Hello, everyone, and welcome to the first ever Legends of Equestria artist showcase! Let me just start by telling you how very excited we are to be presenting this to you all. Now, you're probably wondering what exactly an 'artist showcase' is going to entail. Essentially, it's our way of highlighting some of the work being done on the game by our many talented artists of all different sorts. We're going to show you some of the processes involved with creating a project like Legends of Equestria, and you'll learn all sorts of interesting facts along the way! So, if you're as excited to get this started as I am, you'll thank me for skipping the bulk of the ado and heading right into the showcase!
Today, we'll be talking about the generic houses in Ponyville. These are among the very first content of any type to go into Legends of Equestria, and they're very near and dear to us for that reason. Now, to a lot of people, making background houses might seem like a simple, somewhat arbitrary task, but I can tell you personally that this is far from true. Firstly and most simply, the housing in the game plays a very crucial role in world-building. The Ponyville in the show has a large number of houses, and the Ponyville in the game would be very empty and barren without them. Further, the many characters in the game are going to need places to live. Therefore, it is crucial that we have some sort of houses, even if the players never actually step foot inside of them. Now, in keeping with the idea that we should be emulating the show on which the game is primarily based, we have been given many examples of the thatched-roof cottages the many various townsfolk in Ponyville reside in. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that we are not required to invent a style of housing from scratch, but it also means that we have to make the houses in exactly the same way they're shown in Friendship is Magic.
The task of re-creating these buildings exactly as they appear in the show is first given to our extremely talented team of concept artists. They need to look at the two-dimensional drawings from the show and recreate them from multiple angles, so the other teams know exactly how they're supposed to look.
Here, we see the concept art compared to the finished model that many of you have already had the opportunity to see inside of the game. The beautiful concept art in question was created by Vector, whom many of you already know as the co-leader of the 2D department. You might be wondering why he is doing concept art when we have such a capable concept art department, but on the Legends of Equestria team, it is not at all uncommon for a member of one team to help another when their skill set is able to be put to use. Since Vector is already a 2D artist, drawing is no problem for him, and he was able to look at this house that many of you are familiar with from the show, and recreate top, front, and isometric views to be used in their 3-dimensional recreations.
In order to maintain consistency, this process requires a large amount of research, as well as technical skill. In the artist's own words:
For the most part, every one of these houses has appeared in the show at some point, so I had the blessing of most of my work already being done for me. The hard part of the design was coming up with the half, or in some cases three fourths, of the house that was not shown. That seems easy when a lot of the work has already been done, but in actuality it requires a lot of research as opposed to a house you can create from scratch.
In order to stay consistent with the style of the show I had to study the rules the artists followed while creating ponyville's architecture. The beams especially have a very specific pattern to how they were put together. At key points in the architecture there would usually be an engraving of a stylisticly curved wheat stalk or a flower, and if a window was in a key spot, like the center of the house, it would usually have a flower box or a balcony underneath. Certain rules like these governed how most of that extra two thirds got its look and feel. Whenever there is a building shown in the show, we try to stay as close as possible to the original artists depiction of it. Thus, the reasearch stage.
And as you can see here, the images we often see of houses in the show can indeed leave a fair amount of deduction up to our concept artists. It is not a task that we can approach with anything short of careful and comprehensive judgement, as any unchecked mistakes made in the concept art would translate directly to mistakes made in the models themselves. Luckily, we do have a system to ensure quality control, and we team leaders are sure to inspect every piece of art individually before it can make its way into any other departments.
However, it is not enough to simply have well-constructed concept art. In order to get from this:
we must have one of our 3D modelers put that concept art to use by translating it into an actual 3D model. There are many options for free and extensive software availiable online for anyone interested in 3D modelling. These particular models were all made in Blender by our artist Minazumi, who is, as you can see, an exceedingly proficient modeler. A common technique when creating complicated models like these buildings is to open the reference image in the program, and build the model atop the given image, before moving and rotating it to fit the different views as needed. For this to work, it is necessary to have at least the front, top, and side views of an object, such as the ones shown here:
from which the modeler would know to create the shape of the building like this:
The more observant among you may be wondering why certain aspects of the concept art seem more intricately detailed than those of the finished models. The answer is simply the polygon count. For an online game such as this one, it is often necessary to use a smaller number of polygons, which are the various flat shapes that make up the object, in order to save space and keep the game from lagging while trying to render an extremely complicated model. Another way we do this is by creating certain objects as textures, such as the vane at the top of the house in the last image. Instead of creating a separate shape for each curve of the vane, we create the whole thing as a single flat image.
However, the vane in the picture does not appear simply as a flat block. Likewise, the house appears as a somewhat realistic, albeit cartoonish, structure, complete with support beams and a straw roof, rather than a solid grey mass. This is as a result of our 2D team, or more specifically in this particular case, Musetrigger. He was responsible for creating the texture that is draped over the model to give it color. This is another area in which the concept art is useful. If you'll notice, it does more than simply describe the shape of the object to be created.
It also shows the lines which separate one color from another. In this case, the colors to be used were obvious, as the houses can be clearly seen in the show. However, this is often not the case, and much of the concept art will come with attached RGB codes for that reason. Now, you may notice a few subtle differences between that concept art and the finished texture below
These are primarily the result of revisions made later on in the process. Communication between team members is probably the most universally important aspect of development. If, for some reason, any part of an idea is replaced with another, it must always be done with the informed consent of the other members involved. Since Vector is, once again, the head of the 2D department, this was not a major problem in this particular case. He was also the one who had to approve the final version of the texture before it could be placed in the game.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you all the different reasons these textures are so important, and you can see for yourselves exactly how well-made they are. Musetrigger himself did have the following comment to make on the subject:
I would like to say that while they were easy to make, they were amazing practice, and they happened to be the first true textures I have ever made.
Yes, believe it or not, these were, in fact, the first textures he had made. Of course, what may be easy for Musetrigger is still likely to take years of practice for the more inexperienced, so don't any of you aspiring artists out there be discouraged from pursuing whatever goals you may have.
After the texture is attached to the model, the only thing left to do is stick it in the game! Now, of course, you can't just stick it wherever you think it would look good, or we would have the entire layout of the towns in complete chaos. To remedy this, we have a map team comprised of members of several different teams, who are tasked with creating the layout of each town. When we know where the building is intended to go, we are finally able to place it in the game.
So, after a long and complicated process, we've finally taken an idea from the concept stage:
and put it in the game as a finished product.
I hope you've all learned a thing or two about the process of creation and the fantastic people behind it. We truly are thrilled to be presenting you with the artist showcase, and hopefully you've had as much fun reading it as we've had putting it together. Everyone behind Legends of Equestria is working very hard to put this all together, and we're pretty thrilled to be here educating all of our wonderful fans on the game's inner-workings. We'd be nothing without you, which is why you can never leave! So we hope to see you all again at next month's exciting edition of the Legends of Equestria artist showcase!