Secret Stage

This text first appeared in PC Gamer journal problem 392 in January 2024, as a part of our Secret Stage collection. Each month we speak to the unsung heroes of video games growth, and discover what makes their roles very important.

Though lately promoted to artwork director at Larian, Alena Dubrovina hadn’t initially deliberate a profession in video games. After a false begin finding out journalism, she began over with a game-focused artwork schooling, together with a required internship. She interned at Larian, stayed on as a junior artist, and moved on from there.

“What attracted me to video games,” says Dubrovina, “was the quantity of selection that you possibly can contribute to. A game shouldn’t be solely specializing in structure, or vogue, or anatomy—right? It is all of these issues mixed.”

Dubrovina was a lead character artist throughout Baldur’s Gate 3’s growth, the duties of which included clothes and armour design. These designs have been very a lot a collaborative course of nonetheless, involving a number of individuals together with writers, idea artists and extra.

The design group has modified and grown considerably since Divinity: Authentic Sin 2 went into manufacturing, too. “Again within the day we have been a group of possibly 4 character artists,” says Dubrovina, “[and] we grew it ever since”. The six-year manufacturing time of Baldur’s Gate 3 meant that “we have been determining what to do alongside the best way”, with the standard of armour and costume designs bettering noticeably over time.

Baldur’s Gate 3 offered a problem Divinity: Authentic Sin 2 did not have, when it comes to the adjustable cinematic digicam. Patterns and clothes designs now wanted to work from each close-up and much away. Dubrovina offers an instance of three patterns which, whereas distinct up shut, seemed the identical at distance.

The D&D ‘bibles’ accessible to the group decided which sorts of armour may very well be used, and by which classes. The practicalities of game growth offered additional restrictions to work inside. The wildest and most flamboyant armour or clothes designs on the idea stage typically needed to be minimize, as tech animators would level out that they weren’t sensible for animated characters inside a game world.

(Picture credit score: Larian Studios)

That does not imply that there was no creativity or enjoyable; removed from it. “Typically we got here up with one thing that we hadn’t executed earlier than,” explains Dubrovina, “after which we’ll make a small check; and if all people is proud of the way it seems, we go for it.” Circling again to the D&D authenticity, one instance of this having a major impression on design is the barbarian class, and the way characters inside it are imagined to be naturally powerful.

“Their outfit is technically not thought of to be protecting. That was an enormous problem for individuals who by no means designed such an armour!”

Alena Dubrovina

“Their outfit is technically not thought of to be protecting. That was an enormous problem for individuals who by no means designed such an armour! Within the briefing, it says ‘armour’, it is an gear piece. So you retain wanting so as to add shoulder pads. You retain wanting so as to add some type of protecting belt, or a chest plate. And at any time when we received the sketches we have been like, no, no, it should not be an armour, that is too protecting! We would have liked to observe the design behind it.”

When she first began engaged on Baldur’s Gate 3, Dubrovina would level out that some armour designs weren’t sensible, or have been in some way unrealistic. Finally, “I realised that wasn’t the aim. The principle factor is trying cool, and becoming within the game setting, and telling the story that it wants to inform. And what I seen as nicely—no complaints from the web neighborhood!” When designing outfits and armour, Dubrovina believes real-world tendencies matter. “I believe it is crucial for game professionals to not isolate themselves from it. It is very easy to get caught on this bubble and to only be the man who works in a really particular type. Partially, I believe what made Baldur’s Gate 3  such a profitable game, is that we made it as assorted as doable.”