Between making the game, guiding the anime opening and creating the physical goods, we’ve got a lot going on at Lab Zero right now.
Lately we’ve been working to finalize the design of the Ajna / Heruka “Duality” statue before submitting it to WeLoveFine to begin production.
Since we commissioned the original sculpture from IHazToys’ Layna Lazar back in 2015, we’ve gotten a lot more familiar with Ajna and her Heruka form, and wanted to update the sculpture to better represent the characters’ physical details and personalities.
Here’s a look at the original statue:
While we were more than satisfied with Layna’s work, she’s based in New Zealand and we had deadlines! So to speed up communication and iteration time on the final design we teamed up with a local sculptor, Thar Be Monsters’ Cody Bunt, for the final design.
Max Gonzalez, Lab Zero’s new-ish Lead Environment Artist, has experience working with Cody and Riot Games’ merchandise team, so he’s been spearheading the process of finalizing the design.
The first order of business was firming up Ajna and getting her to be more on-model. The details are what make a figure great, and so we wanted to be sure to get all of those right.
Studying in-game and promotional art, Max and Cody set about updating Ajna’s model. Translating a 2D character like into 3D can be very difficult for because there are subtle differences in the character depending on what the image is for.
This promotional image is a great reference, but the anatomy is pushed a bit more, and there are subtle differences in Ajna’s face and head. This piece is also slightly more detailed then the model sheet and in-game art.
The subtle differences in different types of art can make it more challenging to create a solid 3D form from the 2D images while retaining the essence of what makes the character unique.
A lot of iteration and testing is necessary to get the look right. And not just a great understanding of what makes Ajna stand out, but also an understanding of the style the character is drawn in, and the limitations of 3D. These forms are very subtle and require a huge attention to detail.
After being pleased with the first polish pass we compared the new sculpt to the concepts and immediately moved ahead with redline and paintovers for feedback on subtle details.
In the first polish pass, Ajna’s hair had a bit of a comb-over – certain chunks had different origins than others and were strongly overlapping. So a paintover was done to illustrate that her hair radiated from the center point on top of her head and each hair chunk respects the others without clipping or overlapping much.
Obviously Lab Zero’s 2D artists are pretty familiar with Ajna at this point, so they can quickly identify small details that will help the 3D sculpt feel more like the in-game character. No detail is too small to be overlooked – just adding these little hair points in the back makes her feel less like a 3D model.
After this critique, we got a 2nd polish pass on the models. The forms are really solid, and at this point there are only a few minor changes needed to achieve an even closer resemblance.
Again, we go back to Ajna’s model sheets. We felt that the current pass of 3D Ajna felt a little too old, particularly in her face, so Max did a sculpt pass and did some redline to illustrate the changes for Cody.
These differences may seem minor, but they add up. Ensuring that Ajna’s neck is not tilted forward but upright instead for example, will give her a more heroic bearing. And having more mass at the top of her head makes her feel appropriately youthful.
And after all of this, we’re still not done! But we’re getting close.
Once we go through enough of these polish phases on Ajna, the next step was looking at how to push the overall statue to feel more epic. Since this piece will only ever be sold to backers, we really wanted to make sure that it felt special and unique to Indivisible.
We asked Alex to iterate on a couple ideas for new poses and bases. These sketches would inspire Cody to push the overall feeling of the piece, rather that the individual characters.
After speaking with Mariel, we decided that this concept really gave us the best sense of who these characters were.
It was very important to convey the differences of their personalities: Ajna the heroine, standing strong with a confident smile, and her Heruka form, which is more aggressive, dynamic, and powerful.
We still wanted to do more with the base, and decided to build one from fallen monsters.
Here’s a rough first pass on it:
This rough model helped us make sure the poses translated into 3D well, and that we could design a base around the figures that gave them enough room to breathe. At this stage we are not concerned with any anatomical warping, because we just wanted to test the overall shape of the statue so we can further iterate on it.
Pleased with the outcome, we moved onto the next round of iteration.
You can see these additional redlines from Alex:
And here is some further sculpting/design criticism on the base. Smoke in 3D is hard, but we wanted to get it right!
Because the piece has to look good from all angles, sometimes the artist must hop back and forth from 2D to 3D to identify and fix problem areas.
And at long last, we arrive at the final model…!
And a preview at some early coloring…
And now, the final renders…!
You’ll notice that we decided to change the dead Belu to one of the Belu statues found in the Ashwat region, in order to provide more color contrast for the characters.
So there’s a breakdown of all the work we’ve put into this statue.
We wanted the statue to be something truly special and representative of the game. After all of this iteration, we think we’ll be delivering a much better product to our backers now, and we hope you agree!
Thanks for reading! We should have production samples to show in a few months, so keep an eye out for those!
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