General Category > AI War II - Kickstarter Reward Questions

Custom Ark reward emails are out!

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If you're one of the 11 people who have a Custom Ark as part of your reward, please note that I've just sent an email to you from my email address, cc'ing Blue along with that.

All of the modeling for the ships of the base game is complete as of last night (yay!), even though not remotely all of them are actually in the game just yet, so it was time to reach out to folks about the custom Arks.  They represent 11 out of the 21 custom "art things" that people requested, and they're both the most expensive (for a backer) and complicated (for us), so it was a natural place to start.

We'll be getting to the other three categories in the next 1-2 months, depending on what the response is from the custom ark folks.  For reference, these are the other three categories of art things:
- Custom Derelict Fortress
- Custom Flagship
- Custom Gold Merc Paint Job

For posterity (or simply later reference), here's the generic part of the email about this reward tier, so folks know what to expect:

IMPORTANT: I know that this email is super-long.  If this is something you just don't have time to deal with right now, or don't have interest in actually getting, please let us know rather than leaving us hanging.  You can skip down to the "Next Steps" section and there are a number of options that are way simpler for you if you're short on time.

Now, on with things...

Obviously our schedule has been a bit all over the place with the pace of the sequel, but things are steadying out these days; and the good news is that we just have finished up the last of the main ship designs, so now we're starting into backer rewards.

There are 11 of you that have custom Arks as rewards, and the idea is that these are something that go into the game for any player to be able to choose as their Ark when starting from the lobby.  I'd like to get yours all designed and integrated before the end of this year, if possible.

So what exactly are the design parameters here?

On the art side:

- Basically it needs to be work that Blue can accomplish within about 14 hours of total work time.  You and her can have some back-and-forth on what is more or less time consuming, and you can choose what is most valuable to you out of that.

- If you have some general ideas for her on things you'd like to see, then including some visual references (links to specific images with notes on what you like about them) are really useful.  If you say something vague like "a Borg cube," bear in mind that has been rendered a bunch of different ways over the years.  Google images is your friend.

- NOTE: If you'd prefer to just have a repaint of the existing Ark with colors of your choosing, we can also do that.  You can then skip most of this email, since most of it is about modeling as well as texturing.

On the design side:

- If you want to have custom stats, then that's something you can work out with Keith a bit later.  We're not doing any new custom coding for this, but there's a lot of flexibility there nonetheless.

- If you have something that is super underpowered or super overpowered then we'll have to figure out a way to make sure that that fits into the interface properly without scarring any new players or otherwise destroying balance.  That will be between you and Keith, and will be a bit later on.  First let's get the art settled.

So, what happens next?

1. First of all, we need some specs from you.  What is it you want to see, in a broad sense?  If you want to be very specific, that's fine, or if you just have a general emotion or a game or TV or movie or book series that you want to pull some inspiration from, that's also fine.  But the more you can use google images or other sources to give Blue something visual to go on, the more likely you are to get what you actually want.

2. Blue can then do a few "thumbnail sketches" for you that are teeny tiny little napkin-style drawings that see if you're having proper communication between the two of you or not. 

2.a. If you're not happy with the first round of thumbnail sketches, then please clarify what isn't really working for you.  Is the shape wrong?  Should it be a bit more threatening, like a space lobster instead of a space slug?  Is it too happy of a color red?  Were you imagining something that was taller?  Is it missing guns along the sides?  Etc.

2.b. You can go through up to 3 rounds of total thumbnail sketches with Blue before we have to say "good enough," if we want to keep to a general time budget.  Often a single round is plenty, so it's really a matter of how clear your specs are at any given stage.

3. Next step is that Blue will do a more detailed sketch of this, from the top and side.  This will still be a very scruffy/sloppy sketch, and it's meant to focus on shape and color and what elements are actually included (guns, windows, etc).

3.a. If something isn't quite right, you can comment on that and she can make adjustments pretty easily since this is a sloppy sketch.  Here again, up to 3 rounds of this.

4. Next comes the actual 3D modeling.  This is slower, and depending on what the workload of Blue is from other Arcen work, other people with custom Arks in the pipeline, and so forth, this could take anywhere even up to a month.  Could just be a day if things are pretty clear, but this represents roughly half the hours that Blue will be putting into this project.

5. At this point you'll have something that is probably gray or some other set of basic colors, or it might be split apart into some garish primary colors to indicate texture sets.  At any rate, it's "test paint" that has nothing to do with the final look of the ship, color-wise.

5.a. At this point you can look and make sure that this has the proper shape you're expecting.  If there is something off -- which hopefully there is not, given the work on the sketches earlier -- then there's a limited amount of changing that Blue can do now. 

5.b. Exactly how much she can change is dependent on the topology of the model and what exactly you're asking for, so I can't give any sort of general guidelines as to how much time this would cost from the total time budget, etc.  You'll have to work out things with her at this point based on what seems not-quite-ideal and how long it will take her to adjust those things.

5.c. Note that the ideal situation here is basically a rubber-stamp of you going "yep, that's just what I expected."  The better the sketches above match what you're looking for, and the more concisely you explain what is most important to you in the design, the higher a chance there is of that happening.

5.d. Blue MAY, at her discretion, actually split this modeling part into two bits: a first bit focusing on overall shape and body, and then a second part focusing on any detail additions that might be.  That depends on the model and specifics of the particular process for bringing your Ark to life, though.

6. Next comes paint.  The results will be "final quality" when you see them, but you will be seeing everything in a matte, unlit fashion without things like emissive lights off the ship.  So it will look notably bland compared to the in-game version.  Things that would look metallic in the game, or glowy, or whatever else, will just look like flat colors instead.

6.a. This gives you another chance for comment, and any sort of tweaks.

7. Next comes integration into the game itself.  This will be handled most likely by Cinth, who will optimize the model for in-game usage, create multiple levels of detail, merge textures, set things up using my shaders, and so forth.  The result will be something usable in the game, however it will be... not wholly ideal in terms of how the shader is configured.  He's the first one to tell you he's not an artist, but he can get it in the ballpark.

7.a. Probably before we show you this, Blue will make at least a few tweaks to the shader values to get some artistic feel to it, but if you'd rather have a chance to comment first before she spends any time, then please let us know.

8. After this point, the shader values should be within the realm of "looks fitting within our game," and you'll see things like how matte or metallic things are, how much things glow and what their HDR color spectrum of the glow is, how things look on their shadowed side versus their light side, and so on.

8.a. What we'll do is put this into the public modding package, so you have full access to go in with a version of unity and make any tweaks to the shaders (and textures) yourself, if you so desire.  I'll provide a video with instructions if you want to do that.

8.b. You and/or Blue can tweak some things, and then basically from an art standpoint this is finalized. 

8.c. No take-backs after this point, although you can make your own changes at any point later, of course.  If they are things that we feel like fit the aesthetic of the game, we'll be happy to take those back into the main game.  If not, then you can just keep your changes as your own custom mod for yourself (or others to download).  Keith and I can show you how to do that, if it comes to that, which ideally it will not.

9. At this point you'll be shuffled over to Keith, who will have his own process and questions for you about "okay, now we have this thing that looks a certain way -- what is it called and what does it DO?"  It might just be a literally different visual for the bog-standard Ark, or you might have something else in mind.  There are merits to both approaches.

Next Steps

So!  There we are. :)  There are 11 backers (including you) entitled to custom Arks, and since those are the largest and most complicated backer reward from an art standpoint, we're starting with these.

We'd very much like to have this process wrapped up within 2-3 months from now, so if you can get back to us before too long that is appreciated.

If you'd prefer to just have a repaint of the existing Ark with colors of your choosing, we can also do that, as noted near the start.

If you would like to skip designing an Ark for whatever reason, then please also let us know that so that we can mark you off the list.

If there is some other issue, or something I didn't think of in general, then please just let us know. 

This email assumes that you're wanting to be very hands-on, but it might be that you want to give us a general idea and say "something in that general direction is fine," and then be done with it.  We're open to that, too, obviously, and it requires much less from you.

Thanks for reading -- I know this was long!

I look forward to seeing the results. :)

I think you should do a video going over all the models now that things are done! (or at least, once everything is "done enough" to show off properly).

I'm curious to see with what designs people come up with and how Blue will shape this out.


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