How original team develop overseas game: Review and outlook through ‘Call of Duty Mobile’ Art Design

2020 Tencent Game Developers Conference (TGDC) organized by Tencent Game Academy was held online from December 7th to December 10th. On the second day of the conference, Tao Wei, the art director of Tencent Interactive Entertainment Tianmei J3 Studio, gave a speech on the issue of differentiation faced by games going overseas. Taking “Call of Duty Mobile” as an example, he delivered a speech “based on originality and inclusiveness”.

Tao Wei stated that while games are doing cultural output, they should also absorb some of the advantages from overseas. It was through inclusiveness they discovered that domestic games could be further improved in character design.

“Call of Duty Mobile” has been developed for nearly four years, and has been operating overseas for more than a year. It has won some important awards overseas such as the best mobile game on TGA and the best game on Google Play. Over the years, we have kept communicating with United States, learning from each other, and accumulating some experience. This time we will take a look at the perspective of art design.

There are two main points: Western countries’ standards for their original designs, how can we achieve designs that meet their original standards; and how we, as a Chinese team, should do so in terms of the differences in the aesthetics of Eastern and Western cultures.

First of all, intellectual property rights are highly stressed overseas, especially some big IP or large companies, which pay more attention to the originality. For example, the top big IP such as COD, as the representative of the battle theme in the world, is always the attention of various military industry manufacturers, and you may have to pay a bitter price if you are not careful.

As a game go overseas, COD mobile game must abide by their rules. Therefore, when designing characters, weapons and props, we will inevitably encounter unprecedented challenges. For example, take the backpack props in the game as an example. If the back strap of the prototype backpack is designed with a soft texture, then to avoid infringement in the game, the development team must make adjustments. So the final design is a hard texture with a little sculptural-feeling strap.

Let’s take a look at the protagonist of the FPS game-firearms and weapons. The IP creator \requires that all prototype weapons in reality cannot be used directly, and no details can be designed like the real existing weapons. Except for some old weapons like AK47 and M16, and other 90% gun types are not available.

When we design firearms, in order to keep it real, we must refer to the prototype, otherwise the effect will be greatly reduced. But I said just now is that they are so demanding and it cannot be similar to prototype weapons, so how do we make original designs?

Let’s take the MP5 as an example. The core design is the large frame modification of the shape and outline. The barrel, fish bones, magazines, butt stocks have all been redesigned. Specifically, the essence lies in “eliminating features.” For example, the biggest feature of MP5 magazine is the full meniscus shape like a banana, which is modified into a straight shape in the game. In addition to weapons, weapon accessories also need to be modified in the same way, such as holographic mirrors and so on.

So how can we guarantee the realism of the weapon even with such major changes? This can be divided into two parts: The first is to ensure that the important functions and principles of the firearm are consistent with the prototype gun. The second is the texture of the material, which preserves the prototype weapon. It is through these two points that COD mobile games can still guarantee the authenticity of the game under strict “original standards”. For this reason, the game has been well received by the majority of players.

The same is for character design. In the design process, you can refer to celebrities, classic film roles and television characters, or game characters, but you cannot copy them. In many cases, different levels of elements must be adopted on the three prototypes of A, B, and C, and finally combined into a role, in this way we avoid copyright issues. However, this also a new problem, which is the aesthetic difference between the East and the West involved in the character design.

They (Western players) like to pursue authenticity and reasonalbility. For example, when designing a female character, he doesn’t care whether she looks good or not, but values whether your character can really be on the battlefield. Also, the IP creator also requested not to deliberately involve sexy, revealing, or even beautiful characters. This makes the final character being much different from the domestic mainstream aesthetics.

Domestic games are habitually adopting some beautifying methods. The pursuit is that art comes from life and is higher than life, and is more ideal. This is quite different from the European and American markets.

Take the image of a uniformed girl as an example. When it comes to uniformed girls, we always think them as energetic and pure. And in most cases you will find that the appearance, figure, body proportion of these uniformed girls are actually much higher than our average level. What we want is a protagonist, she must have the kind of aura, and she is to be more prominent than others. This is a way of thinking in our previous designs.

But the IP creator is the opposite. They think the average level of common people is better.

For example, the camera function of Apple’s iphone is very straightforward. You just look like yourself in the camera. But our domestic mobile phone is different. The camera makes our skin look more good and youthful and even modify the shape from your face, eyes, nose, and mouth, to some details such as eyelashes.

There is no absolute good or bad between the two aesthetics. Everyone has their own characteristics and can learn from each other. We also output some of our cultural concepts to the IP partner. The COD mobile game is a typical mixed-blood product. Since it is a mixed product, we must have a fusion feature. Each has its own characteristics and is inclusive. We have not experienced their cultural growth background. If we insist on designing according to their standards, we will definitely not do well.

For example, this German female officer in the game, her face has war wounds, smudges, and some dark eye circles. She seems to have just experienced cruel wars, but the corners of the mouth are still slightly raised. This is a symbol of confidence. This is what we want. It has elements of war and a sense of battlefield, it can also reflect the heroic image of the protagonist.

But the IP creator said no. They feel that this officer is not like a battlefield person, but more like a beauty salon worker.

“The image looks too young, it’s totally unconvincing and just like a teenager.” The IP creator believes that as an army officer, one should look older, more dignified, old-fashioned, and feel more authentic and convincing.

But our aesthetic does not really can’t work. Although being rejected a long time, with our efforts, we eventually made some good characters. For example, the most popular role of COD mobile games is the combination of Chinese and Western aesthetics. It is also the most successful role in the commercialization of COD mobile games. She not only has the character of realism, military, and objectivity, but also meet our idealized aesthetics.

The success of this type of role is just a starting point, and we have to continue to do a good job of cultural output and input. While exporting, we must also absorb their strengths, and maybe also need to change their stereotype of Asian roles. Of course, the advantages of Western aesthetics must also be integrated. For example, although they do not look so beautiful, you will find that their characters are very distinctive, that is, each character has a distinct image and a very high degree of recognition.

And we care too much about beauties and handsome guys, everyone is the protagonist, everyone’s face and even body shape are all the same. It may be pretty good for a single look, but when we look together, they are all the same

So this is what we need to avoid. We have to take advantage of each culture to create an excellent character with its own characteristics that is popular with players.

One Comment on “How original team develop overseas game: Review and outlook through ‘Call of Duty Mobile’ Art Design”

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