Gargantua concept development by Harry Willson

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    • Gargantua concept development by Harry Willson

      Hi, I'm Harry, I´m from Autstralia. I have extensive background in realistically illustrating animals, particularly dinosaurs and marine life for several publishers publishers. Here at Tripmine Studios, I do both the storytelling; and the concept art for creatures, props and locations in Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty. My approach is to take the classic content from Opposing Force and Blue Shift and recreate them in a way everyone would hopefully expect them to look if they were made today.

      Gargantua concept development


      A lot of factors were needed to bring the classic Gargantua into the higher detailed and more real-world looking Operation Black Mesa. While I had a few ideas for some subtle changes I thought would work nicely; it was vital that he kept all his iconic features intact down to his silhuette, so that hopefully, anyone seeing this concept would think "that's how I expect him to look with better graphics". The first half dozen attempts didn't marry the new ideas and the old ideas well, so I decided to start from scratch and recreate this beast piece by piece.

      First came the head, and was an instant success. His mouth looked vicious and a slight mix between humanoid and insectoid and typically Xen, with a new 'four part' mouth now including two articulated pincers replacing the static tusks. Just as a fish's jaws were an evolved gill rake, I decided to make each part of his neck a continuation of his mouth parts and skull pieces, which looked great and helped connect the various parts in a way that looked plausibly authentic. In the spaces I thought I could add some kind of breathing holes. On the back he has articulated plates with more armour growing out from them. The heavy brow gave me an idea- what if the whole face sloped outwards towards the brows? That way, the eyes would always be looking slightly downwards, and the structure would always add a slightly enraged look.



      Speaking of the eyes- everyone had different theories over what, precisely they were meant to be; a row of small, separate eyes like in Valve's original concept artwork? A single wrap-around visor? A compound eye? There was only one solution- I'd have to draw them all. The fourth option was a strange mix of all of the above. Overall the separate rows and visor were immediately the favourites among the team.


      Following this was the torso- and as a consequence, all the limbs and where they'd fit. I first thought if it was possible to infer his classic humanoid chest plates were both a continuation of his 'neck' armour, and at the same time, the actual exoskeletal connections to his limbs. I also had ideas of having his legs longer, more articulated and flexible (an important feature for making a massive creature more nimble under its massive weight); and thought of maybe moving the vestigial clawed limbs higher up, connecting to his chest or stomach instead of his hips (like the quadrupedal concept had). Alas, they didn't look right and the Gargantua's extra long and jointed legs made him stand far too tall to look familiar, so I had a look at the classic model and noticed the claws were actually slightly lower on the hips than the legs.... so I thought what if I reversed the ideas- the legs he walks on are positioned higher up on the abdomen, and the claws were his 'true' legs, dangling uselessly? It worked! He could keep his long legs, but coincidentally, the classic backwards twist of his old, short legs happened to start at the hips, just like the old one.


      Finally, there were his flamethrowers. Simply having the protective 'beaks' open to reveal a hole would be boring- something better and more noticeable would be required- but what? A bulging, protruding nozzle head? A series of moving plates that look like a jet exhaust? A Xen crystal? A concealed alien hand with lots of fingers, suggesting an entirely psionic source of his flame like the Slaves and Controlers?

    • Thoughts on the Gargantua concept art

      I hope none of this art gets used in the final build of either OBM or GD. Even the old concept art of the Gargantua on the dam looks better than this...

      Look, you're clearly skiled at drawing and shading, but there's plenty of issues with your art. For example, that chest has no shape. It's a flat wall of bumpy plates, there's no perspective or rotation on it. And as for looking like the original but higher definition?

      Gargantuas are supposed to stand upright, yes, but they're not humanoid like that. They're hunched over, and their claw arms on their chests are bigger, and thinner, more like large knives. The eye is supposed to stand out a lot more than it does in yours, and there's a noticeable line of blue "skin" between it and the mouth. Yours barely exists. Your legs and feet look more cartoony than the original, and that comment you made about how fire came out in the original Half-Life is outright false. There's a purple "thing" in the claw, that's where the fire comes from. You can interpret the thing to be whatever you want, but coming up with silly ideas like a hand is just that, silly. For something that's trying to be realistic and edgy, making it sillier and more cartoony than the original should be avoided. Your version also lacks any of the white parts from the original. Where's the colour variety? Yours is just a dull, boring blue, with some grey, something that doesn't even catch the eye as much as the original's cyan, black and white did.


      Look at your artwork on the far left, take a hard look at the original to see what you've done wrong, an look at the model to the far right to see it done right. I suggest also taking a look at Sven Coop's Gargantua, and hell, even Black Mesa's. They're all far superior to what you have created. It sounds harsh, I know, but I'm just being honest in the hopes of helping you grow as an artist, and to better the project's quality.

      Your concept art is definitely NOT how I expect him to look with better graphics. Literally everyone I've shown this to has agreed with me. I really hope you do another draft of this and scrap this version entirely, because it simply is bad. Bad re-design, lacking defining features, and overall just looks like a Xenomorph slapped to an Alien Grunt's body, without the armor, or any of the detail, or any redeeming qualities in general. :(
    • Harry painted this as a way of introducing some choices for which direction we'll take it in. It really helps us wrap our minds around the many possibilities, when it comes to actually making the model. You should see his sketches, like the assembly line level or the pit worm; he'll tackle a concept for an enemy or a level with precision and a refreshingly creative touch. I gotta say he's helped me many times on some projects i've been workin on, and I truly appreciate the usefulness and utility in sketches like this.
      Personally, I really like the "Type D" eyes, the two rows, and that was an idea I had never thought of before, but looks much better then the traditional visor. :thumbup:
    • I like the concepts, I like the artistic direction that is executed, the aspect, the scales, I like that they reform the dimensions so that everything is proportional, what I do not like is the fact that they do not add any type of hand, because it is supposed to be a manufactured or modified species, but at the same time evolved, it should have hands with which to interact with the environment, those small arms that it has in its abdomen should have fingers, because the (gargantua) it's based on the (vortigaunt) anatomy, so it should have something similar.

      The same can be applying for the Alien Grunt.

      For the Race X should do the same, create the standart model wich can have a place like the (vortigaunt) and other's sub species like (alient grunt) but form the race x trooper, or to make it more easy dress them with some armors (samurai style, armor by layers) for make some versions heavy and light.
    • I liked the whole form of general concept art - it is more traditional for Half-Life and will be recognisable for many. I also liked direction of art in joints between head and chest - it will make Gargantua more mobile. In my opinion legs on the concept are fit logic - thick legs can not bear large constructions.

      For the head: in the middle of it there should be expansions for somekind of gudgets like in original but the author is right - it shouldn't be like a ball.) The final mix is the best decision but 1 big red eye should be included in the center. :) Will wait for the final variant =)
    • So, I believe the best ways of development to recapture the Half-Life series is out right, using and copying Half-Life assets and concept art. You can't concept an original design to make HQ.
      It's literally the same model just a higher definition version, so would you in the first place have to recapture any of it through concept art. It's kinda just unnecessary. If you have the concept
      art ability spend the time using environmental concepts perhaps for the level designers rather than characters or aliens because it's already provided.
    • Tannoy wrote:

      So, I believe the best ways of development to recapture the Half-Life series is out right, using and copying Half-Life assets and concept art. You can't concept an original design to make HQ.
      It's literally the same model just a higher definition version, so would you in the first place have to recapture any of it through concept art. It's kinda just unnecessary. If you have the concept
      art ability spend the time using environmental concepts perhaps for the level designers rather than characters or aliens because it's already provided.
      Well remember, a lot of the developers are trying to build their portfolios with the work they're doing here. The assets and models may already be "provided", but many of the artists at Tripmine have their own visions and ideas for changing and improving character designs.
    • Dr.Criss-Cross wrote:

      Tannoy wrote:

      So, I believe the best ways of development to recapture the Half-Life series is out right, using and copying Half-Life assets and concept art. You can't concept an original design to make HQ.
      It's literally the same model just a higher definition version, so would you in the first place have to recapture any of it through concept art. It's kinda just unnecessary. If you have the concept
      art ability spend the time using environmental concepts perhaps for the level designers rather than characters or aliens because it's already provided.
      Well remember, a lot of the developers are trying to build their portfolios with the work they're doing here. The assets and models may already be "provided", but many of the artists at Tripmine have their own visions and ideas for changing and improving character designs.
      You can improve on designs with a descriptive text. Improving your portfolio is always good, but development wise it just expands the unnecessary time it's going to make the game. Because I'll guarantee you that modelers aren't modeling anything until the concept art is complete. Therefore, it's unnecessary, and I said, your portfolio can be improved with something useful, such as environmentally. It only literally makes the development time for models twice as long as it should be, it's not effective.
    • Tannoy wrote:

      You can improve on designs with a descriptive text. Improving your portfolio is always good, but development wise it just expands the unnecessary time it's going to make the game. Because I'll guarantee you that modelers aren't modeling anything until the concept art is complete. Therefore, it's unnecessary, and I said, your portfolio can be improved with something useful, such as environmentally. It only literally makes the development time for models twice as long as it should be, it's not effective.
      We currently only have 1 organics/character artist. So absolutely no time is being wasted by creating concept art for that since there is no one even available to work on the gargantua right now (probably won't be for a while).
      People tend to forget that we are not a traditional/fully staffed/full-time team.
      Regardless, there is always something to work on and always tons and tons of models that need to be made. So even if we had a full crew, that gargantua concept would not slow down the modeling department or general development progress at all.

      Side note: Harry actually forgot to post his final gargantua concept at the end of that dev blog lol. So you guys never even got to see the final concept of that design iteration. But regardless, he has already made many more design iterations beyond that, which I'm sure he will want to show off sometime soon.
      Senior Level Designer | Environment Artist @ Operation Black Mesa & Guard Duty | My Website
    • DOH!
      Yeah, I'll just check if I get the all-clear to show them.

      So taking on advice and critiques, the Gargantua now takes on his more classic Half-Life 1 body shape.
      Most of the delay was trying to get the armour to look like the old version, but be able to articulate on a higher-detailed model without warping or doing anything strange.
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