Hey everyone! My name is Isaac Pringle and I am a 3D Character Artist currently working at Jagex Game Studio on Runescape. I’m originally from Scotland where I studied 3D Modelling at Glasgow Caledonian University before landing my first job at Jagex as a Junior Character Artist. I now specialise in the creation of stylized characters and creatures for video games.
I have been on Runescape for over 2.5 years now and I have had the chance to work on a lot of different projects ranging from weapons, pets and player outfits to some of Runescape’s largest creatures. Below you can see one of my most recent pieces, which was part of Runescape’s large Summer update—The Land Out of Time.
This was one of the most complex models I had the opportunity to work on. To create this creature I needed to create a base model which would then be used to create multiple other ‘tiers’ of Tyrannosaurus for the game. This version is called a Pavosaurus Rex. It was designed by the incredible David Barker, Lead Concept Artist at Jagex.
David and I sat with a team of developers and designed the look and feel of all the characters on the project whilst making sure they all felt ‘Runescapey’. This creature, in particular, had a lot of real-world references, primarily Tyrannosaurus rex and Chlamydosaurus, also known as frilled-necked lizards. Once the design and concept were complete, it was handed on to me to begin sculpting.
Sculpting is fairly new for Runescape. This year has been the first year in which nearly all of our models have used normal maps, which means we get to show off some really nice renders of our high poly sculpts. We always approach our sculpts with a less-is-more attitude. We like to keep surfaces smooth and play with the overall silhouette. This is where we can add in a contrast between hard and soft lines to show off the forms. Subtle bits of detail are added into larger areas like the scales on the hips.
As Runescape is such a large game, we have to heavily optimise our characters, kits and weapons; the kits can be worn by thousands of players in the same area. The Pavosaurus Rex had a modest 7682 triangles in the end, after several rounds of optimisation and feedback from our animators. As we are now using Maya for our animations, we are able to push things a lot higher than we were accustomed to when using our own custom animation software. We are now able to use bones and proper rigs, which allows us to really push the level of expression by adding an extra level of detail in the hands, mouth, and eyes. Looking at references from the film industry and movies like Jurassic Park and even a Night at the Museum was a huge help to see how these creatures moved and how best to retopologize to allow for such movement.
Because the Pavosaurus Rex was created using a modular approach, he was split into 2 models—his base and his fins. Each of these sections was given a 512×512 UV space that allowed us to retexture each of the two elements separately in-game.
Texturing this creature was definitely the most enjoyable part of the process, and also the most challenging. He was textured using 3D-Coat so I could achieve a hand-painted look. I took my bakes and layered them up to create a good base, but ended up painting quite a bit of them out as they darkened a lot of the bottom side of the model. Our engine still uses lights, so we need to paint our textures a lot brighter to compensate for this. I referenced a lot of other great artists to see how they balance their artworks and made sure to include things like a strong top-down gradient so that the character felt grounded in the world. I found the colours in this model very easy to work with as they were so bright and vibrant. This allowed me to really play with secondary colours to help the model pop.
Once the model was complete, I created a small diorama using some of the models made by our environment art team for the Land Out of Time update. I retextured these so they were fully hand-painted and placed them around the creature. I played around a lot with the placement of the props so as not to take away from the creature but instead try to draw the eye to it.
Having posted a few things on Sketchfab now, I’ve found it so important to try to show off a little atmosphere in the scene. Sketchfab allows the viewer to really delve deep into the scene, which makes it a great way to show off the intricacies of a model! The final thing to do was to rebalance the texture of the Pavosaurus Rex now that he was in the environment and make sure I had a skybox ready to finish the scene off.
When setting up my scene in Sketchfab I tend to use the ‘shadeless’ PBR renderer. This really allows my textures to pop and look exactly like I created them, which is key to the hand-painted style. Along with this, a subtle bit of post-processing helps to focus the eye on the creature using sharpness and a vignette. Once everything is looking perfect, I finish it off by adding some camera limits. Because I bring in my own custom unwrapped sphere as a skybox, it is important that I set some constraints to the camera to stop the viewer from zooming out through the sphere or inside my character. I find this adds a last-minute bit of polish to the scene.