears of War (and probably more in line with CGtalk or Polycount's themes). Upon examining the contest categories as well as Taehoon's strength in modeling, I have decided to go with 3DTotal's "Machine Race" theme. Since Karl is an excellent mecha designer and Taehoon is an awesome hard surface 3D modeler/ texture artist, I thought 3DTotal's theme was more suitable for both artists.
After we chose which race to go with, next step was to come up with visual image reference. If we had months to develop such character, I would spend much more time in this stage to examine and establish what kind of visual/design target we are setting as a goal. Since we didn't have that kind of time, my solution was to draw inspiration from existing materials. These visual references were:
Tsutomu Nihei's Blame
Nirasawa's Phantom Core/Creature Core
The "Borg" race from the Star Trek series
Anyone familiar with sci-fi genre should be familiar with these designs and the obvious connection to Bigun. Personally, I'm not into designs that lack social/historical context of the character. What I mean by this is that there is a lot of cool looking characters created by many talented artists. But, not many show strong contextual thematic design elements which helps the audience to feel the world those characters belong to. Our "Bigun" character was no exception.
In order to set such parameter, I made a quick sketch of what the other three races might be like in the world Bigun belongs to. In order to preserve the concept of "race", I stayed away from using monsters or alien creatures. So, in our team's world, all four races were some kind of human derived characters. And the design of the character was to have a strong resemblance to a humanoid form of anatomy.
Even though Bigun is a human derived race, it is probably the least human like character out of all four races. Not only was the premise behind 3DTotal's race about a Polycount's race being fused with machinery, it was probably the least "decorative" when it comes to detailed elements within the design. At least, that's how I perceived it. This meant that for Bigun's race, any sort of non functioning/decorative elements probably would never exist. They are a race made out of people who are mass produced just to be a mean killing machine. Not only that, even from within that, Bigun's model of race were created to be Shadows, a class of specialized soldiers made to be dropped in the middle of most heated battle and cause havoc. For such a race, things to indicate personalizing decals, decorative patterns were meaningless. I wanted to focus on the fact that these machine race just rolls out of its factory just to be in the battlefield. This design theme also work well with the visual reference I have set. Machine race from Blame, Phantom Core and Borg already has this theme as a common denominator.
This thought is more apparent in the color scheme.
Bigun's paint job on the body was maximized to suit the battle condition. So, since we were pretty clear on what kind of visual we were going for, now, it was time for Karl to start his magic. After providing the information and the visual reference, I let Karl to come up with his first concept design. And this is what he came up with.
Now, I love this design. Karl clearly understands what kind of design direction I am going for. And I believe his design is unique enough to earn its own spot with the references I've mentioned above. However, there is one aspect of the design I wanted to change. For the 3Dtotal's race, I really wanted to move away from a soft tissue body in an armor look. Even though I wanted to retain the humanoid form, I really wanted to make his body type to be very different. A character with a body that is undoubtedly very machine like. Besides, the contest rule was to feature less than 20% of the organic part shown. So, what is the point of making it look like there is some kind of organic body under the armor?
Another huge point I wanted to emphasize in out design is the clear silhouette of the character. This aspect of the design process is often neglected by so many artists. I personally believe if you have a strong silhouette of the character down, you are done with 50% of the design itself. Not only that, in videogame context, it is crucial to provide the player with a form of a character that is easy to read and define.
In order to illustrate this point, I made this quick thumbnail sketch for Karl.