31. Seeing Illuvials in motion will be like a Jurassic Park moment! Meet Marco Espinosa, VFX Concept Artist
Sending a raging Felderos into the thick of battle is, nine times out of ten, a clutch deployment. Set loose on the battlefield, Felderos—a Pangolin Stage 2—spins their glowing tail, sizzling globs of lava flying everywhere. An infernal vortex, Felderos’ Onslaught attack sears through the opposing team like a molten helicopter. Imagine a chopper on fire, flying towards you at rapid speed — it would be certain doom.
The concept for the Onslaught ultimate ability came from intensive ideation meetings between Illuvium’s core contributors. Translating abstract motion ideas requires an artist who can intuit, from the description notes, a plausible visual representation. Sketching out the literal move — its scale of impact, direction, and shape of motion — fell to Marco Espinosa, Concept Artist and VFX Concept Artist, who works on conceiving the attacks of Illuvials.
Concept art for Felderos’ ultimate ability.Process for painting Felderos.
In our #character-leaks channel on Discord, the cinematic trailer, and our World Building from Scratch livestreams, you’ll notice the great care and level of detail that is going into every single Illuvial. Our DAO’s passion, obsession, and artistic goals with these 3D characters are to make them as vivid as possible in a fully-realized world. From Dash’s gleaming eyes as they emerge from the shadows, to the reflection of flaming embers glinting on Rhamphyre’s obsidian scales. What gives them even more AAA edge is that their movement is so dynamic, convincing, and delivers the subtle nuances that make them feel real.
The subtle heft of big body parts. Their gait gives a sense of their weight. Their posture gives a sense of their agility. Their small movements and ticks give a sense of their personality and intellect. “The little details and uniqueness of every Illuvial is noticeable right away,” says Marco. “We don’t recycle any VFX for their movement. Every character has been given so much care to be completely unique.”
The fact that all the VFX is completely unique for each Illuvial, with no recycling of effects, is a nod to the painstaking integrity Illuvium pours into rendering distinct characters that possess realisticness and individuality. This close attention to detail begins in concept art, a DAO unit lead by Lead Concept Artist Rogier Van De Beek. Marco works with them every day to guide the creation of the Illuvials, in form and in movement.
Marco, a self-taught artist who comes from an illustration background, counts Illuvium as his best professional experience. Von Neumann, our anonymous art director, came across Marco’s Artstation portfolio, saw his impeccable concept artwork, and recruited him for Rogier’s team.
Images from Marco’s portfolio:
Lava dragon.Iguana dragon.“Pray”
At Illuvium, Marco — who also works on environments and props — is mostly in charge of the VFX concept art for the characters, focusing on the attacks. You’ll recognize Marco’s concepts on the Pangolin, Turtle, Squid, Pistol Shrimp, Elk, and Poodle Moth lines — with more to come.
Dash’s ultimate ability Wraithstrike, previously profiled in a past article. From Marco’s concept movement painting, to VFX render:
Designing the visual effect concepts for the attacks means envisioning how details like a flaming mane, or air flowing from a tail, would look in-game. Marco’s process begins by creating silhouettes of the Illuvials as they move through an attack. “I translate the descriptions of the attacks into silhouettes, to isolate the VFX and see the pure movement, without any additional information,” he explains. “It helps me make the character’s specific motions readable, before adding more detail.”
Then he focuses on the direction of the attack, and how the shape will look on-screen. “For example, if I see a move having a wave, then I draw it like an S. If I see a move going at radius, I draw a C shape,” he says. “That makes sense to me. It conveys how an attack looks. The attack must have very clear shapes. It must be simplified into 2 or 3 visual states.”
Marco has developed a workflow to design the VFX fairly quickly, and use his remaining time to render out textures for the passive effects. “It takes me roughly 3 to 4 hours to design an entire VFX character sheet,” he says. “After I sketch the characters, Rogier gives me feedback and guides me in the right direction. Usually, this process overall takes two days of dedicated time. I go for speed and efficiency. Rogier has outstanding ideas! Working with him, I know that he wants the Illuvials to show character and be iconic.”
Marco’s VFX process.Pistol Shrimp Stage 3 claws VFX.
After Marco is done, he hands the Illuvial off to the modelers and VFX team. The animators then take on the challenge of translating Marco’s concepts into outstanding physical performances. “The core contributors I work with always do a fantastic job!” Marco says, “Everything I draw, they elevate 400%.”
The saying goes to whistle while you work. When Marco is painting these concepts, he beatboxes sound effects of the Illuvials. Like when kids play with action figures. “It’s as if I was ten years old again playing with my toys!” he laughs. “But it makes me feel the VFX are coming to life. I have so much fun doing this!” Marco thinks adding sound to the Illuvials is the finishing touch that characterizes them completely: “Then Nico and the SFX team add sounds to the character, which is so cool!”
We often say that no less than ten world-class artists each contribute to the creation of an Illuvial. Their collective, meticulous effort makes our bestiary of NFTs complete in their realization. Marco thinks the Illuviials are imbued with imaginative realism, a term coined by ‘Dinotopia’ artist James Gurney to describe realistic paintings of something that doesn’t exist.
“Gamers will see the imaginative realism in the characterization of the Illuvials,” Marco says. “They are so detailed. They have crazy elemental powers! They have unique personalities that differentiate them from each other. The way they move. How they act. What they sound like. I think when gamers encounter their first Illuvial in the wild, they’ll feel like Alan Grant in Jurassic Park seeing a dinosaur for the first time.”
Archeleon’s ultimate ability Revuvenasis, previously profiled in a past article. From Marco’s concept movement painting, to VFX render:
Note: Game is currently in development and details are subject to change.
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31. Seeing Illuvials in motion will be like a Jurassic Park moment! was originally published in Illuvium Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.