Our series of behind-the-scenes interviews continues with this, the fourth installment of ‘The Secrets of Kane‘. This time it is the turn of Stephane Gantiez, the Art Director at Mythic Games, and Erwann LeTorrivellec, who is the Technical Director. You will learn how the art director and the artist work together, and the process involved in the creation of a miniature. As usual, keep an eye out for some exclusive new reveals in the article.
What was your role in this project?
I was principally in charge of the artistic direction. This covered everything from the look of the game to managing the artists and sculptors who worked on the project. It’s a fantastic role, and when I get a chance to raise my head and look around, I realise how lucky I am to do this job and to work with all of these incredibly talented people.
You are yourself an illustrator, what do you think of the style and technique of Guillem?
What I really love about Guillem is the atmosphere he creates in his illustrations. All it takes is one glance at his work to see he deeply loves the cinema, and I was not surprised when I learned that he also works in the movie industry. It is clear that he loves to tell stories. It was such a pleasure to work with him!
Why did you choose to work with only one illustrator rather than several, as you did in your previous projects?
Why not? Seriously, that’s pretty much how the idea to work only with Guillem was born. We were looking for a way to create a consistency inside the game, and this seemed like a very good way to do it. It’s not an easy way to work because Guillem must create a lot of art assets. This is a project that Guillem is highly motivated to work on as he is a big fan of Solomon Kane. It is a big challenge, but he has been more than up to meeting it. We definitely made the right choice.
You produce a large proportion of the game concepts. How do you approach this work? Do you use your imagination after reading Howard’s descriptions, or do you rely on historical depictions?
We always begin with Howard’s description. Firstly, because we’re passionate about the character and about the stories Howard wrote. Secondly, because it allows for the greatest immersion into the stories. Not just for the people who have already read them, but also for those inspired by the game to pick these stories up. Everyone will have their own version of these stories in their imagination and my dearest wish is that can they embrace our interpretation of the stories, or even start to envisage these characters s we conceive them!
The historical aspect is also crucial, and I flooded everyone with references to ensure we captured it. Especially since in terms of aesthetics the period is in the midst of a transition in style. We are not yet to the era of the Musketeers, but the Middle Ages are well and truly over.
Once you have defined the framework of the narrative and the story, then you can break open the doors of creativity. You try to find the identity of the individual or the monster. What is their background if one was not written for them, what is their character, their attitude?
There are two particular difficulties with miniatures when you conceive a character. The first one is the colour. Since the miniature has no colour, you must make it stand out in the details which can be sculpted. You can’t rely on details like tattoos or complexion as these can’t be captured on the miniature. The second is then the scale. If the details you wish to use to make the miniature stand out are too small, they will not be seen. There are a significant number of miniatures in Solomon Kane, and sometimes you must spend a long time looking for the details that will make every miniature unique.
Do you see the world and stories of Solomon Kane as being historical or fantastical?
There are undoubtedly strong elements of both! The world Solomon Kane travels in is very clearly our own, if four hundred years in the past. In one very short story, Solomon Kane even meets Magellan, a famous and very real explorer. On the other hand, there are stories featuring monsters and necromancy. It may be best to say the Solomon Kane stories are fantastical yet grounded in the reality of their historical setting. A time when there were beliefs in fantastical things which give birth to testimonies about monsters and magic. This is the path we took when we created new stories that were not drawn from Howard’s work, and we hope that people will have as much fun in discovering them as we had in inventing them!
Would you describe the stories of Solomon Kane as ‘gothic’?
Yes, if a rather flamboyant gothic! There is certainly a lot of darkness in the Solomon Kane stories, but it sits alongside swashbuckling and adventure too.
What is your role in the Solomon Kane project?
Thanks to the new positions opened internally at Mythic Games, I was able to entrust many tasks that had been devolved to me until then in order to take a position of Technical Director, a job focused mainly on the physical components of our games. I have several assignments such as factory production management, sculptor management alongside the Artistic Director, and graphic design with the renderings of 3D models.
I use my experience in miniatures games to observe, measure and correct if necessary anything that could go wrong during the plastic production, so I mostly intervene at the end of the sculpt process of a miniature to validate the model.
The rendering is a critical step in the marketing of our products, because it allows our customers to see the sculpted 3D figures extremely close to what they will be in plastic. It is a heavy responsibility towards the sculptors and the customers, as we want to give justice to the work done and we also want to show a genuinely realistic result.
Mastering these tools is fascinating because it simulates both the level of brightness of the environment, the materials used and the photographic parameters. It takes a lot of time to properly place the miniatures and a lot of calculation time, but the result is rewarding for the whole team!
Joan of Arc was a real challenge in the creation of miniatures, on a smaller and unusual scale on Kickstarter. Solomon Kane returns to a more ‘classic’ scale. Have you brought any innovations? What are the similarities and differences with the Mythic Battles miniatures?
The miniatures world is experiencing a very dynamic momentum, thanks to the development of 3D sculpture on ZBrush everywhere. The number of digital sculptors available in the last two years is booming, and so is the level of achievement. However, the difference is great between a good 3D sculptor and a good 3D miniatures sculptor, and we make sure that our products are sculpted by someone who thinks ‘minis’ first.
Doing Solomon Kane exclusively in 3D technology allows us to follow the sculpting of models with industrial accuracy from the conception (diameters of objects, size of miniature, cutting of parts for production) to the very last details added on the final mini. This means we have a big flexibility on all the changes we want to make.
Our 3D printing machines allow us to make quick and high quality tests directly in the office, so we can what the final model looks like in real, because nothing compares to the feeling you have when looking and holding a real miniature in your hand. We always give the final go to the factory after we’ve printed the miniature and are happy with it.
For this project, after various size tests during printing, we decided to choose a “heroic” scale of 34mm to the eyes, which allows the painters to have miniatures with a large surface and nice volumes.
The common points with the Mythic Battles minis are the place where they are manufactured and the materials used.
The differences are an increased quality for this project, because the factory has further refined its production methods thanks to 3D. We now send our digital models directly via computers and the molds are created from them. Moreover, the plastic that we used which will be the same we used for Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, stiffer and less shiny while capturing more details.
And let’s not forget that all Solomon Kane miniatures have textured bases unique to each model!
What kind of plastic are you going to use?
The figures will mainly be made of PVC, a rather flexible plastic molecule that captures textures and details finely, and ABS, a stiffer material that will allow to have perfectly straight weapons and accessories. All the minis will be manually assembled directly in the factory, which means all the minis will be ready to play.