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Dev Blog: Concept Art - Designing the Enemy

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Level 8 Extraplanar Concept Artist
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm

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!

Prev Blog: The Campaigns
Next Blog: Fuel for War - Resources Part 1

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on August 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm

An awesome post again. Just one little question: Is the red&gold ingame banner/coat of arms a general Roman banner or has it to do with Caesar itself? I mean, yeah, the eagle is clearly a Roman symbol, but didn't he or his family have some specific symbol like the family Scipio that was said to wear some image/symbol of a wolf somewhere visible on their clothes? Or is that just a myth?

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: Chaotic
Location: Greece Thebes
Posted on August 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

An awesome post with many details.Thank you devs.

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I don't know off hand whether Caesar has a family crest that he used, but I do know the legions he raised often used a bull for an emblem. However, at this point Caesar was still working on behalf of the Republic and we thought it made sense to use the traditional roman shield for his units. We do have variants for the sandbox where we have multiple roman factions and this is something we do hope to make accessible for modding.

Level 7 Human Misanthropic Aficionado
Alignment: Chaotic
Location: The Jungle
Posted on August 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I'm curious what a concept artist does once those early stages of development have passed. Is there a consistent need to continue creating new visual designs throughout the development cycle or does it become a matter of reviewing the rest of the team's work to verify the models and environments stay true to the tone?

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful
Posted on August 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Very nice work Britt.

Love the take you have on some of the more limited information. The Gauls look almost exactly like I would have pictured them in my own imagination.

Would very much like to see more in a future blog.

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on August 13, 2013 at 11:54 am

I'm curious what a concept artist does once those early stages of development have passed. Is there a consistent need to continue creating new visual designs throughout the development cycle or does it become a matter of reviewing the rest of the team's work to verify the models and environments stay true to the tone?

Britt also makes the ingame cutscenes, right? Among other things, I suppose. I mean, I have no idea what has to be done during the development of a game (merely modding a little bit by myself...).

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Britt might explain this more herself, but in addition to concept art she also does all of our 2D artwork including the GUI, unit portraits, loading screens, strategy map, production art (logos, ads, boxes, t-shirts, banners) and anything we need for the website. She also did a lot of work on the map including researching the various environment types, creating the textures, and doing a lot of the map decoration (painting terrain, laying out cities, planting trees, props, etc).

As far as the cutscenes, Clarissa did everything in the original games, as that was before Britt joined Longbow, but Clarissa's mostly focused on modelling and texturing for Rome. We're doing things a little differently for the Rome cutscenes, but you'll have to wait on that as we're not quite ready to talk about those yet.

Level 8 Extraplanar Concept Artist
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 13, 2013 at 8:52 pm

As Rob already said, I basically do everything in the game that requires Photoshop, with the exception of 3d texturing, though I've done some of that too!

I'm also doing some Easter Egg stuff that will be unlockable in the game. c:

Would very much like to see more in a future blog.

You will be! I have a couple more dev blogs coming up over the next few weeks, one of which includes production art - so some much higher quality paintings of the concepts you see here, as well as some new ones I stuck in and around. Some of them have already been released but if there is interest I'll slip some more concept work in there too.

I'll also hopefully be doing some brand new concept art once we go into play testing but shhh you didn't hear it from me. ;)

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful
Posted on August 13, 2013 at 10:31 pm

More concept art would be great along with the more detailed stuff.

I like to see how things evolve from start to finish. You don't get any closer than concept art alongside the finished product for that.

Level 7 Human Misanthropic Aficionado
Alignment: Chaotic
Location: The Jungle
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Super. Thank you for the responses.

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm

there called standards the eagle and the bull each legion had there own standard to carry into battle the best historian that I read his books is tacitus hes very informant on the history of rome he tells about how rome built their forts and sieges from Germania to gaul

Level 4 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on October 17, 2015 at 1:44 am

Are they planning to have the game playable in Android platform? Only few steam powered game are listed in Google play but this good one seems not in there. Anyway, these Gaul designs are great, which I think it will also be vivid if done in digital format, try get a reprinted copy from http://www.digitekprinting.com/digital-color-copies so the comparison may be a viable reason to advance the editing options.