Designing Drones for Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Designing Drones for Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Joe Gloria talked about the production of drone designs for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint: design development, preparation of the models for animation, texturing highlights and more.

In the beginning, my designs were military but the art director told me to think more about day-to-day products. What would you do if you wanted to equip a smartphone with a gun? I then started to use more friendly shapes and mixed them with pure military language.

To explain my approach better, I decomposed my design into the following fractions:

  • Create a module we could use for all flying drones containing AI (standardization)
  • Plug weapons in and make sure to keep smart shapes once the drone is armed (most important)
  • Protect the module, create functional armor

 

In a few days, I had the concept done in 2D but I felt I could push it further, so I asked for 10 more days in order to model it myself. Eventually, I added 2 more fractions:

  • Imagine a trigger system and how the gun blast is managed by the drone (I had some airsoft guns, so I had the shape, the weight, the feeling in my hand, so to say. My desk was always full of airsoft stuff during the creation process and it was pretty helpful in designing all the attachments correctly.)
  • If you open the drone's "skull" would you be able to understand how it works?
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The last two fractions were a big personal challenge. I was so obsessed with finding solutions for the design that I remember some of the answers came to me in dreams! And in the morning, I was like a scientist running to the lab to check if his calculations were correct. This is how my first drone was created which is the Wasp.

In the beginning, my designs were military but the art director told me to think more about Apple products. What would you do if you wanted to equip an iPhone with a gun? I then started to use more friendly shapes and mixed them with pure military language.

To explain my approach better, I decomposed my design into the following fractions:

  • Create a module we could use for all flying drones containing AI (standardization)
  • Plug weapons in and make sure to keep smart shapes once the drone is armed (most important)
  • Protect the module, create functional armor

 

In a few days, I had the concept done in 2D but I felt I could push it further, so I asked for 10 more days in order to model it myself. Eventually, I added 2 more fractions:

  • Imagine a trigger system and how the gun blast is managed by the drone (I had some airsoft guns, so I had the shape, the weight, the feeling in my hand, so to say. My desk was always full of airsoft stuff during the creation process and it was pretty helpful in designing all the attachments correctly.)
  • If you open the drone's "skull" would you be able to understand how it works?

The last two fractions were a big personal challenge. I was so obsessed with finding solutions for the design that I remember some of the answers came to me in dreams! And in the morning, I was like a scientist running to the lab to check if his calculations were correct. This is how my first drone was created which is the Wasp.

Speaking of 3D modeling, I already thought about the 3D model during the development of the 2D version, so it was not really complicated to translate the concept into shapes. The 2D design was simply for describing the idea and once the art director was ok with it, I pushed that idea in 3D as much as I could. However, I'm no modeler, so Sylvain helped with some parts.

Workflow

My workflow follows the next steps:

 

I'm not a modeler so even though 3D Coat is really useful and simple, I sometimes combine it with ZBrush to make some complicated shapes. For now, I have exactly what I need but I know I should learn Blender and Octane to be more efficient.

Working on Believable Mechanisms

As I mentioned earlier, I observed many electronic systems and other stuff to create flying drones. The goal was not to do the same but to give the same feeling. Plus, I wanted to create something fully customizable with propellers, triggers, loader system, optics, lasers, rails, cables, AI chip, and so on. Naturally, when you follow this path, you create many parts and the end result looks detailed, it's just a consequence. Imagine an automobile constructor: he doesn't care if a car is detailed or not, he simply combines all the parts together because that's necessary to make it functional.

For the ground drones, the process was a bit different. When I first worked on the concept with the art director, the only things that were supposed to be visible were the cables to give detail and organic feeling to the model. Later on, Sylvain worked on inner details directly in 3D and little by little he modeled every part. I only helped him with some paintovers and armor parts. Sylvain is very passionate about WW2 tanks and hard-surface models in general, so he was the perfect guy for this task.

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To understand whether our designs were believable or not, I drew several realistic situations in a snowy scene, desert, jungle, hangar, with soldiers, etc. Sometimes, I took a photo of an existing vehicle and replaced it with a drone to establish credibility. The results were convincing and we knew we had something pretty solid after that.

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Preparing Complex Models for Animation

Speaking of animation, I can try to explain a part of the process for the Legion drone as I followed it closely. This model was really complicated because the transformations had a big impact on the initial shape.

I worked on the closed and deployed positions keeping in mind how the drone was supposed to work. Then, I sent the file to my art director for some animation tests. After each test, we noticed something we had to modify or add for more believability, add we did the changes. This process was repeated again and again until we reached the result we expected.

Only after that, we sent the model to the animation department. It was probably the only way to express our vision accurately because our models were too complex to send them to another team and expect they'll understand instantly. Just imagine a very complicated mockup without any notes. In our case, some animation sketches were not optional at all.

Be Ready for Iterations

It's impossible to say how many drones and iterations I did, but at one point we decided to reset all ground drones and recreate them from zero (and I had many validated drones). It was a tough choice for sure but you know, as a concept designer, I find this "retry" thing a large part of the job, and you have to be ready for that if you don't want to be devastated. You cannot always expect to hit the target with a single shot.

In those cases, I look at the situation as a new challenge that you can solve with more experience like a second try in Dark Souls. You have no choice anyway.

Texturing

Overall, I try to find a balance between the main body and the visible hi-tech parts, something like 80/20% or 90/10%.

I choose something simple, metallic, reflective for main surfaces and something sharp, darker, detailed with color points for hi-tech parts. This balance works pretty well for believability and if you pay close attention you'll notice most of the usual vehicles like cars and planes have the same balance.

Then, I tweak contrast and colors to keep clear readability and play with specular and reflective surfaces, especially on the main body.

The final touch is decals, more contrasts on wide surfaces and realistic details on hi-tech parts.

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Joe Gloria, Concept Designer at Ubisoft

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

Joe Gloria, Concept Designer at Ubisoft

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    Designing Drones for Ghost Recon Breakpoint