What does a 19th century sculptor have in common with the DICE team? More than one could imagine. Invited to an Auguste Rodin exhibition at Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum, members of the DICE team met with fans of fine art to discuss character creation in a digital space. And it seems like the digital tools used to create Faith Connors aren’t that different from clay, plaster, and bronze.
For those whose art class memories are foggy, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was a French artist widely regarded as the father of modern sculpture. Though initially considered a controversial outsider, Rodin made his mark in history thanks to several masterpieces.
Fast forward a century, and three of the DICE talents responsible for making Faith and the world of Mirror’s Edge™ Catalyst shine have gathered among Rodin’s work; Madina Chionidi (Character Artist), Per Haagensen (Senior Concept Artist), and Emil Nilsson (Animator).
Fans of both DICE and Rodin had the chance to ask the studio questions about digital character creation, and we’ve compiled some of the topics discussed by the panel.
What are the similarities and differences between classical and digital sculpting?
Madina Chionidi: Digital sculpting is actually not that different from normal sculpting. The differences are that you can save and undo of course - and you have unlimited amount of “clay” when working digitally.
There are also a few shortcuts available when working digitally. For instance, you can create one side of a face and then use an automatic mirror function to get symmetry. Then you make it slightly asymmetrical through changes to one side of the face or body, to make it more natural.
Could you define what you’ve wanted to portray when “sculpting” Faith?
Per Haagensen: An important factor was how to portray Faith’s physicality, her skill, confidence and attitude in a dynamic manner, without her looking like a martial artist or super hero.
When I set out to sculpt her for the Key Art, aside from the realistic aspects of her appearance, more than anything it was to convey the pose with enough action, tension, and interest to make the audience curious about who this person is (if they didn’t already know from the first game). She also needs to appear more mature than in the first game, so there was some work on getting a focused look on her face, maybe even some concern about the situation she is in.
What kind of tools do you use in your profession?
Per Haagensen: I work almost purely digital in my profession, with digital painting and digital sculpture. I do however use pencil on paper now and again to get the ideation process started.
The software we use allows you to start sketching in 3D right away, which is great. It used to be a very technical process to create 3D models, but now you can just start when you have inspiration.
Emil Nilsson: For animation, we rely on both modern technology as well as older learnings like the 12 principles of animation. We use professional 3D animation software and a lot of motion capture, but also mirrors and film to use our own movement as reference.
What classical art techniques and teachings have influenced your work on Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and other games?
Madina Chionidi: Life drawing at DICE was the first time I drew from looking at a real model. I believe it helps me become a better digital artist, and I want to study “real arts” more to grow in my profession.
Per Haagensen: I think most artists working digitally on a successful level have had training in classical techniques. Even so, since we are still working with a real brush/pen in our hand, applying the same motoric skills that any other artist uses, practice is king to mastery. Life drawing, master studies, technical anatomical studies, and perspective training still applies to everything we do.
The techniques I use for painting and the knowledge I carry from that has made the transition to digital sculpting fairly painless, much due to the artist friendly interfaces of more recent 3D sculpting tools.
With Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s realistic style, specific use of reflective materials, and exclusive designs it does put all your skills to a test. The beginning was daunting, but in the end so immensely rewarding - both in seeing the product we have now and what I as an artist had learned.
What are the challenges when making these “sculptures” move through animation?
Emil Nilsson: When creating movement you have to adapt to the player’s expectation. When you’re going to jump in real life, there is an anticipation of the jump when you get ready, but in video games you press a button and expect to jump instantly. That’s a challenge for animation and we have to exaggerate movements to emphasize them, much like Rodin’s sculptures.
To round off, what creative work do you do in your spare time?
Madina Chionidi: I enjoy creating art featuring weapons, using a lot of 90-degree angles and perfect shapes.
Per Haagensen: So in my spare time I like to focus on more fantastical topics, more ethereal subject matter, and so on. I also find it very creatively reinvigorating to make music.
We hope you have enjoyed this post - and that you will enjoy the results of DICE’s digital sculpting when Mirror’s Edge Catalyst arrives on May 24. For more on creating the visuals of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, don’t miss this article about the design process of Faith.