09 Sep Drawing Bows and Inspiration: Making Lara Croft’s Recurve Bow
Shadowing the Tomb Raider
The Tomb Raider franchise is one of the biggest in popular gaming, selling over 60 million copies worldwide. Its latest installment, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, launched last September, amid big buzz at last year’s E3.
We at Secret 6 are proud and grateful to have worked alongside Eidos-Montreal as a development partner on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Aside from the other props we produced for the game, they allowed us to design and create the Maya relic, which is one of the major items in the game. We were also tasked to work on one of the game’s most iconic weapons, Lara’s personal Recurve Bow.
Drawing the Bow: The Artist and her Vision for the project
The original concept art for the bow was given to us by Eidos-Montreal, and our job was to make the 3D game model. Taking point on the process was our senior 3D artist, Bernadette “Badette” Lirio.
Growing up enjoying games on the PSOne like Need for Speed and Dragonball Z, and pursuing a Multimedia Arts degree in college, Badette found her calling in creating 3D game art. “I liked the meticulousness of asset creation; how an artist plans out everything and how assets should be optimized, so they are more efficient in-game. I wanted to be better at it and learn as much as I needed to in order to create triple A assets.”
For Badette, this assignment was a dream come true: “It made my morning when they assigned it to me. I got really excited and happy that they entrusted me with such a high-level asset–and a hero one at that!”
She started by doing a lot of research, from watching videos on how a bow works to studying each material’s weathering. “It really is important to look for real life references when creating an asset,” she says. Studying materials was important as in game, as in life, they break down due to scratches, dust and rust. Having references helps the artist achieve a realistic look for the asset they are working on.
Taking Aim : The Plan to take on the Design Challenges
One of the challenges in creating the 3D model was determining whether to sculpt the damage details during the high res phase or the texturing phase. With the help of fellow artist Januarius Laygo and art director Rogi Calalec, Badette was able to do it on both phases where it became a non-destructive workflow, one where she could go back and forth on without consuming a lot of time.
She explains the process and the challenge : “There are at least 4 phases when creating 3D game assets– Blocking, Highres, Lowres and Texturing–each being sent to a client for their approval. Doing the minor damage details on either the highres or texturing phase are both beneficial and it really depends on the artist and their level of comfort. For the bow, it was more efficient for me to create the damage details on the texturing phase to reduce going back and forth from the Highres stage to the texturing phase. Since we had a concept drawing provided by Eidos, there may be some changes during the asset production stage.”
The key was in setting up and getting used to a non-destructive workflow. It is a workflow technique where you can easily go back and forth an asset and make changes at different phases without consuming so much time. In the case of the bow, the focus was on the texturing phase. Instead of having to recreate the textures when there are major changes requested by the client, this method allows the artists to save a lot of time. This enabled the team to make a realistic looking asset that could show damage details over time, while having process flexible enough to accommodate any design changes down the line.
The process of creating Lara’s bow was also a great opportunity to learn. Badette shares : “Taking a step back, looking at the big picture, and asking for your fellow artists’ input was a great help. There are times when we get so focused on tiny details and get burned out when working on our assets for a long period of time, we forget other simple yet important details.”
The team really enjoyed working with our client, Eidos-Montreal, who were very generous in providing information and feedback. “It was like taking a breather while doing something I really love,” says Badette.
Needless to say, she had pre-ordered Shadow of The Tomb Raider weeks before it’s release and already got herself a real life replica of the bow she worked on.
We are very grateful for the opportunity to work with our partners on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and very honored to work on this key asset in the game—Lara’s iconic Recurve Bow. The model is now part of the Weta Workshop arsenal, where you can view its details and even purchase a 1:1 scale replica, should you want one for yourself in the real world as well.