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Project Phoenix is a JRPG with a squad based RTS game design, brought to you by veteran developers and creators from the East and West.
Project Phoenix is a JRPG with a squad based RTS game design, brought to you by veteran developers and creators from the East and West.
15,802 backers pledged $1,014,600 to help bring this project to life.

An update from our friends in Germany

Posted by CIA, Inc. (Creator)

Here's an update from Steffen Unger and his team from Berlin.

This is a first look at some of the models Steffen has been working and testing on during the past few weeks. He is currently setting up a workflow before he hires more people to mass produce all the characters from Project Phoenix.

Please bear in mind, this is a test only and is not reflective of the final build of the game.

[Click here to take a look at the models in Unity webplayer]


Michal, Zhi Xin, and 52 more people like this update.


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    1. Vince Vazquez

      Oh man, this stuff is FANTASTIC! I've wanted proper, current gen jrpg art executed with contemporary tech for the past 8 years or so. Thank you Project Phoenix! (And thanks Unity Web Player. For being on my PC and letting me forget about you. You're always there when I need you!)

    2. Steffen Unger on

      I agree, i stopped playing FF with XIII, i personally consider that game one dimensional - those plattform tunnels at the start are a bloody joke and this goes on for hours.

    3. Missing avatar

      Keith McCoy on

      @Steffen - yep, SquareEnix can give something mediocre like Final Fantasy XIII 3 different installments, but a classic like 9 was considered at one point to not even be given a main series number because it didn't fit the vision of where they wanted the series to go. That's pretty sad on SE's part, since FF9 is one of the most highly regarded entries in the series, and their vision of where they've wanted the series to go has largely been downhill.

    4. Steffen Unger on

      i think this came over differently than thought, Hiro and I just talked about it, i think you guys are on the same page.

      just earlier today he told me he was always dreaming of a FF9 extension ;)

      oh well good night everyone gotta work some more on phoenix tomorrow

    5. Missing avatar

      Keith McCoy on

      @Hiro - whoa, whoa, whoa....slow down their, cowboy! Looking "better" is subjective, and a lot of factors go in to that.

      Let's take Final Fantasy for example. FF13 has great resolution and clarity of graphics compared to other entries in the series. However, it also has almost no charm....something the earlier games oozed. Now, FF9 by comparison, may not be as high def, and the models may not be in believable proportions, but the art style had a RIDICULOUS amount of charm. I would choose FF9's art style over FF13's any day of the week...and it appears the Project Phoenix art style looks quite inspired by FF9 :)

      That's a lot of the reason why recent FF games are so bland...they've got no charm anymore. You also see Bravely Default getting a lot of's got what appears to be a lot of the charm that Final Fantasy has lost.

    6. Balmung on

      Looks nice for a first test. Good Work. :)

    7. Missing avatar

      Jeremy on

      Makes sense then thanks for the quick response and clarification. Mighty No. NaN I agree exaggerated art style can work great. Wreck it Ralph is a good example for a movie. Wind Waker and Okami our examples that can be seen in a game. In truth it is all about uniformity, I associate chibi with a fairy tale. It can be a dark one but a fairy tail and the tropes that come with them none the less. I recently got a 360 to play lost lost odyssey and what popped into my head is what if this went super deformed look and it gave my head a shake. A game where super deformed was done well would be Radiata Stories (With war being a focal point of the story). This is not the best place to the discuss this and I guess I should join the forms. From the response of the developers it does sound like these issues have been discussed and a path forward chosen based on the constraints their game faces.

    8. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      I've always been a fan of saturated colors and exaggerated character features. To this day I still enjoy chibi-style characters, even if the hardware limitations that spawned them are no longer in place. I sort of see it like the movie Wreck-It Ralph where cartoon-ish designs can look great with improved rendering technology.

      So I am loving what I am seeing! :)

    9. Steffen Unger on

      hey Jeremy, it's pretty common in Japanese games to handle ingame and sequence art differently.

      here are some examples:
      or something that people in the western countries know better

      from a western standpoint i totally understand your points, i've been working on western games for well over a decade now. But i like this challenge here a lot and the simple yet appealing style as well.
      I understand your thought, about the concept on page 6. But there are others things to keep in mind than just the pure look.
      As said, this is an indie production, it has a budget but can't compete with a full scale AAA production, the art needs to be producable with short turnaround times - few iterations etc. to make this project possible.
      Something like the full blown concept would take maybe 2 weeks to produce, with that in mind and knowing how many characters will need to be produced i can already say it is impossible for this project - but i understand how this would be more appealing than the chibi look to the western audience. But this game was never meant to be a competitor to games such as diablo with a more serious artstyle going on.

    10. CIA, Inc. Creator on


      >> You are absolutely correct that it'd look better if we don't go chibi style. Problem is, when we make models and environment at that detail, the costs would skyrocket for us and we won't be able to make any games.
      Maybe once we release Phoenix and if it does well, we'll invest in the type of game that you say and I do sincerely want to be able to make something like that!


    11. Missing avatar

      Jeremy on

      Fair enough, And I like the concept art. I just did not read that update 4 close enough. I thought variation 3 was in game. (though it was a long time ago) Why would you change the character size for cut scenes? Is there actually a plan for cinematics for this game? (based on update 4)

      On page 6 the concept and variation looks so much better then the in game concept design...
      Is it not better to keep your characters looking the same through the whole game? I mean keep the chibi deformed look in cut scenes as well as not to break immersion if you feel that is the best look for the game.
      Anyway I will stop my whining.

    12. Steffen Unger on

      sorry to say then, the style of the ingame characters has been known for months, humanoid characters have been 3-3.5 head high chibis since then. on page 12 you ca find update number 4, where this already is beeing discussed, every mockup screenshot video showed this kind of head to body ratio since then.
      The actual concept for the soldier is on page 6, update 37 from oct 29th. I can understand your feeling from a western standpoint, but the visual style of the game has never been a secret :)

    13. Missing avatar

      Matthew Da Sicilia on

      Not sure I'm liking the Orcs. Not mean and masculine enough. They actually remind me of a horde of Shreks!

    14. Missing avatar

      Keith McCoy on

      @Jeremy - I guess I view it differently. These may not be 100% pure chibi, where the head is 50% of the overall size of the whole....but it does follow that "super-deformed" style...which I'd say this falls within. This is like the proportions you see in the 3D re-releases of early Final Fantasies....which looks appropriate in my opinion. The avatars in classic video game RPGs have almost always looked like little kids, even if they were meant to be young adults or older.

    15. Missing avatar

      Jeremy on

      I actually like the Orcs for size, My feeling us the humans look like children. Keith McCoy Chibi can definitely work (though not my preferred style) but I don't see that style here. My torso comment is it looks small and thought adding another element to stretch the height of the humans. I also said that this could be all relative and it is the orcs/ogre making everything look off to me. It's just when I look at the humans I see 3 youngsters going out for Halloween. Again It could just be context put a human surrounded by giants and maybe he should look like a child...

    16. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      The way Unity does specular highlight color recovery in deferred mode is just plain AWFUL. In forward mode, they apply attenuation and color to the highlights and then accumulate them. In deferred mode, they apply attenuation to just the diffuse lighting, and accumulate the specular without attenuation. Then in the combine pass, they multiply the accumulated diffuse against the specular to recolor and attenuate it. This looks okay for a single light, but ends up much darker for multiple lights. Hence why there are differences between forward and deferred mode (first thing I fixed when I wrote a deferred light override shader).

      As for the custom lighting, let me explain. If you use the plain old custom lighting function, it will only affect forward mode. In order to have the shader work in deferred mode, you need to make a custom lighting function with the suffix _PrePass. Although this wouldn't help with your shaders, since they rely on vectors that are only available in the lighting pass.

    17. Steffen Unger on

      get Shaderforge, it gives me as an artist the power to create shaders, if i read shadercode it usually feels like reading in a foreign roman based language, i can understand something but can't really read it.

    18. Missing avatar

      kebrus on

      @Steffen please keep those numbers coming, as someone who just started with shaders last summer i'm always looking to see how others do it, i particularly like the rim shading idea to keep rim away from the ground blend, i'm looking forward to the environment shaders

    19. Tim McKinley on

      Wow, way better than I expected! Awesome work so far!

    20. Steffen Unger on

      We have a couple fo handplane licenses, but we don't need handplane for our unity projects, we bake with xnormal directly in unitys tangentspace thanks to a plugin by James O'Hare :)
      The normalmaps are flawless as they are, with or without handplane.
      Our baking is mostly automated within xNormal so we save a lot of time, running object space maps through handplane would introduce extrawork, and i want to avoid manual technical work as much as possible.

      But i can show you what i mean forward is doing something with the normalmaps.
      Ignore the props please, thats dummy art from the coders ;) The brighter one is the forward rendering, see how you can actually see how the mesh is constructed, how the highlights stopp at the vertices?
      I guess customshaders could fix that as well, but i didn't test that back then.

      And i am in deferred mode, but i am an artist maybe i'm wrong - so maybe the shader is forward renderred, not a clue, the camera is set to deferred, as is the player setting - So me, the technically not super firm artist, assumes it is in deferred mode :)

    21. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      Ah, okay. I was confused because you said you were in deferred mode. So all your characters are using forward-only custom shaders, but everything else has deferred lighting.

      As for your normal problems, I am not sure if this will help but my team's artist always uses a tool called Handplane to compensate for Unity's normal map weirdness. It seems to do the trick.

    22. Michaël Wilkey on

      Thanks for the quick replies Steffen! It's very appreciated and the new build looks already much better! Keep on the good work!

    23. Steffen Unger on

      I just use custom lighting, not the default blinn-phong model. But nothing too fancy, really

      usually diffuse shading is built with NdotL, Half Lambert (as inTF2) is NdotL*0,5+0,5 and i Use (NdotL*X+(1-X)) and use a factor of 0.3 to have even less shading contrast apperant than in TF2.
      I could use the full shader on everything, but it's a bit more complex than you would need in many cases, and you would not want to render that complex shading on full screen. The characters only take a fraction of the screensize, so they can always use more complex math than say the terrain which is usually filling the screen entirely.
      I will create custom environmentshaders once we have a couple more assets to test with and build a little scene :)

    24. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      So wait, did you write an override for the deferred lighting shader? If so, how are you handling the Half-Lambert and texture LUT for the lighting? Wouldn't you have to apply it to everything?

    25. Steffen Unger on

      Right now in that webplayer i use deferred rendering, as unity by default reads normalmaps worse when rendered in forward mode. The lowpoly shading comes through a lot and that kinda breaks my idea why I would like to use normalmaps in the first place ;)
      Your observations are right, on top there is Post AA and Globalfog - but what rendering pipeline to use is not up to me to decide, right now it's about developing the lokk and the workflow for our artists.

      The only standard shader you see is on the ground, I have 2 shaders working here, a master material for the characters and one for the faces (eyes and mouth are overlayed floating geometry like in windwaker). The master material is fairly complex and far from optimized at the moment, we still have to figure out what effects to use. But right now it consists of a flatter shading curve (like TF2 with halflambert, but even flatter) modulated by a ramp. Ambient Color, Coloroverlays to generate variation (different skintypes, haircolors, faction colors).
      On top of that i have a masked Rimlight that only applies to the up facing polygons, to avoid a harsh contrast of lets say feet agains the ground.
      The rest is fairly simple Phong specular and a cubemap for reflection, but with the ability to blurr both based on the gloss map.

      The eyes are a simpler version, right now alpha blended, with the same shading curve as the body has, to integrate those into the faces. I think in the version here the eyes are not with the new shader yet.

    26. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      Hate to double-post, but I have a question. What Unity packages are you using? I can see Depth of Field, SSAO, and Vignetting image effects. Are you using standard Unity shaders, or are you using something custom? Are you using the forward pipeline, or will you be using the deferred pipeline?

      Just kinda curious. ;)

    27. DamnCatOnMyDesk

      I love the way the style is shaping up. I've always been a big fan of quality shading + stylized designs. Can't wait to see more! XD

    28. Steffen Unger on

      Hey guys, thanks for the comments :)

      Michaël: i agree and this was already fixed, it's not the latest build, it was the first time i tested the shader for hair, so it was way overpowered to test if the specular/reflection works in general. from there we can tone done.
      For instance on the armor the "use" is a bit too heavy, i will tone that done - and for the orcs i will ad a bit more grime. Right now it's about developing the look, the math for the shader and getting everything working, finetuning will happen all the time during production.
      here is a newer version, if you go "south" you can see some cloeseup tests, ignore the shading errors in the hair, we need to rebake those as we changed them a bit while testing :S

      @Jeremy: i am not quite sure i understand whyt you mean by the Torso needs more parts, but the clothing is of course created on top of it, and will replace the body when activated.
      here you can see the raw model and proportions from a different angle.

      @Ehren: some how I have to test how the models look from different angles, without animation or actual gameplay, rotation was the easiest way.

    29. Missing avatar

      Keith McCoy on

      @Jeremy - merely curious, but why do you think the legs and torso need to be bigger? They aren't really supposed to be in proportion...they are chibi/super-deformed....they are supposed to look the way they do, which it seems they've done a nice job with.

    30. Carlos S. on

      For some reason my Firefox hates Unity: when it loads I get a huge blue square of nothingness and my PC starts lagging like crazy.

      Oh well, I'll see the models with the game release I guess.

    31. Anthony Luo on

      That's so awesome. I hope they add custom models for items

    32. Shiru XIII on

      Wohh I didn't think that the Orcs would be that big !!
      Nice models !!! Keep up the good work !

    33. CIA, Inc. Creator on

      Please be reminded that this is a test =D


    34. Missing avatar

      Jeremy on

      Interesting, it would come down to textures, Would like to see the models singular as it is I can't judge the humans as they are to small to see if they are in proportion. Snap opinion is the legs and torso need to bigger. Maybe it is battle dress but no one seems to have thighs making everyone appear to be dwarfs. (Though it is hard to judge from this angle) Still solid work all around. Weird on final inspection studied the clay molds, If that is the base and clothes are modeled on top I would say the torso need more parts.

    35. Juan Esponera on

      Cool, they look awesome. Orcs' design and colours remind me of Spore, lol

    36. Missing avatar

      João Pedro on


      Hey, shiny models can work well if done right. Wonderful 101 did it great and almost aoll the models looked liked they were made of plastic.

    37. Falkon Swiftblade on

      What! that's way cooler than I anticipated. Good job team :)

    38. Michaël Wilkey on

      I think the Heroes looks too shinny (especially the hairs) but otherwise it's looking pretty good ^^

    39. Missing avatar

      João Pedro on

      Awesome, look pretty swanky there.

    40. Erik Evan Shalat on

      Snazzy! I love seeing actual in-progress game assets.

    41. Ehren on

      The spinning models made me giggle :P

      Keep up the good work Steffen!