External Project: Part 3

I sat in front of a lightbox for several hours the day before final presentation to make these refined sketches. They are primary made with pencil outlines and markers to add shadow and textures. I imagine that they would have different textures that could be mixed and matched, which would add extra flexibility for the game artists. The details are mostly based on Moroccan, Ethiopian and Nigerian designs, with a reoccurring motif in the form of an inverted drop-shape. It represents the rising sun as well as the comet the original tribes follow when they left earth thousands of years ago.

I made a building entirely out of four different kit-parts I designed to show how they would work practically, as well as a ruined version to show what the player would encounter. This version was without doubt the thing I struggled most with, mainly because it was difficult to decide how intact the ruins should be. Too little and there would not be challenging enough for the players, too much and the challenge would be to hard. I solved it by removing the outer walls, opening up the ruin like André Bloc's sculptures, or a damaged beehive. You have a pretty good idea of the foundation, but you do not know how far the middle tower stretched, nor how it ended.

The team was quite impressed by my work and thought there was a good balance of simplicity and details. The only complaint I got was that one of the designers really disliked the idea of tiled roofs, but that can always be changed in the future. I personally also felt that I should have made larger building block that suited my previous sketches, like slanted round bases, gates, air wells, wind catchers and more. The main idea is pretty solid though and I really hope they commission me for professional concept art in the near future.

External Project: Part 2

Two sketchbooks later and I had lots of sketches and ideas, but I had no idea how to combine them. I really enjoyed the stone carved churches of Ethiopia, the organic shapes of adobe spectacular in Nigeria and Mali, as well as the geometric shapes and patterns in Moroccan and Moor architecture, but they are quite different from each other. I also felt that I forgot the Byzantine elements, which I wanted to explore and perhaps add in. My first attempt was redraw sketches in the style of adobe spectacular and André Bloc. The result was quite dissatisfying, so I started to add Moroccan architecture to the mix and draw complete buildings.

At this point I felt all my sketches were flat and lacked volume, which was really problematic for designing 3d elements. I decided to switch to markers and make simpler sketches to get the general shape and volume right. This helped me to go through my ideas and find elements that I enjoyed, meaning that I gradually left adobe spectacular and focused more on the Moroccan elements. The designs I enjoyed the most was then redrawn in rough pencil sketches just before my sketch meeting with the studio.

The studio really enjoyed my research process and the work I done so far, but they pointed out that I had mainly focused on towers and building blocks. They asked me to draw separate public buildings, like temples, plazas and markets. During all my research I had also forgot to break down my designs into hexagon blocks, as well as drawing ruins. There was in other words lot of things I needed to solve in just one week. The first step I took was to print a hexagon pattern and block in potential floor plans to see what kind of shapes I could use. This was later made into wireframes that I used for later sketches.

Some of the blocks were taken straight from my earlier sketches, while other expanded on earlier designs as well as new inspirations from Byzantine architecture, as well as older buildings from Tibet and Yemen. Adobe spectacular had at this point been reduced from silhouette designs to windows and portal designs, as well as some convex and concave blocks. Moroccan influences can mostly be seen through textures as well as the rows of arches. I also played with the idea of making larger blocks, like the air well and the large city port, but I had to cut them due to time constraints. The elements I did have was then combined into simple building sketches to see how well they would fit together.

Just a few days before the final presentation I decided to refine four styles of building blocks, three styles of roofs, and some additional elements. Not only did I look back at my previous sketches, but I also added elements from Ethiopian architecture and add the rounded tiled roofs of Hagia Sofia in Turkey. I also did some outdoor stairs without railing, similar to Tunisian architecture as seen in the old Star Wars trilogy. Slowly my final designs started to come together.

External Project: Part 1

The last task we got during final year was to choose one of several external projects, where we either enter competitions or collaborate with professional businesses or organizations. I choose to collaborate with a small indie game studio and produce concept art for an upcoming game. Since it is still under development, I cannot delve into details as much as I usually do. However, I can say that the task was to create hexagon architecture blocks or kit-parts they could use to generate buildings. They also wanted the architecture to be a combination/evolution of ancient egyptian, byzantine and ottoman styles and motifs.

However, I was more interested in African architecture and symbols since that is something we rarely see in video games. My first stop was to watch the first season of the BBC documentary “Lost Kingdoms of Africa,” which explored Nubia, Ethiopia, Great Zimbabwe and West Africa. I got so inspired that I filled an A5 sketchbook with 40 pages over a weekend! Most sketches are from the first season, but there are also some patterns and symbols from library books as well as inspirational photographs that I had to pixelate for the blog.

Before I went into second season, I decided to look at installation artist Ernesto Neto, architectures Frederick John Kiesler and André Bloc, sci-fi artists Roger Dean and Mœbius, organic shapes like termite mounds, pitcher plants, and banksia pods. I also loaned some books on African and/or Islamic architecture, which generated several pages of thumbnail sketches. This was quite good, since the second season of the documentary focused more on folklore and artefacts than architecture, which made it less useful to me. The exception was the episode about the Berber kingdom of Marocco, which slowly became my main source of inspiration.