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Every Picture Tells a Story

This has been a really great week for Goblinworks. Thanks to everyone who backed our Kickstarter, we were able to hire additional programming staff to help make the game bigger, better, and faster than our pre-Kickstarter plan. We're pleased to welcome three additional Goblins to the tribe: Andrew Carlston, Andrew Richter and Cole Brown. They'll join Mark and Paul as the core of our engineering team through Early Enrollment.

We now have 14 full time staff and 1 contractor (who will convert to full time as soon as we can successfully save vs. US immigration policies). We're also relying pretty heavily on Paizo Publishing for back-office support and PR & marketing help. It's a pretty amazing evolution from the beginning of last summer when Goblinworks was just Lisa, Mark, and I plotting revolution!

While Mark has been busy interviewing and hiring, Mike Hines has been busy Art Directing! The rest of this week's blog is going to be handled by Mike, who is ready to show off some of the awesome work his team has been producing.

Waiting for the Sun

If you've ever known any artists from the computer game development industry, you know that the majority of us like to crawl into dark corners in offices, make art, and not show it to anyone until we have crafted it to perfection. However, we're running things a lot more transparently here at Goblinworks, as you may have noticed, so we are going to buck that trend and show you some works in progress!

We've been hard at work since the completion of the tech demo. Building MMO's is by far one of the most difficult things to do in the game development industry, and Pathfinder Online has some unique benefits and challenges on the art side. Here are some of the things we have been working on and figuring out.

First of all, we're starting with an amazing art heritage from the Pathfinder franchise. It makes us feel like kids in a candy store (but without the sick feeling immediately afterwards). We love the art of Wayne Reynolds, and his work has helped to shape what we're doing. We also have looked at many of the other Paizo artists such as Eric Belisle (for player character qualities) and Ben Wootten (for environment art). We have a vast database of monsters, items, weapons and assorted characters to look at for reference and in some cases to build from directly. However, we have a lot of requirements and specific concerns with regard to making art for the online game.

One of our primary focuses has been developing the player characters and their equipment. There are volumes of great ideas for character equipment, armor, weapons, and characteristics in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game database, but we've had to distill down the consistent visual themes and details into full sets of equipment that have a unified progression, read well at in-game sizes and quality, and make sure they all look awesome and fit into the Pathfinder world. On top of that, we have to make corresponding variants of equipment sets for male and female characters of all player races. It is a huge task, but we've been making a lot of great progress. We were without an on-staff concept artist for a while, so we started with Goblins Da and Stephen doing a lot of quick 3D concepts to develop the larger shapes and get a feel for the overall designs.

Once Darran Hurlbut (our concept artist) joined Goblinworks, he was able to take a lot of those ideas and quickly start turning them into final character designs. We've been working with the Paizo leadership to collect all of the ideas and feedback they have as well, which has been both incredibly helpful and fun.


In addition to the visual designs, we've been hard at work figuring out all of the technical aspects of making the characters work in game, including getting their textures, materials, and rendering to look the way we want, getting them fully set up for the full range of animation we will need, and planning for the character customization system. The more details we can nail down early in the process for these things, the less rework we will have to do, so we have been doing a lot of testing, iteration, and exploration to solidify our plans and process. I'm happy to say that we have been seeing some amazing results already. Our core character bodies are not ready to be shown yet, so these suits are just on 'mannequin' like bodies, but here are a few of the equipment sets we have been developing. These include customized user colors, material colors, and adjustable quality states, which are all likely to tie into the user customization and crafting, but the specifics of that are still being discussed. Remember, these are works in progress! ;)

For the second major area of focus, we've been thinking about how the world should look. As you probably know, we're building a sandbox game. On the art side, that means we can focus on core art that enables gameplay for everyone instead of being stretched across broad swaths of content that only a fraction of the players will see. Even considering that, we are a small team trying to create a huge world, so we have to plan well and do things more systematically. We have been poring over a myriad of solutions for developing large scale environments that you as players will be able to develop into a full-blown player-driven world. As with the characters, we've been drawing on the existing Pathfinder images from Paizo as much as possible, and working closely with the Paizo team to make sure we preserve the spirit of the pen and paper game. We are creating a world that is simultaneously believable and fantastic. Our goal is to capture the fantasy of the Pathfinder universe in a way that makes it feel real, fun, and compelling.

Our environment work ranges from the overall world-building tools and look to individual buildings and architectural elements. One area we've been exploring recently is the progression element for settlements and settlement structures. We still have a lot to figure out on this front, but the idea is essentially that each of the structures in a player settlement (and possibly elsewhere) will have upgrade paths. Players will be able to upgrade their buildings for bonuses and benefits to members of their settlements, and see those changes take place. We want settlements to essentially be like a collective customized character: It progresses over time with you, you make the choices as to what you upgrade and when, and you determine what structures your settlement has. All of this is driven by what you want to achieve as a settlement. As I mentioned, a lot of the specifics of the system and visuals are still being worked through, but here are a couple of initial rough pass concepts showing the general idea of the building progression levels.


In addition to the larger concept and design aspects, we have also been working on developing the look and feel of the structures, lighting and materials. Goblin Dave has been building places for you to hang out—behold an early incarnation of a Pathfinder Online Tavern!

Also, as a final note, Mike Wallin (our Animation Lead) has also been churning through the proper character setups and animations. We'll save the specifics for another update, but the mysterious fellow in the screenshot above is fully set up and animated in game, and we have some great demonstrations that we are excited to show soon!

Mike Hines
Art Director

Runnin' Down a Dream

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at the developing look of Pathfinder Online. Our thanks to Mike for pulling together the screen shots and sharing his thoughts on the process!

One final note for this week: We're really pleased with all the discussions the last several blogs have generated on the message board forums. We're interested in your ideas for additional topics, and I want to encourage you to let us know what you'd like us to write about in upcoming posts. Your feedback is invaluable!

Discuss this blog on paizo.com.