Intelligence Annex #3: Creating a Character Model

11/25/2014 06:00 PM

Greetings Division Agents!

It’s been a while since we’ve taken you ‘behind the curtain’ so we thought it was about time you got to see a bit of what the guys at Red Storm are cooking up. Spoilers, it’s fantastic. :)

Matt Corso, the Lead Character Artist over at Red Storm, was nice enough to chat with us about what it takes to create the awesome character models for NPCs in The Division.

Matt Corso, Red Storm Entertainment


Fun fact: New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world with over 800 languages spoken. Who even knew that so many languages existed?! Because Tom Clancy’s The Division aims to create an accurate depiction of this rich, mid-crisis NYC; the challenge is real. Luckily, Red Storm have had loads of experience creating authentic, believable characters.

“Whenever we make a new character model we always start off by doing our research. It really helps that our studio authenticity coordinator is great at supplying us with real world clothing and equipment, and that our team has built authentic looking Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six characters for years, so everybody knows their stuff”, Matt told us. As an artist, Matt also recognized that it’s interesting as to “how and why soldiers and nonmilitary combatants would dress for urban combat scenarios in a universe like Tom Clancy’s The Division.”

Intelligence Annex 3 - Exclusive Artwork

For the NPCs in the E3 2014 demo, Matt’s team worked with concept artists from the start to make sure that the models “fit not only the narrative and game design requirements, but also looked cool while still retaining authenticity.”

Intelligence Annex 3 - Exclusive Artwork


Once the concept is locked down and everyone is “on the same page”, it’s on to modeling. “It’s amazing what an ordinary person’s 3D scan looks like in reality while wearing a bulletproof vest, a winter coat, and a hoodie, versus what we often see in video games.  Most of us are not nearly as intimidating or heroic looking.” Matt informed us. So it’s very important that while inspiration is definitely taken from real-world people, it ultimately comes down to the artist’s own modeling skill.

Before these assets can be brought into Snowdrop, the character team uses a lot of industry standard tools in their pipeline to create the models and textures. Matt’s passion for ZBrush, a digital sculpting program is clear; “It’s one of those crazy forward thinking programs that you can go nuts with for hours and just keep adding tons of detail onto your model… The artists here at Red Storm seem to have a real knack for making great use of ZBrush as a game art tool.”

We recently posted an article about how other artists at Red Storm are using the hard-surface tools inside this amazing program to create the weapons for The Division. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can head over here.

“Our industry is going in some interesting directions these days with its asset creations tools.  There’s already a huge variety of different tools that we benefit from on a daily basis.  We use stand-alone programs for laying out UVs, rendering normal maps, retopologizing high poly models, and making texture maps.  Plus, new tools are always on the rise.  These are exciting times in the game creation business.” Matt elaborated.

Intelligence Annex 3 - Exclusive Artwork

Intelligence Annex 3 - Exclusive Artwork


The character team at Red Storm is made up of 5 mega-talented guys; Thomas DeVries, Brian Spencer, Jeff McFadyen and Eric Armstrong in addition to their Lead; Matt Corso. The team focuses on handling as much of their own character models as possible while collaborating where it makes sense. After all… sharing is caring, right? “It’s important that everything looks like it comes from the same artist, as much as possible.  We’ve been working closely with Massive’s character team for a while now.  For consistency sake, we also try to trade and share as much work with them as we can.  Overall, it’s been a great experience and we’re really figuring out the most efficient ways to work together as a team to get the best possible results,” says Matt.

The Red Storm character team continues to create amazing characters for NYC and you’ll be able to enjoy their hard work when you explore the world of The Division. “To be honest, I think that in 16 years of working as a professional developer Tom Clancy’s The Division is the most fun and rewarding experience I’ve ever had.  Our character models will see you on the vicious streets of a fallen New York City.  When that time comes, let’s get ready to take it back!”

We hope you’ve all enjoyed this glimpse of how our NPCs take shape and we can’t wait to share more with you really soon! As always, let us know what you think about all facets of The Division. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and on our forums, so please come and join in the conversation :)


The Division Dev Team

@aemond - Community Development Lead 
@hamishbode - Communication Artist