This post is a transcript of Ship Shape: Xi’an Scout Style Guides, material that is the intellectual property of Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and it’s subsidiaries. INN is a Star Citizen fansite and is not officially affiliated with CIG, but we reprint their materials with permission as a service to the community. INN edits our transcripts for the purpose of making the various show participants easier to understand in writing. Enjoy!
Ship Shape: Xi’an Scout Style Guides originally aired as a segment on Episode 2.14 of Around the Verse.
Ship Shape: Xi’an Scout Style Guides – Transcript
Paul Jones: So when we’re developing these ships, obviously this is the first iteration of the Scout [gestures to old concept image], it’s already been sold and in the past we may have just ran with this design, just built it, but obviously now we’ve been doing this for two years and we’re more familiar with the process and the kind of things we can change and improve upon. You know, the things Chris is happy with.
PJ: So we’ve taken this original design and this is being built by the guys in Texas, in Austin, but in this studio we’ve also been working on Xi’an transport ship so we’ve already had to start taking … starting our journey, working out the style guide for that ship, so it made sense before the guys in Texas start building this we gave it a proper second pass of concept and solve a lot of the problems that we know will exist. And also we’d advanced the style so luckily, or unluckily for Gary, this was his first task and because of Gary’s background in automotive design and what he has in his portfolio it seemed like this was going to be a really good fit for his style.
PJ: And so today we’ll talk though the ship and the thought process of Gary because a lot of this work has come from Gary’s head. Generally what will happen is I’ll set an initial style guide. Generally the way I work is we set a “cone of vision” and as long as the concept artist bounces around in that then they get their creative freedom, I get what I want, we hopefully deliver something that Chris is super happy with and you fans as well. And then we move on from there.
PJ: So this ship: we definitely wanted to keep the verticality but the areas that we were keen to improve upon were the high tech feelings of the ship. So advancing its form language a little more; working more with its materials … I mean, take it away Gary, what was the first area really that …
Gary Sanchez: The first thing was to also to really give a spirit of the culture of Xi’an through their shape language. And so we have go back to the silhouette that was designed on the original concept looking a little bit like insect and some [something] inspiration. So it is inspired by the nature but also by some surface, interfacing of new cars and to work a lot on the surface that catch the light in a good way.
PJ: Yeah because one of the founding things was always it was based off a lotus, kind of like a lotus flower wasn’t it.
PJ: That was part of the history given to us from the writers. Obviously this [gestures to new concept image] has still got that petal feel and that’s an important thing that we want to keep and also feature in some of the language.
GS: And also we introduced a little bit some polygonal designs that is more used in the design field for advanced technology that Xi’an will have. Also inspired by supersonic flight developed by famous supplier while making new wings so we try to introduce this kind of component with some hole in wings to make a remember of this kind of new supersonic ship to show an advanced technology. We work also a lot on the cultural and history of Xi’an through some hallmarks and some signature of their culture. And also some fractal texture pattern to show that we are going into a “next gen” game and futuristic.
PJ: Yeah, so there are hints of 3D printing, getting those impossible forms, because the writers have always been very keen on having the Xi’an high tech. So it’s just about how do we differentiate them from say the UEE or the Banu. So this has been a really good exercise for us to really push what we deliver for concepts, especially for the artists when they get to build this stuff, that hopefully we’ve answered more of the questions than we may have done previously. By the time the artist gets to build this they will have pretty much a design bible but also it will list all the materials, the graphics, the decals, the construction, the theory, the colour of the engines, the colour of the lights. You name it!
PJ: In the past a lot of this work has been done to a certain extent but I’ve really been happy with what we’ve been delivering for this next round of concepts. So you can see that we’ve also been investigating [gestures to image’s left edge] … So with the Xi’an tech we’ve got essentially a triangle shape that signifies a “maglev technology” and so we’ve been building on top of that for this as a race. We’ve also been looking at very visual language …
GS: That combine tribal feeling and electronic feeling. So we tried to make a new language sign to define a little bit the culture of Xi’an.
PJ: It’s not fully developed this is more something that we can work with the writers on and Chris and just sort of say “hey, here’s some ideas”. So in this case yes we haven’t finalised the language it’s taking the step towards a direction at least then people can go “Yeah that’s cool”, “No I hate it”. And then we can move on from there.
PJ: We’ve also been looking at, again a sort of similar like holographic style for the UI for the cabin, for the cockpit sorry. That’s again tying in with this more organic feel. Whether we, turns out we don’t really have the tech in place to do this but it’s something to strive towards we can’t always do what we want but at least we sort of create inspiration and then it’s always a case of shoot for the moon and if you can get it close then great! We generally do try and make our stuff as, as easy as possible to implement basically. So here is, this is basically. What is this? What have we called it? It’s a style sheet essentially. A materials sheet?
GS: Yes! It’s research also on material to try to find something using the last prototype, in design industry to show their advanced technology of Xi’an. So playing with some carbon, with some fractal pattern, with some material coming from Xi’an system or planets. To make a real story telling through the material and get an immersive concept for the game
PJ: And again you can see here some of the essentially the triangular motif and just as experimenting how we can maybe implement that as either button technology or … We’ve moved on from that and essentially most of the Xi’an cockpit is holographic but we’ve taken some of this and given it, turned into more a Makers Mark isn’t it? Like a Hallmark if you will. I mean we haven’t fully figured out how that translates across different ships and different manufacturers which ships it will be on and how it changes, but again it’s just that delving a little deeper into the theory of the ships and giving the artist more inspiration. So what do we have here?
GS: It’s a, I remember of the Hallmark spirit. So we work also on some little component and through this component we tried to create a new gameplay with some sliding propulsor that will be integrated in the ship so we reflect also about integrating new gameplay through the design in this kind of ball.
PJ: I mean and in this case it’s often cause obviously Gary’s super creative these ideas are coming out of his head, he’s got ideas about all sorts of things and these things not always get implemented but it’s something we can chat to Designers about. Find is there any way we can use this, you know and at the very least gives a little more direction for the artists to get in on sort of how to build the thrusters, the maneuvering thrusters and again just defining shape language.
PJ: So this is; some of you will know this is the interior of the Scout. This is first round concept. We’ve stuck pretty close we wanted to keep that open feel basically sort of the minimalist interior essentially so you’ve got a high amount of visibility but then Gary’s sort of advanced it.
GS: We tried to differentiate the design between civilisation through the shape language to make something more pronounced in terms of culture and different technology. So we used some different shapes and material to make a difference between the civilisation technology and manufacture to go a little bit further on the spirit of Xi’an
PJ: So you can see here, we’ve, we’ve basically implemented the Hallmark system we started to factor in some of the script, we’ve got elements here of sort of the 3D printed materials and really working with the PBR, with the Physically Based Shaders, so you’re getting really good glossy surfaces right next to matte surfaces and really just having like a good experiment that you should when you get into this thing it should feel like, I mean there are obviously, there were hints of Lamborghini in this but we’re pushing for that high end feeling when you get into this cockpit it should feel high tech, it should feel foreign, and right now you can see from the control system that it is, that it is different from traditional ships.
GS: Yes. Different UI and trying different things about that. There is also a work that is behind all of that to get the more immersion as possible with making some split line and screw and all these little details that are most specific to Xi’an. So there is all this kind of work we are doing behind.
PJ: So any shades are super helpful because if we can have one of these for every ship then it’s a lot easier for us to figure out are our ships looking too similar to each other, what makes this manufacture unique. This is something Dan had started doing for the Idris and this is some of his work, this is some of this work here as well that he did for the transport ship, and so it’s about taking elements from this and then working them into the Scout, but again it’s all about building on the brand. This all helps to define the brand, to define the manufacture, it just makes it for the Artist, it makes it clearer for people like me. We got a lot of ships, we’ve got a lot of panel lines going on and anything we can do to help differentiate makes our lives a lot easier.
PJ: What do we got next? As we’re developing this ship, the guys Josh and Chris, they’ve already done a good job sort of fleshing out so maybe Alvin had done the first pass on this? We already have the animation or the basics of the animation of it landing. Originally I believe the idea was that the seat would come out along this front piece which basically didn’t really work. If you were landing here like a custom built landing platform for this ship then probably you would have some platform here, chances are you wouldn’t have something custom built so we really still needed to get the pilot to the ground somehow.
PJ: We’re changing it, so this is just an example of some of the theory that we’re going through in terms of the cockpit. You’re going to be entering from the side now, again the glass is going to rotate and then peel back and again it’s got that sort of floral feel, it’s got like a bud opening so it’s kind of working with that lotus flower feeling.
PJ: Also we were really struggling with how to get a high tech way of getting into the cockpit where we I think, how many examples, how many variations.
GS: We have done a lot, maybe 20? We are searching to make more than the shape language, and the surfacing, and the texture to have cinematics that looks, or fit, are fitting with the technology of each civilization so to respect also the way the manufacture of the ship, how to access to the ship, how to lend, so all this kind of …
PJ: So we’ve ended up on using the maglev system or sort of technology basically behind that theory because what we’ve wanted for the steps is to be fully integrated so you really wouldn’t know they’re there and basically what will happen is a little panel will reveal, the steps will all essentially float out and expand and create dual purpose footplates and hand holds, essentially that’s the theory. This is a rough guide and it will change probably by the time this gets released, but this is should still be the same sort of theory and this gives us nice animation opportunities when you know you can imagine when the steps comes out there’s a slight bob, when the pilots climbing up there’s a slight reaction and when he foot comes off they settle again. I still need to speak to Steven about this, but I guess we’ll figure that out. This is all the kind of theory that goes behind.
GS: And this is a mock to show that there is also the work that is presented is pure artwork, but there is also all the work that he’s done behind us as real manufacture object so that we solve problems that we are trying to solve through a design process. Establishing the society, to make some iteration as fast as possible, to adjust the surfacing, the split line, the volume, the texture and solving also the functional problems so there is a lot of work that is done behind just as a final image that we see.
PJ: This is a pretty complex ship, it’s small and compact, there’s not a lot of areas where we can hide any of our mistakes essentially so the whole ship’s going to have to be pretty tight. This is just us sort of working with the modellers when they get to whitebox or sort of early greybox. We’re looking at their work to check in. It’s not like we’re like it must be built like this, it’s just my job as a director and Gary’s job as a concept artist is to try and achieve the vision. It’s not always possible, sometimes there’s only 90 or 80 percent, but we’re always working with this guys in sort of giving extra information on sort of the …
GS: The volumes, the textures.
PJ: The volume, the cross section of these areas, the way things rotate. It’s this constant backwards and forwards and that’s what we’ve been doing on this ship. So this has been worked on by Josh and Chris in the states. We’re really looking forward to this one, we’re going to have a lot of new materials. It should look pretty alien, I think this one will be really, really cool. I can’t wait to see it in a hangar and you guys should probably, fingers crossed you’ll see it sometime this year.
GS: I really appreciate the work on this ship because of its very special shape and I think a lot of players are waiting for this kind of also alien ship that looks also interesting, but they are different and we are looking forward to see what will be the final result done by the US studio.