An Interview With The Creators Of Duel Of Ages - Part 2

MonkeyLek · January 28, 2003 12:00 am

Renderosity presents Part Two of our three-part interview with Brett Murrell, the art manager for Duel of Ages, an epic strategy board game three years in the making. Venatic, Inc., the production company behind the project, hired the talents of twelve Renderosity artists to flesh out the diverse world of Duel of Ages and create the more than 1100 images and illustrations that the game required. Be sure to check out the first and third installments of our interview, or view the entire Duel of Ages Interview Archive.
Let's talk about the art team. What was the basic role of each artist? We had a great complementary team. We needed two basic types of illustrations scenes and objects. Scenes were standard rectangular images. Objects were things anything from guns to trees to poodles rendered on a transparent background. Armands and prutzworks handled landscapes. Armands is fantastic with otherworldly scenes. Prutzworks can do about any terrain you can think of, and he is prolific beyond belief. The guy has no problem dropping a half-dozen quality scenes in his gallery in a week. Lon and Dean Chaney are absolute workhorses. They can pump out great material at speed. There are over 330 equipment items in the game. These two produced over half of those items. They also have the added ability to produce scenes, and contributed a large number of theme illustrations and mood strips. KAP is a 3D artist as a profession, and has a wide range of both modeling and scene creation skills. He has a knack for creating and texturing to real-life quality. Most of the complex machinery and scenes in DOA are KAP's doing. Zfigure7 shares the same ability to create both objects and scenes. He specialized in the futuristic objects found in the game. Zieben has a style that is very different from most 3D artists. The style worked perfectly for this project. If you have ever seen his gallery, you'll know what I mean. We had three object specialists artists who have a knack for a certain area. Lorraine handled the horses of the game. They are stunning. I get into heated arguments about this around the office, but the Sumerian Chariot is the best illustration in the game. End of story. JoseCastello created most of the buildings. He has architecture mastery from ancient Greek temples to modern car washes to Tombstone saloons, and even The Alamo. Squidinc might be our most creative modeler. He filled the difficult "creature" gap, able to create aliens, war machines and bugs of every sort. Creatures are brutally hard to accomplish convincingly in 3D art, and squidinc pulls it off. Kate and Donna have the composition eye. They can put together a great scene, but they also have the ability to organize objects and textures. And when assigned something, they kill themselves to complete it. The game's character logos were all designed by Donna. She invented their layout, vastly improving our concept. Kate produced most of the terrain for the mapboard woods, swamp, crystal fields, parking lots complete with cars a huge body of work. Finally, GDouble was our assassin. There are GDouble items scattered throughout the game objects, illustrations, easter eggs, you name it. He was fun to work with, because he could fire out work lightning fast. He holds the record for 12 objects begun and completed in one day. Did the artists give you model files? Never. That was an important part of our relationship. We purchased the rights only to rendered images. The artists keep their models, and we encourage them to improve on those models and further their use. We only asked that, if they sell to others, they make enough changes to the model that it is not an exact match. How would you describe the art specifications to the artists? Duel of Ages is a developer's dream, because it is very forgiving in its art requirements. We made the decision early that we would give specifications that were as loose as possible, and let the artist run with it. So, for example, we have a floating butler in the game. We told Zieben, "We want a floating butler. Something that can help a character carry equipment." That's it. Zieben took that, and sent back a floating butler unlike anything we were imagining. It is one of the best object illustrations in the game. It was hard at first, however. We had a review team that would check each item. We started out overly picky, asking for a lot of changes because of preconceptions on our part. It wasn't long before we agreed that the review process needed only to catch obvious technical or concept errors, and let the artists run with their skills. It paid off big. In many cases, the artists came up with concepts better than ours. And they now get to pick up the game, point to something and say, "See that? I thought of that. That's my idea." And that is a huge plus in our view. How did you communicate with the artists? E-mail? Phone? Chat? Entirely by e-mail. E-mail is a valuable business product because it logs all conversation, all the business transactions. It lets everyone go back to review threads of conversation to avoid misunderstanding. It acts as an ongoing receipting system. You don't get that with chat or phone. Was the business aspect of this difficult? How did you handle payment and delivery? We were the ones who made contact with the artists, so we felt strongly that we had to accept the initial risk. We would start an artist with a small set of work, four or five items. After they finished and delivered one, we would pay for the whole set. They would then deliver the rest. We would go from there. After this project, what is Venatic intending? I wish nothing I could use the rest :). But that's not the case. Duel of Ages is part of the larger Worldspanner game universe, and it has much growing to do. The internet game community will be centrally involved in designing the next installment of Duel of Ages, as well as an expanding universe of other games, both board and electronic. If games interest you, or even just the game art, you should stop in at www.duelofages.com when the site goes live January 10. Regardless, all of these ambitions need art, and you can bet that Venatic and its sister companies will have me right back here at Renderosity, working with our current team of artists and perhaps many others. See you in the galleries...
Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of our interview with Brett. Duel of Ages will be available in early March. More information can be found at www.duelofages.com.

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