MARVEL HEROES ART DIRECTION:
CHARACTER VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
Based on my original pitch for the look of the game, we started with the visual development of the characters. With the Marvel IP, we’d all seen these characters depicted hundreds of different ways, so it would be a challenge figuring out what OUR Spider-Man or Hulk would look like. I started out by having several comic artists give us some character designs based on my pitch handout. Comic book artist (and now friend and awesome guy) Sanford Greene did these amazing designs:
We started doing some early exploratory character digital sculpting/modeling to see how the designs would translate into a CG model. Here’s my handout for Captain America to direct the style we were going for:
Here’s the development from the first version by Daveed Kaplan to his final version, with my notes.
Through the visual development phase of the project we did a lot of iteration on the character designs. You can see in this progression of Captain America designs we moved to a more traditional comic book look, with more realistic proportions, anatomy, design, and stylization. Marvel was very supportive of me in the evolution of the designs, and eventually we arrived on this look we thought aligned with fans expectations for the project.
While still in the early character visual development, the Thing was another character we developed as a CG model. Sanford’s design was awesome, but how would we translate it in to 3D? Here are some of my notes on the process:
We then worked on Ms. Marvel with sculptor Josh Singh. Here’s my direction for her model:
And here’s how her model progressed, with my notes:
We actually did a lot of development down the more stylized/animation looking path for the characters.
You can see this lineup that existed in game at one point.
The silhouette variation was one of the stylistic pillars of the original pitch were definitely a big part of this design.
THE FINAL LOOK
Ultimately the final look of the game went a different direction, as you see below. During about a year of visual development, Marvel decided they wanted a more comic book influenced representation of the characters. The decision in that same timeframe to use Unreal gave us the ability to have characters that would look better in a realistic style with a larger tech budget and Unreal’s realtime rendering.
When developing the original style, a large part of the discussion that was affecting the aesthetics was the technical pipeline and the game engine. We weren’t sure we were going to be using the Unreal engine for a good part of the project, so we were projecting to have more strict tech budgets/limitations for the characters. The above more stylized characters were designed to look good with these limitations. The below character aesthetics definitely took into account that we could have at least twice the poly budget of the characters above, and though it’s a different style from what I originally envisioned, I’m happy with how they turned out. A lot of the underlying ideas from my original pitch like pushing silhouettes and shape variation in characters persisted through to the final look, but were pulled back to fit the style. I like my superheroes bright and colorful, and they definitely stayed that way.
Models below by Chris Anderson and Tyler Fermelis.