Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Ethereal

These are some of the concepts for the ultimate baddie in XCOM.
He is called the Ethereal, and is the most formidable alien you encounter in the game. I will not go into the story details here, but suffice to say, this guy's incredible psionic powers make him the ultimate adversary. 
We wanted him to be graceful yet threatening. Regal yet full of malice. He does not need physical prowess to dominate you. His race has evolved beyond physical strength and into pure psionic death.

(Images Created by: Piero Macgowan for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. ©2012 Firaxis Games/Take Two Interactive)

Really, really early sketches of the Ethereal. These were part of the first artwork I did for  XCOM.

Initially I was thinking the head could have some sort of psionic power gem, but then I thought that might make him too regal, and take away from his creepy vibe.

After fellow concept artist Bryce Homick  did a bunch of sketches for the Ethereal's overall shape, I  was inspired by his designs and made this concept, which minus a few changes, is what you see in the game.

headpiece design sketches.

Fellow concept artist at the time Kenji Bliss made some amazing designs for the elder's head and headpiece, which unfortunately did not make it in the game. These borrow from his aesthetic, as well as the Ethereal's body below.

XCOM soldiers and progression

Here's some concept work I did for the soldier progression in the game. Some of this is very early work, where we were focusing on the possibility of establishing soldier progression from rookie to veteran by displaying it visually though personality accessories and bits of swag or clothing. The needs of the game evolved, of course, and this meant a change into a kit-based system of snapping parts (final system not displayed here).
(Images Created by: Piero Macgowan for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. ©2012 Firaxis Games/Take Two Interactive)
The art director wanted "at ease" versions of the soldiers for the base early in development. I just dressed those concepts with the necessary armor. In this case the first pass on level 1 armor. Like most things in the game, it got "chunkified", or detail-enlarged to read better from game camera.

Level 2 armor

First pass on level 3 armor

These are very early concepts demonstrating the rookie/veteran idea we were thinking about at the time. Tattoos, scars, accessories, broken or scratched parts, and hairstyles meant to reflect a soldier's hardening progression through the game. The dude on the left was named "Tyrese", and we made a life-size standie which we still have in the office. (we also have a sectoid and ethereal standie)
An early version of soldier customization, probably one of the most popular parts of the game. I had fun creating different layers in Photoshop with all the individual possibilities in hairstyle, race, clothing, etc...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Original vision for XCOM:EU (2007-08)

What follows is a collection of images that I created back in 2007 and 2008, and were meant to support the vision we had back then. As you can see, xcom had a much more rural feel to it. This eventually changed to better serve the needs the game evolved into. Some of these images were intended to support the original gameplay concept video that Firaxis made back in early 2008. You can see that short movie by clicking on this text.
I was hired a couple of months before anyone even started to work on the movie, so I had some time to explore the aesthetic. Art director Greg Foertsch asked me to establish and focus on the mood. The old XCOM from '94 had a very creepy rural vibe to it, so I sought to capture something similar, but updated. This exploration continued through the variations you see below.

(Images Created by: Piero Macgowan for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. ©2012 Firaxis Games/Take Two Interactive)

Variations for times of day/weather were explored. 

The first environment I worked on at Firaxis. 

I always tried to instill a sense of narrative by implying it rather than showing it. Details like the  truck's single headlight , the tricycle, or the swingset in these images are meant to hint at a story.

Fun details like little blood trails, shuffled or broken objects, and theatrical lights helped to construct the  vision for the concept movie.

"Keyframe" color key for the final scene.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CGHUB Editor's picks!

More XCOM stuff coming soon. For now, the news is that I just created my CGHUB page  ,and I got an email saying one of my images got in the Editor's picks!


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Infamous Chryssalid

Here is my concept for the Chryssalid. This guy was nailed in the first thumbnail pass. I distinctly remember my art director and designer saying "that's the guy, that's it right there". There was a lot of pressure involved in redesigning the original xcom alien, which is considered one of the scariest things in gaming...

(Images Created by: Piero Macgowan for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. ©2012 Firaxis Games/Take Two Interactive)

Initial thumbnails. You can see the chosen one at the bottom middle.

I was also asked to visualize how the chryssalid would burst out of the human's body. I did not want to make it look like the Alien movies too much. In a sense I think I came up with a quick sketch of something even more gruesome. I remember Jacob Solomon, the lead designer, being a bit disgusted at the time. In the presentation he said that this was "too much", "gratuitous" and "crossing the line". Someone then brought up the fact that in order for this event to not happen, you had to burn your soldier alive (back when we did have flamethrowers and bullets would not do the trick). After that comment, the matter was settled.

The final version, after enlarging the level of detail to read from game camera.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Finally! I can post XCOM artwork!

The time has finally arrived. I can post my work from XCOM: Enemy Unknown! I have been working on this project since Summer of 2007, so there's a bit of stuff to go through. I was officially the first guy on the project's payroll, some months before anyone else came on. It was just me and my art director, Greg Foertsch.
It was exciting to start on this new adventure called XCOM, with a plethora of aliens to design and an exciting lore imbued into the universe. Needless to say, I loved working on this project. I will make a quick plug and say that if you enjoy tactical games, especially games that are not like anything else out there, you should check XCOM out. Better yet, the PC Collector's edition comes with an artbook (wink, wink). 
Anyway, here is my first post. The Sectoid was the very first thing I worked on as a freelancer, even before I came onto Firaxis full time. I'll be posting more stuff as I sift through it.

(Images Created by: Piero Macgowan for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. ©2012 Firaxis Games/Take Two Interactive)

The classic grey alien - or Sectoid, in this case

The very first drawings I worked on for XCOM

Front and back