I didn’t plan on commenting on this, but since everyone else has…
OK – bearing in mind a) WIP, and b) more work has already been done on this today, here’s my take (after also reading the quoted info).
- I don’t automatically hate the idea that the look of actors in the UA world is inspired by tabletop models. There is a direct relationship between this art design choice and Nate’s comments soon after he came on-board:
So for Ascendant, what if the world bore the Authorship of a tabletop game? Think of the old lead figures, the miniature play fields and what if Ascendant used that philosophy of everything being hand crafted and looking hand crafted? Natural, man-made...all of it. All of it looks like it was sculpted by an artist. That and bringing back some of the levity to the fantasy. We don't have to be so deadly serious and bleak. A little more whimsy, and a little less brooding.
A couple of screenshots aren’t really enough to judge the extent to which the game so far is moving toward that concept… but I think it’s fair to say these images deliver on it.
- The first thing that struck me about the images (before I read the background info) was that they seemed to have a dark outline. A closer look suggested the lack of anti-aliasing (not surprising for a screenshot).
I didn’t hate this because I remember seeing some of Ray Harryhausen’s later movies when I was a kid, as well as Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoped marvels such as Wizards. The first of these two images in particular, with its overly-clear textures (esp. the helmet), and its dark outlines as though it was hand-composited, instantly took me back to what most fantasy and science fiction movies looked like before and up to the first couple of Star Wars movies. That was a good feeling.
I would agree with some of the comments above that subsequent versions of these characters will look better and feel more “right” if the texturing, lighting, and blending are smoothed out a bit and appear more natural for their environment. (Just please don’t cheat this with “fog” or motion blur. )
And now that I think about it… it might be fun to support a “stop-motion” post-processing mode in which mobile actors have dark outlines slightly accentuated, especially if you also skip a few animation frames.
- Overall, I think the original Underworlds did try to achieve a kind of realistic art style for the day. Look at the floors of the various locations; you can see how an effort was made to simulate natural-looking surfaces and debris. So I would not have thought it was wrong to continue that path in UA using today’s much more advanced graphics technology. I think I would have enjoyed that kind of look in UA.
But I also understand that this is ground that’s been covered already, and that there’s room for an art style that focuses more on the fun of the original UU games than on mindlessly walking a linear path from that art style to photorealism. “Tabletop” is a pretty good conceptual touchstone for a different path for UA – that covers not only a miniature-inspired art style, but ideas of gameplay where the world (courtesy of an imaginative DM when playing a tabletop game) is much more reactive than in most games.
So I think I’m on-board with this style, even just going by these early tests. I hope it doesn’t go too much farther toward a cartoony style than this. Dishonored actually edged a bit too far in that direction for my tastes; I prefer that characters who act like people also look like people, not caricatures.
But the “tabletop” concept seems like a win to me, and these first new images are definitely in that ballpark. Nice job, all!