Hello, I’m Bryce, the environment artist at Giant Squid. I wanted to share a little bit about our art style and our process for creating the fascinating undersea life in ABZÛ. Let’s start with an eagle ray I did early in the project.
Our goal is to capture the essence of the creature and simplify the real life animal into a stylized version of itself. The first step is to analyze a lot of real life reference:
We try to pick out shapes that best represent the likeness of the creature and will do several quick drawings to determine the look and shape of the creature (pencil sketches here from our creative director Matt). If you look at a real eagle ray, you will notice there are a lot more curves and forms than our stylized version.
Next we make an untextured gray model. Looking at the wireframe here, you can see how we use hard edges on our models to give them a unique style and accentuate forms along the creature.
Then we create the texture, but we have to do a lot of simplification to make sure it stays within the style and can be recognized from far away. If we were to add all the real life detail to the texture the creatures would be visually noisy and hard for the player to identify.
Another trick we use when texturing is to actually cut into the geometry for certain designs or details. In some cases this is better than painting in the details to keep them crisp and clear and to avoid blurriness. On the eagle ray model you can see how I cut in the shape of the mouth and gills to get nice crisp hard lines.
You’ll be able to find the final eagle ray cruising around in the game, but if you can’t wait you can check out the 3d model right here on sketchfab.