Memento mori: a conscious approach to character creation

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Eli Goren. The Cavalry at Ice-Pick Lodge. Screen media researcher. London.

No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.
—George Eliot

Ever more often we find ourselves working with some kind of pre-existing IP. The characters we sculpt or paint may be licensed property, the titles we work on may be sequels, remakes or companion games. There is, predictably, much discussion of how we should handle this kind of assignments. How can we be proactive while following the guidelines? How do we avoid excessive criticism on behalf of the fandom? How do we help attract new audiences? These challenges are well enough known and there is no shortage of strategies to address them. The less “popular” question, however, that we may well be asking ourselves is what exactly is that we are doing?

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Who is this man or woman that I am sculpting? What was so special about them back in the day? What made them important, memorable, or even loved? Who were the people that cared about them so much? In what ways did they change over the years and how does it all affect me? This presentation seeks to answer these questions with the help of a case study.

In 2002, a group of young people with no previous industry experience made a prototype of a video game. The group of young people later became known as Ice-Pick Lodge and the game itself came out in 2005 under the title of Pathologic. It remains unclear whether or not Pathologic was a commercial success. There is little doubt, though, that the game acquired a kind of a cult following, a devout audience that persisted through the years. In 2014, when the developers, the players, and the technology involved were all a nearly a decade older, Ice-Pick Lodge announced that a remake of Pathologic is in the works. The characters of the original game were made largely in-house. The same characters that will appear in the remake are currently produced by OKTA Studio here in Vilnius.

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A unique perspective on character production — both in-house and with the help of OKTA as contracted specialists — is offered by what may be described as a post mortem on ten years of Pathologic characters’ existence. We will explore various stages of their development, the different pipelines that were involved, the diverse ways in which the players appropriated and modified their look, and how the developers reacted to that. Finally, the new Pathologic character models will be shown in public for the first time ever.

Among other things, the following will be discussed:
° An actor-centered approach to character creation
° Legacy content: ethical considerations
° The fans will never forgive this! Won’t they now?
° Tyranny or laissez-faire, which works better?
° The 2D — 3D antagonism: when production stages collide.

The focus of the presentation is on video game character production. It may, therefore, be of particular interest to 3D sculptors and painters, concept artists, animators and art directors.


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Eli Goren. The Cavalry at Ice-Pick Lodge. Screen media researcher.

Having worked in game development for nearly ten years, Eli Goren has found it increasingly hard to escape the impression that at the end of the day he was getting precisely nowhere. Desperate, he defected to academia, loved it there and decided to stay. A firm believer in direct collaboration of digital games industry and digital games research, Goren would use every opportunity to further their mutual understanding and to encourage productive dialogue between game developers and game scholars.