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Dev Diary #142 - Vision and Art

Hello and welcome to this developer diary introducing the Crusader Kings III Content Creator Pack: North African Attire, I’m Pierre “El Tyranos” Azuelos and you might already play with some of my work in the Community Flavor Pack mod.

I have been playing Crusader Kings franchise since 2012 and mod my favorite games since 2004. I naturally switched to CK modding as soon as 3D characters were announced. Since then, I have made over 260 models for my mod: headgear, clothes, artifacts, royal courts, ships, props, etc. I also broadcasted several video tutorials to help beginner artists to make their way inside the 3D engine.

Today, Paradox Interactive gives me the opportunity and immense privilege to release an official cosmetic pack for our favorite game, so let’s jump into it in detail!



Introducing the Content Creator Pack​

The Content Creator Pack is an initiative that started at PDXCON 2022 when I submitted the idea directly to the Game Director for CKIII. The decision to make “North African Attire” came after a process where I pitched different concepts for a Content Creator Pack, developing the philosophy, expectations, interests, risks and scope for 4 options. We then had a meeting diving deeper into what a cultural clothing pack would look like, this time with regional suggestions, and North Africa stood out from the rest. I documented for a few weeks until the project was finally ready to enter production.

The key objective of the project was to create something that added value to the game compared to a mod and blend in seamlessly with the rest of the content. Over the last 4 years, Community Flavor Pack received about 6 original clothings, the remaining ones are vanilla model retextures. Over the 260-ish models from the mod, clothing only represents a dozen. Why? The time and energy investments are barely worth it when you’re doing this for fun and for free. For example, I submitted 8 turbans in this Content Creator Pack that I never did before, because of their complexity. I dedicated more than 2 weeks just to manage to make the first one, see illustration below.

afr_devdiary_0.jpg

[From left to right: first trial, understanding the workflow, final sculpt of one of the models]

The Content Creator Pack, which becomes officially part of Crusader Kings III, comes with a higher quality standard: more attention to visuals, better optimization, models have all their blendshapes, there is a lot more time spent per asset. Paradox provides Quality Assurance and will offer official support for the content as well.

Why am I saying this? Paradox Interactive trusted me with an ambitious project when I submitted something I still had to prove I could do. Our collaboration was honest and benevolent, my creativity was respected and I tried to do my best in return, they guided me to achieve better visuals all while supporting my initiatives. I've done my best to push the sliders as far as possible, with the weight of not disappointing the community that has always supported my work and within the inherent limit to a commercial project.

Character Art​

The first thing to note is that documentation is woefully lacking, there is, to my knowledge, no surviving artifact but a pair of 11th century shoes. Another terrible fact is that medieval art shows almost no women and no other Berber than Andalusians… used in Fate of Iberia’s documentation!

Fortunately, Berber culture is very unique as it kept its own decorations and fashions all the way up from high antiquity all while being permeable to other cultures it met. This is the concept of “Berber permanence” (Gabriel Camps, 1987) and it helped a lot in the outlining of this DLC. Some simple examples: the traditional woman dress is a Greek peplum, the filigree silver work is Phoenician, the enamel techniques are Roman. Some geometric symbols can even be traced up to the Neolithic! There is obviously a deeper blending after Islamic conquests but no replacement, it is even considered that the Islamic art built upon the Berber abstracted symbols in its early stages.

What you will see below is only an abstract of the content pack, not everything is presented. As a matter of numbers, the production took 6 months - on top of my work and family life - and there are 33 new models added to the game.

I have done my best to represent an authentic version of the Berbers in the Middle Ages, with obvious biases due to the lack of sources. I hope you'll be able to get past my misinterpretations.

afr_devdiary_1.jpg

[Photos: Berber Arts Museum of Marrakech; “Berber memories: women and jewelry in Morocco”, Michel Draguet, 2020.]

This is a typical North African attire from the Atlas: the loubane amber necklace is prominent and the massive silver fibulas are holding the elhaf together, striking the eye with beautiful abstract engravings. The elhaf is a Dorian-style peplum and the appearance of this type of fibula dates back to the Bronze Age in the Maghreb (Camps-Fabrer, 1964). The tamizart cloak is stripped, similar to a 4-6th century BC artwork found in the Tumulus of Djorf Torba in Algeria (illustration).


afr_devdiary_2.jpg

[Photos by Michel Draguet, 2020; Illustration by Emile Galois, 1946]

At the royalty tier, the look is largely different. She wears a shirt under her elhaf, the fibulas are featuring enamel and complex silver filigree, representative of the Souss valley. The circlet is a talgamout with three hinged silver plates and glass cabochons, representative of the Tagmout tribe located in the central anti-atlas. Anti-atlas has always been a refuge against persecutions. It’s considered as a conservatory of the Berber culture as the weather is harsh and access is difficult, allowing vernacular forms of dress and ornamentation to survive. The top right image is a high-definition sculpture I made from the reference.


afr_devdiary_3.jpg

[Photos: Michel Draguet, 2020]

Imperial headwear (left) is a Taounza, again from the Souss valley while high nobility’s coin diadem is from Dadès valley in the High Atlas. As you can see the styles are completely different. Actually, there are so many styles with their own uniqueness and beauty that it was a nightmare to decide which one should make it into the project and at what tier.


afr_devdiary_4.jpg


Knights outfit was way more straight forward. It is based on a wall painting of muslim knights during the conquest of Majorca, created around 1285 and conserved in Barcelona. The sword is a Tuareg takouba. Current learned opinion is that these swords are a distinct and entirely indigenous African type, although speculations of possible influence from Spain via the Almoravides in the 11th Century (Nicolaisen, 1997).

afr_devdiary_5.jpg

[Illustrations: Arab bearded scribe. He wears a turban tied around a conical cap. Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Sicily (1131-1140) and Drawing of Man with Lamp, Fustat, Fatimid Egypt, 11th Century. Keir Collection No. 75781]

Commoners wear a pointy hat with a tassel, held in place by a turban. Conical hats are widespread across North Africa, as seen on those paintings.


afr_devdiary_6.jpg

[Illustrations: Spanish Codices, 11th and 12th century; Men-at-Arms N°348, Osprey editions, 2001; “Costumes of Morocco”, Jean Besancenot, 1990]

Low nobles wear two kinds of wicker hats called tarazas. One is Algerian and the other one featured here is moroccan. The hat is carried above the turban. This is a unisex fashion, and the oldest representations are in Andalusian art (Weiditz, 1530). The tunic is a jillaba, a long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves. Almost all djellabas of both styles (men or women) include a baggy hood called a qob. The hood has a different color and the cut is one of a city dweller, the most widespread.


afr_devdiary_7.jpg

[Illustrations: Sala de Los Reyes, Alhambra, 14th century]

This sultan carries a Tuareg tagelmust or litham with a golden plate showing his wealth, the litham became a distinctive sign of the Almoravids, meaning its wearer should be treated with honor and respect.
He also wears a kaftan based on the surviving marlota of Boabdil (Nasrid Dynasty). Interestingly, the modern “style of Rabat” kaftan looks a lot like it. In Morocco, the kaftan is a very old tradition, deeply rooted in the country's clothing habits. It is an unisex clothing that soon became a symbol of power and wealth among the moors, worn by royals, even up to the queen Isabella as she conquered Granada in 1492. However, the evolution and adaptation as a ceremonial dress for women has made it a very different garment from the Persian and Ottoman ones.


afr_devdiary_8.jpg


The pack finally includes a new feature (special_genes) which allows headgears to deform when a character has a long beard. It allows for models to get out of the way, reduces the amount of clipping and gives them a more organic look.



While I can only invite you to read and learn about this extremely rich culture, I hope you enjoy looking at characters’ garments during your next playthrough in North Africa.

Finally, I’d like to thank Paradox Interactive for the trust they put in this project as well as for the opportunity to bring my work to the next level. I extend all my gratitude to the members of the community, your support over the last few years helped me to continue working and honing my skills.

--Pierre
 
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Just dropping by, since i was somewhat dissapointed by paradox handling of the announcement in the other thread of this to say: it look great, and the idea itself is promising!
 
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Congrats on an excellent work!
 
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Will this impact your modding / mods?

Fair interrogation. I'll paste what I answered during a QnA on CFP discord last week :)

# Question
As you already mentioned it as a potential question up top I would like to know if you can already foresee if/what impact this project will have for the future of CFP?

# Answer
This one is tough. I wish there weren't any but that would be dishonest to tell this. I don't know what will happen to me now, I opened a door and I don't know what's behind. What is sure is that I'm not killing CFP on the grounds that I got something out of it.
I'm not giving up but I'm not ready to mass produce content (yet?). I secretly hope I can do a few things here and there when I can, what I can still promise however is to keep up with day one support for CK3 updates.

Didn´t berber use Tattoos as well back in the days or are those allready in the game?

Yes berber did use tatoos. They are not in the game nor in the pack. I think this is something a lot of us are expecting to see at some point - among many other things hehe - but a Content Creator Pack is already a big undertaking, I did not feel like going into too innovative grounds.
 
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Hello and welcome to this developer diary introducing the Crusader Kings III Content Creator Pack: North African Attire, I’m Pierre “El Tyranos” Azuelos and you might already play with some of my work in the Community Flavor Pack mod.

I have been playing Crusader Kings franchise since 2012 and mod my favorite games since 2004. I naturally switched to CK modding as soon as 3D characters were announced. Since then, I have made over 260 models for my mod: headgear, clothes, artifacts, royal courts, ships, props, etc. I also broadcasted several video tutorials to help beginner artists to make their way inside the 3D engine.

Today, Paradox Interactive gives me the opportunity and immense privilege to release an official cosmetic pack for our favorite game, so let’s jump into it in detail!



Introducing the Content Creator Pack​

The Content Creator Pack is an initiative that started at PDXCON 2022 when I submitted the idea directly to the Game Director for CKIII. The decision to make “North African Attire” came after a process where I pitched different concepts for a Content Creator Pack, developing the philosophy, expectations, interests, risks and scope for 4 options. We then had a meeting diving deeper into what a cultural clothing pack would look like, this time with regional suggestions, and North Africa stood out from the rest. I documented for a few weeks until the project was finally ready to enter production.

The key objective of the project was to create something that added value to the game compared to a mod and blend in seamlessly with the rest of the content. Over the last 4 years, Community Flavor Pack received about 6 original clothings, the remaining ones are vanilla model retextures. Over the 260-ish models from the mod, clothing only represents a dozen. Why? The time and energy investments are barely worth it when you’re doing this for fun and for free. For example, I submitted 8 turbans in this Content Creator Pack that I never did before, because of their complexity. I dedicated more than 2 weeks just to manage to make the first one, see illustration below.

View attachment 1074167
[From left to right: first trial, understanding the workflow, final sculpt of one of the models]

The Content Creator Pack, which becomes officially part of Crusader Kings III, comes with a higher quality standard: more attention to visuals, better optimization, models have all their blendshapes, there is a lot more time spent per asset. Paradox provides Quality Assurance and will offer official support for the content as well.

Why am I saying this? Paradox Interactive trusted me with an ambitious project when I submitted something I still had to prove I could do. Our collaboration was honest and benevolent, my creativity was respected and I tried to do my best in return, they guided me to achieve better visuals all while supporting my initiatives. I've done my best to push the sliders as far as possible, with the weight of not disappointing the community that has always supported my work and within the inherent limit to a commercial project.

Character Art​

The first thing to note is that documentation is woefully lacking, there is, to my knowledge, no surviving artifact but a pair of 11th century shoes. Another terrible fact is that medieval art shows almost no women and no other Berber than Andalusians… used in Fate of Iberia’s documentation!

Fortunately, Berber culture is very unique as it kept its own decorations and fashions all the way up from high antiquity all while being permeable to other cultures it met. This is the concept of “Berber permanence” (Gabriel Camps, 1987) and it helped a lot in the outlining of this DLC. Some simple examples: the traditional woman dress is a Greek peplum, the filigree silver work is Phoenician, the enamel techniques are Roman. Some geometric symbols can even be traced up to the Neolithic! There is obviously a deeper blending after Islamic conquests but no replacement, it is even considered that the Islamic art built upon the Berber abstracted symbols in its early stages.

What you will see below is only an abstract of the content pack, not everything is presented. As a matter of numbers, the production took 6 months - on top of my work and family life - and there are 33 new models added to the game.

I have done my best to represent an authentic version of the Berbers in the Middle Ages, with obvious biases due to the lack of sources. I hope you'll be able to get past my misinterpretations.

View attachment 1074168
[Photos: Berber Arts Museum of Marrakech; “Berber memories: women and jewelry in Morocco”, Michel Draguet, 2020.]

This is a typical North African attire from the Atlas: the loubane amber necklace is prominent and the massive silver fibulas are holding the elhaf together, striking the eye with beautiful abstract engravings. The elhaf is a Dorian-style peplum and the appearance of this type of fibula dates back to the Bronze Age in the Maghreb (Camps-Fabrer, 1964). The tamizart cloak is stripped, similar to a 4-6th century BC artwork found in the Tumulus of Djorf Torba in Algeria (illustration).


View attachment 1074169
[Photos by Michel Draguet, 2020; Illustration by Emile Galois, 1946]

At the royalty tier, the look is largely different. She wears a shirt under her elhaf, the fibulas are featuring enamel and complex silver filigree, representative of the Souss valley. The circlet is a talgamout with three hinged silver plates and glass cabochons, representative of the Tagmout tribe located in the central anti-atlas. Anti-atlas has always been a refuge against persecutions. It’s considered as a conservatory of the Berber culture as the weather is harsh and access is difficult, allowing vernacular forms of dress and ornamentation to survive. The top right image is a high-definition sculpture I made from the reference.


View attachment 1074170
[Photos: Michel Draguet, 2020]

Imperial headwear (left) is a Taounza, again from the Souss valley while high nobility’s coin diadem is from Dadès valley in the High Atlas. As you can see the styles are completely different. Actually, there are so many styles with their own uniqueness and beauty that it was a nightmare to decide which one should make it into the project and at what tier.


View attachment 1074171

Knights outfit was way more straight forward. It is based on a wall painting of muslim knights during the conquest of Majorca, created around 1285 and conserved in Barcelona. The sword is a Tuareg takouba. Current learned opinion is that these swords are a distinct and entirely indigenous African type, although speculations of possible influence from Spain via the Almoravides in the 11th Century (Nicolaisen, 1997).

View attachment 1074172
[Illustrations: Arab bearded scribe. He wears a turban tied around a conical cap. Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Sicily (1131-1140) and Drawing of Man with Lamp, Fustat, Fatimid Egypt, 11th Century. Keir Collection No. 75781]

Commoners wear a pointy hat with a tassel, held in place by a turban. Conical hats are widespread across North Africa, as seen on those paintings.


View attachment 1074173
[Illustrations: Spanish Codices, 11th and 12th century; Men-at-Arms N°348, Osprey editions, 2001; “Costumes of Morocco”, Jean Besancenot, 1990]

Low nobles wear two kinds of wicker hats called tarazas. One is Algerian and the other one featured here is moroccan. The hat is carried above the turban. This is a unisex fashion, and the oldest representations are in Andalusian art (Weiditz, 1530). The tunic is a jillaba, a long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves. Almost all djellabas of both styles (men or women) include a baggy hood called a qob. The hood has a different color and the cut is one of a city dweller, the most widespread.


View attachment 1074174
[Illustrations: Sala de Los Reyes, Alhambra, 14th century]

This sultan carries a Tuareg tagelmust or litham with a golden plate showing his wealth, the litham became a distinctive sign of the Almoravids, meaning its wearer should be treated with honor and respect.
He also wears a kaftan based on the surviving marlota of Boabdil (Nasrid Dynasty). Interestingly, the modern “style of Rabat” kaftan looks a lot like it. In Morocco, the kaftan is a very old tradition, deeply rooted in the country's clothing habits. It is an unisex clothing that soon became a symbol of power and wealth among the moors, worn by royals, even up to the queen Isabella as she conquered Granada in 1492. However, the evolution and adaptation as a ceremonial dress for women has made it a very different garment from the Persian and Ottoman ones.


View attachment 1074175

The pack finally includes a new feature (special_genes) which allows headgears to deform when a character has a long beard. It allows for models to get out of the way, reduces the amount of clipping and gives them a more organic look.



While I can only invite you to read and learn about this extremely rich culture, I hope you enjoy looking at characters’ garments during your next playthrough in North Africa.

Finally, I’d like to thank Paradox Interactive for the trust they put in this project as well as for the opportunity to bring my work to the next level. I extend all my gratitude to the members of the community, your support over the last few years helped me to continue working and honing my skills.

--Pierre
Actually those exist today in North African Amazigh/ Kabyle/Berber societies, but the coins or jewelry hanging from the crowns do not really obstruct the eyes, maximum at the eyebrows; and it would be a shame to obstruct the faces of characters to render them difficult to recognize :


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For 5€ I'll happily buy it.
In this way I am showing my appreciation for El Tyranos' Community Flavour Pack. It perfectly supplements the game with much needed diversity and variation in the character's outfits.
 
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idk... if it's free I'm okay with it.
But I'm not spending money for cosmetics.
This is how you discourage making games beautiful.
 
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idk... if it's free I'm okay with it.
But I'm not spending money for cosmetics.
Then ... don't buy it ?
It's not like those cosmetics are crucial for the game balance or mechanics, and that we should rise up against the scandalous blocking of these new scarves behind a paywall.
And what's all this "if it's free, I'm ok with it" thinking about? An independent content creator ( so not taking resources from paradox devs) proposes content, content you say you're not interested in, because it's cosmetic, and it should have your approval?
 
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I have... mixed feelings about the pricing for this content.

Just to be clear : I am interested in this kind of initiative, I find the assets gorgeous and I am willing to pay for these even if I rarely play in this region of the map just to support the concept of content creator pack.

But I find the price a bit high for this type of content.

My ideal price would have been 3€.
It's a bit more than cosmetic packs for other PDX releases (unit packs for EU4 at 1.99€), but I would have bought this content pack hands down. Again, even if I won't probably be seeing these assets very often, I am willing to encourage this kind of content creation.
I would probably have bought the content even at 4€.

But at 5€, I am more thinking of waiting for a steam sale in a year or two to get it half price. But then again, I wouldn't be supporting this kind of initiative (which would be a pity).
So it really gets me wondering how the price is set. Is the time and effort for the creation of attire content equivalent to time and effort needed to create event packs ?
Or is it the result from the fact that content creator and PDX both get shares from the earnings ?

I would genuinely be interested to understand the way this price was set so I could change up my mind (even if I imagine that it will be a bit difficult for PDX to share this kind of info).

My concern is that future content creator packs will have the same price setting, and it will add up in the end...
 
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So it really gets me wondering how the price is set.
High enough to look desirable*, low enough to look affordable, mid enough to manage customer expectations of future pricing of similar products.

* no really this is a thing some products are priced higher than they "should" be not just to increase per unit revenue but also to increase units sold.
 
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Do you realize that PDX actually sold us
the mod as a dlc?
Aaaand here's a fine example of a perennial phenomenon on the forum: a "PDX can do nothing right" thermonuclear take that very much sounds like the poster didn't read the dev diary.
 
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Could you explain how you came to that conclusion?
Because the DLC being sold is not the mod, and the dev diary clearly explains the ways in which the DLC being sold is not the mod, so the most generous reading of your post is that you didn't read the whole dev diary, just enough of it to inspire a "hot take" founded in pre-existing annoyance about PDX's business practices.
 
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Do you realize that PDX actually sold us
the mod as a dlc?
What made you think that this is a mod? Was it stated at an official level? Just because PDX hired a modder to make a DLC for them it does not mean that whatever the modder makes is simply just a mod, if anything this notion actually hurts the modder because it means they will never be able to make anything that's industry standard besides just mods.
 
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