The Evolution of Robot Design

October 15, 2016

The Prime Bionics testing robots, or A.R.N.I.E.s, as they’re currently named within our story bible, are the lone playable characters within Killtype: Synthetic. Nailing down their design and ensuring it aligned with our near-future setting and core gameplay objective of highly extensible player loadout configurations was one of the first major tasks the artists on the Headshot Labs team took on. Players would be seeing a lot of these robots--they’d be going up against them infinitely as adversaries but also building, customizing, and eventually taking the control of one themselves--so it was important to get them right. 

The artists were given some initial direction as they started concepting the robot’s design. Given the game’s near future setting, the Arnies needed to represent extensions of current day industrial design and mechanical engineering. They needed to resemble something that conceivably might come along in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. 

The following concepts were done by former team member Andreas Lokko and were informed by basic discussions about the game’s backstory and the world in which these robots occupy. Even at this early stage, it was clear the robots would evoke a familiar humanoid form.

Andreas Lokko Concepts

These were the very first skeletons created in Unity by Ingmar Trump, Headshot Labs’ 3D artist, in order to set up initial initial character animations in Unity.

Ingmar Trump Concept #1

Ingmar Trump Concept #2

Ingvar Lond (Programmer) “We put a lot of effort into figuring out how to make it (the robot) mechanically accurate. I made a ton of my, now-famous, rudimentary MS Paint schematics to explain to Ingmar how we should approach the design of different joints and actuators. This whole process took far too much time and it quickly became clear that we really needed a great concept-artist to make it look good as well as mechanically accurate. Luckily, we soon found one.

Concept Artist, Mari Pakkas, joined the team and real experimentation around different forms and shape began.

Mari Pakkas Concept #1

Mari Pakkas Concept #2

Mari Pakkas Concept #3

This more detailed concept from Mari shows greater consideration for how the robot might be built from a mechanical and engineering perspective.

Mari Pakkas Concept #4

Ingvar Lond (Programmer): “I really liked how the mechanical design ideas made sense in this concept. Joints and movement were thought through and the structure appeared strong but lightweight.”

This design would inform a 3D model built and animated by artist Josh Fulmore after joining the team a short while later. This is the model we’re using in current builds of the game.

Josh Fulmore Animation Test

Research into engineering concepts like honeycomb structures informed the design of different head concepts:

Mari Pakkas Robot Head Concepts

More detailed examples of the robot’s engineering by Mari:

Mari Pakkas Robot Accessory Concepts

Leading up to the release of the website, Mari continued to refine the design for use in promotional images. This model represents a near-final design that will later be modeled for use in the game:

Mari Pakkas Robot Concept Final

This base model will be affected to some degree by the items players choose to include in their custom loadouts. So while the robot design has already seen much iteration, it will continue to evolve alongside our gameplay design and as players participate in building their own. We’re excited to see how Arnie will evolve further in the future.