Animal Adventures: The Faraway Sea launches July 20 on Kickstarter. Sign up to be notified on launch.
Hello! I’m Holly Woolford, resident art goblin (3D Designer) here at SFG. Our creative team is responsible for designing and sculpting the lovely miniatures you see in our games!
Today, we’re going to give you a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at character design and miniature development for Animal Adventures: The Faraway Sea.
Now we’ve moved beyond a world of only cats and dogs, I’d like to focus on the NEW animals and the different challenges they bring.
After many discussions between designers, writers, and artists, the species and class combinations were settled on.
(Which was no small task. THERE ARE SO MANY CUTE POTENTIAL ADVENTURERS OUT THERE!)
And thus, the design phase begins.
At this point in the process, there are usually three main things the artist or designer has to consider:
Art Principles. This is the important stuff; technical practice and putting the work in.
Intention. In other words, really understanding the end goal of the character. For example, as sculptors, we often have to think about how it will be viewed on the board, and whether it’s friendly to paint.
Feel/Story. Who is the character? Where are they from? What could their background be? Our work is just a vehicle to deliver a story to you!
Next, the descriptions are sent to our amazing concept artists who sketch, draw and bring our ideas to life, while injecting their own creativity into each and every character.
As you were recently introduced to our feathered friend, we’ll start with the Albatross wizard.
Let’s take a look at how we got there! Starting with our Lead Concept Artist, Doug Telford’s, interpretation of what our Wizard Albatross would look like:
Our sculptors then use this as inspiration to start to crafting the miniature. In the case of the Albatross Wizard, it was our 3D Artist, Thomas Lishman, who took on the challenge.
Every miniature is a chance to flex our creative muscles, and the Albatross is no exception. With this being our very first foray into the world of birds, we really wanted to make a splash.
For this sculpt, Thomas took creative direction from popular animated animals to figure out how best to simplify the bird's shape at scale.
The design process starts off very simple — with lots of spheres! We use this stage to block out the miniatures to capture the shape and intent. It’s important we make sure a character’s silhouette is iconic and interesting, so that it’s instantly recognisable to the player even at a distance.
Silhouette check! Here’s a work-in-progress shot:
One particular design challenge we experienced with this model was its sheer size. A typical albatross's wingspan is over 3.3m wide, which would mean each wing got its own 5-foot square on a map!
So, we needed to emphasise the size of the wings and create a dynamic, interesting pose, all without causing obstruction to other miniatures on the table.
To achieve this, our good friend Roger from Animal Adventures: Secrets of Gullet Cove comes into play!
As you can see, we use this good boy as reference for scale and to see how obtrusive those wings actually are.
Speaking of Roger, one of the most important things about introducing a new species to the Animal Adventures universe was to make sure they fit in stylistically. That meant giving them characterful expressions, and really telling a story with their pose.
You can see examples of this in the image below, where Thomas has sculpted the albatross hitting the water with pages of their spell book tumbling out.
A final tweak — including the addition of a compass and a few other little details — and our feathered familiar is ready to take flight!
Next up is everybody’s favourite baby cephalopod, the Kraken! The super duo, Russ & Tom, teamed up to bring you the cutest sea monster going:
The sculpting team decided to design this miniature from the ground up, which meant a lot of collaborative exploration.
From the start, there were a handful of unique design questions to answer with this miniature. For example, how would we make an appealing character from something widely known to be a huge and dangerous monster?
Russ starts the process by exploring face shape and eye size for our tentacled friend:
By using round and spherical shapes, we could bring an element of the soft, cute, and squidgy to the character. Just look at those eyes!
Next up is size and practicality. This little buddy needs to get around and adventure both in and out of the water, so what better way to solve that than with a bucket of water on wheels?
This magic-imbued cart is the perfect way to address the Kraken’s unique physiology on their many adventures!
During development of the Kraken, there were many team discussions about the youthful look of the character. After all, we didn’t want them to appear too young or incapable of fending for themselves.
To address this, Thomas changed the silhouette of the overall model to give a more triangular, angled look. He kept some circular elements, such as the soft curves of the tentacles and wheels, to give a more balanced feel to the overall composition.
Here, he introduced some basic colours to get a feel for the character and possibly a backstory. Could they be a chef?
With the overall design getting closer to where we felt our Kraken should be, what comes next are little changes to be more production friendly, as well as minor facial adjustments and experimentation.
We experimented with different mouth shapes and markings:
Different eye shapes:
And even a pacifier:
With all these little tweaks, you can see how their journey unfolded — but the real adventure is yet to begin!
Finally, our fleeced friend the Alpaca!
We had the wonderful pleasure of having the amazing April Prime assist with some of the concepts:
This one has to be one of my personal favourites! April uses a lot of round shapes to create a friendly, fluffy, and welcoming vibe. This bard certainly has disco fever!
With the initial concept done, the sculpt gets underway. The ever-talented Russ tackles this by beginning to block out the same shapes and volumes shown in the sketch by April:
Afterward comes some experimentation with facial features and fleece. It’s super important this character has a cheeky and happy expression!
We decided as a team that it’s best to make sure the audience can see the eyes on our miniatures, as they really help to convey character and create emotive expression.
Russ continues to add elements from April’s concept, making sure each feature is simplified and increased in size so it will come out and read well in the final model:
One challenge Russ experienced was how to represent an Alpaca’s big, fluffy coat without it being too fine or visually noisy at scale.
As a team we had a feedback round where we discussed the different types of fur we’ve experimented with in the past, sharing what worked well and figuring out what might suit our bard (without clash with their pom pom’s!).
We decided a more round, bubbly appearance, similar to image on the left, would work best at scale.
Finally, some finesse work on parts of the Alpaca’s kit, including patterns influenced by the region they originated from for that little extra touch:
And voila! A strutting pose, some adventuring gear so our companion is well prepared, and you have one dancing diva Alpaca ready for adventure!