Casting a spider

Oct 312014

Hello everyone! This post is intended to give you a glimpse into the thought process of designing Ghost of a Tale’s models. But first a word of warning:

Arachnophobes beware!

Recently I worked on one of the game’s enemies; namely the “Blood Spiders”. I went straight ahead to get the first idea out of my system and this is a quick (admittedly very rough) first pass at the model (with garbage texture). However at this stage I realized I was not quite happy with the direction I had taken.

First attempt at a spider

The first question I always ask myself is this one: does this design belong specifically to Ghost of a Tale? Meaning does it have enough personality with the right mix of cute and dark? This question is closely followed by another: did I see this design plastered all over contemporary games? Does it have a modicum of originality?

Now it’s not always possible to make something which stands out from all the other clones you saw in countless games and movies. And sometimes it does seem like the mainstream video game industry puts a fine point in making sure creature designs reference each-other and never stray too far from an accepted norm.

Usually when spiders are concerned in movies and games the designers go for the tarantula (“mygalomorph”) look. A very meaty, brown, beefy kind of spider. So that look was done to death.

Spider montage

My first spider design was okay but it didn’t feel enough like a “real” spider to me. More like some alien monster. And as it stands it lacks appeal. Maybe I’ll end up reworking that approach at some point in the future but I wanted to try something different. So I went back to the roots of any design work: gathering documentation.

After a little more research I honed in on the very arresting Evarcha Culicivora (the “vampire spider” from Kenya). It’s a small spider that preys on mosquitoes.

Evarcha Culicivora, the African spider

The colors on its head looked a little like war paint and it was almost cute (for a spider that is). So once I settled on that new direction the rest of the way was fairly smooth sailing. I ended up with a design that satisfied me and was a lot more fun and appealing while retaining its inherent creepiness.

An interpretation of the vampire spider

And finally a quick in-engine shot of the spiders in a test level. The whole (re)design process I described took less than two days. I will probably still tweak the model later on but it is important to let time pass in order to gain a fresh perspective on things.

New spiders inside the Unity engine

The lighter patterns on the legs’ joints will also provide some nice and unsettling “visual noise” as the spiders hone in on Tilo.

Anyway I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Have a happy (and spider-free) Halloween…! 🙂

EDIT: Previously this post erroneously stated that Evarcha Culicivora originates from New-Zealand when it is in fact from Kenya. Thank you to Alianin for pointing out that mistake!

  17 Responses to “Casting a spider”

  1. Nice update! And man, do another fund raising round!

    We need this game! It’s beautiful!

  2. Ok I am impressed. Not in a good way, but I suppose my bad way is what you’d consider a good way. I’m arachnophobic but I got used to see spiders in games so I usually don’t care. These ones make me kind of cringe instead. Eeeeek! Good work. Damn you!

  3. Them buggers be cute! for those of us who arent afraid of spiders i like em! i just hope they dont apply posion effects like the spiders in Might and Magic Dark Messiah…. losing 99% of my hp to a posion in about 5 seconds was kinda brutal X.X

  4. It’s a smart demarche, good job !
    Eager to see more models 🙂
    Did you have the same method when you were supervising animator/animation director ? (observation, then drawing ?)

    • Thank you! Yes, that process is applied in animation as well. The idea is that you first need to learn (from observation) how “reality” works. Only then can you stylize, extrapolate and play with what you know to come up with something which is yours. If you do this then the result is that much more credible.

  5. Hey its so cool that you used an NZ spider, (I live there) especially one that I haven’t seen before.
    10 out of 10 for originality.
    Keep posting. I appreciate seeing the design process.

    • Nice! Yes, it’s surprising to me that such an interesting look isn’t used more often in illustrations/movies/games. Then again there are a LOT of cool-looking spiders in the world!

  6. Wow nice spiders !
    I like both 🙂
    Do you deleted the first one or do you think put it in the game (as “boss” of spiders, or something like that) ?

  7. Yeah.. this is the first time I’ve seen ’em… those spiders are looking terrific… they are scary but cute, they fit the GoaT world and are wonderfully original too!

    Also a really nice insight into the thinking processes behind designing great characters 😀

  8. Good work! I watched Big Ass Spider last week and it was a hoot. One idea I have is to help the hero is a mama wolf spider- she carries her brood on her back until they are big enough to leave on their own. (this is a real life wolf spider’s behavior).

  9. Looks fantastic will be buying this as soon as it comes out. three questions

    1.Have you every thought of having some optional audio logs or notes or extra tid bits of lore
    that you have to find through exploring that fill in some of the back story?becuse the world seems very interesting.

    2.Now I know you said that the scale wont be as big as skyrim or dark souls. But do you have a estimate on how long the game will be?

    3.Will you be having alout of graphic options or are you limited to unity’s standard pre-set options?

    thank you very much

    • Thank you!

      1) Yes, the lore will be there for players access it. It will mostly take the shape of information found in books, or directly in-game by observing locations and features, or by talking to characters, but also via an in-game “wikipedia” kind of repository.

      The goal is to keep things as concise but as evocative as possible without forcing it down the players’ throat. People who carefully follow what has happened in the world will be rewarded by realizing everything makes sense (hopefully) and nothing is gratuitous. I believe it should make for a satisfying experience.

      2) Regarding the game’s length it is difficult to estimate. It will be several hours. But I’m not sure how many yet. And it will of course vary wildly depending on your play-style.

      3) I think I’ll put as many graphical options as I can, as long as they have an actual impact on either the framerate or the visual quality. But I can’t say much more at this point.

  10. This is such an excellent post! Having such an insight into the creation process is very refreshing.

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