In 2013, Bongfish Studios contacted Karakter with a request for a near-future Rally Truck. Gauntlet, the working title for their game, was a futuristic rally sport where a range of vehicles would compete across a Dakar-style environment – with an extra twist of having hostile turrets populating the course to try and spice the race up a little.
My role was to establish the visual identity of a medium sized vehicle, capable of relatively high speeds, but fitting neatly between a dune buggy and a truck.
After doing some research into the technical requirements of real Dakar rally vehicles I outlined an iterative process that involved sending across a few sketches to define the trajectory of the design.
I requested the in-game wheels to be sent as a 3D file – this gave me the accurate dimensions of the in-game rig. This wheel base allowed me to start understanding the rotation and travel limits of the wheels, so my chassis geometry could pre-empt any unwanted clipping.
With the wheelbase in the file I began feeling out the design with a spline cage in 3DS Max; this approach allows an understanding of the overall forms of the design in an abstract way.
The spline cage setup helps me understand the design, but I transform a screenshot into an illustration that makes it possible to review. I can see here that the proportions are ok, but clumsy and unrefined.
The linework pass exposes a static “posture” that betrays the vehicle’s racing function. I attribute this to two things; a suspension system that seems ill-suited to the mass of the main body and the mass of the vehicle being evenly distributed, rather than “poised” for speed.
I turn the lower chassis into a swing arm that connects to the rear wheels – this enables a compound suspension system, which is more interesting from both a visual and animation standpoint.
It also creates a silhouette change that decreases the sense of weight by decreasing the mass of the tail. This visual aspect is a natural consequence of reducing weight and layering the suspension, rather than a visual decision that is detrimental to the function of the vehicle.
It is important to incrementally advance the design in 3D. Without a 3D file to “ratchet” the design at every step, the design is likely to got through pointless variations rather than progressive iterations.
I continue to develop the design in 3D – working out proportions and design decisions on the fly. The mesh starts to take shape to a degree where I know it looks acceptable from every angle. This animated gif, courtesy of Viktor Jonsson, shows the design on a turntable.
The player will spend the majority of the game-experience looking at the rear of the design. The multi-stage suspension is locked down now – and the turntable animation allows me to see the design is in a good state, so I commit to detailing out the rear. The suspension and engine structure are given higher levels of detail so there is visual a spectrum of calm and busy areas to engage the eye.
The design now has a posture that reinforces its function as a racing vehicle. I’m happy that the base of the vehicle looks more stable, but is still a little top heavy. The following pass is intended to break down the the mass so that there is more “air” in the design and also to produce a believable, manufactured quality. The positioning of the roll-cage bars is adjusted to connect more convincingly with the underlying driver’s cabin.
I don’t know how far the in-game model will be taken – but I want the design to be viewable from any angle. So I take off the tyres here in order to suggest the suspension detail, complete with disk brakes and mud guards.
Paintjob and Context
With the fundamental design in place, various aesthetic passes can be made to suggest alternate colour schemes.
Many more livery designs could have been made, but with limited time some extremely bold alternatives were produced. In an ideal world an entirely independent process of race league brand development would take place to define the spirit of the sport and their teams.
And finally, to help sell the design, I place a selection of the vehicles into a scene to give them the context of being in a race.