Traditionally, Plarium releases large-scale updates of its projects just following the New Year holiday. This year, artists Olga Starodubtseva and Maksim Koverya created a new Unit – the Ice Guardian – for our record-breaking strategy game, “Stormfall: Age of War”.. So prepare yourself to read a very informative account of how the most cold-blooded warrior in the history of Darkshine was created!

It all started with an idea… a set of ideas, to be more precise. These ideas were quite difficult to manage and fully comprehend at first, and they took a while before finally taking the shape we had initially envisioned. In order not to reinvent the wheel, the Concept Artists went back and looked at how similar units were designed on other projects. This is always important to avoid repetition and common mistakes. Concept Artists do not simply create 2D drawings, they study material, and search for various interpretations of an image and ways of presenting the character.

First of all, it was necessary to work on the silhouette. We had only two weeks to work on the Ice Guardian, so the initial sketches were created in color, with careful attention to the shape and details.

The selected sketch was drawn in more detail so the 3D Artist could figure out the shape and aesthetic elements.

After the concept was received, the 3D Artist made a draft that later developed into a full-fledged model.

As you can see, the sketch only vaguely resembles the final product, but this is exactly how it looked when the sculpting process began. Our 3D and 2D Artists started working together: each step was monitored and adjusted in case it was necessary to correct the anatomic or armor shape.

At the next stage, the model was imported to 3D-Coat, and the artist started “chopping ice” using dissection and cutting tools. 3D-Coat is perfect for this because geometric cutting tools are intuitive and allow an artist to perform virtually any action with the model.

The armor was created in 3ds Max, and the next step was adjusting lighting and shading.

The artist then made a screenshot of the model, cut their references in Photoshop, and placed the armor on the model.

Following that, the artist created a plane and edited it by adding sections and stretching points so that they repeated the pattern. After creating half of the plane, the Symmetry modifier was applied to the second half of the plane.

The rest of the armor was created in the same manner as the armor belt.

Seam cutting and armor development were done using 3D-Coat.

When the model was being created, 3 light sources were used to bring life to the model: a standard directional light, a light from above (simulating the sky), and light emanating from inside the helmet itself.

The armor was also textured in 3D-Coat.

The first step was creating materials that would texture the object. In this case, they were rusty and natural-looking metal plates.

The second step was selecting “cube mapping” from the mapping field – this meant the texture would be projected on the object in multiple directions instead of the plane.

Then, the entire armor was covered with a smooth texture by using a gradient tool.

After that, the artist spotted places where armor might often be dirty and added dirt or a rusty texture.

3D-Coat, which is similar to Photoshop, allows an artist to adjust blending modes. Working with brushes is similar to Photoshop, so 3D-Coat isn’t very difficult to learn for those who are familiar with Photoshop.

To draw scratches on the armor, the artist had to adjust the extrusion channel, select a brush, and get to work!

In this case, there was no need to create a high poly mesh to remove normals from it – the artist was able to do it using 3D-Coat based on the finished middle poly. This method does not work all the time, but for this particular case, there were no problems.

A bump and specular map was the next part of the process:

And this is what the metal material looked like in 3ds Max:

We only painted the armor; the body was created from a material resembling ice. The ice-like material was adjusted manually, as this was essential in creating the Ice Guardian.

To create ice, the artist used a complex material, based on multi-layered shellac. The regular material of the model had luminous added to make it brighter.

When the 3D work was completed, the model went back to the 2D Artist for post-processing. The light was adjusted, extra elements were added, and some textures or details were replaced to improve the final image.

The preliminary sketch:

The final version:

Until recently, 3D Artists at Plarium were responsible for concepts, modelling, and creating characters from scratch. The separation of work between concept artists and 3D Designers helped to greatly lessen the workload and reduce the creation time required for each model.

Original article: (in Russian).

Authors: Nikolaev Plarium Studio 3D Artist, Maksim Koverya, and Kharkiv Plarium Studio Concept Artist, Olga Starodubtseva.