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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Beginning Work on a 3D Ponatina Model Commission by DJTHED!

If you've been a backer of the BGP project, you've known for a while now exactly what we've been up to with guy in the thumbnail here. But to everyone else, we've got some big news on a fun little commissioned side project we'd like to share!

Find out more beyond the break below!

That's Ponatina. OUR Ponatina! In 3-Flippin'-D!! 

How was this done? By borrowing the talents of a professional artist of course.

If the name DJTHED doesn't ring any bells, his work kinda speaks for itself, and if you're an MLP fan in the 2020s you've definitely at least seen parts of his portfolio before.

He specializes in making this kind of thing:

Super high quality pony models for making sleek TV/Movie/Game animations. In fact he was the Animation Director for the official My Little Pony Game released this past year.

We watch this guy's shorts, making of, and 3D critique stuff all the time at in-person gamedev meetings over lunch, always daydreaming about the kinds of games we could make if we had the budget to make BGP a 4K AAA console game experience. Specifically noting how we'd need someone with DJTHED's expertise to get it done right and avoid all the pitfalls certain other huge monster taming franchises go through that result in unsatisfactory experiences as far as immersive graphics go.

When DJ's commissions opened up for the first time ever it was like a lightning in a bottle moment we had to be the first to jump on. So Psyaryu took his own money and set aside a budget for getting a Battle Gem Pony rendered in 3D for the first time ever!

But which pony to pick? It took some debate. We've got like 85 designs to choose from after all. There's also Clover from our other game series to consider. But after learning how hard it'd be to get Simber looking good in DJ's current style of expertise, we went with our other mascot/starter pony: the super special eevee-like Ponatina!

You remember Ponatina, right? About yea big, cinnamon color scheme, blue accents, and a white & gray streak through her hair. Dora the Explorer type haircut kinda, stuck to a chibi body. Love that horse!

She's existed in pixel form and a commissioned SugarMorning GIF til now. Never drawn as concept art or a turnaround reference guide. So translating to 3D requires a lot of communication about imagination and interpretation.

So with those references in hand and a lengthy discussion out of the way, DJTHED got to work and came back with amazing stuff the very next day.

Starting with the first draft... This rather high horse here, A.K.A. "Tallatina"!

She started of a little LONG being based on the standard MLP base model with a unique haircut on top. So to look more like her chibi in-game self, she got shrank to about filly size. We also scrapped an idea about her hair being symmetrical like the pixel sprite version. Giving her hair a unique flow on the left side. Kinda sassy/punkish which fits her Buttercup-like personality. (Psy personally despised the default cheery T-Pose smile she has here, but animating the face comes much later in the pipeline.)

Looking a lot more like the Ponatina we know and love! But this is a more simplified model like you'd see in a game. What we want next is the HD super detailed stuff you'd see in a Pixar movie.

But even before that, gotta rig her up! That's getting all the bones and movable pieces right.

The rig was setup in Blender (the world-famous 3D modelling & animation tool) and Ponatina's ready to be puppeteer'd!

Next step (heh) was to get the hooves looking good. Rendering takes a super long time and gets really expensive, so we gotta do it sparingly.

They've kinda got a G5 MLP thing going on. Texture so rich you can feel it with your eyes. (So gosh darn plush you just wanna pet her!)

You may even notice we got her Chroma colors in there. DJ used a tool to perfectly match the sprite palettes. This is the moment things started to really click. Can you already picture her moving around and getting into shenanigans?

But she's lookin' pretty bare without some iconic fine jewelry. What kind of Battle GEM Pony would she be without a Gem on her? So DJ embedded one into her chest like so.

Perfectly matching the one in the game and key art from the T-Shirt (seen below).

All the ponies have this magic gem jutting out of em that really completes the look.

And with some fancy texturing, DJ gave it a battle-worn look that adds new dimension to the whole thing. And the detail doesn't stop there!

Every bit of Ponatina got fuzzified! Particle effects, light bounces, and all sorts of industrial light and magic went into bringing this pony to life. From scrapbook doodles to Gimp sprites, to 2D tweets, to the almost tangible micro horse you see before you. Some talent and tech can really bring an idea to new heights. This whole process really has been something to behold. And soon as we got the lighting just right... Boom.

Never could I have closed my eyes and pictured "Ponatina, but as a Movie Poster focal character" looking this good. (I mean, for comparison, it took Pikachu like 2 decades to get this kind of RTX treatment, right?)  

Now look at her:

Who's ready for Ponatina: the Movie!?

Amazing stuff. DJTHED's a wizard through-and-through. And this helps a ton with envisioning the future of BGP, when the games are finally brought into the 3rd Dimension. And with access to all the Blender files, we can use this Ponatina model again for future promotional materials.  So all-n-all, a nice birthday season gift from Psyaryu. (Development of this thing overlapped both our birthdays in October and actually started a month earlier than that, but still.)

We plan to show off more progress on the model over the next couple weeks, showcasing various poses and even animations.

Stay tuned for more updates! Cuz for now, it's back to work for us!

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