Entry 3.0 - "Expanding on a Concept"
Stardate 61215.0 (October 1, 2007)
Welcome back to the STO DevLog, a recurring glimpse into the planning, plotting and production of Star Trek Online, the game so big it takes half the galaxy to tell it.
For this installment we'd like to mix things up a bit. For the past couple of months we've closed out the DevLog with stunning pieces of concept art, showing off the elite skills of our concept team.
This time around, we'd like to start with one of these boffo images, and take everyone on a whirlwind tour of how they're broken into increasingly tiny pieces.
Let's start with the snazzy "Vulcan Village" concept by Ryan Dening that we shared in last months' DevLog:
That's darned pretty, but if we're going to build more than one Vulcan-style village in Star Trek Online (and we are), this beautiful drawing will have to be broken down into its component parts, so that our modelers and texture artists can create dozens of bits and pieces that can be easily be re-assembled into a nigh-infinite variety of combinations. This process is usually handed off to a member of the concept team, who has "ownership" of the concept breakdown.
As an example, consider the building in the lower left of the village. After some discussion with the design team, it was decided that this might be a good all-purpose library (Vulcans are big on stores of knowledge, and we tentatively plan on using Vulcan-themed libraries at various points throughout the game). Armed with this decision, the concept artist gets cracking on sketches that attempt to show the library from a useful prespective, adjusting its scale for the realities of MMO play (in MMOs paths and doorways are almost inevitably bigger than they would be in "real life". Eventually, we arrive at an exterior drawing that looks a bit like this:
During this phase, the concept artist begins to rationalize the individual pieces of the architecture (walls sections, fences, pavement, etc.), suggesting ways that modelers and texture artists can create modular components.
Soon afterwards, the artist uses the same approach with the interior of the building, creating this complimentary piece:
Once again, it's interesting to note the scale of this library. Even though this is an "everyday" building to be used in quiet little villages, its doorways have been widened and its floor space has been enlarged to accommodate the possibility that dozens of STO players could be striding into the library looking for information, missions, or irraditated sehlats.
Once we're happy with the basic exteriors and interiors for the structures, the concept team gets down to the nitty-gritty, and begins drawing up the dozens of individual props that will be used to decorate the buildings (and all their variants). Here's just a small sampling of the "Colonial Vulcan" sketches generated by our team in an effort to give us a great big pile of props:
As prop concepts are approved, they're handed off to texture artists and modelers, who transform them into actual game objects...but that's a topic for another DevLog, and we're running a bit long as it is (shucks).
Be sure to join us next time on the DevLog for more dollops of developmental diversions from the Star Trek Online team.
But wait! I bet you thought that this month's emphasis on concept art meant that we'd leave you without our "STO Artwork of the Moment" picture, didn't you? Heaven forfend! Here's a fun piece of work from our very own Ocala Bellows:
Oh noes! We're DoooOOOOoooomed!
Happy Federation Day,
PS Thanks to Greg, Ryan, and, Binky, for getting this installment of the DevLog together in the midst of a milestone crunch.
Mike Stemmle is the Star Trek Online's Story Lead. He is a great admirer of Commodore Decker's "five-day bender" stubble.