The Barber of Cogville

Every Subject of The Empire appreciates looking good and staying healthy. Enter: The Barber.

Barbers provide the grooming essential to properly express one’s station in society, from the common tousle-haired labourer to the impeccably coiffed lady & waxed-mustached gentlemen of the highest Order. Their duties do not end there, for they are Industrious and Enterprising as every Upstanding Subject aspires to be: barbers also provide the preventative medical care required in the rugged life of frontier colonization. (Bleeding, leeches, bleeding and leeches, you know.)

Shave and a haircut?

Shave and a haircut?

Developing the Concept

So we’re given the role of the barber in Clockwork Empires and it’s a bit of a weird mix, part grooming and part highly dubious medical care. My job is to figure out how the art team expresses this visually.

Begin with the cliched image of the¬†barbershop quartet: It’s what we all know through various media and it evokes a jolly image to offset the rather grim blood & guts of the medical side, to say nothing of what Sweeney Todd has attached to the image of the 19th century barber. Of course tapping into a bit of that grimness works too: the visual design of Clockwork Empires has indeed a cheery veneer with something sinister lurking beneath.


Stop that; This is all far too silly.

Everything starts with Google Image search. Well, not everything. But most things, and I do try to never pull the first image I see for any one thing as that’d look a bit cheesy.

Right, there we go. Barbers. Now, there’s a matter of class — in the sociological breakdown of Clockwork Empires these barbers are artisan craftspeople who may take on a managerial role if lower-class labourers are assigned to their implied work-party (someone needs to sweep up hair and wrangle leeches, after all). This means that barbers are middle-class characters and so they get blue as their primary costume colour. But I want to slip in a touch of that red because it feels traditional and it signifies the blood that might splatter about if a shave is a little close or if a Healthful Bleeding operation is being hastily efficiently performed.

Fun with Barbery

Here’s the concept art for barbers: Cutting! Leeches! Everything you need.

Modeling the Barbers

His radiance

Joseph: He doesn’t always work while smiling at you. Just usually. It’s weird.

From here, I write up a ticket (and a bunch of other internal documentation I talked about in a post on art direction from back in January) and we pass into the realm of Joseph, our character modeler. We have a ton of human characters already modeled over the course of the game’s development and this previous work provides a great base for creating new characters by modifying the textures & geometries already created. A shirt is a shirt, it may just like a bit of tweaking, is all.

How it's done

Genealogy of character models.

Joseph had a look at the character concept I passed to him and concluded that the barbers would be fairly simple to build from the sailor models & textures that were, in turn, built from a version of the lumberjack models & textures which were, in turn, probably based on the original common labourer and … you get the idea.

You can see here also that we attempted a version of the barbers with red pinstripes on their shirts but found that when viewed at a very small size, as will be common in a game of Clockwork Empires, the pinstripe pattern created a lot of jittery visual noise. It looks good in the render because it’s a very nicely anti-aliased render. If you get the same thing moving around in-engine at lower settings, it’s not so good. Plus I had concerns that the bow-tie would match the colour of the pinstripes too closely.¬†You win some, you lose some.

character texture sheet

Character textures, raw. So raw.

Note also, if you review the final models compared with the concept art, that Joseph made the gold/brass buttons of the shirt aligned on the center axis of the model. This mirroring saves texture space — and time.

To the right, by the way, you can see flat versions of various character textures: lumberjack in the upper right, sailor in lower left, pinstriped barber in lower right, and final barber in the upper left. These show just one skin colour variation but as noted in a previous post, we have four variations for each and every body and head model.

Everything Else: Rigging & Animation & Environment

The job isn’t done yet, however. Joseph needs to pass the finalized model over to Mr. Triolo for rigging and creation of any custom animations to be used by the barber and the barber’s victim customer. (It’s sheer coincidence that I assigned a deadline to the “death by head falling off” animation sequence today, I’ll have you know.) We also need tools for the barber (notably the razor, which is done, and the jar of leeches, which is not). And the barber chair for victims customers to sit in. And a barber pole to attach to the outside of their shop. And … keeping track of all of this is what design docs & asset spreadsheets are for! Having cleverly brought this text back to my favourite subject, that of the Importance of Bureaucracy – a fact which every Upstanding Subject of The Empire appreciates – I shall leave the rest of the barbers’ story for another time and another blog post.

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11 Responses to “The Barber of Cogville”

  1. Tyler says:

    So an interesting tidbit you mentioned about middle class having their color as blue. I assume then each class has a sort of color palette so that players can easily identify them while playing.

    Seeing as how there are barbers, how many other professions are there and how will they fit into the game? Obviously not having ones hair cut will put a serious detriment on morale.

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  2. Joey Headset says:

    Using the old school Barbicide container for the leaches is Pure Genius.

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  3. Thomas says:

    I like the thought of a lower-class worker suddenly aspiring to become a barber, and seeing the mustache and whiskers abruptly spring forth from his cheeks from nowhere as he picks up the Perfectly Safe shaving apparatus.

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  4. Jarenth says:

    Here’s to hoping the next Dredmor expansion — don’t be silly, there will always be a next Dredmor expansion — has a Barberian skill tree.

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  5. FaxCelestis says:

    Just a quick note: barbers who descend into madness should change jobs and start serving meat pies.

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  6. CaptainKraft says:

    How is it that I’ve only heard of this game recently?! Dungeons of Dredmor was amazing and this one is looking just as good. Keep it up, and that’s a sexy barber…

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  7. Essmir says:

    I think they shud have more amazing haircuts becose it wode be like vering a comersial on the head.

    P.s. I now that I’am terrible at english

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  8. Bit Maiden says:

    So the real secret project is Joseph wants to create a virtual barber to shave his face. Not a bad idea -save one for me.

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  9. mell42 says:

    Ooh! The eyebrows give me hope for diggles in CE!
    Will there be diggles? I love diggles.

    Also, awesome on the Barbers. Can’t wait!

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  10. Pingback: Dev Links: Shave And A Haircut | The Indie Game Magazine - Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads

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