This week we're going to change course a little bit and talk about the concept art of Hegemony Rome, the research and decisions involved, as well as show you how those concepts made it through to the final game. In particular, we're going to focus this time on how we differentiated the various cultural groups that Caesar encountered to help players quickly identify who and where they are fighting.
But to start, concept art, for those that aren't aware, is one of the very first stages in a game, and is done to visually design elements, characters, places, and objects in a game, as well as overall tone, story ideas, and more.
With Hegemony Rome, we already had most of the story laid out for us, as well as, indeed, most of the world! So the biggest factor in creating concept art was doing a lot of research into the various faction groups, and then amalgamating that research into coherent, easily readable designs.
In Rome we have four major faction groups: the Romans, the Gauls, the Germans, and the Britons. The Romans have a wealth of research and original sources for how they dressed, what they wore and ate, as well as many descriptive contemporary sources. The Gauls, Germans and Britons were all a little more difficult. A lot of the research we relied upon for the game came from a few notable sources, one of which is the fantastic Osprey line of books. Other sources included costume history books such as The Costume History by Auguste Racinet, Historic Costume in Pictures published by Braun & Schneider, and What People Wore When edited by Melissa Leventon.
Because of the specific time period of the game, we were forced to work around some of the more obvious design decisions. For example, even though in modern renditions we almost always see Roman Legionnaires in their famous Lorica Segmentata (the metallic armour made in long strips and fastened with leather), that particular type of armour wasn't in common usage in the Roman military until after Caesar's death. So while it makes them a little less recognizable, our Roman Legionnaires are wearing the traditional chain mail armour instead. However, this concept worked the other way, too! A particular example is for the Gauls. They were noted for using lime in their hair and spiking it, making their hair look rough and white, standing on end. You can see the original design for the white spiked hair below. While it was an interesting design, because of modern hair cuts, it ended up looking strangely anachronistic and 'punk'-ish, so we decided to stay to more 'natural' hair cuts and colours.
The number one consideration for designing the different faction units was to make sure each of them were completely distinct from each other. So while in reality the clothing designs between the different 'barbarian' factions likely didn't vary nearly as widely, for game-play purposes they needed to have very distinct features so that they could all be easily told apart on sight. The first consideration was colour. The Romans in our game all wear shades of red/purple, as well as silver (for the chainmail). Blues were chosen for the Britons, oranges and browns for the Germans, and greens for the Gauls. The next major design decision was pinpointing themes for each faction. For the Britons we chose their distinctive blue tattoos/body paint as both a unit indicator and as a design mechanism for their shields. The tattoos were simplified in order to be able to be read more clearly at a greater distance, since much of the game is played in a zoomed out state.
As you can see this also meant that in general the Briton units show a lot more skin, so that their tattoos are more readily seen. This is happily also historically accurate – they were known to even fight naked!
The Gauls, as you can see in the example above (back when we were talking about hair), mostly wear tunics and striped pants, always in shades of green. Though many of the examples of the Gaul's distinctive pants tend to show them in much paler shades, we decided to be a little more lenient on colour, to keep them from looking too much like pajamas. Their shield designs were based on animals – many of which are directly taken from Gallic coins contemporary to the era. We know that they used animals like boars as war totems, so it was an easy leap to make!
The Germans were known for using animal skins and furs, so we kept with that theme, making sure that most of the unit designs were obviously more animal-based. Lots of fur, muted neutral colours are their trade marks. There was not a wealth of information on their designs (beyond some carved log heads found in bogs) so we took the artistic liberty of doing their shields with strong, symmetrical patterns, in order to be clearly distinctive from the more chaotic Britons and the symbolism of the Gauls. Again, one of the most important design functions was to clearly delineate between faction groups.
Once you have a wealth of designs, however, the question becomes what to do with them! Most of them are obvious. Unit designs are turned into 3d models to be used in the game, character designs for cutscenes, shields for faction symbols and flag textures.
Some concept art, however, ends up in the waste bin for various reasons. Below you can see some bucket designs that were completed based on research into the material cultures of the various Gallic and Germanic tribes. Unfortunately, these were ultimately scrapped because they were too complex for items you'd only really see from far away.
What doesn't get represented in a 3d way, however, often ends up being shown in more 2d promotional art for the game, which is a topic we'll delve further into, during the weeks to come!
Look forward to next week!
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