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Report RSS The big experiment

Consultant Art Director Jolyon Webb explains how ExpCorp made its way to TerraTech.

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As those of you signed up to the Beta will know, we've been feeding so-called 'experimental' blocks into TerraTech for a while now, and in future updates we'll be rolling out more and more pieces under the 'ExpCorp' banner to give them a thorough testing.

The idea, of course, is to give those of you signed up to the Beta a chance to test the blocks before they hit the full game.

This means that carnage awaits: many of the blocks coming your way will never make it to final release, with testing likely to prove that they're just too haphazard and out of kilter to be sucked up by any of the corporations.However, that doesn't mean Beta players can't have some hectic fun aplenty with them in the meantime, does it?


But how did ExpCorp come into being, and why are the development team so keen to share it with TerraTech's superfans? And what's behind the crash test dummies livery?

The man in the know is Consultant Art Director Jolyon Webb.“The Experimental Corp is an interesting challenge to develop visually,” Jolyon details, musing over the new corporation's origins.“Pretty much all the other corporations in the world have a commercial branding and style.

They are producing equipment to be directly sold to customers so these corporations need to evolve a look that reflects the function of the produce but also gives the product an identity and a brand.“You could argue that the look of the Space Junkers is too 'do it yourself' to be a brand. However it is actually a conscious and pretty flamboyant expression of a gang or tribal identity so though it may not be very corporate we regard it as a definitely constructed 'brand'.”


Jolyon notes that the ExpCorp is “entirely focused on Research and Development,” adding that its goal is “effective testing of engineering rather than creating a visual brand.”

“In a way it is not considering customers at all. So, if it doesn't really care how it looks how do we go about developing a look for it? The logical starting point is to look for inspiration in real world examples of prototyping engineering where testing of functionality has a higher priority than slick, commercial aesthetics.”

But how many of the ExpCorp pieces will be assigned to real corporations in the final version of TerraTech?

“A lot of prototype projects will be one offs," Jolyon notes. “They tend to be created individually and the processes avoid any unnecessary complications. I started looking at prototype engineering components created by CNC - computer numeric controlled - milling machines out of solid blocks of metal alloy.

“These shapes tend to avoid any unnecessary curves or 'pretty' shapes and are mostly combinations of rectangular and cylindrical shapes with some supporting strengthening fins and simple flat bevels on edges. These rules begin to establish the foundations of a visual language.”

“Another feature of these kind of prototypes is that the construction methods where components fit together are usually pretty obvious and simple,” he continues.

“For example it is typical to see sunken holes or raised pillars where bolts are placed to join the components together. These pillars and recessed holes have also been incorporated into the visual rules for the Experimental Corp.

“Surfacing is the last part of the visual rules. Again we are taking clues from prototype equipment. Often this leaves metal parts completely bare, so for example a section lathed from aluminium will be highly shiny. For other surfaces there is often a very plain utilitarian finish, a matte, pale grey powder coating is typical and this is what we are using.”

Jolyon believes that the crash test dummies look that adorns some of the ExpCorp pieces fitted into the logic of using the components as test equipment but that the tone has been stripped back since the original designs given the markings “felt too distracting in the world and we pulled back to using some simple, shiny grey pinstripes.”

He concludes, “It would not be in the nature of the Experimental Corporation to try and draw a lot of attention to itself - the complete reverse of a corporation like Venture for example - and these markings felt more appropriate.”

Now you have a little more background on how ExpCorp came into being, we're looking forward to seeing what you Beta players make with the pieces. Make sure you share your greatest creations via Twitter.

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