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Battle Shapers: How Blender & Unity Helped Create the Game's Vibrant World

The Metric Empire team has told us about Battle Shapers' art direction and development, explained the game development advantages of the Blender+Unity combo, and spoke about making gameplay mechanics fun.


Alex, Lead Artist: I'm Alex Gingras, Lead Artist at Metric Empire. As far as I can remember, I always loved video games. When Ubisoft opened a studio in Montreal, I was finishing high school back in 1997 (yes, I know, I'm old), and I had already known I wanted to work in graphic design, so when a friend of mine told me about a new video game school program in Montreal, I immediately applied and got accepted.

Not long after I graduated, I started working at Ubisoft as a Level Artist, and while being mentored by some of the best artists in this industry, I had the chance to work on what became big franchises like Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed. Becoming a Team Lead proved to be a great opportunity; I remained hands-on with game production while gaining experience managing a team. Working closely with both the Technical Director and the Art Director, I was able to learn from them directly while also providing my own input, which was incredibly rewarding.

Victor, Technical Artist: I'm Victor Chedeville, a Technical Artist here at Metric Empire. My journey into game development began as a hobby. After graduating from high school, I continued my education in video games, which led me to a career in the industry.

Although I started out as a 3D Artist, I quickly gravitated towards a mix of technical and artistic roles. The tech art role was perfectly suited to what I was looking for in the video game industry. I was always inspired by all the new video game tech and amazing graphics that were released when I was younger, and I always wanted to be a part of this. Most of my skills have been honed through online resources and collaborating with incredibly talented colleagues who have vast knowledge and skills.

The Metric Empire Team

Alex: Metric Empire is a passionate team of 30 led by 4 AAA directors, each with over 20 years of experience, who were core contributors to critically-acclaimed IPs at Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. We are a driven, multidisciplinary crew of seniors, indie developers, and high-potential graduates. I'm in charge of the artist crew, more specifically the environments and the characters. My role is to help plan and assess the art tasks so we are sure that we keep a realistic scope and a high level of quality throughout the entire game. I also help with some tasks such as lighting, level art, and debugging.

Victor: I'm in charge of a variety of tasks. My main role is to make sure we can achieve the best visual quality within the performance budget we have and help the art team by making tools and creating pipelines, like implementing a procedural mesh generation system. I also help debug and optimize the game's visuals and rendering.

Art Direction in Battle Shapers

Alex: As fans of both the roguelite and FPS game genres, we thought it would be great to do a game that combines the elements of both genres. We drew inspiration from a ton of games including Dead Cells, Hades, Doom (2016), and many more. 

Battle Shapers' art direction is strongly inspired by Megaman in the assets design and world creation mixed with Overwatch for the modeling, texturing, and rendering aspects. The key here is to combine simple bulky shapes and vibrant colors and find a good balance in contrast with the roughness in the materials. In true Megaman fashion, we have multiple towers and environments; the Robot Factory, and the Power Plant or the Vegetal Food Facility, where each Biome is stylized according to its tower's function. From there, we create a visual language with unique shapes and colors for each of them, producing 2 to 3 key concept art. Inspired by the concept art and the level design, artists then come up with new ideas and/or modifications to the initial proposition to make sure it all works together. This is where the final art direction takes shape, and the modelers and level artists play a huge part in it.

Software & Game Engine

Victor: In the Battle Shapers development pipeline, we leveraged a number of different tools such as Maya, Blender, and Substance 3D, among others. This approach grants our artists the ability to work efficiently with their preferred tools. Blender was the main DCC we used to make the environment art. We went with a mid poly workflow, which uses trimsheets and decals to add detail instead of having to use a baked custom Normal Map for each asset, and allows us to quickly achieve highly detailed environments.

One big part of our Environment Art pipeline was the use of Blender's Geometry Node system to create the visuals for the Shaper biome rooms. With this workflow, we were able to automatically place Unity Prefabs at specific positions based on the level design mesh and quickly create a coherent art style across a wide variety of rooms with different shapes.

To achieve these results, we used the mesh made by the Level Designer and scatter points on the surface. After that, we use the positions generated by Blender inside Unity to automatically place the prefabs, saving a lot of time in prefab placement. By allowing our artists to tweak the generation, we are also able to grant them a degree of control over it. In rare instances, we also complement this system with a custom GPU Drawer to directly provide the graphics card with the list of positions and the mesh in order to improve performance. 

The Unity and Blender combo is an excellent choice for indie game development because of its accessibility. Both tools have extended resources available and an amazing community. Unity also has built-in support for Blender files, so you can easily create a fluid pipeline between both software.

Making Gameplay Mechanics Fun

Pier-Luc, Co-Founder & Design Director: Battle Shapers offers a clever, high-intensity mix of some of the best aspects of Doom and Megaman. From the ground up, our team built the game to offer players a fast, fluid, and gratifying combat system that shines best for those who love diving into the action, rewarding players for taking risks and smashing bots to pieces. Players will assume the role of a powerful android tasked with defeating the Overlords – cunning robotic bosses whose powers alter and amplify enemies, traps, and threats in their towers. By defeating the Overlords, players will earn their prized cores: pieces of equipment that grant them the Overlords' combat abilities and dozens of enhancements to amplify them. In time, players will also gain the ability to upgrade and equip multiple cores simultaneously, allowing them to create their own preferred playstyles for added replay value.

The game's levels feature dozens of unlockables to discover, including weapons, abilities, talents, suit upgrades, and even lore collectibles to keep players engaged with the game's story. Battle Shapers' various weapons and abilities have all been designed with a rich variety in mind, each one excelling in specific situations, pushing players to adapt and master. To further enrich combat replayability, every piece of gear you find in your runs is generated with various randomized modifiers, offering interesting synergies that players can even, with the proper upgrade, manipulate by transferring modifiers over to their favorite gear.

Story progression is also a compelling aspect of Battle Shapers. As you wage battle inside the game's trap-ridden towers, the Overlords will frequently interact with you, initially taunting you and scoffing at your every failure and success. However, over time, players will uncover their deeper, more nuanced motivations and the reasons why they fight for control of New Elysium's future.

The Business Side of Things

Alex: Being an early access title gives us a great opportunity to engage with our community, and we put a lot of effort into gathering and analyzing our players' feedback. We keep our roadmap up to date on Steam so the players can know what’s coming and what to look forward to in new updates. On their side, they communicate with us through our Steam page and/or Discord server. Their feedback is really valuable and helpful to us in order to improve the experience of the game so we try to answer them as much as possible. A lot of modifications and improvements coming from the community feedback have already been implemented in the game and have been received with positivity and appreciation. 

We are also active on different social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, Discord, Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit.

Future Plans

The next big update for Battle Shapers, coming very soon, is the 0.7 version release where we will be introducing the final biome and the final boss of the game. Players will be able to access the final tower, the Orbital Complex.

After this update, we still have surprises planned for our audience, and we also want to dedicate more time to react to the community feedback. We value the input of our players and community, it helps us to improve the game to make it the best it can be.

To follow the development of the project, you can join our Discord or follow us on Steam!

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