XENO TRIGGER : A TEMPLE OF TIME

"Xeno Trigger" is a high velocity gaming experience set in the ominously beautiful Temple of Time. This title was developed within an 8 month period for my Bachelor of Game Design thesis project, in which I was the lead artist on a team of 6.

MY CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Guided visual development for the whole project.

  • Designed multiple iterations of the player character to achieve the best outcome.

  • Created concept art to inform and assist level design.

  • Modeled architecture based on concept art for level implementation.

  • Developed materials and shaders in Unreal Engine 4.

  • Orchestrated lighting and post-processing for the game.

  • Art directed and assisted the technical artists on the team.

  • Created marketing media including a game banner and team tees. 

THE SETTING: THE TEMPLE OF TIME

Temple of Time concept art

The aesthetic for Xeno Trigger's environment was designed to supplement the gameplay and level design directly with use of arrow-like motifs and straight & narrow lines to serve as pathfinding for the player built into their very surroundings. Halo and Tron Legacy served as the primary inspirations for the architectural design, while the rocky setting was a way to make a convincing organic environment with very little manpower and time. The use of Violet was meant to signify the stature of the force that built the temple and also make it seem crystalline and electric. Essentially, mystical in a cosmic way.

Floor tile orthographic
PIllar orthographic
Platform concept art

The orthographic diagrams for the pillar and the floor tiles and the platform concept above were all meant to serve as guidelines for hard surface modelling the assets themselves. I also 3D modeled the architecture in Maya based off my concepts. Here are a few pictures showing how the concepts translated to 3D:

Since I was also the lead 3D artist on the team, my priority chronologically was to prepare the modular architecture before conceptualizing the the "hero assets" i.e. the entry gate and a goal post for the level's end. Since time was of the essence (for the project and in the game), I thought of a simple concept that would reinforce the objective of the game design while also being a philosophical argument for a very important realization I came upon during the course of this game's development: Time is not linear, it's cyclical. 

In acknowledgement of this, I used existing assets combined with a coupe new ones to design The Clock, the object at the end of the game's level and a material manifestation of the game's sole, unconquerable enemy - Time itself. Based on a rough napkin sketch, I put together this scene below in Unreal Engine 4. The screenshot showcases the final product, though I made do with simple greybox assets for the clock hand and frame when I pitched it to my teammates.

Xeno Trigger: The Clock

LEVEL ART & LIGHTING

Environment art and lighting done in Unreal Engine 4. The textures for metal, geode rocks and mushrooms were done in Substance Painter by our team's texture artist. The shaders for pulsating crystals, lava and rock were developed by me with the use of a free rock texture pack from Quixel's Megascans and Textures.com for the lava. All level lighting done in Unreal Engine 4 using point lights, spot lights and reflection probes to create the luminescent glow of the crystals and the searing hot incandescent glow of lava. Post processing involving chromatic aberration, lens flares and bloom were a significant addition to the overall appeal of the level. Feel free to watch the gameplay video at the top of the page or play the game in order to see all lighting scenarios. 

THE PROTAGONIST: SHIKARI

XENO_TRIGGER_BANNER_FINAL.png

The game's character, Shikari, was designed to embody the spirit of the gameplay: lithe, agile, blazing hot, flowing and ethereal. There was no narrative precedent to guide the character's development for this arcade style time-trial game, which lead to the design priorities being catching audience attention at exhibitions and promising a fresh but familiar sci-fantasy aesthetic for gameplay. 

The final concept for Xeno Trigger's main character was designed with the goal of representing her abilities in-game and serving as a compelling and beautiful poster to represent the game itself.  For the majority of her figure, the use of a ribbed skin-suit is meant to give her the appearance of litheness and agility while implying a flexible yet protective material. The silver components were chosen to express her stellar, alien nature. Below is the final marketing poster:

DESIGN EVOLUTION

Shikari: First pass
Shikari arms
Shikari boots

The first pass for Shikari followed a very masculine look. This concept was based off of an initial narrative premise where Shikari was a high ranking soldier in an alien culture. The curves in her design motif are intended to visually represent the player's flowing, leaping motion throughout the game. The use of red signifies her speed (often associated with heat) and her destructive predisposition towards her environment. The use of fantastical motifs compared to typical hard surface sci-fi design was a deliberate choice to contrast her character from her angular, cold environment as well as suggest a mystical aspect to her powers and origins. Ultimately the first pass was rejected by the team on account of her appearing too heavy and clunky for the abilities the programmers were giving her over the course of development.

Shikari: Second pass

Consequently, the second pass on Shikari focused on a more lightweight and energetic look than pass 1. The use of sleek alloy in this pass was meant to give her a more aerodynamic, friction-free look. While the team liked the general silhouette and style, this concept was also rejected for the final banner art due to the brighter colors making her look too dissonant from the game's relatively cool color palette. The resemblance to popular superhero properties with her mechanical exhaust looking too much like fire than plasma was also a reason to change it further to ultimately give it a cooler, pink-red look as seen in the marketing painting at the top of this section and the final design painting below.

SHIKARI_FINAL_CONCEPT_REEDIT_2.jpg

THE GUN: HEARTFIRE

Heartbreaker final concept

Given our time and manpower, we couldn't make a fully animated character model for Shikari (as much as the team would've loved to). This meant that Shikari's gun, "Heartfire," was the only aspect of her that the player would see on screen. So, its design is the only way to convey her character and personality in-game. Mechanical considerations such as the fact that shooting would stop her sprinting and the absence of ammunition also had to be taken into account. All the aforementioned considered, an alien shotgun seemed like the ideal weapon- molded in her draconic, curving visual motif with the same punch of color and heat that communicates force and speed. Heartfire would be the only weapon to make it in the game, we realized quickly into development, and because of that we wanted to make its design count. With that in mind, I designed a gun that looks very unconventional and extravagant by most sci-fi standards. My initial silhouette looked more linke a blunderbuss than a modern shotgun, but my trusty teammates pushed the final design to look weightier which playtesters responded to much better. Below are some in-game shots of the final gun model, modeled by me and textured by our producer/texture artist:

SHORTCUT 1.png
END SECTION 1.png
LIGHT 1.png
CLOCK ROOM 2.png

LEARNING OUTCOMES​

  • Major growth in communication abilities with team members.

  • Drastically developed prioritization and task management skills.

  • Learning how to work out creative disagreements productively.

  • Familiarized myself with common pipeline and design pitfalls.

  • Learned how to integrate playtesting feedback into visual dev.

  • Learned the importance of viz-dev progress in increasing team morale, especially for programmers.

  • Appreciating the value of criticism and having a progressive attitude through the course of development.