Alfa SeeD are two popular digital artists providing exceptional Poser content, who are also aiming their creations towards the game market. They provide a mix of quality science fiction and fantasy content and are one of the most popular vendors on Runtime DNA and describe themselves as “Electronic Performers”. In this interview, republished from Issue 23 of 3D Art Direct, we discover their passion for game artwork and how they’ve continued to evolve as artists despite their many challenges.
3DAD: How was AlfaseeD formed and what were some of your early successes that enabled the company to grow and progress to the next level?
AlfaSeeD: AlfaseeD is the evolution of our previous “AS”, our first being Aery Sense, then Awful Soul and Aery Soul after it.
The Seed of creativity, what spawns amazing fantasies and art is at the root of our work and everything else that we enjoying doing. Alfa (alpha) Seed represent the want and need to bloom (again) and grow (we quit producing content for a year or so).
We re-entered the 3D graphics world as AlfaseeD in March 2011 with the intent of creating wonderful 3D products and game designs, to expand compared to our previous selves.
Our 3D creations, our style, has always been very popular among users, we feel that’s because we’ve always been very committed and wanted to do the best our skills could offer and kept pushing our limits.
We have always been our own bosses, doing what we liked and enjoyed rather than what we thought the market wanted. Customers have mostly been on our side, even when we “dared to dare”.
It was our mentality, putting quality and artistry ahead of anything else and being very passionate and committed that we feel made and make us stand out in the crowd of 3D content creators.
3DAD:. How do you work together and divide up the tasks at AlfaseeD? Do you have similar strengths, or do you complement each other with different skills?
AlfaSeeD: We mostly complement each other. Since the very beginning we decided we should focus on different tasks, to then specialize and be more proficient in what we do.
So we decided to specialize and then “merge” our specialized skills to create wonderful products all around. We feel this is probably our most important strength when it comes to our industry.
As for specific tasks, while producing 3D content As takes care of the modeling part, rigging, UV mapping and morphs creations. Syl is in charge of the texturing part, product finalization, writing tutorials.
We both work on the designs of our products and there’s always a lot of back and forth feedback about anything between us.
Some of our designs are totally original, inspired by personal (virtual) adventures and such.
Others are inspired by existing “worlds” and styles, more often than not videogame ones, but also by an image rather than a character.
We like to look at other artists creations to be inspired and then create something new and unique and with an AlfaseeD twist.
Music also plays a huge role, but more in the creation of artistic images than the products themselves.
3DAD:. Your output a good amount of content for games. Has it always been your objective to produce games content?
AlfaSeeD: Absolutely yes.
We see games as the ultimate creative output: they have story, involvement, role playing, beautiful arts (graphics), amazing music (score).
Well, not all games have them all, but the point is: a game can really be a sort of ultimate, concerted form of art, and an interactive one on top of it.
For creative minds, it’s a topic genre to deal with.
3DAD: In your minds what are the top three essential elements of a good 3D game design?
AlfaSeeD: Unfortunately, answering such a question is not so easy, since the top elements may vary depending on the kind of game, its genre.
So to give an answer I’ll consider the concept of game design at large, rather than thinking about all the specifics and variants that actually exist. I’ll look at the Game Designer as someone that doesn’t “only” take care of creating game mechanics, but it’s also involved in the other creative tasks of the game design.
By far, I feel that a game design must focus on creating a game that is as polished as possible, that’s the ultimate goal and should be the keyword during the whole design process.
All elements featured in the game must work together well and smoothly. That’s the most solid foundation upon which any design can be developed and expanded.
A polished game is a smooth experience that should present the player with streamlined mechanics that keep him/her interested throughout the game (also by including some variation) and that culminate into the end of the game.
A game design must feature a learning curve. I think it’s key that a game is structured so that the player learns as s/he plays, improving his or her skills as they progress in the game.
The difficulty of the game must increase as the players skills also improve and it’s the experience the gamer gains while playing that allows him or her to progress, not just (for example) more powerful weapons against more powerful foes. Ideally, a player should have mastered the controls and skills needed to play during the first third of the game to then be able to enjoy the rest of the game at its fullest.
A designer can also choose to “challenge” the player (outside the main game storyline) to “boosts” his/her skills, in fact there are some psychological aspects of the gamers that can be linked to the learning curve in an interesting way. For example, a player may be asked to complete a series of tasks that require several attempts. The first few times, the player could feel clumsy and maybe think there’s something wrong with the challenge itself, may feel it’s impossible. After some more attempts though, s/he will feel s/he is improving.
While trying to complete the tasks the players skills have improved, the game has “asked” the player to commit and learn to overcome some challenging tasks. As the game progresses, the player will feel more self-confident about his or her skills.
The psychological aspect stems from this question: “why should the player invest his or her time (maybe a few hours) to complete tasks that will require many attempts and could even be frustrating at times?”
The answer is simple, because of the rewards. By completing such tasks or challenges the players will be rewarded with items or else that they couldn’t obtain otherwise. So the players will actually receive a double gratification, the actual in-game reward, and the satisfaction to have beat the challenge while improving their skills.
To gratify the player with rewards is absolutely key, so why not merge it with the concept of the learning curve? I think that can be a very interesting option to explore.
Taking very good care of the learning curve and how it develops is absolutely fundamental.
Last but not least is the involvement the game should generate. That may sound somewhat generic but the point is, the involvement is built through many different elements, or, sometimes, a main one around which all the others revolve. It is built through the story, the graphics, music and so on.
In regards to game design, conceiving mechanics, thinking up events or finding other ways to involve the player is certainly much harder. For a game to be involving, it means the player is having fun playing your game, that s/he will keep playing and perhaps play it again once it’s finished (if the game has something to offer with more than one play-through).
Creating a game means making choices and creating a good balance, not just throwing all “cool” ideas into a design. When a game manages to involve the player and be fun, it has reached its goal.
Of course there are many other important features for a successful game design but I think the three above actually manage to include many such aspects and can be considered very essential elements of a successful design.
3DAD:. Tell me about the parts of your work that you enjoy most? Is it interacting with your customer base as well as the content creation?
AlfaSeeD: The part we mostly enjoy are those more creative.
As far as 3D content is concerned, definitely the design part, when we decide what to create, as sketches or just notes. The very creation of something, that is, both the modelling and texturing stages.
And finally making art with the finished product, that’s the moment when we enjoy what we have done to its fullest, that’s the moment when most of our art is created.
In regards to game design, every moment of the process is very enjoyable, since it’s an ongoing challenge turning those game-mechanics ideas into something concrete. First of all making the idea to work even just on paper, simplifying it as much as possible and then adding elements if there’s a chance for more complexity. Creating a (game) world is certainly quite complex, but incredibly gratifying.
We do enjoy interacting with our customers, during the years we have met a lot of very nice people, of every age and coming from any walks of life.
We have built interesting friendships and are always very proud to see people express themselves through our creations. While many people in the 3D industry disregard Poser, the truth is, it’s a tool that allows people to express themselves, even if they have limited time and skills.
That, we find, it’s the greatest merit of Poser and DAZ Studio: offering people tools to give form to their inner worlds. It all revolves around creativity and we support it in any form and shape!
3DAD: You mention that Prison is your biggest game project and you claim that you will engage the player in every way with this enterprise- can you tell us about Prison, it’s basic setting and some of the designs that you have created that you are most proud of?
AlfaSeeD: Prison is a third-person sandbox game with a character viewpoint similar to that of masterpieces such as Uncharted, Batman, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous, Castlevania LoS, Mass Effect, and so on.
While the term is perhaps overused in the gaming world, Prison will be an experience.
A personal experience that the gamer will shape. It will revolve around the main character, or the gamer, depending what side of the screen you look at.
Prison focuses on the player, on the way s/he interacts with the world and on the character’s look. Prison allows the players to give their character, a female character, a Soul, and the story will build around her, hour by hour.
The setting is quite “simple”, for some reason (explained during the game) you end up on a planet-prison and your goal is to escape.
There will be many, many different ways to flee from the planet. Every NPC may hide a chance or key information or be the means to other paths. The player, with his/her choices and the way s/he interacts with the game world, will determine the way the character will be able to flee, which could happen very quickly or take much more time, or maybe not even happen at all.
Prison’s main objective is to create a new way in which the player/character interacts with the world around them. The player decides about all his/her character features and each of his/her choices will have a profound impact on the way the character interacts with the NPCs and the world.
The character can have an aggressive, smart, passive or even “sensual” approach to the world and other characters. She won’t feature simple parameters or choices such as “bad-good” that don’t have any real impact on the progress of the game but rather her appearance, reputation and nature will let her enter a tavern, for example, and be feared or joked upon.
Likely, in an environment such as “Prison”, no one may want to help a weak and docile character; but maybe, there’s someone sitting at a table in a far corner looking for a chance of redemption who may decide to help a weak but intellectual and sensitive character.
On the other hand, a strong, powerful and aggressive character will be feared and may be able to get what she wants through brute force, using brute force has consequences though. Will it be enough to reach the final goal?
Simple choices and simple actions and consequences that, once combined together, can generate complex and unique situations and storylines.
We want to highlight again that even the character’s look will be absolutely meaningful for her behaviour and her reputation. It can be a very intriguing experience to have a character loaded with cyber-implants, rather than one that goes around in a bikini (at her own risk!). Every choice bears consequences, good and bad ones. An “armoured” character won’t necessarily achieve more than one in jeans and t-shirt. It’s all in the hands of the players and their ability to “optimize” their character to play the way they most enjoy, to give her the soul they want.
As for the game, there aren’t simply different endings available, but entirely different paths and storylines.
It’s the player that will have to make his/her character killed, because in Prison the character won’t be killed but will rather suffer the consequences of her actions, that can also lead to tragic and untimely endings.
One of the main ideas behind Prison is the constant interaction between the player and his/her character.
It’s the character that knows how dangerous a situation may be, but it’s the player that evaluates whether to tackle it or rather turn around and do something else.
For example if the character has a gun with three shots left and has to face 10 enemies, she will estimate her chances, since her skills may still be a bit underdeveloped or she may not be armored. On the other hand, the player may decide s/he will shot down two enemies with the shots left and then use their weapons and armor to confront all the others. The player may decide to use his/her own skills and tactic and dare to do more than the character could do.
In Prison there’s no re-spawn and the character has virtually only one life, this notwithstanding there will be shootings and fighting of different kind, but everything will “pass through” the character that will help the player to decide what do to.
Considering our passion and involvement with character design and creation we wanted to create a system where the look of your character would finally, really have an impact on how people interact with the player/character, as we already mentioned.
The way the character interacts with the world and other NPCs has deep roots in an RPG system As has been developing since the 90s .
Depending on the skills you will develop, for simplicity’s sake let’s take Intelligence, Strength and Charisma, you will have access to different ways of interacting with the world and therefore storylines. Let’s take for example a door that needs to be opened. Depending on your characteristics you could hacker it, knock it or find a way to obtain the key or code.
Not all instances will allow many different way of interacting with the world, but in Prison there’s nothing that MUST be done, or that must be done in a certain way, to achieve the final goal.
The part we’re most proud of is definitely the way the character interacts with other NPCs, it’s a system we plan to use on other projects and then refine for Prison.
It’s a system that doesn’t only have a lot of potential, but it’s also easily adjustable and customizable to be very simple or really complex, depending on what one needs, but that will always add a layer of interesting interaction between a game character and the world s/he is walking.
3DAD: “110.1 Shooter” is another of your game projects which is a 3rd person shooter type. Was the 110.1 character specially designed for the game, or did the game evolve after thinking about the character?
AlfaSeeD: Yes, 110.1 was created as the main character of the shooter, even though in the game she won’t have any human part or exposed skin saved for the head (the Poser product features human thighs and collars).
The idea behind 110.1 shooter is simple yet of great impact. The main character is a kind of final weapon and all her limbs can be controlled independently and are powerful firearms. The range will go from simple rays to energy projectiles, featuring acrobatic moves in Gun-fu style and with the possibility to fly, detach body parts to a large mega-blast that will fill the screen with rays of energy that propagates from the character.
We want to create an extremely scenic and spectacular game.
3DAD: Which games are your favourites and have burned away the most hours?
AlfaSeeD: We are fervent players. We feel that to do something you have to be passionate about it and enjoy it first-hand.
You can’t be a cook without enjoying eating, you can’t be a director without enjoying movies and you can’t create games, or at least design games, without playing them. That’s how we feel and how we experience things.
That’s also one of the reasons behind the success of our 3D products, we use them ourselves, to create art and we are very demanding users!
I could start from “Elite” for the Commodore 64 to “Dishonoured”, through years of games of any kind. I really can’t say which of all the games I played are my favourite. What I can say though, is that of all the games I played I always focused and appreciated the good things they could offer me and that I really played many, many games.
Some I spent more hours playing, some were set apart for a while, but I never say I played a game if I haven’t played it for at least a few hours, to really have the chance to understand and savour it.
Nowadays we mostly play on a PS3 and on a PC but our current game arsenal includes two PS3, two XBOX360, two PSP, two PSVita, Nintendo DSi and 3DS. We also have a tablet and a smartphone but don’t use them for playing.
An then, in the closet, there’s all other consoles and computers that in the last 20 years have offered us awesome and unforgettable experiences.
We have a huge gaming library and during this seventh generation of consoles there’s really a few games that we have missed and lots that we have played and enjoyed through the end, and maybe again. We also have huge libraries on our Steam accounts with tens of indie games that we love playing.
We enjoy playing co-op and online and online or multiplayer games are certainly those that manage to burn more hours, but we actually play as many games and as different as we can.
3DAD: You create wonderful end user content for Poser and Daz studio. What software do you use in your workflow and are you happy with the majority of your tools, or do you see yourselves switching to other applications in the future?
As: for modelling I use Maya, have been using it since the start and can’t really see myself switching to any other modelling tool, I’m absolutely comfortable with it.
I do also use ZBrush, mostly for different tasks but I would really like to integrate the two in my workflow more. Perhaps starting to do some initial sketching in ZBrush, since I often sketch in 3D, directly into Maya and doing so in ZBrush could be interesting.
Sil: while I definitely spend most of my time in Photoshop, I can’t say it’s my main tool. Photoshop and ZBrush together are my main tools.
In Photoshop I actually do most of my work but I can only achieve great texturing results and styles by working in ZBrush, to sculpt details and create displacement maps. Sometimes I also just use it for sketching ideas on the mesh, that are then used in Photoshop as guidelines.
ZBrush is amazing and they keep adding features for free, it’s a tool that has revolutionized the 3D world allowing artists to go crazy with their creativity, I couldn’t do without it.
Photoshop is great, there’s some things that I’d love to see seriously overhauled (like the brushes management) but it’s a very solid and powerful tool, I’ve been using it since the beginning and I really don’t think there’s something else that sports all those basic and most advanced features I use.
I’ve used Illustrator from time to time and it’s really great for vector work. I’ve tried Mudbox and I love the painting part of the tool, I can definitely see myself using something like it more frequently in the future.
3DAD: How do you see AlfaseeD developing as a company? Do you think that game content will be the high majority of it’s content?
AlfaSeeD: We want to see AlfaseeD really bloom, grow and expand, our farther away goal, right now, it’s making Prison.
So, yes, we would like to shift toward making more and mostly games than 3D assets but it’s a shift that will require some time.
We are patient, we have been so far, but are also committed to achieve our goals.
And in-between there’s also other art-related things we would like to do: publishing an art book together with a few artists we love and appreciate, manage to have some of our characters printed in 3D to have a line of AlfaSeeD figurines, it’s been years since we have had some nice shirt designs on our HD and maybe finally we can also hire someone for that comic project that started it all!
3DAD: What advice would you give to those who are just starting to produce content for sale in the 3D character market?
AlfaSeeD: If you want to do it, you can. Really, there’s only something you need to seriously invest: your time and passion.
3D content is creativity, it’s art. It is skills that, nowadays, can be acquired through a series of different means, virtual and digital or “real” (schools and universities).
Be humble but have the top in your sight. The first things you’ll produce will simply suck, it’s like that, in everything. You must be humble enough to accept your failures and just keep going, keeping in your sights something extraordinary that you want to achieve. It will take time but you will get there, sometimes you’ll feel you’re not progressing and then you’ll make huge leaps forward. Just keep going on, always.
One day you’ll find yourself looking at something you thought was amazing and unreachable and you’ll think “well, not bad”, because you’re doing much better!
Always look at the best, they will inspire you and will also teach you things just by looking at their work. Also, many great artists share tips and tutorials that can be really precious. There are tens of places you can check to learn things: online forums, vimeo and youtube, 3D magazines, online tutoring websites. Also remember 3D has a lot in common with other art fields, so to understand lighting photography books and sites can be great allies, or those about sculpture, if you want to be a dedicated Zbrusher.
3DAD: You attended Gamescon 2012, which is one of the biggest game trade fairs in the world and was held at Cologne, Germany this year. What did you gain from your attendance at the fair, did it give you some new ideas for your current game designs?
AlfaSeeD: This was our third year attending Gamescom in Cologne and it’s always a great experience. The fair keeps getting larger and, unfortunately, louder, but it’s very well organized and Cologne is a wonderful city.
For four days you breath gaming and it’s a unique experience. For creative people, it is a creative blast. Besides the games, there’s a game art show, nostalgic indie-game score concert and all things related.
There’s good vibes all around, you see people committed and enthusiasts about the games they’re showing, projects they’ve been working on for years and that they can finally show to the public.
You can feel they’re passion, enthusiasm, you can see that after 3 days they’re totally exhausted but happy. It’s the kind of event that always gives you new energies and ideas. It’s definitely inspiring, you feel next year you want to be the one talking about their own games to the public!
3DAD: I really like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy genres used for your Uraalys’ Ny character. Tell me about the design of her clothing set- it really stands out and looks inspired in part by a medieval knights outfit.
AlfaSeeD: We love fantasy, the D&D kind and we love sci-fi the high-tech kind and then, there’s something in between.
We call it sci-fantasy, magic and technology fused together, we feel Star Wars represents the genre topically (we were also playing SWTOR when we started working on her, we can’t deny it had to do with our decision to create that kind of character).
Our characters so far had been either markedly fantasy or sci-fi so we decided to explore the “in-between” of two worlds we love.
Uraalys’ Ny was therefore born as an essential sci-fantasy designs, we wanted her to look perfect in a multitude of “worlds”. The hood was actually inspired by the Assassin’s Creed costumes, but it’s also something you find in sci-fi settings.
When it came to the texturing part we envisioned her in the Star Wars universe (the earthy colors with bright accents on the Sci-Fantasy style are inspired by the SW jedi style) but also in Mass Effect as a powerful adept (the sci-fi texture was inspired by Mass Effect) and then also in a natural, elven-populated, fantasy world (and that’s why the fantasy style is so green and bronze).
3DAD: Tell me a little about your Lemonade AMP character. How was her character born and how did she develop over time?
AlfaSeeD: Well, Lemonade was actually born as a silly-frilly set, something manga/anime style, mostly; cute and nice. The model, the mesh itself, however, was “plain” enough to be turned into something totally different.
The first AMP character to be born was the Assassin one, inspired by the fantasy-medieval costumes of “AC: Revelations”, especially the Hellequin. It turned out so good we decided to dare even more and grabbed the artbook form Crysis 2 special edition (great edition!) for inspiration. That’s how we created our female version of the nanosuit.
Creating a clothing set from scratch, it’s time-consuming and demanding, not because of the modeling time required, but because we need to make everything work in Poser and DAZ Studio, we have to include many fitting morphs, movement morphs and so on. There are many, many things that need to be done, in order to make something easily usable by our customers.
With AMP, we decided to “exploit” an existing set (Lemonade) and create something totally different.
This allows us to be more productive and creative and will offer people an economically sound way to expand their wardrobe by turning a mesh they already have, into a completely different outfit. We call it a win-win situation.
3DAD: The IIv3 Skin is a unique product and helps a fantasy character that much more interesting for an artist. It’s a great concept- but was it hard to develop and finalise as a product?
AlfaSeeD: Interestingly enough, the IIv3 engravings, were actually “doodled” in ZBrush to compliment another product of us and not meant as a product by itself, initially.
As you will have noticed, we often like to add tattoos and skin art to our characters and we wanted something to go along with Hanyma, a peculiar set that we’ll be available in the next few months at RDNA.
Hanyma is a concept we’ve worked on for years (we actually released two versions of it) and that was initially inspired by the post-apocalyptic works of Luis Royo.
The IIv3 engraving was meant as a sort of sci-fi “hero” marking that would bear particular meaning and that only a few, special individuals would sport.
This means different characters from the same planet would have different drawings on their body, albeit of a similar style.
So once we had this cool marking design on our hands we realized it has great potential and developed and complete skin package around it, choosing a very pale skin tone to compliment the markings.
Products aren’t always planned, sometimes they just spontaneously happen.
And, who knows, maybe in a few years, using laser technology, it will be possible to actually create this kind of “engravings” on human skin, something smooth and cool-looking, very “fast-forward” and much more refined compared to the scarring techniques of today.
3DAD: What’s been your favourite product to date that you have developed and what are a few things that you have learned along the way during the process?
Sil: to name a favourite is very, very hard and not fair at all!
Well, truth be told most of our products are linked to a particular idea, or moment, are somehow inspired by something, so they all have something special, for us.
Anyway, in regards to inspiration I think 110.1 has been one of the most inspiring, but Uraalys’ Ny is a favourite too (I also have a 110.1 style for Uraalys’ Ny almost complete, that will make the two mix and match fabulously).
As far as my texturing work is concerned I would definitely name Earth Breaker and 110.1 Hard Metal as my cornerstone products of the last couple of years.
I have learned and applied new techniques in ZBrush (well, new for me of course) to achieve my desired results. I’m very proud of AMP as well, but I’d say it’s the result of what I had learned by working on previous creations. Still I dared with AMP and it really paid off!
I also like very much drawing tattoos, I really like the Sisterhood one as well as IIv3 and there’s a few more I created to “match” products that I love (including the Uraalys’ Ny one, that one of our customers would like to have tattooed on her back for real).
As: I always have an hard time choosing favourites, because each products has features that I like, things I don’t like and would like to change, and, likely, an intriguing story behind it.
In the end, much also depends on the kind of textures Syl will create. There’s been a few times when I wasn’t too happy with a product, but after seeing her texturing work I completely changed my mind.
Anyway, among my favourite there are certainly our most unique designs. I’m very happy with Soulforged: the Outlander, both in regards to the design and modeling work. It’s a complex mesh that took a while but was absolutely worth the effort. Another favourite is Black Lotus, which we’ll be releasing again soon, with some minor changes.
“110.1”, again, is a design I really like, but as of today I would make some changes. I’d do the legs in a different way. I feel that both Almost Human and Hard Metal for “110.1” are fantastic, and C-Suit AMP for Lemonade is as well.
Uraaly’s Ny is another design I did and like a lot, and of course, the next one I’m working on, will certainly become a favourite!
3DAD: Can you tell a little bit about what AlfaSeed will be doing in this next year with its creations?
AlfaSeeD: One year ago we would have said: “we’ll be creating great 3D products”, while that’s still true a lot of things have happened and changed and we have broader expectations for the coming year.
Our “mission” for the next year, for AlfaseeD, is to explore different paths. We’re constantly putting good foundations and we’d like to start building, we feel the time has come.
Great 3D content is still our main focus right now, and we’re working on a large fantasy armor set, that we hope to release before the end of the year. Alice will also re-appear again, she will feature a new face, named Yly and will become and stay available at RuntimeDNA.
We like to differentiate a lot, so we’ll definitely do something completely different after that. We have a sci-fi armor in the works, with cyber limbs of a “realistic” design (more realistic than 110.1, so to speak), that could be our first 2013 product as we like to start new years with something big and shiny.
Our propositions for the new year, since it’s coming and it’d doing it too fast, include focusing and improving on character design. We’d like to set some time apart to do some character design work and increase the amount of sketching on paper we do as preliminary studies for our products.
We’ll also be focusing on game design and maybe take advantage of that new camera we just got