Teg Avatar

This is the final piece in the series of avatars I’ve made for Flypso. That means we have decided, at least tentatively, what all five races will be. I’ve written notes, some history, and many scraps of ideas for each one. My least favourite of them all has to be the Teg.

Teg Avatar

Tegs are the desert race. Hulking, tanky, rhino-like creatures. They are at home among vast expanses of desolate wasteland, where they build their settlements underground. They wear heavy armour and use brute force to prove a point. The word “teg” comes from scientific terminology referring to plates or armour. Natural selection has favoured individuals with hard, bony plates on their faces and mountainous form. The Tegs have a violent history of war and destruction, and nearly wiped themselves out before establishing law and civilized society.

I dislike this race for a number of reasons which I won’t get into now, but Tux requested it, and in order to maintain balance and appeal to a range of players it seemed like a good idea to include a tough heavy armour type, and a race that would specialize in “heavy” crafting using stone and metals. This is not intended to be a combat focused war type game, so rather than drawing a snarling face and threatening pose, I tried to show intelligent looking eyes, and a friendly or neutral expression. Tegs are aggressive by nature, but that doesn’t mean they never calm down. More exciting paintings will probably come later on but for now the point was just to make a basic, neutral avatar.

Painting this rough skin type was very challenging. There is no easy way to do it, as far as I can tell. With things like feathers, fur, and sometimes scales, it’s possible to draw out a pattern and gradually vary that pattern, then finish it with shading etc. It’s tedious, but at least it’s repetitious and not too complicated. With this rhino skin though, that was very different. If you look closely at a rhino or elephant’s skin it doesn’t seem to follow much of a pattern, but at the same time it kind of does, and it’s very difficult to replicate that effect. The cracks tend to be deeper in some areas and more shallow, almost non-existent, in others. If you look closely at your own skin, especially around the knuckles, you can see what I mean. Try to follow some of the lines, then look at the lines that intersect those lines. It seems like a nice easy grid, but it’s actually pretty random.

Coming up with the Teg design was a lot different than the other races. I didn’t have a clear idea of what they should look like until I had sketched out a number of possibilities.

Here are a few sketches of early ideas that lost out in the end:

Originally the only criteria was just “desert/underground/cave dwelling people”. Initially I considered making a reptilian race similar to Argonians, but couldn’t come up with a design that didn’t seem cliche or silly looking. Then I thought more about existing burrowing creatures, and came up with what basically amounts to a weird mutant rat:

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This one was never really considered at all, and Tux really wanted it to be tankier so I did something similar, but with some inspiration from ankylosaurus:

 

You can see from the level of detail that I was starting to get somewhere. I liked the plated facial armour, but wasn’t sure about the body type. Since this was going to be a burrowing race, I added shovel hands and some spikes on the forearms that could be used to chop and loosen tough soil. We were talking about special abilities, like the Hy’lox maybe being able to see infrared, so I tossed some movement sensing antennae on the heels. I don’t think those will be included in the final design since the Tegs themselves are pretty big and thundery, it just seems a bit illogical.

Finally, I scrapped the whole rodent idea and looked towards large ungulates like rhinos, and outlined a different body plan:

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I’m still undecided on the shovel hands and arm spikes. I kind of like them, but Tux didn’t seem too sure. All he wants to talk about is user accounts and login systems *yawn*.

At this stage I was fairly certain of what I wanted to do, so I did another fairly quick pencil sketch of the face, outlining how the plates would lay, and then moved over to the computer to paint the final image.

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It kind of sucked to spend time working on a character I didn’t find interesting or appealing and I had to drag myself through it. I guess that’s just part of being an artist for more than just my own entertainment. However I am still more or less happy with how it came out and the concept started to grow on me as it came to life.

So that’s it for these, for now. Next I will be trying my hand at painting some scenes for Flypso, while also working on the next installment in the soil life series.

 

 

The Dreaded Human

Our game could have included only invented races as Ryzom does, but we decided that for our particular idea it would make sense to include humans too. The problem is, once you’ve been inventing these cool looking creatures with interesting features and abilities, humans start to look pretty dull and ordinary. Besides our big brains and useful thumbs, we don’t have a whole lot to compete with even within the natural world here on Earth. Without our built environment, tools, and technology, most of us are fairly helpless in the wilderness, and we aren’t exactly awesome looking either.

When designing a game it’s important to have balance. We can’t have one race that is way better than the others, just like we can’t have one lame race that nobody would ever want to play. For us, that lame race is the humans. I needed to think of ways the humans could remain human, but still keep up and compete with the others. It took some thought, but eventually I realized our strong point. Humans are special because we are not specialized. We are versatile, adaptable, and resourceful. Whereas the amphibious Hy’lox requires a humid environment and would struggle in the desert, and the Arborean excels in the forest but is inhibited without trees, humans can live quite happily in just about any circumstances. The human is a jack of all trades with the option to specialize however they see fit.

It turned out that painting a human avatar was easier and a lot less miserable than I was expecting. The human eye is quite interesting, and the face poses a unique challenge in that we are so deeply familiar with it that extremely subtle changes can create readable emotions. For the avatar I needed a face that was as neutral as possible and this was quite a learning experience.

I decided to start with a female for no particular reason, I just needed to pick one and I am female so I went with that. I’ll also do a male eventually, which will carry with it the challenge of deciding how to make noticeable gender differences for at least some of the other races too.

Human avatar female new bkg

I feel that I still need a lot of practice with understanding light and shadow, and it’ll be interesting when I try to paint a character with more textured skin, messy hair, etc. This is the most simplistic painting of a human I could get away with for this, but it works and I didn’t want to spend too much time on it with so many other exciting things to work on.

That’s four out of five races complete, last will be the desert people.

Creating the Hy’lox

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At first it was difficult to picture an aquatic race that didn’t look hideous or cliche. I wanted them to be likeable and civilized, not some kind of frilly slimy monster. I think most people would agree that salamanders are pretty cute and I don’t recall having seen too many salamander inspired humanoid races before, so that seemed like a good choice. The smooth amphibian skin was nice and simple to paint. The only things I found really challenging here were deciding on a colour scheme and making sure I didn’t accidentally make a Murloc out of it.

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At this point I actually only have this one pencil drawing of the Hy’lox. I don’t even have any rough sketches, and I honestly don’t even remember drawing this because it went so quick and I was in a frenzy of ideas that day. The legs are a bit off but otherwise I think the body is more or less how I wanted it. It has the elongated body and weak arms of salamanders, and I looked at some pictures of lionfish for ideas on the facial stripes and venomous spines. In the avatar I went with blotchy spots on the face instead, but these will have many different kinds of markings so there will be some with stripes in the future.

The Hy’lox is how I envision a civilized race that evolved along the amphibian line. The name comes from “Hyloxalus” which is a genus of poison dart frogs.

This amphibious race evolved in the steamy swamps and temperate marshlands of their home planet. They excel in botany and can make highly effective poisons and medicine. While their soft, weak bodies would leave them helpless in close physical combat, they prefer to avoid violence and tend to be a peaceful, diplomatic people. However, they have formidable natural and technological defenses at their disposal in the event that diplomacy fails. Their natural abilities include stealth, camouflage, paralyzing venom, and sticky substances that allow them to confuse, stun, or slow their enemies. If they cannot deter or escape from their attackers, the Hy’lox are well equipped with chemical weapons and explosives to efficiently disable or eliminate the threat.

Creating the Arborean

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The Arborean was the first, and easiest playable race I designed for Flypso. They are the “elves” of the flypso universe. Quick, agile, sophisticated, deeply protective of the forest, compassionate and caring but somewhat snobbish, etc.

However, it was the most challenging in some ways. I wanted a tree dwelling mammal with a primate body, but I didn’t want it to look too human. I gave it bat ears and a tail, a panda nose, and fox facial structure, but then it ended up looking like a cat person. I added little horns but they didn’t make much difference.

I decided to accept that it looks like a humanoid cat, and move on. I thought it would be fun to paint the fur, but that ended up being so tedious I finally broke down and started using some fur brushes to speed up the process. I prefer to do things manually without the use of fancy photoshop tricks and brushes that basically do all the work for you, but I realized that even with fur brushes I really still needed to know what I was doing, so I was comforted by that. There comes a point where you have to value your time, especially when you are bursting with ideas that want out. I studied the faces of foxes, pandas, and hyenas to get a better understanding of which fur goes in what direction and to understand how to create depth and dimension. I really struggled to give the white muzzle any dimension since it is in such stark contrast to the rest of the face, and I am still not completely satisfied with the stripes, although the markings will vary from one Arborean to the next.

Here is the first sketch of the Arborean concept, which actually started out as a mindless unfinished doodle of a random animal (I drew the armour outline much later), and had absolutely nothing to do with Flypso.

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When I started thinking about playable races, the idea for the Arborean came first, and when I opened the sketchbook to find an empty page, I noticed this doodle again, and realized this could easily be adapted to use for Flypso.

I sketched a full body concept and experimented a bit with what their light leather armour might look like. The proportions came out a bit weird looking because I was roughly basing this off of spider monkeys, but the problem I think is mostly because the knees are too low, and there is something wrong with the forearms. I think the forearms look like they are curved forward or something weird like that. It’ll take some practice to get this one to look natural but I think it can work.

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I wanted to get some practice with facial fur patterns so I started drawing the face in more detail, still with pencil on paper. Eventually I got tired of this method and moved over to the Cintiq to get going on the colour version, using this unfinished drawing as a reference.

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What is Flypso?

Flypso is the working title of the game that Tux and I are developing together. It’s a browser based MMORPG. At this point we are very, very early in development and there is little more than a domain name and some artwork along with a lot of brainstorming and notes. I will be sure to post more information about it as we make progress 🙂

Creating the Ornithite

My first game development task was to come up with four unique playable races. I decided to work with an evolution theme, imagining what kind of civilized people might have evolved on earth from different branches of the animal kingdom, had it not been primates.

One of my favourite races that came out of this process was the Ornithite, evolved from the bird/dinosaur branch.

I started with a fairly hideous pencil sketch and some brainstorming.

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I drew a few more sketches to continue brainstorming and refining the idea, taking inspiration from velociraptors, secretary birds, parrots, owls, eagles, and the prehistoric flying reptile, archeopteryx.

 

When I started to feel comfortable with the Ornithite concept, I spent a bit more time with a mechanical pencil and drew a detailed side profile.

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Here I took a lot of inspiration from the secretary bird for the body shape, while also looking at modern birds of prey for the feet. I also looked at the structure of ostrich legs because while this creature can fly, I imagine as a civilized race they would also spend a good amount of time walking around on the ground interacting with each other. It was challenging to put hands on their wings in a way that would look anatomically feasible and not too awkward or ridiculous, but we agreed that it was important for them to have hands with fingers in order to do things like crafting. I decided that they should have reptilian lips instead of beaks mainly because it would make them look a little more humanoid and it will be easier to show facial expressions later on. 

At this point the race was beginning to develop some personality and I also started working on writing up a detailed description of them including sketching out some of their  special abilities and racial traits.

When I was satisfied with this, I moved over to the Cintiq and did a detailed digital avatar that we can use in the game. Painting feathers was a daunting new experience for me, but it turned out to be nowhere near as difficult (but exactly as tedious) as I was expecting. I had fun learning how to draw different kinds of feathers and understanding which types of feathers should go where. Sometimes when I paint for a while I feel like I go into some kind of trance, and my hand sort of just does its thing. That experience is super cool and something I cannot force or call up on demand. Sometimes it doesn’t work and nothing I do looks right, but when it does happen I just welcome it and enjoy the results 🙂

Ornithite Avatar final new bkg

Eventually I’d like to do more of these with lots of different colours and patterns in the feathers, different shapes of the ornamental feathers, etc.. and players should definitely have some ability to customize the way their Ornithite looks. This will all come in time 🙂