Mišo Vukčević gave a talk about the brutal RPG Bleak Faith: Forsaken he is developing together with Mirko Stanić.
My name is Mišo Vukčević, and I’m developing Bleak Faith: Forsaken alongside Mirko Stanić. We’re both from Montenegro but I live in the US right now. We’re both just getting seriously into video game development with this game so our past projects were mostly personal projects we didn’t seek to publish.
Bleak Faith: Forsaken
Bleak Faith started as a graphic novel, and about 30 pages in I realized it was missing music. The choice was to either make a film or a game about it, and I decided that a game would bring the Omnistructure to life in a way a film never could. I started alone and that was going in one direction, but Mirko reached out to me and even though I was adamant about doing this alone, his work ethic and no-excuse attitude won me over entirely. Cooperating with him also allows me to focus mostly on the front-end where I generally belong.
Bleak Faith is a unique cross between dark fantasy and some post-humanist cyberpunk – two huge inspirations in my artistic life generally are Berserk by Kentaro Miura and also Tsutomu Nihei’s work. Nihei’s work is particularly hard to capture in 3D, especially as a game so I thought that was a great challenge for me. The main mechanics is an open world and semi-procedural AI, some really fast-twitch combat, and choices on how and when to solve problems. The world is full of problems and the solutions are not readily pointed out to you, you have to really invest yourself in finding out the intricacies of how this new world works. It starts with you as Forsaken, being brought into a Forsaken outpost as a new recruit – and from there, the world is open and ready to be uncovered.
Developing the Game
We laid out a lot of the work in lists that we follow. We cover the main features, and the main feelings we’re going for, and the until we get them we don’t update the list. For example, for an RPG it was important that combat felt connected and brutal. And combat is so much more than just animations – the feedback namely is something we really went Tarantino on. RPG games are known to usually lack the fast-twitch impact of action games, namely the FPS genre – so we wanted to bring that into our world.
One specific example of how far we went with the responsiveness in combat is the sound system for hits, which at every hit makes a varying sound depending on many things: who is hitting, with what, whether there’s any armor, if yes, what kind of armor, what kind of enemy you hit, etc. And each of these choices will play a different sound, from a variable library. By the end, you have about 10,000 potential sounds to play for every single case. A heavily armored giant you hit with a sword shouldn’t sound the same being hit as a lightly armored puppet that you hit with an axe.
The most important thing for the prototype, however, is a strong vision – and that’s something that’s carrying this entire project. There is a very clear world of Bleak Faith, and I’m just staying true to it. Bleak Faith informs the features it needs to tell its stories, instead of looking at other games for what might be fun to add.
Introducing Mocap into the Pipeline
I bought a mocap suit and set up a studio in my bedroom. Finding a pipeline to create animsets and cutscenes was the goal and we’re there now. We can make mocapped animations that will be unique for each enemy, and that can ground the game into the world even more. Of course, we haven’t filmed nearly the amount of animations we plan on, but that wasn’t the goal for the prototype. The idea is to have our in-house mocap animations cover everything from top to bottom, focusing on the characteristics of every enemy type and giving them that organic realistic weight. We used HTC Vive and Ikinema Orion to film the animations. It’s great because it’s affordable if you know what you’re doing. I plan on making an extensive guide one day on getting your own mocap, and then covering some pitfalls I traversed along the way, like creating IP and RM animations and the different hurdles you have to jump through.
I always start with the intent (which requires knowledge of the lore). What is the character evoking? Dread? Stoicism? Valiance? I usually summarize in a sentence a kind of a dynamic description. I say dynamic because it’s important to think on more layers than one. The character is a knight (and that evokes a sense of valiance and valor), but has lost his purpose and has a sense of loyalty only to himself (this suddenly informs the design incredibly).
In this example, the character is supposed to exude a sense of regality and confidence
The horizontal vizor reads as knightly, but making a vizor with multiple horizontal openings (which are slanted downwards and look worn) suddenly starts to evoke a mystery, a weight, and a sense of misdirection. This gives depth and story to a character without saying a word. The blunt spikes on the armor look defensive, shelled, independent. Without a sharp edge, the character looks contained, not particularly aggressive, but can put up a fight if need be.
Approach to Texturing
Since I work on many aspects alone, I can’t elevate the art to a level I can actually work at – so the main challenge is being reasonable with what can still look realistic and attractive, but not require too much time. I’ve textured over a thousand models so far in Substance Painter, I would say the flow is pretty habitual for me right now. I am aware I’m not pushing Substance to its limits, but the time constraints are incredible and I need to produce work consistently. I stay consistent with materials in terms of the game world and what I make. I have my own smart materials which I will use across the board for different materials so that they stay visually consistent. The variety comes not out of the texturing process, but the process as a whole. To me, the textures are just the cherry on the cake and the most fun to do because they make the most drastic change, in the least amount of effort. Having said that, you shouldn’t lean on the textures to make your work appear good – you will know if it looks good before any coloring – and that might be the drawing background in me talking, but I firmly believe in being happy with your work in black and white, and not using color as a crutch. Color then can be used to amplify the work, not save it.
Painting as well helps with understanding the depth in color. The reduced palette I use is actually very rich, it’s just complex so it appears muddled. But in that, I think you find the organic richness of reality that is flattened in stylized graphics. I will usually paint hues first based on some mental rules on how light would affect different areas of a model or a material, and only then use a texture. My models are first just painted in basic colors, which I try and make as rich and deep as possible. Then, that color usually comes out through some blending modes dependent on my needs – I love Screen and Multiply though!
TIP: When exporting textures, export them in their smallest respectable format, set the materials up in UE4, and then re-export them in high quality, and use the “re-import” function in UE4. It’s much faster working with small files, and I’m surprised that some people don’t see how much time that can save!
We are mostly done with laying in the features. We have about a month left of putting things in (completing the ecosystem, completing stealth, etc), before we start our polishing phase. The polishing phase means that Mirko and I focus on our own ends entirely and go for the highest quality possible. So even now, the pace of the work is not as fast as it will be once we’ve tightened the features and brought the whole game together. Mirko constantly expands UE4 to meet my specific needs and it’s a great help because I can add content in a way that’s ready for the game, without going through any more people than myself.
The prototype was done so that we have a workable game, which is easy to expand and allows us to showcase things more easily. With the prototype being finished, we can now finish up features that aren’t there yet, but we both have the direction and understanding of what we’re doing. Our fans were able to see a very rapid pace at which we worked to create features weekly, but it’s only going to get faster as we both get to work solely on our own obligations for the game.
Now that the Kickstarter has launched, there’s a lot less logistical work and a lot more room for work itself!
The next challenge for us is trying to acquire funding. I feel we’ve overcome every production and process hurdle we had other than creating the remaining content. There are no more unknowns for us, and that’s very encouraging. Of course, there are always things you don’t plan but the confidence in our abilities to adapt and grow is what’s driving us especially. Two months ago I dreamt of motion capture and using it for a game in the future – now I’m at a point where I am ready to explain to small indies how they too can use motion capture for their projects. The progress is wild, so stay tuned!
I think the most important thing I can say (and I don’t hear a lot even though I know it’s important) is being able to draw – more than any pipeline and piece of software. When you draw and you have the confidence that the early stages of the drawings will at some point become very polished it can be half the battle. Overcoming that fear and lack of confidence is a matter of making thousands of drawings, and that skill translates amazingly to 3D art. The tools are much more easily learnable, but that visualization is something that I feel is only acquired through extensive honing of illustration skills – so I can’t stress that enough.