During our first live stream on Twitch, we debuted the very first weapon to be featured in Project BlueStreak called the LAW (Light Acceleration Weapon). Although it’s certainly cool to look at, creating something like this could take days, or weeks (or months!) to accomplish. I spoke to Jay Hawkins, our Sr. Concept Artist here at Boss Key about the process, and what it took to create the LAW from scratch…literally.
“The LAW came from one of Cliff’s ideas for a shock energy weapon. He had the gameplay worked out, the alt fire worked out in documentation — he had written it up,” Jay began, inching closer to the recorder.
Jay’s a big guy, from the looks of him, you would think he’s a pro-athlete, not a concept artist.
Jay continued, “And so we started spit-balling, grabbing references off the internet based on the kind of game we are going for. Specifically with this weapon, one of the things Cliff likes are the District 9 weapons. He’s a huge fan. So we looked at those,” he paused, chuckling a little. “He loves high-end sports cars, everyone knows that. So we looked at a lot of references for those — shape languages, materials. And one of the things he wanted to see too was, he wanted it to have sort of an “animalistic” quality to it.”
As we looked at the LAW’s first humble scribbling, Jay laid down his usual timeline turning an idea into a sketch.
“I usually block it out by days,” Jay stated, looking at the sketchy black and red image of the LAW, “So the first day is just grabbing reference based off his description, and showing him, “Hey! black and red, would that be cool? It looks kind of sinister – do we want it to be sinister? Here’s a crocodile! Here’s a dragon! Some evil looking animals – do we want it to be evil?”” he laughed. “It’s just talking back and forth that first day, then I’ll go into a sketch phase, which is the image we’re looking at.”
Jay narrowed his eyes, focusing further on the first image. “With the LAW specifically, this image was sort of the first sketch with Cliff standing there. “What do you think of this shape? This shape? How do we break up the angles?” We tried to have things go at a slant, like the Lamborghini Aventador, if I’m saying that right,” he said, shifting his eyes, “…I don’t know if Cliff owns one yet, or not.”
We both laughed.
“After that, I go into a 3D block out phase,” Jay said as I pulled up the next iteration of the LAW. It was a translation of the black and red, now a smokey grey with orange accents — quite the transformation.
“Well, my 3D block out would have looked like that. That picture is actually a block out based off my 3D block out,” he chuckled. “With the weapons, I’ll spend two days in 3DS Max, just blocking out shapes with primitives, using lots of booleans and pro-booleans — just hacking — hacking into the mesh, seeing what sticks loosely following the sketch I made up.”
Not going to lie, I had no idea what he was talking about — but the passion in his voice as he described “booleans” and “mesh” was electric.
Jay continued, “The benefit of 3D, and especially working in 3ds Max for this kind of stuff, is that I can figure out function,” he paused for a moment. “Like at the time, we wanted the front end to spin, so in 3ds Max I can animate the thing spinning and see how all the parts are going to fit together and Cliff or Tramell can stand there, and say, “Hey let’s make this part bigger, let’s make this part smaller.” It’s all in a 3D environment and it’s all on the fly. For weapons like this, it’s important that they have a really strong profile, but they also have to look decent in first-person.”
Oh yeah, I thought to myself, it’s a first-person-shooter, so designing guns with that perspective in mind is incredibly important.
“You throw a first-person camera in there, and you can build it exactly how it would look in-game. The benefit as I see, is that you’re taking out a lot of the guess work for the modelers so they can get down to the stuff that makes it really awesome,” Jay added.
I brought up the next image, where we see yet another incarnation of the LAW, now branded with deep red accents, decals and carbon fiber.
Jay smiled and continued, “After we block it out and get the general shape and look and feel and make sure it matches up that someone can actually hold it, and Cliff signs off on it — I take it into Key Shot, which is a rendering program. It’s freaking amazing.”
Jay put extra emphasis on the word ‘amazing’. Hearing that inflection from a guy his size is pretty funny.
“So I can take my 3D block out and drag and drop materials, as Cliff is sitting there. You want black, glossy paint? How’s this look?’ Drag and drop. Nah, that doesn’t look right. Carbon fiber? Yeah, that looks kinda cool! It’s literally on the fly.”
Jay furrowed his brow, “Again, it’s based on time frame. We don’t have time for me to disappear for a day and half and come back with a drawing and come back with a something and be like, “Hey, this is what I was thinking.”” He paused for a moment. “You know, my boss is standing over my shoulder we’re like, “Hey, change that to blue!’ or ‘how does that look yellow?” It’s a super free-flow process,” he grinned. “Once we’re happy with that, Key Shot makes it easy to throw some decals on there, a couple lights in — kick a render, and that’s it.”
“My block out mesh goes to the weapon modeler and that’s where the magic happens,” Jay continued. “And they make refinements, in this image you can see that the sights are different, we decided to change up the sights and put some elevated sights on it, as the modeler was working on it.”
Jay paused for a moment.
“But generally, it came out like this…and we step back and take a look at it and see if we’re happy once it’s in game. And it’s easy to make changes, once we have the base mesh figured out,” Jay said, slowing down. “It is an ongoing process — for sure!” he said with a triumphant sigh.
In the end, it’s about creating something that feels crafted and has the ability to stand on its own, serving as a brand’s stake-in-the-ground for the game and the studio. The LAW is seemingly one of many to come.
“I’ve worked with Cliff for years, especially on Gears of War, and we came up with his idea for the Lancer and I designed that. Putting that chainsaw on the front was iconic and we talked about how that was going to be our Lightsaber, so whenever you see it you know exactly where it came and what IP it belongs to. We’re trying to do that again with Boss Key — every weapon, asset – there’s no question where it belongs and it’s unique to our game. That’s the hard part,” Jay concluded.
Hard? Undoubtedly, but it couldn’t be harder than trying to physically fit a crocodile into an Italian sports car. Well okay, maybe a bit. Thanks Jay.