Developer Diaries #6: The Making of a Hatchetman

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HBS_Mazzoni

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Hey everyone, I’m Marco Mazzoni, concept artist on Battletech and now Co-Art Director on Urban Warfare. I just recently joined the studio full time in August but before that I was contracted to design some various vehicles and turrets as well as special ‘Mech add-on geometry. You can see some of that work as well as my contributions to Catalyst Game Labs’ tabletop BattleTech game over the last 2 years at my website or artstation page.

Thanks to an older brother with a small library of RPG books and painted minis, I’ve been a huge fan of everything Battletech since the late 80’s. When I finally picked up my own copy of the 3025 Technical Readout, I was obsessed. The designs, the descriptions… everything just clicked with me and I did everything I could to get my friends into it as well. We didn’t have the patience or understanding of the rules to play very often, but that didn’t stop us from painting the minis and drawing ‘Mechs in our notebooks. Fast forward a few decades and I’m still drawing ‘Mechs turning each other into scrap, but now I actually get to contribute to BATTLETECH while doing it!

Today I’m going to give you a peek at the design process that led to our final Hatchetman design. Duane Loose’s original design in the 3025 TRO was always one of my favorites so I definitely felt the pressure to do it justice. It would have to stand next to the amazing Piranha Games ‘Mechs we’re currently using, so conforming to that style was a major consideration from the start as well. Another constraint was that HBS did not want the hatchet to be construed to be utilizing some sort of new “handheld melee weapon system”, so the ‘Mech couldn’t look like it was actually “holding” a hatchet. For the first round of sketches, they wanted to try having it integrated into the forearm.

With those things in mind, I jumped on my iPad and sketched out these 3 different takes. There were elements from all 3 that we liked, but overall, we weren’t happy with the hatchet and the silhouette still needed to get chunkier to fit the MWO style.

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After a few more rounds of this, we found a direction for the body that we were happy with. Now it was time to refocus on that hatchet and the head fin details. (Side Note: in the lore, the Hatchetman has a full head ejection system, so I wanted to put visual emphasis on that, although there’s no actual gameplay behind it) While the hatchet still wasn’t quite there, #5 seemed to be on the right track at least so it was time to move on to the next step and see if we could solve that in the final design.

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Now Typically for this stage, I’d crank out some tight line drawings and there might be some back and forth with the 3D artist to make sure everything translates, but I’ve recently been playing around with sculpting in VR using Oculus Medium and I felt like this would be a great opportunity to see how far I could push it. Here is one of the first passes on it, blocking out the major forms.

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The Hatchet still wasn’t working for us. It was too anemic, but there was a concern that if we made it much larger it would run the risk of clipping through the shoulder or leg, limiting movement potential during non-combat gameplay. It was at this point that someone came up with the idea of having it retract into the forearm and deploy only during melee attacks. Now, I know there wasn’t precedent for this in lore and I also knew it was going to make it even more difficult to design, but I kept imagining how cool it would look to have this thing flung out like a switchblade before chopping into another ‘Mech and I couldn’t stop smiling, so I went back to the drawing board and started cranking out sketches to make it work. This gif is where I think it started to take shape.

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…And here’s where the final design ended up. This version was still just a concept model with extremely rough geometry, so it needed to get handed over to a real 3D artist for development into a proper in-game asset. This approach meant far less guess work and translation for the modeler, so other than widening out the shoulder joints and opening up the ankles a bit for animation purposes, this is extremely close to what we can expect to see in game.

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Here's a video turnaround



While the final concept was getting modeled for real, I moved on to the heraldry set. I still love to paint minis in my free time, so this stage is like icing on the cake for me. I love trying to find new shapes to put emphasis on with these patterns to help bring out the ‘Mech’s design. The names are just something I use to inspire me while I’m working, but it’s also a helpful label when talking about them with the art team.


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The last step was to show the whole thing off in the marketing image for Flashpoint, so I went back into Oculus Medium and reposed it to look like it’s about to take a final swing on a poor Locust. After a few quick thumbnails, it was off to Photoshop to move some digital paint around.


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And here’s the final result.


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I’m still excited that I had the chance to work on this, but my favorite part has been hearing your reactions to finally seeing it in action. I can’t wait to hear some of the stories you’ll have trying to get into range with this thing when you finally get your hands on it later this month!
 

MeiSooHaityu

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First of all I would like to say, Hello @HBS_Mazzoni and welcome to the community! :D

The work you have done on the Hatchetman is absolutely AMAZING. It really does fit the style of the current mechs, and yet does it with a style that is uniquely yours and HBS's. Thank you so much for sharing all this development assets with us. It is really cool to see how the Hatchetman has evolved and how the unique task of designing the hatchet was implemented. I think the solution that you and the team came up with (having it extend and retract) was very clever and creative, and it looks excellent (and rather bad a**) in motion. :)

I am eager to see what other creations you will bring to the BattleTech game and universe.

Again, excellent work!
 

MeiSooHaityu

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Oh, and by the way. Was there any Dekkers killed in the making of this image?..

08.jpg

:D
 

stjobe

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Duane Loose’s original design in the 3025 TRO was always one of my favorites so I definitely felt the pressure to do it justice.
There's a lot of us out here that also hold the Hatchetman as a TRO: 3025 favourite - rest assured you did it justice indeed. The 'Mech looks fantastic.

Thank you for taking the time to put this dev diary together, it's always fascinating to get behind-the-scenes glimpses - and this time we got pretty pictures as well!
 

HBS_Mazzoni

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Oh, and by the way. Was there any Dekkers killed in the making of this image?..

ZERO :) I'm going to pretend the head ejection system actually works and keep my Dekker safe and sound in my Hatchetman at all times. And hey, if he can survive long enough to get in range, then he's earned that devastating melee attack!
 

Na'Shar

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Holy Blake, you did those concepts on an iPad???!!! I bow in awe of your skill sir. Incredible images and a great take on the hatchet concept. I can't want to see them in the game.
 

Nichino

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Maniac skin please! haha :cool:
 

MeiSooHaityu

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ZERO :) I'm going to pretend the head ejection system actually works and keep my Dekker safe and sound in my Hatchetman at all times. And hey, if he can survive long enough to get in range, then he's earned that devastating melee attack!

Good to know! :)

Although I was actually referring to the MechWarrior in the poor Locust that the Hatchetman thought should be two Locusts instead :D. That Hatchetman MechWarrior looked as though he had everything under control.

I know I will be getting in close and putting that hatchet to good work. I am excited to have that mech in my lance, dealing out the pain.
 

CycKath

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Oh wow.
 

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Vill Nye

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I miss having the fist on the hatchet arm to be able to throw it like in the lore, but this is amazing. The only thing we need is a cover of rocketman about the Hatchetman
 

Prussian Havoc

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Exquisite Works of Mech Art!

Well done Good Sir, well done. :bow:
 

Timaeus

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I miss having the fist on the hatchet arm to be able to throw it like in the lore, but this is amazing. The only thing we need is a cover of rocketman about the Hatchetman
Huh? I don't recall the hatchet being something that can be detached in TT without it being shot off.
 

Timaeus

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Also, this is a great show for just some of the work that has gone into the production of the Hatchetman. Good stuff!
 

gh0s7

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This is great, watching your (resumed) progress into creating the Hatchetman. It especially fascinates me, the differences between the first 3 concept models. The skins for the mech are great too, I can't decide myself which would I take. :oops:
Thanks for taking the time and sharing this with us. :)