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A Grim Bloody Fable

August 28, 2008 - Dhabih Eng

The path to arriving at a final design for a character is sometimes a long and winding one. This was especially the case for the Demoman and we thought it would be interesting to step through that process and shed a little light on how we arrive at our final designs. Early on in the process, soon after we decided that we were going to start a new, more stylized direction for TF2 it opened up a whole range of possibilities in terms of what that meant visually. One of the first (albeit short-lived) ideas that was being thrown around was to try to recreate a look of claymation for our game. The idea was to make the world look like a miniature set built for clay figures which animated and gibbed into chunks of clay.

A quick set of concepts were made to test the idea but we quickly realized that though the novelty of such a direction would be interesting, it didn't fit some of our higher level goals in terms of what kind of product we were trying to deliver. However, we did want to hold onto this concept of simulating real world artistic materials in the game and this led to the more painterly look which eventually shipped with the product.

Now that we were back to the drawing board an effort was made to first think of these classes as full characters with a history, distinct personalities and even nationalities. Short biographies were drafted which helped the artists concept characters which they imagined would match these biographies. For the Demoman, although the angry Scotsman was already an archetype common in media we decided to embrace that. The short bio was:

"A fierce temper, a fascination with all things explosive, and a terrible plan to kill the Loch Ness Monster cost the six-year-old Demoman his original set of adoptive parents. Later, back at the Crypt Grammar School for Orphans near Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, the boy's bomb-making skills improved dramatically. His disposition and total number of intact eyeballs, however, did not."

With this bio to springboard from and constant meetings between the artists and feedback from the team, a number of concepts were created:

As we were designing the characters, a stronger emphasis was simultaneously being placed on readability of the classes when playing the game, and so as you can see in the examples above, the silhouette of the Demoman was becoming more and more distinct. The first few concepts didn't really separate him out from the rest of the classes but as he was refined the more substantial upper body shape helped make him recognizable immediately.

At this point, the 3D model for the Demoman was being built and we were preparing to move on. However, there were still some who didn't think he was quite there. A nagging feeling that perhaps the embracing of the archetype was a little to generic. Perhaps a little too much like a groundskeeper in Springfield. We needed a twist to make him more interesting. We didn't want to lose his personality but felt like visually he needed something that broke the cliche. A suggestion was made to have him of African descent and we ran with it.

With a few modifications to his overall shape we soon arrived at the final concept and what you all see and play in the game today: