Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Characters & Story of the Leylines World


All of the creatures on the planet Miria were born directly from her thoughts and imaginings - the children of her mind. In the beginning, she dreamed of the Shellek and so they were made that Miria may take care of herself. Then, she dreamed of mankind, and so they were made that Miria may know herself.

Blindingly intelligent, humanity sought knowledge of the world, to master it, and to turn its elements to their will. The very earth of Miria is filled with beautiful crystals, which contain her memories, her knowledge - ancient wisdom of impossible magnitude - and the very life source of the planet itself. In their endless quest for mastery and improvement, humans realized they could leash even Miria's eldest children to their will. Utilizing their technology, humans enslaved the Shellek and used the entire race to move the earth and mind Miria's precious bounty on an unimaginable scale. These crystals were slowly chipped away and gradually the planet began to wither away.

Constant contact with these crystals was too much for the Shellek to handle - their bodies and minds became warped and corrupted. Mankind's technology could no longer controlled these maddened, rapidly evolved creatures. The Shellek's leader called for the destruction of their proud human masters, and for the complete consumption of the crystalline energy that had "enlightened" them. Humanity, having been far too reliant on their insectoid slaves, stood nearly helpless as the Shellek destroyed most of their kind.

The day of the Great Destruction happened nearly twenty years ago.

The Shellek, consumed by madness and their uncontrollable thirst for these crystals, have forgotten their own reason for being. As for Miria ... she wove one final thought in desperation to save herself.

This is where the Leylines story begins.


AGE: NINETEEN    |    NICKNAMES: VAL, VEE    |    HEIGHT: 5'9''    |     WEIGHT: 143 LBS


Miria's final thought, the planet's desperate last hope for her own salvation, created Vala. She was born from a massive crystal, deep within a long-forgotten valley. As fortune would have it, this valley was a holy site for the nomadic Prisima pilgrims. On the very day of her birth, a handful of these nomads visited the sight and discovered the newborn within the crystal. Knowing this child to be a blessing from the planet Miria herself, the tribe's chieftan adopted Vala as his own. She was raised without knowing of her true origins, as her father worried for the effect that knowledge would have on her, and grew up as an ordinary child would. Despite her drastically different features that separated her from her tribesman, she never questioned her place among the Prisima. Her origins were a secret kept by the chieftan and his closest confidants for many years.


Though Miria fell further and further into desolation, the pilgrims continued paying homage to any holy sites still free of Shellek infestation. Now nineteen-years-old, no member of Vala's tribe doubts her bravery or ability. She learned the trade of hunter as she entered adulthood, providing food to her tribe while they wandered the world's ever-expanding wastes. The role of hunter in this broken world requires a rare kind of indefatigable stoicism, and Vala has always felt particularly at piece when stalking dunes alone.

Vala has a relatively quiet demeanor, often finding speech unnecessary, and she treasures the times during which all her clansmen kneel together in silent reflection. There she can be beside those she treasures as family without feeling pressured to utter a word. Vala also grew in a time when the world had been all but shattered by the Shellek, their kind continuing to infest Miria far and wide. Her bed time stories painted them as wicked monsters, and her adult life has seen some of these tales come true.

Dear friends have been found rent apart by those menacing creatures. Though she masks it all in silent anger, Vala is deeply afraid of the Shellek. That she may be the next to never return from an excursion, or that more of her tribe will be taken from her is her greatest fear. Partially due to this phobia, partially inheriting her adoptive father's overprotective nature, Vala cares deeply for the safety of her fellow tribesmen, especially the children. Fear or no, she would not hesitate to face down a writhing swarm of the insects if it meant protecting someone important to her.


To most, the Ley Lines offer but a brief, overwhelming glimpse into the mind of Miria. The memories and knowledge of an entire world, ancient and vast, flood into any who touch a Ley Line, and few can bear the sensation for long. Fewer still can take from the experience any lasting meaning, and none can translate that meaning into anything more.

Vala, however, was created by Miria with the singular ability to make some sense of the wisdom and power inherent within each Ley Line. Beyond just mere comprehension, Vala can turn the power imparted by the Ley Lines into environment-changing abilities, granting her limited control over the very fabric of the world.

Space, time, and gravity bend to her will, at least in some capacity, depending on the Ley Line to which she has attuned. The effort tends to be exhausting for her relatively meager human body, however, when done for too long.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Concepts AHOY

This week marked the first (official) week of Leylines' development! It was filled with the wonders of character design, Moebius dissection, shader plotting, and the beginnings of graphic design.

Along the process of drafting thumbnails for every character and monster that may appear in Leylines, we discovered that it's insanely important to truly dissect Jean Giraud's artistic style, make some notes, and keep that close to us as a reference - rather than just go by our wonderfully artistic eyes. It truly helped us get a better eye for environments, organic creatures, and overall shape language.

Each of our studies, covering characters, creatures, environments, line, color, mood, and composition.

With that out of the way ... we've been hard at work at crafting thumbnails for our game. Here they are! Our 2D/3D artists have been learning to use Zbrush as a concepting tool and it's added another dimension to our concept art.

One of our existing challenges is figuring out the Shellek's shape language, as we will want a natural feel to them. Our designs of the Shellek are integrated with the very crystals of Miria, which caused their descent into madness and bodily mutations. Our first priority was designing concepts for the main antagonist: the leader of the Shellek.

Next, we began to design concepts for lesser Shellek. Some of these designs will become enemies Vala encounters when she explores ancient temples.

Onto more minor characters ... a new one was created! Temple Guards. Very few currently exist, as Crystal Temples have been dominated by Shelleks. They were once guardians of what was once revered as holy sites. These designs were meant to embody Temple Guards as a whole, not one singular individual. So, these may be closer to "costume designs" for the Temple Guards.  We threw in some designs for their bows too.

Before we crafted concrete supporting characters, we messed around with some possibilities of what we can include. We drafted some female characters, male characters, and even some creatures that may assist Vala on her journey. Here's a look at that.

Onward to environments! Leylines is meant to be a platformer game. So a goal for environments is to create a world with depth, detail, intrigue, and usability - all while maintaining that surreal feeling present in Moebius artwork. 

Leylines is going to have quite a few visual effects going on. For instance, Vala's arrows are going to have a more magical quality to them and likely be closer to (Leyline) energy projections. Here are some concepts of visual effects for arrows, crystals, and the Leylines themselves.

And a first pass In Engine!

In the midst of all of this ... our Art Manager Andrew has been working on a few technical art aspects for Leylines!

Moebius has a very distinctive style to it. Because of that, we will be needing some shaders developed to aid us in really pulling off the look Jean Giraud conceptualized. This is the beginning to achieving the linework and posterized look his artwork has.

We discussed that Vala will learn more about herself, her role, and the past with the Shellek through accessing "memory crystals". This is a current pass at this idea!

Finally, we have been working on some graphic design elements to Leylines' as well! This is currently our first iteration at potential logos, taking Jean Giraud's own handwriting as an influence.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Animation Dissection - Pt o1 [ Inspirations ]

On every front, Leylines is making gradual progress as a game. Jean Giraud's Moebius series serves as our principle inspiration for this game. That being said, we're also taking artistic influences from Alex Toth, Lara Croft Go, and Matteo Bassini.  Now that we have an increasingly better foundation for the artistic style Leylines will be heading towards, animation research has now commenced!
As the animator for the Leylines game, I've approached my animation research by heavily considering both character and enemy personalities. Our producers have been hard at work crafting an imaginative, engaging, and intriguing world. In turn, our artists have been pretty skilled at conveying that world into their concept art. Call it a trickle-down effect because I've been influenced by those concepts!


Vala is our protagonist (that we swear is not named after Steffen). She can be briefly characterized as being brave, pure-hearted, and righteous. 

As it's planned now, her animations will likely be done through motion capture. A good chunk of the members on the Leylines development team have taken (or are currently taking) Motion Capture lessons to either record MoCap animation data or direct a MoCap session. Despite the fact that we're using MoCap, there's still some animation influences I plan on referencing when I get down to editing and personalizing the data. 


For Vala (and any other human in Leylines), our first animation reference will be the work of Hayao Miyazaki. His characters' body movements lean more to the realistic spectrum in comparison to other animation styles. His animations manage to be expressive, fluid, and natural with only enough exaggeration to really push the poses and truly embody the emotion they're expressing rather than become a caricature. Miyazaki's animations are littered with more subtle transitions, takes, and body language unique to each character. 

Miyazaki's animations only lacks in facial expressions. The eyes - which tend to be the most expressive part on a face - remain static for many of the facial expressions.

While Miyazaki pushed the body poses of each of his characters, Dreamworks' accomplished the same with facial expressions in Rise of the Guardians. Much of the character's personality and feelings can be told through their eyes alone. Jack depicts mischievousness, Pitch depicts a minor level of despair, and Tooth embodies joy.Their feelings are depicted by more than their mouths. Their eyes, brow, head, and body movement all unify to convey whatever they are feeling at the moment. This is all accomplished in a way that refrains from being a caricature. 

Centipedal Main Boss

 Currently under development is our main boss, which is based off of the absolutely lovely centipede. Roselyn is currently developing both 2D and 3D concepts for this being. Based off of those concepts, there's a vision that I'm having for this boss' movement right now. It'll be slow, deliberate, conniving, and arrogant. Despite that, it'll be easily triggered into erratic, snapping, and violent motions.

For this not-so-little guy, The Tale of Three Brothers from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - most specifically, the Death character - serves as an inspiration for the Centipedal. Death's precise movements indicate experience, wisdom, and power. We're currently considering the Centipedal to have snake-like movements. So it'll have motions that are more graceful, deliberate, and flow-y. This will aid in conveying a more looming, threatening, and arrogant personality in its body language alone.

Continuing on with that ... 

Eris from Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a mischievous, sensual, and malevolent troublemaker. Death in The Tale of Three Brothers is not portrayed as a villain but - instead - an inevitability that can't be run from. Eris, on the other hand, is the Goddess of Chaos. It's in her very nature to cause trouble.

Similar to Death, Eris' animations are very flow-y - following constant arcs. A great deal of her movement is captured in her hair alone (and the wispyness of her body, with her constant appearing and reappearing). Due to her more sinister facial expressions (laced with mischievousness), Eris comes across as far more malevolent and foreboding.  In terms of her flowy, foreboding, and subtly powerful movement, she will be used as an inspiration for our main boss.

In terms of accomplishing this ... I'm happy to say that the entirety of the Leylines team have been sitting in on Animation & Technical Art classes, or have previous experience in rigging & animation. Our current idea is to rig the Shallek enemies like mechanical mannequins to save us time on skin weight painting and perhaps lend that extra time to creating more enemies. Our art style is leaning more towards simplicity now to enable us to accomplish a greater volume of work. Because of that, everything else is needed to be on point.

What's on the table in the midst of this additional research? Storyboards & animation tests of the scenes the producers have already laid out! This was the very video that reminded me that's what I should be doing rather than treating this like a finished product. I truly admired the storyboarded animation work done here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mood Boards A-Go-Go : Art Influences and References

For overall mood piece, our story and game wants to work towards fusing the looks form the above image. This includes Moebius, our initial definitive source of inspiration for the visuals of the game with Alex Toth and the game Lara Croft Go.

Starting from the initial Moebius color, form, and shape inspiration (Miyazaki was always inspiring our themes not necessarily the art style of Ghibli studios) we boil down the designs to the more stream line contours and simple geometric shapes of Alex Toth. 

From research we learned that Lara Croft Go was inspired by game artist Eric Chahi and his hit game Another world, which really boils down the aesthetic that is our visual target. Clearly we have much more sophisticated computer power these days, but by working on the solid pillars that these artists use to make their work stand out, we believe our piece will stand out too.

 Using Moebius as a starting point we explored two other styles that were more focused on line work and color respectively. For our mood pieces each of us came up with our own interpretations of how these styles could be melded. Now that we have our individual takes on the artists we will be pooling our accumulated knowledge to select elements from each piece for further refine our style through iteration.

Lauren focused on line work from Moebius and more saturated colors.

Ashley pulled pastels from Moebius and focused on the mysticism and atmospherics.

Steffen took heavy inspiration from the almost cel shaded look of Lara croft go and adapted it to our setting.

In terms of the technical implementation of this style we are researching shaders to provide us the "cel shaded" look and potentially mimic the linework.

Until next time!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Development Commenced!

Welcome to the art development blog of the Leylines artists. What is Leylines, though? Leylines is a third-person, action-adventure, puzzle platforming game currently under development at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy.  

This blog will be highlighting most of our in-progress artwork. You can read more about the other facets of Leylines' development on our Tumblr blog once we gain more traction!.

For the first week of our Capstone game's development, we were given a few tasks:
        1. Create a crystal, inspired by Moebius', and put it in the Unreal engine.
        2. Create a sketch (about anything), inspired by Moebius.
        3. Find three artistic influences and make mood concept drawings based off of those artistic styles.
        4. Create a puzzle, any puzzle, that could be used in-game.
Here's some of the finished pieces!

In-engine crystals. Cool, huh? :3c

Our Moebius-inspired sketches!

Early makings of possible monster additions.

Our principle artistic style is Jean Giraud. Our secondary influences are Hayao Miyazaki and the art of Lara Croft Go. We're currently working on further developing our digital painting skills to make our concept art all the more dynamic and eye catching.

As for puzzles? Those are going to be a secret until the game is released. We can't just give the answers away!

There was some time to work on extra things for Leylines too. 

Our main character, currently named Chell, uses a bow and arrow during her adventure. This was an early animation test to work with that.

Our tasks for this week will be to start concepting for characters & environments. Stay tuned until then!