Friday, October 28, 2011

Concept Art for the Caer Race

Sigmoid Studios' newest member, Brian Baumann, has been hard at work on both the concept art and the 3D models for the first of two alien races in Project Orbit.

This race, which we decided to spell caer, is still the subject of some debate in terms of pronunciation.  I'm in favor of pronouncing it /sah - air/, whereas Kacey has suggested /say - eer/. While the two of us are studiously examining the literary implications of each pronunciation ( lol ), Brian has turned the vague design ideas we threw at him into something more concrete.  The results are quite exciting!


Here's what we gave him to work with:

  • Alien
  • Intelligent
  • Expressive
  • Non-insectoid
  • Non-humanoid

The first four points are no problem, but the last one is still giving us a bit of trouble.  Brian started from a humanoid figure, which is good for creating something naturally expressive, but bad if you don't want your alien to look human.

The upright stance is certainly reminiscent of human posture, but this is perhaps easily remedied. One option is to give the caer two postures -- an offensive posture in which he is on his two feet, rifle in hand, and a fast-movement posture in which he is sprinting on all fours.

In order to make the two positions seem more natural for the creature, the four-legged configuration will still have the torso in a partial upward incline, much like a gorilla.  The legs will provide most of the power and the arms will assist in balance and maneuvering.

The upright configuration can be modified in the following way to make it seem less human:
The red lines represent the major axes of the caer skeleton.  The rest should be fairly self-explanatory.  Adding in some thoracic and/or lumbar curvature will probably make it seem more natural too, but I'd like to avoid anything gorilla-esque.  That particular problem may be best avoided by changing some of the thoracic proportions.  Maybe he needs a smaller chest and narrower hips?  A shorter back, perhaps?


I asked Brian to draw some inspiration from a chicken leg, and even went into some detail explaining that chickens do not, in fact, have a rear-facing knee.  This isn't at all what I had in mind, but I think it's brilliant.

As mentioned before, we're considering giving the caer two postures.  These postures are not simple aesthetic choices, however.  The intent is for these to reflect a gameplay feature.

I'll leave the storytelling to Kacey, but the caer owe their existence to a unique capacity for hit-and-run, harassment and stealth tactics.  The idea is for the player to be able to switch between the speed stance and the offensive stance.  The offensive stance allows the caer to directly attack using primary weapons -- business as usual.  The speed stance would unlock a number of interesting features including:
  • Sprint:  The caer can cover large distances much faster.  This would be useful for breaking contact with enemy troops and conducting quick raids on isolated targets.
  • Leap:  The caer can use their large, powerful legs to leap over very large distances.  This would be useful for ambushing targets, hopping over defensive lines, breaking contact, or clearing terrain obstacles.
  • Defensive Bonus:  Caer in the speed-stance have a probability-based chance of avoiding attacks.  In other words, a certain percentage of bullets will miss them.
The head will most definitely change.  Despite the removal or deformation of certain facial features, caer heads still have a distinctly human quality about them.  The replacement of the mouth with a few tracheal openings is a good idea, but why then does the creature have a jawline?  What purpose does the point on its head serve?

These are the things that hard scifi demands answers for...

I suggested to Brian that he replace the ear lobes with holes, that he remove the jaw altogether, shrink the head, and try to mount the eyes on the side of the skull (but still facing forward).

Concept art is tough.  Having a prototype of a concept is rewarding in that we can get a clearer picture of how the game will look and be played.  It's also frustrating because we can't model something without having knowing what we want.

For now, we'll just tackle this one modification at a time, Brian willing!  Any suggestions can be posted to the comments.  We're curious to know what people think!

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