Europa Universalis IV - 2 November 2021 - The 'Art of Africa' Theory

Europa Universalis IV - 2 November 2021 - The 'Art of Africa' Theory​

Welcome to this week’s dev diary. I’m David Horler, the Art Lead at Tinto, and I’m very excited to show you what the art team has been cooking up in recent months.

In the last year the art team at our Barcelona studio has exploded, rapidly expanding to the 9 talented artists that we have today—including every discipline from 3D character artist to UI developer. We have so much interesting stuff planned for the future, but for now I’ll introduce to you some of the work we’ve already done for Origins.

So what is the process for making art in one of our immersion packs? The first thing that happens is the brief, in this case @Johan asked us to prepare 16 unit models and 2 missionaries for sub-Saharan Africa, a hugely underrepresented area in terms of previous art DLCs.

We opened up the game to see which cultures are missing art, and while East and West Africa already had unit models, we noticed a large area of southern Africa that was not already covered by unit packs.

map_southern_africa.jpg

Our artists started doing research for interesting and unique types of clothing historically worn by people in this area. Historical authenticity is very important in this kind of game so we were careful with our references. However, we permitted ourselves a little bit more creativity in later tiers, to create “what-if?” unit models, rewarding players who pull off amazing feats of technological progress.

After the research, concept artist Irene and 2D artist Ruben set to work making concepts for these characters. The goal was to start with simple warriors, and then as the ages progress they become increasingly complex in their appearance—eventually evoking the disciplined regiments of Napoleonic Europe but with a distinctive African twist.

Since these units would be used across many different countries, we needed to figure out where the country colours would go at this stage as well; in this case red is primary, yellow is secondary, and blue is tertiary.

east_bantu_tier_2.jpg
KON_3_web.jpg

The first ideas are rarely the best, so the artists explore many iterations as we try to find the right shapes and colours, as you can see with our work on the Coptic missionary here:

missionary_iterations.png

Over the next few months we worked together with our friends at N-iX Game & VR Studio to turn these concepts into 3D models that are both functional and look great. To start with we make a very high resolution model in ZBrush with all the cloth folds and surface details that we want. This is made with a combination of digital clay sculpting and cloth simulation, both of which are essential processes in modelling characters for modern video games.

scuplt.png

It looks beautiful, but with this many polygons it is impractical for realtime rendering, so the next step is to bake all those details into a normal map texture that is wrapped around a low-poly model.

Once baked, we start the texturing process. In EU4’s past, we have laboured over dozens of layers in Photoshop, but recently we have adapted our workflow to use Substance 3D Painter, which is an incredibly powerful tool much better suited to texturing models.

painter.png

When the textures are finalised, the models are rigged to a skeleton and finally imported into the game. In the case of the missionaries, we got to make brand new animations as well. We then implement it, its testing is managed by our internal QA coordinator and carried out by external QA teams.

For some context of how long this sort of unit pack takes to make, the entire process began in early April and was finished in September. And here are the final products! Let us know what you think of them.

subsup_congolese.jpg
subsup_east_bantu.jpg
subsup_great_lakes.jpg
subsup_southern_african.jpg
subsup_missionaries.jpg

As well as new mission tree icons and the monuments that you saw in October, we have also been busying our 2D artists with more advisor portraits in forgotten parts of the world.

Since Leviathan released with so much flavour for Aboriginal Australians, Southeast Asians, and Polynesians, the advisor portraits for those cultures have been high on our art request list. So for Origins we have made a full set of male and female advisor portraits for each of those regions that will add even further to the immersion of playing there.

origins_advisors.png

And of course, a release wouldn’t be complete without a new loading screen. We present Nzingha Mbande of Ndongo, a fascinating queen from Angola who resisted Portuguese colonisation. A shrewd diplomat and accomplished tactician, she is remembered as one of the great inspirational women in African history, and was previously featured in our free Women in History DLC.

The loading screen will of course be included in the 1.32 patch; we will drop more info on the free update very soon!

origins_loading_screen.png

Come join us at the Paradox Stream, on Wednesday the 3rd and 10th of November at 5pm CET for the first showcase of Origins! Mordred and Bjorn will be joined by Content Designer Álvaro (@Pavía) for the stream, and will be able to answer any questions you may have.

I hope you enjoyed this dev diary, and I can’t wait to see what you think of Origins when it releases in just over a week’s time!
 
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Ixal

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Will there be portrait or models for jewish advisors and units?

And about Nzingha Mbande of Ndongo, she didn't really want to protect her people from slavery but to control the slave trade in the region and the profits that came with that. She quite happily traded thousands of slaves with the Dutch for example.
 
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be sure to boycott this DLC for the dumb decision of not fleshing out new provinces.
Where did they say that? They said they won't be adding any NEW provinces, but started they may well rejig other provinces by taking some away from other parts and putting them elsewhere.
 
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Sidolowka

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be sure to boycott this DLC for the dumb decision of not fleshing out new provinces.
Does the community agree with the decision to stop changing the map? No.

Does that make it a valid reason to attack this DLC, especially on a dev diary on the DLC's art — hence having nothing to do with game balance? Also no.
 
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SaintDaveUK

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Well, how about female advisors of North America?
Are female Meso and South American advisor portraits planned for the future?
Female advisors for American cultures are not planned, but it's something we are aware of and would love to do sometime.


Are the Leviathan portraits going to be part of Origins or retroactively added to Leviathan?
Also very good, that you got use some advisors for leviathan - they look really unique and amazing!!
I hope there are also new advisors coming with origin?
The portraits shown here are part of the new Origins pack.


I'm wondering: why does it take so long for the art to be finished? I would have thought that since you already have a base 'puppet' and animation, it's solely to visual aspect that needed to be changed.
The visual aspect definitely takes the longest. From the initial research to the final product, every model goes through about 7 different processes involving multiple artists, each of which has an approval gate before progressing, and some require several rounds of feedback to get them just right.
 
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Does the community agree with the decision to stop changing the map? No.

Does that make it a valid reason to attack this DLC, especially on a dev diary on the DLC's art — hence having nothing to do with game balance? Also no.

Absolutely could not agree more. I don't like the decision to stop changes to the map, but I can understand why they are doing it and am not going to hold it against them for this DLC. The DLC is a different thing from a decision about the direction of the game as a whole, for the time being.
 
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Thanks for taking the time to also share the intermediate steps, reading about the different steps in the process and seeing references for the art was interesting! :)

And indeed, great work on the models and artwork! I especially like the southern african tier 1 unit and the fetishist missionary, and the upper left advisor portrait!
 

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The fur leopard top for the level 4 East Bantu group might seem a bit impractical to use in battle. That’s also a lot of slain leopards for when you have 200k army size. Maybe just keep it as a kilt?
 

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The DLC is different from the devs decisions, but it is still made by the same devs who delivered Leviathan and, by their accumulated decisions, made me not want to update my game past 1.30.

Plus, the DLC is empty, save from the Jew rework. Mission trees don’t count and art has never been a reason for me to buy a DLC. I always bought the art DLCs to support the team. I no longer want to do this with the current state of the game.

In the end, I’ll boycott it, just like I boycotted Leviathan.

At some point, voting with your wallet ought to mean something. If the devs see that a lot of their players* play the game with all the expansions up to Emperor but didn’t bother to buy the most recent expansions, maybe they’ll realize that they aren’t going in the right direction.

*I’m not saying “a lot of their players aren’t buying them”, I’m saying that if it were the case, they might reverse course. Don’t tell me I’m making facts up, I’m just expressing a wish.
 
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It will be possible to also see new building models? While Oceania using the Native American ones is better than the European used on release, I think original ones will be even better.
 
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Just to add this is not correct:
"We present Nzingha Mbande of Ndongo, a fascinating queen from Angola who resisted Portuguese colonisation, protecting her people from the Atlantic slave trade. "

"Using her forces, she cut other rulers off from the Portuguese-controlled coast, capturing parts of the Kwango River and bringing the region's key slave supplying lands under her control. She also expanded her territory to the north, and in doing so established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of the Kongo and Dutch merchants, who were increasingly active in the area. Nzingha also established a lucrative slave trade with the Dutch, who purchased as many as 13,000 slaves per year from Nzingha's kingdom."
 
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Indyclone77

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'protecting her people from the Atlantic slave trade'

No she didn't. She actually offered to open up the slave trade to the Dutch in an exchange for an alliance against the Portuguese. Why are you lying?
"Nzingha also established a lucrative slave trade with the Dutch, who purchased as many as 13,000 slaves per year from Nzingha's kingdom."

"With Matamba under her control, Nzingha worked extensively to expand the slave trade in her new kingdom, using the profits from slave trading to finance her wars and divert trade income away from the Portuguese. Over the next decade, Nzingha continued to struggle against the Portuguese and their allies, with both sides attempting to limit each others influence and take control over the slave trade."

Even just a cursory glance at Wikipedia and the listed sources show this to be the case, She's still a very interesting figure but a bastion of anti-slavery is revisionism
 
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Sete

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She's still a very interesting figure but a bastion of anti-slavery is revisionism
It's quite annoying.
It paints the Portuguese exclusively in a bad light (continuing the usual vilification of anything not on the Anglo Saxon sphere), changes the truth about her, and completely omites the Dutch.

They all got dirt, let's not pretend otherwise.

"We present Nzingha Mbande of Ndongo, a fascinating queen from Angola who resisted Portuguese colonisation, forming an alliance with the Dutch and opening the slave trade to them.

A shrewd diplomat and accomplished tactician, she is remembered as one of the great inspirational women in African history, and was previously featured in our free Women in History DLC."
 
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Nak'Arosh

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@Sete they all did bad things. I won't point out about her. But about this new patch, seems that things are on the way to South-American and I believe that Portuguese and Spain maybe will get some updates to finish the gears on atlantic trade routes and India.


Very good the arts and efforts of the Studio. Now should be fun playing on Africa or any European Nation trying colonize Sub-sahaara.