Creature Design on Guild Chat: A Summary

On the latest episode of the Guild Chat livestream, Game Designer Ben Phongluangtham and Animator Brian Walter sat down with host Rubi Bayer to reveal the creative process the Guild Wars 2 creature team uses to populate the jungle environment of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™.

Each creature model is built on a rigging that allows the animators to move it. Since building a rig takes a lot of time and resources, the team looks for opportunities to build several different creatures on the same rig. Brian showed examples of enemies that look different and behave in different ways despite using the same rig—bristlebacks were built on the same rig as quaggan, vampire beasts use the skale rig, and mushroom enemies use a skritt rig.

Once the developers decide which types of creatures they need, concept artists begin to explore what the creatures look like and provide references. During the modeling process, the animators are given a basic, untextured version of the creature to begin skill animation prototyping. Elements like timing and effects are used to give attacks a feeling of power; slower attacks that take longer to follow through provide a sense of weight. Animations are polished to a finished state in a thorough process of playtesting, feedback, and iteration, and it can take months for a creature to go from its initial design to a finished product.

Ben and Brian unleashed several monsters inside a testing lobby, a simple space that makes it easy to see attacks and animations clearly. The first monster they demonstrated was the Mordrem maggot, which splits into two separate maggots on death; the animation of the new maggots hitting the ground serves as their spawning effect. “Unlurk” animations let enemies fly down, crawl up from the ground, or otherwise make a stylish entrance that’s much cooler than simply fading into existence.

Next up were mushroom bombers. Early versions of the bombers presented little challenge to ranged players, so Ben gave them the ability to launch mushroom sporelings. Players have asked why mushroom enemies happen to have such well-defined posteriors—the anatomy makes sense for a mushroom with two legs, especially since there aren’t any two-legged mushrooms in real life to compare them to.

Enemies are divided into “families,” and each family has an affinity set that defines whether they’re neutral, allied, or hostile to other types of creatures. Some of the enemies might even ignore players for the sake of fighting each other, which adds life to the world. One type of enemy that’s unlikely to ignore players is pocket raptors; the deceptively tiny terrors have been responsible for well over one million player deaths so far!

If you missed this episode of Guild Chat, you can check out the recording below.