cld (see-L-dee) makes games and graphics in Western New York.

SoC004 - Mech Design 01

August 12, 2018

After some research, deep though, and soul searching I started working on a more final design for one of the main mechs in Carbon. Check out the progress so far and some behind-the-scenes how I did it type stuff.


The Geon Carbon is a mid-tier mech with average stats on just about everything. The idea, from a gameplay perspective, is that starting the game will provide you with this complete mech (cockpit, engine, legs) and an entry tier weapon. The cockpit has four weapon mount points (two mid-size and two light), as well as an integrated light blaster in the front.

I modeled the entire thing a little while after watching part 1 of DF Retro’s two-part video on water in video games. I was really inspired by the wireframe gameplay of Wave Race 64 featured in it, where the real highlight was how dynamic water was generated for the game. I ended up focusing more on the player models and just how clean they were, and decided to take it upon myself to replicate the methods I think were used to make those player models.

Player model from Wave Race 64

The model I came up with is largely box-modeled (or sphere-modeled, I guess), with a great deal of mesh rework after I got the basic shapes down. I didn’t have any sort of polycount goal in mind; rather, I wanted to focus on clean, clear geometry that was easily recognizable and would fit onto the basic chassis I created with the last mech I designed for Carbon.

Geon Carbon Geometry

After creating the model I jumped right into UV unwrapping, exported the UVs to .eps files for each part, and imported them all into a single Illustrator file, with an artboard for each object. I also converted the UVs into guides so I couldn’t mess them up or anything.

UVs in Illustrator

The illustrator has a couple layers for diffuse. One provides general fill colors, and the other is for finer details, like mount points for the weapons or various paneling.

Carbon diffuse

For a bit I was fairly certain this was all I wanted to do in terms of texturing. Most of the visual inspiration for Carbon comes from games that had either smooth shaded polygons or textured polygons with shading faked by the textures themselves. While it’s a neat aesthetic today, the restrictions that forced that look on those games isn’t really a thing anymore (unless your target platform is from that generation of consoles). After some audible pondering on the subject, my wife recommended I make some bump and specular maps just to see how it looks. So I did, and I think it was 100% the right move.

Latest render of the Geon Carbon, with bump & specular maps in Unity

I think that, while I’m constantly inspired by older video game and computer graphics, what I’m striving to do is not copy them as they were, but rather try to create how my mind remembers them. Wip3out doesn’t have any sort of high resolution models or textures, but the details in that game that are carefully implemented provide my mental image of the ships and tracks with more depth and detail than was actually there. So my approach to making the art for Carbon moving forward is taking that mental model and building it out without worrying about the technical limitations of 20+ year old hardware.

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