Lucas Gilberston & Carol-Anne Day

Lucas Gilberton & Carol-Ann Day

We’re Lucas and Carol-Anne. We’re voice actors, musicians, and visual artists, with a passion for compelling narrative video games. 

Our claim to 15 minutes of fame was doing voice work for anime like Gundam cartoons, some versions of Dragonball and Lucas was Zero in the Mega Man X franchise in the early 2000’s.

Our powers combined, we’re the Hermit Collective! And we’re making Lampblack. Lampblack is a third person narrative adventure with behavioural, cerebral, and philosophical puzzles. It’s a game that demands mindful exploration, attention to details, and an astute understanding of behavior. All of this is packaged in a beautiful and surreal world.

And that’s where Reallusion came in. The characters are very important in a story and game such as this, and we needed to have stunning characters brought to life in a believable way that could elicit an emotional response from our audience. And that’s what we’ve got! So that’s us! Thanks for being here! We love you.

With Character Creator 3 we cannot only flesh out our core cast, but we can create dozens if not hundreds of iterated characters for an entire village or city. This enables us to make an entire world in an attractive amount of time. Before, we’ve spent over a year making one three minute hand drawn animation. Now, we can accomplish in days what previously took years.

Lucas Gilberston – Game Developer

Q: Hello Hermit Collective, and welcome to the Reallusion Feature Stories. Kindly introduce yourselves and your work.

Pleased to meet you! We’re Lucas and Carol-Anne. We’re voice actors, musicians, and visual artists, with a passion for compelling narrative video games. Our claim to 15 minutes of fame was doing voice work for anime like Gundam cartoons, some versions of Dragonball and Lucas was Zero in the Mega Man X franchise in the early 2000’s.

20 years of voicing cartoons engorged our passions for telling stories in entertaining ways. We’re obsessed with dark fantasy like Pan’s Labyrinth, and we love combining that with humor, music, and art.

Carol-Anne is a smart brain person and she got her University book learnin’ in Psychology and Optical Science, which forms the underpinning of our narrative designs and intentions. Basically we’re making a game that makes you think, feel, and then poop your pants in fear. And then you get happy again. Lucas journeyed through the radio industry where he was on a morning show and did an interview show for a bit. Simply put, Lucas likes talking to people, hearing how they think, things that made them succeed, or fail, and presenting these stories with humor and grace. He also sells paintings sometimes, and dropped out of art college, so I guess you could say he really knows what he’s doing. 

Our powers combined, we’re the Hermit Collective! And we’re making Lampblack. Lampblack is a third person narrative adventure with behavioral, cerebral, and philosophical puzzles. It’s a game that demands mindful exploration, attention to details, and an astute understanding of behavior. All of this is packaged in a beautiful and surreal world.

And that’s where Reallusion came in. The characters are very important in a story and game such as this, and we needed to have stunning characters brought to life in a believable way that could elicit an emotional response from our audience. And that’s what we’ve got!

So that’s us! Thanks for being here! We love you.

Q: Lamp Black has been a long-time in the making, and has gone through several iterations in your life. Tell us a bit how this project started and how it has evolved with Character Creator and iClone advantages.

We think about art as a lifelong expression. The projects and concepts that we can express arise from who we fundamentally are as humans, and that stems from our entire experience in life until this point in time. Original Lampblack concepts began as far back as 2004. And grew over time, just as we did. Like the image below for example, an initial pen drawing in 2004, can go through a few iterations before the modern era. The middle/left one was actually a painting on a cheese plate Lucas gave his mom. And the middle/right one was made in toonboom. While the one at right was a quick test done in Character Creator 3.  It takes a long time to approach the true expression of an idea. And it’s a lifelong thing.

And it isn’t just this one character. Ideas are memes that grow from one era of personal development to the next

The entry of CC3 and iClone 7 are what we consider to be the public revelation for our ideas and characters. Finally, we’ve grown enough as artists and people to be ready to showcase the stories and concepts that have been growing and nurturing for a long period of time.

Each expression of art and thought are valid, and beautiful in their own ways. 

Our goal with Lampblack now is to create something that audiences can emotionally connect with in a meaningful way. To do that, we really need expressive characters that feel alive. We really need digital humans. 

With CC3 we can not only flesh out our core cast, but we can create dozens if not hundreds of iterated characters for an entire village or city. This enables us to make an entire world in an attractive amount of time. Before, we’ve spent over a year making one three minute hand drawn animation. Now, we can accomplish in days what previously took years.

Lucas Gilberston – Game Developer

Q: During the creation of game characters, what would you say is technically the most difficult part ? Any advice for other game developers that are interested in the Reallusion pipeline?

The Reallusion pipeline completely takes care of the rigging, entirely. Having an OC character rigged properly can be extremely challenging especially when you get to the facial structure. But what about if you need to make changes months down the process? How will your rigging react? Will you have to redo a lot of work, and lose time? Isn’t that exhausting?

With Character Creator 3, the rigging just works. And I can change, iterate, make new, exaggerate, isolate, and manipulate any aspect I want. Under the hood, all of the technical implications are sorted for me. Additionally, the auto set up for Unreal Engine 4 and the iClone Unreal Live Link plugin are INCREDIBLE time savers. Anyone who has attempted to create an original character, and then import it even remotely at the same quality into Unreal Engine 4 will know that can be daunting if not impractical.

Again, with Reallusion stuff, it’s a few clicks away, and it happens under the hood. Even with multiple levels of detail for optimization.  I feel like I have to shake people and say “please wake up! You will save HUNDREDS of hours of work if you just use this software”

Pre CC3 on the left, and post CC3 on the right. 

The switchover was definitely a change for the art direction, but we were using this cartoony style because that was in our reach. We knew we could not reliably make human characters at a scale or volume for our game, so we decided on a more manageable style. The trouble with the more manageable style was the rigging was extremely dysfunctional. The facial rigging was non existent, and the model wasn’t perfect. We couldn’t expect people to pay us for a game made with this character, and we couldn’t spend thousands of hours re-doing the character.

In external rendering software we could get it to look great;

However inside of UE4 it would look like this;

You can see that the hair and eyes are just really off model. That’s because the hair and eye shader complexity in UE4 is a mountain of it’s own. And again, with Auto Setup and iClone Unreal Live Link. That’s not even part of our workflow anymore. It just works now.

That model took months to create. And you know what, we’re proud of it. We’ll still use it in the final game as a doll or something as an easter egg to ourselves. But after spending months on a non functioning model, we spent hours on our new character in CC3;

And this is the tradeoff. And, we still haven’t finished the hair or textures, so it’ll look EVEN BETTER by the end! So, it came down to cost benefit analysis. Months making hardly functional cartoony characters, or hours per stunning digital human. The choice was easy. So my advice to other people interested in animation and game dev is this; how much of your life are you willing to spend struggling. How much work can you accomplish alone? To what level of quality? 

It might sound dire, but it’s the truth. People should be very aware that if they don’t use Reallusion software they will end up paying for it in their time, and their willpower. And each of those things have effects on their family life, their well-being, their recreational time, their mental health etc. Again, the choice is easy!

Q: When is Lamp Black due to be finished? And what can the community look forward to?

Lampblack we’re guessing will be done in 2022 or 2023. It’s a labor of love. We’re anticipating putting a slice of a demo idea out around Christmas 2020, and then growing a community from there. 

Lampblack is meant to play with the focus, and attention, of the player, and alternate between emotional highs and lows. So, fear into calmness, sadness into joy. The primary goal of lampblack is to be a narratively and emotionally compelling adventure. A lot of Lampblack is meant to either exploit, or address, or illuminate, or gently help heal, cognitive loopholes and dysfunctions. 

A part of that regards optical science and the nature of perception which will be studied mostly through color. But a part of that will focus on inserting cognitive behavioral therapies and attention training techniques into gameplay such that a player at the end of a play session should feel their senses heightened, their emotions are more gratifying, etc. 

It all sounds super heady and complex, but it’s really just a macabre adventure in a surreal world filled with beautiful characters and locations that tell a compelling story. The deeper cognitive mechanics won’t necessarily be narratively explicit, but I think they’re an interesting way to describe what the intent of the game is.

Q: The Hermit Collective quickly helped dub into English, the COVID-19 PSA from 3rd World Studios. Kindly share with the community more of the voice performance services that you offer.

That’s another area that Reallusion has helped with a lot actually. So, we’ve done the voicing thing for 20 years, and what started as just being voice actors in anime dubbed into english grew into our own boutique studio taking care of the end to end vocal product.

But now, with Live Face in iClone 7, and a Smartsuit Pro from Rokoko, we can actually offer some mocap as part of our contract work for clients. It gives us another gear to shift in to, which makes us much more competitive. We don’t just provide voices now, we can provide the facial data capture, and even the movement capture of the actor! It creates jobs, and helps us be more sustainable in this economy to have animation capabilities linked with our other creative capabilities. 

Website: http://hermitcollective.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/HermitSherpa/videos

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