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Specially for 80.lv Michael Oberschneider from YAGER talked about his work as a concept artist on Dreadnought. Michael creates amazing space ships and environments for the upcoming game. He talked about the way he creates his amazing projects and how he defines the visual style of amazing flying fortresses.
Thinking back, I can recall a little moment in my life when I was about 6 years old. I watched a movie trailer on a little black and white TV screen. The movie: Star Wars – A New Hope. From that moment on I knew what I wanted to do in the future. To create these fantastic worlds and design these amazing spaceships.
It was a long road to get where I am now. After studying architecture, I did a few terms of industrial design in Linz, Austria. My instructor was absolutely amazing at design, drawing and sketching, I learned a ton. Shortly after, during my design study I got the offer for a concept artist position at YAGER. They had just begun pre-production on “Spec Ops: The Line.”
Before this great opportunity, a little team of 4 developers and I created the FPS game “Arena Wars: Reloaded.”
So “Spec Ops – The Line” was my second game and my first AAA project in the entertainment industry.
Currently I am creating environments, props, and Hero Ships for the game Dreadnought.
Passion For Space Travelling Crafts
Star Wars left an impression as mentioned, but really it’s the idea of exploring new worlds. It is similar to diving…the feeling of zero gravity, all these alien creatures you encounter in the ocean. So different from what we know on dry land environments. I also remember a really old book about space travel I owned when I was a little child. All these pictures of the Apollo missions, landing on the moon or rockets to Saturn, those never vanished from my mind.
Even a stony grey dead moon landscape with its lighting of white lit areas and pitch black shadow is absolutely fascinating to me. A few weeks ago I visited an exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London called “Otherworlds”. On display, were photographs from our solar system, planets and moons. Just stunning stuff! No pictures from galaxies like Andromeda…not yet. I bet you can guess which game I am waiting for.
Shaping Spaceships’ Visual Style
First I have to mention Mathias Wiese, he’s the company art director at YAGER who created the designs for all of the base ships in the game. Those Hero Ship components fit on top.
He always comes up with great ideas and designs. We have 3 different manufacturers as you know. Akula Industries, House Oberon, and Jupiter Arms. Each one has a unique style.
Maneuvering thrusters have to be in exact locations where they make sense for the physics and at the same time seen by the player to give a good impression of movement.
Akula Industries creates vessels that are durable but streamlined. Ships used as references are: Mil Mi-24 helicopter, Russian submarines of war.
Basic appearance: dark or black coating
Maneuvering thruster color: red
Main thrusters: many small thrusters combined in one main engine.
A Veles (heavy Tactical Cruiser)
Jupiter Arms’ ships are reinforced, built to last and feature, a classic military design. Each vessel features hard, – sharp edges and flat surfaces. Straight lines that follow the edges of ship parts complement the stealth-bomber-inspired hull design. References are contemporary submarines, tanks and airplanes.
Basic appearance: grey, dark grey or bluish metal
Maneuvering thruster color: blue
Main thrusters: round
A Vigilant (heavy Artillery Cruiser)
House Oberon creates ships that are hyper-modern and follow a very organic visual style. These ships feature a lot of fluid lines and are the most elegant. They are modified from older Transhuman battleship technology.
Basic appearance: white with translucent colors and materials
Maneuvering thruster color: green
Main thrusters: triangular
An Invictus (light Dreadnought)
All these settings combine to create the unique manufacturers in the Dreadnought universe.
Additionally, we have Hero Ships. Hero Ships are vessels that feature unique geometries, dramatic visual styles and their own specialized loadouts for weapons and modules (slots for ship abilities).
The Outis: medium Tactical Cruiser Hero Ship
The Morningstar: medium Dreadnought Hero Ship
The Kali: heavy Tactical Cruiser Hero Ship
Before you start creating a new ship or Hero Ship, you have to consider the manufacturer and use the specific visual style that fits that ship and stays faithful to the other ships that have been created.
Gameplay function is very important. All the weapons and modules have a special purpose and they have to be at good positions to work well in battle. Functionality is the first thought when creating new parts, so there’s a bit of design constraint to always obey primary and secondary weapons, plus all those awesome modules. The heavy Tactical Cruiser, for example, is equipped with several healing beam stations and additional healing modules. When this ship is used in the right way, it’s an extremely strong ally.
The Artillery Cruiser is basically one huge canon. Command rooms and ship infrastructure are built around this giant gun with rockets.
We get inspiration from several areas, like contemporary military vehicles and aircraft, ceremonial military designs, heraldic beasts and medieval knights.
Creating all the environments is a real challenge.
It’s not enough just to draw some nice concept art. We have to take care about gameplay, like different cover variations, technical restrictions, reusable props and assets to create as many variations in the level as possible.
Another big topic is the scale. Here we use many little lights on buildings, trees on the ground or enough small architecture detail to support the size of your ship in contrast to the environment. Still it’s a tough job to get the scale working well. A good reference is the city at night in Blade Runner with its millions of little lights everywhere.
Concept art is working closely with environment artists who are building the final level in Unreal Engine.
Often it’s a synergistic process…coming up with new ideas, implementing them and improving the level or specific areas.
Concept art: Jupiter through the lens of a hollowed-out asteroid
Concept art: an asteroid mine drifts in the shadows
Concept art: terraforming Kappa Base, a coastal outpost on one of Jupiter’s moons
Concept art: an icy canyon on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s largest moons
Concept art: the rugged surface of Io
Concept art: the frozen landscape of Europa
Concept art: terraforming the red plains of Mars
We have to be very careful when designing a new Hero Ship. For these special vessels, you have to consider the locations of weapons and modules (which have locked positions), while also paying attention to moving engine parts/weapons or the angle of weapon fire.
We offer lots of different patterns, coatings, emblems and decals for each ship. We want players to feel empowered to create battleships that stand out and reflect their own personalities and play styles.
A Monarch (heavy Dreadnought) with the Stripes pattern
The Spartan Legion decal
The Kraken and Compass decal
- Sketchbook Pro
- 3ds Max
- Unreal Engine
All in combination with a Wacom Cintiq 24HD graphic tablet.
The Dreadnought universe is set in our solar system. You will recognize planets and moons you already know from NASA photographs like Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.
To support the feeling of being far in the future, moons and planets are terraformed. Asteroid belts outfitted with space stations and different facilities show the conquering of space. Orbital lifts, mining colonies, huge harbor docks…built by mankind.
But most importantly, Dreadnought’s world and technology design strives for authenticity and believability. We always ask ourselves: would humans build something like that in the future? How is it manufactured? How does the infrastructure work?
Concept art: a freighter docked at Kazan Bay, a mining city on the moon Io
Private work examples: