In the foreword, I shared the basic premise for the game as the shared adventures of Nick, Chris, and Ariel; a bounty hunter, a techno-con artist, and a street performer who form the core crew of the StarCaster. While there are other characters who will join them in the future, we decided early on that these three are the center of the experience we wish to build as the ones who most often aim to misbehave.
And, we've got prototype art for them! Courtesy of Mark Jenkins, AKA The Regressor.
Mark is a 3D artist with a penchant for creating "regressed" models designed to mimic the N64/PS1 era of graphics. While his work here doesn't adhere strictly to the constraints of the era, he has a remarkable ability to capture the spirit of it and get across the designs of the characters in as few polygons as possible.
We've been deliberating for a while on what kind of art would be the most "bang for the buck" to get at this stage of development, whether it should be concept art, high-quality models, or something else. After seeing the old Final Fantasy games being run on Awesome Games Done Quick, however, we were inspired to commission the Regressor himself to help dust off that style.
The logic behind this is that since we're still in pre-production the best thing we could do is build prototypes that get the idea of the game across clearly yet quickly. Basically, we want to be able to build some overworld scenes, get a feel for how the characters' colors and designs read in the environment on a conceptual level, and be able to play around with them, using simple emotes and gestures to build cinematics. This is something that I've done a lot in past game projects, TOME included, and it enables a lot of spontanaety in generating overworld interactions.
While we don't know if the final character art will look like this, we will say that the reactions to it have been surprisingly positive. Additionally, all of them use a similar enough rig that we're able to transfer animations between them with relative ease. Mark's in the process of working on a few prototype animations, so we won't be showing those just yet, but we've already gotten some mileage out of doing a few gestural and material tests inside Unity.
We'll share more of these as we do them, but even low-poly characters like these go a long way in conveying their intended attitude and spirit.
To round things out, Mark also provided us with a set of "mannequin" characters with swappable texture maps.
These will be filling the role of "stand-in" NPCs as we build our little test world to play around in.
In a few following updates we'll share some more details about the individual characters and the intended art direction of the game. Stay tuned!