How many games have you played when every enemy looks the bloody same? Remember the old side scrolling beat-em-ups? It was like killing angry Bob and his entire gigantic family of dumb identical twin brothers and all their identical friends who also shopped at the same clothing store.
But there’s a reason for that, and it’s called memory space. It haunted us then and it still haunts us now. So how did we go about solving this problem in Bulletstorm? We created an entire army using one bald dude.
Meet the ‘Skull’. The Skull gang is a bunch of cannibalistic savages. They’d break into your house, decapitate your grandma then use her false teeth to skin your cat. I won’t spoil the story of how these guys ended up in the abandoned city of Elysium, but let’s just say they’re mean, they’re badass, and they form the meat of the enemies you find in Bulletstorm.
So these guys needed to look like brutal, hardened savages. Which is why I have to admit, when I first saw the bald guy above put into the game I was rather shocked.
We had swapped our old characters for a Right Said Fred clone army of camp looking baldies. We weren’t just suffering from the aforementioned identical enemy problems, we were making it worse!!! How could this possibly be a good idea? But behind the scenes there was a cunning plan in place of which our baldy was merely the first step.
Now, character models in videogames are expensive. They take up lots of valuable memory space which would otherwise be filled with crazy explosions. In Bulletstorm we have A LOT of explosions. In fact, we have a lot of crazy shit going on besides them, so we really didn’t want to go spending all our precious memory space on creating a ton of unique character models for every single enemy.
Back to our bald friend. If you’re thinking he looks a little bit like a generic videogame character, then you’d better go and enroll yourself in the school for the naturally gifted, because you’d be correct. He’s ‘deliberately’ generic because this little bald psychopath forms the basic core building block for the entire Skull gang. The way it all works is through attachments – a load of random different bits stuck onto the base character.
Our standard plane bald Skull is our base template. On top of this blank canvas we add a number of elements then randomize them in order to make each Skull completely different. For instance, we vary the skin color and tone from pale to tanned or dark. We adjust the body shape and size to have guys that look like they haven’t had a decent meal in several months to guys so chubby they look like they need a quad barreled shotgun to take them down. Then there are tattoos and face paint to bring out the tribal feeling. Then. to add to the gang vibe, we’ve got various different punk haircuts and pierced noses/ears as well as armor, wrist blades, shoulder pads, etc.
So the idea is we’re using just the one character model but we’re tweaking all the details put on top of him, hence why it’s cheaper on memory.
The end result? See for yourself in the following image. One bald dude is all it takes to make an army of savages.
Bartosz Bieluszko, one of our Character Artists who was responsible for creating the base Skull and a lot of the awesome attachments, has made a video to showcase them in action: