I confess: I am a weak man.
After our Kickstarter campaign, in fact, I promised to focus myself on the other kins of Inneath: after all, my final goal is a skirmish game and I can't publish a game based only on dwarves (really? REALLY?!).
However, since the very first minutes after the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I felt like I was missing something.
After we designed the Bluecoat Pathfinder, I suddenly realized what woodworm nestled greedy in my mind: I needed to design a proper colossal, dwarf-themed centerpiece!!
"But what does a dwarf have to do with a human range?!"
Well, my friends, let me unveil my trap card.
To avoid any kind of dwarf-abstinence, in fact, I spread all over the setting of Inneath a meticulous series of excuses made precisely to always have a reason to design a new dwarf character, no matter the context.
Concerning the human range, and in specific the Second Government, the most diligent readers among you may have already guessed what I'm referring to: Zorn Uzul.
For those of you that haven't already read the little booklet "Peoples of Inneath", let the fluff flows!
Zorn Uzul was a rich fortress, funded by dwarves before the great calamity that torn apart the whole Inneath. After those apocalyptic events, the few survivors found themselves at the mercy of events and they thought they were abandoned by Gods.
They decided, then, not to look at their past anymore: instead, they only focused on the future. They open the gates of Zorn Uzul to other kins and, since then, they worshiped only one god: the Progress. This enormous city-island, now, is a jumble of lodges and guilds engaged in a constant dispute against each other, a sort of capitalistic utopia (or dystopia?).
Here, dwarves don't care about anything but being able to push forward the furnace of progress: if it requires sacrifices, bad expedients or exploitation of resources, so be it!
Zorn Uzul, in fact, has no enemies apart those who hamper its ravenous business.
In all this, they see in the Second Government the best business associate of Inneath: after all, the relentless ambition and the large finances of the human nation marry perfectly with the interests of the dwarves of Zorn Uzul, and over the years they consolidated a strong political and, above all, economic tie.
The trade is simple: the Second Government provides financial resources and raw materials to the lodges of Zorn Uzul, and it receive in return the best technology of the city.
So, as you can see it's perfectly legit and appropriate to design a dwarf character of Zorn Uzul within the Second Government range.
THE Iron titan
Having clarified the fluff-point, it's time to talk about the creative process itself.
At the same way as the Pathfinder, the Iron Titan is another concept made according to my hidden desires.
A colossal mecha-dwarf, with a badass gunslinger in the control room.
If, with the Pathfinder design, I wanted to create something elegant, with a typical European feel, with the Iron Titan I only focused on creating an arrogant and crazy machine.
To achieve my mission, I started with one of the best mecha-design I've ever seen: the Lagann, of that masterpiece of animation known as Tengen toppa Gurren Lagann.
The Lagann design is incredibly clean, and has proportions that remind my dwarves: basically, there is a huge head, two strong arms and extremely short legs.
Imagining a mecha designed by the dwarves of Zorn Uzul, I couldn't find anything more suitable!
With Davide, the sculptor of the Iron Titan, we worked hard to adapt the original shape of the Lagann and connect it with our style. Obviously, another reference for this concept was the awesome Tir-Na-Bor Golem, even if I for my Iron Titan I wanted a look more dwarfy.
With that in mind, we "assembled" our mecha starting from a huge dwarf mask, the main surface of our Titan, basically the 60% of his silhouette.
That dwarf mask is intended not only to be the main focal point of our mecha, but it is designed also to give a sort of "personality" to it: after all, it would have been a robot from a fantasy context, so I didn't want something too sci-fi or aseptic. Creating a huge mask, at least in my opinion, was a good way to maintain the concept into a fantasy "mood", avoiding a too futuristic look.
Moreover, the big mask is perfect for a future kit of alternative parts: if you change it, in fact, basically the whole look of the Iron Titan would dramatically change (imagine, for example, a boar-shape mask, or a female mask!). As we say here in Italy: two pigeons with one bean!
HOW TO PILOT A MECHA
One of the best details of this sculpt, to me, is the control room of the Titan.
I wanted to add a bit of humor to the concept, but obviously I had to give a credible idea about how the pilot drives the Titan.
Talking about realism, it's always difficult to balance it on a concept like that: first of all, I'm not an engineer, so I simply don't really know how a machine like that (especially considering a steam-engineered one!) could work. Moreover, we were design a miniature kit, so we had to simplify as much as possible these kind of things (for example: we can't sculpt a complex system of chains that realistically moves all the parts).
I think that, in this kind of things, the best way is to create something believable in principle: I don't like to explain everything with "well, guys, it works cause it's fantasy and everything works in a fantasy setting!", but I can't give you neither a 100% realistic demonstration of how a steam-powered dwarf mecha actually works.
In specific, to pilot my Titan I imagined a sort of "videogame experience", designing a control room that was a mix between an Arcade control system, and the classic Claw Crane.
Yeah, my past experiences in Akihabara influenced a lot the design!
The control room of the Iron Titan has two levers, as many Claw Crane games do: one is made to move the mecha back and forth, the other one to move to the left and right side. Each lever has a sort of brake callipers on its back: if pushed, I imagine they activate additional movements (for example, move a single leg).
This is the basic functioning of the Titan, but obviously it can't manage all the actions that a mecha like that it's called to do, for example: how to move the arms? How to turn only the main body? How to make an hadouken?!
To explain this, I imagined a simple system of buttons, as in a fighting arcade game.
Every button activates a specific part of the mecha: for example, if you want to move an arm, you push the right button and then with the levers you are able to move it.
Obviously, as in an arcade game, I imagine that there is a large amount of combos between the levers and the buttons to operate complex actions and (who knows?!) even special moves and attacks!
To add extra-swag to the design, Davide thought about sculpting also two little knick-knacks to one of the levers, as a real boss of the arcade room! They are useless, but who doesn't pimp a bit his car?!
So I imagine this dwarf, piloting his mecha like a pro-gamer, pushing buttons and moving levers frantically like a Street Fighters champion during a battle. I totally love it.
BE A PILOT
Designing the pilot has been a real challenge.
This character should represent a dwarf pilot of Zorn Uzul, borrowed by the Redcoat regiment of the Second Government (obviously, no dwarf would ever let a human drive this jewel!). The double nature of the mecha and its pilot (a Zorn Uzul machine, at the service of the Second Government) wasn't easy to be managed cause I feared to design a sort of dwarf cosplayer of the Second Government, flowing into the parody.
If you see the right shoulder pad of the mecha, you'll notice that there is an alternative version of the Second Government symbol: usually, it is composed of a roman number, 2, in the center of a sunburst. I wanted to decline this symbol in a Zorn Uzul sauce, to suggest the allegiance between the dwarf city and the Second Government, so I replaced the sunburst with a simple gear: an easy design, but I think that works.
The dwarf himself, like the other dwarves of Zorn Uzul (think about the Inventor or Godric) is more modern than the classic norse/medieval look of the Kazhuk Izril stunties, and has also a clear similarity with the Second Government uniforms. I wanted for him a look that reminds a sort of navy officer, so I gave him an overcoat (one of my fetish) and a fancy haircut. I want for him a sophisticated look. I avoided mustache, a little tribute to the Rackham dwarves and a good way to underline his grim facial expression.
It was particularly difficult, also, to think about what action make him do.
At first, I thought about sculpting him with folded arms, a clear remind to Gurren Lagann, but it's a position always awkward for a dwarf character, because of the beard (and also the general anatomy proportions): for this reason the Patriarch of Vidarr has a very short beard (or, we better say, very long sideburns!).
Discarded, though reluctantly, the folded arms idea, with Davide we decided to add a bit of story-telling to the scene, and make him aim to shoot with his personal gun.
Considering the mecha-pose (not too dynamic), we thought that giving a bit of action to the pilot could balance as well the general composition.
Davide make him hold his gun like a real gangster: after all we are talking about a Zorn Uzul dwarf, and that city is a mix between Venice, Gotham City and San Francisco.
Adding some gangsta-vibes was more than appropriate!
With everything at its place, after two months of sculpting (Davide really went beyond his limits, with this sculpt, I think he obtained the seventh sense!), I have to admit that the result is far beyond my wildest expectations.
What makes me proud of Davide is that he managed to give an elegant and "clean" look to a very complex design: with all those details it would have been very easy to lose the right way, generating a visual confusion with too many stuff placed altogether, but indeed he made an amazing job, balancing perfectly the scene.
My favorite detail (and I know Davide will kill me for that) is the smoke effect: it's a simple, minor detail, but the attention put in its sculpt, as it was the most important one, I think it's the most evident proof of what I suggest when I talked about "throwing the heart over the obstacle".
Surely, loving so much this sculpt will help once I'll get the invoice for its 3dprint.
It will be a bloodbath, guys, but I think it will worth it.
PS: for those who are wondering if we will sculpt a girl pilot, one day: yes, we will. After all, times luckily have changed and I can't ignore it. But concerning this interesting and maybe controversial topic, I'll talk about it in the next post.