Between the Summer Event, some technical obstacles, and vacation season, the 2019 summer has caught up to us. So that we can take another week to work on our units, we are presenting a Behind the Scenes look at our shadowy 3d team: @Chaos, @happysmurf, and @Phillus. These three guys are our work horses and never receive enough credit for their selfless devotion to the incalculable details of bringing our Romans to life. We can talk all we want every week about the nuanced design decisions and close calls we need to make in balancing the Romans, but the simple fact is that without our 3d team, none of that would ever matter.
To spruce things up, we have asked each of them a series of questions and also had them submit something we haven’t yet shown that they are particularly proud of.
Chaos: Hello fellow fans of Age of Empires Online! My name is Eamon, living in the UK, and I am a member of the Project Celeste Roman Restoration Team. I primarily focus on texturing and 3D modelling but also join in with some rigging, animating and other game related works.
HappySmurf: Hello players. Age of Empires Online is more alive than ever and I’m glad to be part of this development team. My name is Max. I am 22-years-old and live in the Netherlands. I am studying architecture, which helps explain my interest in 3d modelling.
Phillus: Hi, Phillip here! I am the new animation artist in this amazing team that brought AoEO from the dead. I am 21 years old and sending you these answers from Germany. Earlier this year I successfully finished my diploma degree in 'Game Art & 3D Animation' at the SAE Institute in Hamburg. I learned all kinds of game art relating stuff such as modelling, texturing, UVs, rigging and, of course, animation. Now I am in the middle of my bachelor’s degree.
Chaos: I remember my father taking me into PC world in early 1998 to get our first home PC and a deal allowed for 2 games one was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and the other Age of Empires. Since I first opened that box, installed the game and read the huge paper manual I have loved the Age of Empires series ever since. I have played ever one except the mobile versions and my favourite one of them all so far you ask? AOEO of course.
HappySmurf: I started playing AoEO around 7 years ago. I was a rather active player on both the old server as the new Celeste one. Before then, I played a lot of Stronghold but only had played AoE2 once or twice.
Phillus: Oh, I have played AoEO since the release in 2011 and later on in June 2017, when 'Celeste Keys' were still a thing, I joined the fray once more. Shoutout to the 2 people who were a great help regarding my problematic installation of AoEO back then: 'Ryddag' and 'As Above so Below'. Anyway, the love-relation between me and RTS games (especially AoE) began in my childhood. Oh how I loved to play AoE2 (LAN-) skirmishes with friends or, at times, even with my parents. Never got into contact with AoE1, though, but I have played and still play AoM and AoE3. The latter is my favorite AoE game besides AoEO today.
Chaos: As unbelievable as this sounds I got into pixel art first as I loved the Age of Empires style and wanted to make my own building sprites and 3D was just not so user friendly with limited access to programs not to mention the use of dial-up back then. For some years I ultimately hoped to even work on future titles and started to learn 3D as years went on I decide to study game development professionally. Through the years I went on to learning some programming and worked on some small games whilst I took a degree in game art and animation at University.
HappySmurf: I started with 3d modelling for a school project 7 years ago. It was very, very bad, but it worked. Since then i always stayed interesting in it and developed in by watching tutorials.
Phillus: I think it all began way back then in my childhood when I was a huge fan of 'Spore'. See, this game is about evolution of a species throughout the evolution stages and as a player you were able to form your own unique creature in the creature editor. It was the first form of character art I did encounter, hah, and it was great! Years later I tried unit modding in TotalWar: Attila and then, in 2017, I already stumbled across so many mods and great games that I wanted to become a game artist myself. Then began my not-so-long-ago story of my diploma degree.
Chaos: I was gutted when the game went down having been just after beta watching it grow and always hoping for the day the Romans would be included. After the shutdown I thought that was the end, but I few years later I heard there was group of talented fans bringing it back and a good google search lead me to Project Celeste around mid-2018. I downloaded the game, played for a few months and thought to myself one day, damn someone’s paying to host this and others are spending a lot of their time to keep this going surely there’s something I can do to help out with all my experience and Age of Empires got me in to game development after all.
Before asking if I could help out I decided to learn the editor to get a feel of the engine and see how the front works, a few months in I released a scenario with the help of some of the Celeste team guides and answers from the discord channels. Then I took a look at the files, began researching the layout and formats further testing if I could add new files. This led me to asking PF2K some questions on how to add new files into the editor.
A few more weeks of testing with PF2K’s help I was on the Project Celeste Team, where I soon spoke to Andy who showed me some amazing concepts, he asked if I wanted to have a go at building them, naturally I could not wait and built the first set of Roman houses straight away. Next minute I knew I was on a new channel with Happy Smurf and other members of the team building and testing the Romans every day and night in-between my job ever since early 2019. Looking back now it’s a dream come true to work on my favourite Age of Empires Title with a very talented group of developers.
HappySmurf: The moment the editor came online I started to design maps and explore the boundaries of 3d models. I first designed a quest pack for the Punic Wars on my own, but since the Romans were not even started at that time, I then began working on a Norse themed Questpack that evolved into the Realms of the World. The journey towards our ability creating new models started with the break though of inserting new bones to attach a ballista to a Norse Longship, which eventually led to the design of the first new unit: the Sessrúmnir warship. But that ship was only the beginning. A new world of possibilities opened.
Phillus: For a long time I followed the achievements of our beloved Celeste team as a simple fellow gamer. However, in September 2017, I actually got active myself and tried to give back to the devs. I helped translating the new Athens-content into German, but then in May 2019 it was with the “Realms of the World” content pack when I actually got into contact with PF2K. We chatted a bit, even shared some memes and then I told him about my capabilities of doing game artist work. After some initial tests with HappySmurf and Chaos as my mentors, I was in the team. Don’t tell anyone memes won’t get you anywhere, ‘cause look at where I stand now!
Chaos: The texturing has been a problem up to very recently and some of the rigging also as the game engine is not documented compared to other engines available in the industry. The only other challenge has been filling in the gaps visually as some things are not around in concepts so we have had to try to ensure anything truly new fits in the world of the Romans and the game as a whole.
HappySmurf: The hardest part of designing a civ is to not overdesign it of or get distracted by other interesting models. There is so much we can do and so much which is interesting for Rome.
Phillus: The greatest challenge is to make the new animations come as close to the animations of the original civs units as possible. AoEO animations are amazing and fun to look at! They really add to the style of this game and therefore my goal is to achieve that you can't tell the difference between the old and new animations which is definitely time-consuming.
Chaos: We talk everyday mostly so we know what each person is working on as it’s a small team so there is limited chance of any of us working on the same thing at the same time. We just sort off hand different parts to each other so we are all doing a bit of modelling, texturing and animation so far. Though more recently Phillus us joined us and has been focusing on animation’s to help speed the unit making process along and there looking awesome.
HappySmurf: The only organization we have is that I do the rigging of units and the basic design, and Chaos will do most of the textures. Neither of us touch animations. They are all for Phillus. Designers are never organized. We made all buildings within a few weeks. Also all units are made in blender. Now we do what we like to do and tasks come up during the process.
Phillus: Mostly Chaos, Smurf and I stay in active contact as we are the core 3D team. Those two are also the ones feeding me supplying me with the unit files that I have to work on. Although, I tried some modelling and texturing at the very beginning, after I animated a unit we came quickly to the decision that I'll mainly be working on the animations. I’ll need some more training before I reach their skills in those other areas!
Chaos: Mushrooms! And I am sure PF2K would approve a new unique Persian Scarecrow…
HappySmurf: Besides civs, working bridges and lots of animals.
Phillus: Definitely many, many more civs! There are many cultures out there that deserve some yet unreceived popularity. Nonetheless, new civs are a massive undertaking and the Romans as such are already a beast to tame. Besides that even more options to customize your civ. Never enough options, hah!
Chaos: Load up Blender take some in game screens and have a go, if you think something you have made is fitting in the world of AOEO why not Share it? Maybe the next blog could be yours!
Phillus: First of all, get the (free) tool I also work with most of the time: Blender. However, before you are able to animate, you first need a mesh that got skin-binded bones in it. If you want to go through the process yourself, you can google for tutorials regarding 'modelling' and 'rigging' as those two are the pillars that animation stands on. Else you can try to find a free-to-use low-poly model from the Internet. After all this you can try to adapt the characters movements to the style of AoEO. One more thing: Well-placed keyframes are the key to make a fine animation!
Chaos: This is a hard one, don’t want give any spoilers away but I would say all the Roman assets so far and very specifically a level 4 building that had to be made newly with no concept art from the original devs, as theirs had been used by another part of the game.
Here's a sneak peek at some of the new Editor Assets made mostly by Chaos, ready to be released alongside the Romans. Can you spot them all?
HappySmurf: The Realms of the World Questpack was fun at the beginning, but was a struggle at the end. Also the Well of Urd region was very fun to make. But my favorite so far has been the Roman Wonder.
Phillus: A unit which is still being held secret is my favorite piece of work so far. It's a unit that got completely new animations and that hasn't been seen in any similar way in AoEO yet. He's my 'firstborn' so to say, hah. Can't wait to see him in a blogpost, as the creation of his animations were a lot of fun.
Chaos: I can only see it growing, the game is solid, the Celeste Team is fantastic and the community is awesome. Bring on the rest of 2019 THE ROMANS ARE COMING HOME!!
HappySmurf: Age of Empires Online is more alive than ever and I’m glad to be part of this development team. But don’t stop dreaming. The Romans are just a start. As long as my interest for beautiful architecture goes on, I will not stop with designing civilizations.
Phillus: I don't know where this jolly adventure that is this project leads us, but I can say so much, that there's sooooo much potential left to use. Oh, I’d be so happy if this community and its project grow even bigger, so we could achieve even more than ever before together… as fans of this magnificent AoE series! This was a great game to begin with and it could be made even greater! Let Microsoft hear our voices.
Thank you for reading, and we will see you all next week!
As an added bonus, here's a sneak peek at the Roman Aqueduct which you will see in the City of Rome (and other places) when the Romans are released!
Project Celeste Development Team
What do you think about this week's blog? Do you like Developer Spotlight blogs? Who would you like to see next? Let us know in the comments below!
Missed the Roman Civilization's announcement? Find out about it HERE.
Project Celeste is completely free and always will be. However, we gladly accept donations for our overhead costs, which are larger than we have budgeted. If you want to support us, you can do so HERE.
Read every Romans related blog HERE.
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By PF2K on Sep 7, 2019 at 10:24 AM
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