Did you miss the livestream on May 19th? You can catch up on everything you missed right here, or alternatively head to the bottom of the post to watch the entire thing!
Can you believe it's been almost two months since we released Archaeology? Time flies. In previous livestreams, you've heard from the developers who designed this brand new skill, but this week the various art teams told us about the work that went into bringing this to life.
Before developers could start building Archaeology, the concept team tried to visualise what this new skill could be. To start with, these artists didn't have a huge amount of information so could only conjure quite generic depictions of Archaeology. These were then refined to include elements more specific elements that designers wanted to feature.
The team had to research what already existed in the game to give a unique flavour to the new dig site content. Dwarven architecture, for example, was redesigned entirely to have a new look, while the artists blended existing Aviansie architecture with a more Tibetan flavour for the Stormguard area.
After the environment artists have created areas, the concept team will go back and paint over locations to show how they should be dressed and where particular items should be.
A sixth dig site was designed by a concept artist. Called 'The Construct' or 'Fate Tower', this would have featured 'time bubbles' that preserved memories.
"The concept stage is so exciting, so many ideas can come from it. It's not just about proving a solution based on the ingredients you've been given. Sometimes you come up with really cool ideas which can make it into the final product if the designers like them."
~ Mod Bakinga
After the concept artists have shown what something could look like, the environment team steps in. These artists start to build what is shown in the concept art, creating basic white box or blockout environments. These help to illustrate where things should be in the world, as well as how big things are in relation to each other.
When creating assets, the environment artists take the concept art and build it out in 3D in software called Maya. An important part of this is making sure that even if assets don't need to be functional, they need to look functional.
After this, developers use a program called ZBrush. The asset is broken up into its individual parts. The team will try to use as many things as possible. For example, the cogs on the Golem Fist are the same from Everlight.
They then make a very high-detail version. This features too much information to include in the game (the high detail Golem Fist is 16,000,000 polygons!), so the team then makes a lower-polygon version. In the case of the Golem Fist, this totaled 4,000 polygons.
From there, the team projects details from the higher-quality asset onto the lower quality one.
With Archaeology, Jagex introduced shiny metals. Any existing asset in RuneScape that used metal had to go through an extra texture pass to make sure it was shiny.
"Creating environments is a very iterative process. It starts with these rough blockouts and there's a back-and-forth between developers and art on how to make things look and feel good for players and meet all the requirements for the skill."
~ Mod Blkwitch
As well as discussing the process behind creating assets and environments, Mod Sel appeared on the livestream to show us what goes into the scholar and treasure hunter, Movario.
To start with, a character artist will take the concept art and use that to make a blockout of a character's face. This shows basic details, such as the shape and what their muscles will look like.
From there, the team cleans the blockout up. For Movario, Mod Sel made him look angry, which was in line with the concept art.
The next stage is blocking out the character's clothing. This is a detailed model with 6,500,000 polygons, so that information can be projected onto a lower-poly model later down the line.
After making some tweaks based on feedback, Mod Sel made some changes to Movario's silhouette to help him look distinctive.
At this point in the process, character artists need to think about animation. These new creations often need to use the same movements that already exist in RuneScape so often changes need to be made to models to account for this.
"It's a lot of fun. There's a lot of problem solving involved in character art. you're always kept busy and will rarely be working on the same kind of thing."
~ Mod Sel
Finally, we spoke to some of the animation team to discuss their work on Archaeology. Firstly, Mod Wing stopped by to ľ true to his name ľ show us how the new flying animation was created. Normally the team looks at reference footage or films, doing whatever needs to be animated to get an idea of what it looks like.
Sadly, humans can't fly, so the team looked at bird animation reference footage to see how their wings worked. From there, Mod Wing was able to create the key frames for the animation quickly and have it ready to plug into the game.
This only takes about 30 minutes to make, so if the developers decide they don't want to use this, not much work is lost.
At that point, the animation team polishes up the animation so that it is buttery smooth and ready to be added into RuneScape.
Mod Paul B finished up the stream by showing us how the pint-sized Archaeology skill pet Archie was made.
The strategy here was to create something cute, but also to create an animation rig that can be used in the future for children characters.
This started life as Violet from Violet is Blue's animation rig. It wasn't basic, but Mod Paul B created a much more detailed system for Archie, which allows him to be even more expressive.
"We've done environment animations before in RuneScape, but we've never really spent a huge amount of time on it. Archaeology is very environment focused and the environment artists did a great job on the areas, so we wanted to add to it as well to help give settings a lot of life. That is something we want to carry on into the future as well. We want to tell stories with the environment, not just characters and NPCs."
~ Mod Wing
The RuneScape Team