They are here. The heroic, technologically advanced and oppressive Thermocrats are now part of the game. It took a few good months to get all the animations in place, but this time we bested ourselves and came up with 7 new units for the game.
The Thermocrats are our Roman Empire in the world of Myos. They have mastered the use of Alchemicral Fire as a fuel for their power armor and have developed fiery swords that light up the Aether around them.
The Thermocrats began as a concept very early on, but many details were not fully fleshed out until recently. Adam’s lore paints the Thermocrats as infamous Knights in White Armor. An advanced and complex society with no sense of morals. Fire worshipers who see themselves as the shining light in a world of chaos.
Adam was very keen on having the Thermocrats wear white armors, which I thought might clash a bit with the rest of the colors in the game. Since they are fire worshipers I thought the units could be a bit more grungy for which the final coloring is light grey with patches of red. Many of the Roman aspects of the Thermocrats were also minimized. Originally they had more Roman elements, but because of several factors the only Roman references that we kept were the red colors, the helmets and some of the chest pieces. We want them to feel like a fantasy Roman Empire, and not the Roman Empire in a fantasy world.
Originally the Thermocrats were also meant to be a faction without helmets, which was meant to humanize them. But the no-helmets theme began to lose traction with the early concept art. They look interesting without the helmets though.
The first Thermocrat unit is the game’s main unit: The Praetorian. These bad boys have a whooping 492 total frames (almost twice as many as a regular sprite). The animations include breathing, attacking, walking, casting and charging animations. The animation also includes post production effects applied on top of the unit: smaller animations such as smoke trails, sparks and fire. I believe their Armors have a slight intermittent glow to them too. It was fun to animate the little effects by individually making them appear and disappear (took me a while though).
The size of the unit is also larger than the rest, but this is to account for the gargantuan Praetorian’s sword, which was something that forced me re-do the sprite 3 times over until we got it right, since you-know-who wanted a larger sword every time. It did worked out for the best though.
The next model in production was The Artificer. Which is a ranged female unit. We discussed before making the model about having more female units in the game, since it was part of the lore. As such the Artificer is a tough as nails unit who attacks with a steam powered crosbow.
Around the time we were making this one the Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter Campaign was around and we overall agreed with her point about how stale the industry had become creatively in their depiction of female characters. For example, let’s take Fatal Fury’s Mai Shiranui, who is mostly known for being a fighter who wears little if anything at all.
It might be a cheap shot, but it exemplifies Sarkeesian’s point very well. Don’t get me wrong, the level of talent to make this type animation is far beyond my modest abilities, but what the hell is supposed to be going on in that sprite shet? is there a pixelated pole missing here?. Mind you, the character is supposed to be a world renowned fighter. As such we kind of got into the mindset of making female characters with at least a minimum of dignity to them. There really isn’t anything particularly wrong with that sprite sheet, but the fanservice stuff does get a little stale over time. That kind of one dimensional character is a bit of a relic today, audiences now comprise larger demographics that will question the nature of the character or their complete lack of clothing and personality.
And so in creating the base female model I wanted the characters to look the part without looking silly. One of the reasons why a lot of female characters end up looking like strippers is that apparently few artist bother to get a woman’s point of view on the concept phase at all. I did the bare minimum and asked my wife if she thought this would look like an actual warrior and her only complaint was the high ponytail. Apparently a high pony tail is a “preppy girl” ponytail that would be useless on the battlefield. Which is something I had no idea about (Didn’t Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft had a high pony tail?, and heels?, and didn’t replace her voice actress for a younger and hotter actress?, but I digress). In any case, now I know that it would be impractical as hell, which is a nice touch that the new Tomb Raider sports a non preppy hair style.
So the hair became more of a trim cut that would require little maintenance. Also her armor was made to look like an actual armor (gasp!): no cleavage, no bare belly, no heels, no mini skirt or whatever else that is usually added (or in this case removed). It really wasn’t a huge effort on my part and I certainly didn’t struck a blow for women’s liberation, but it’s hard to go back once you know little details like that. Those elements have a time and place, but not for a unit that is required to be in the heat of battle. I mean these are seasoned troops, not part of a Bob Hope USO troupe (plus, there are no plans for a Bob Hope sprite, big bad Adam keeps shutting them down).
An offshoot of the Artificer. The Tinkers are Artificers that go through a more technological path, crafting their own steam powered long range rifles (and a laid back ponytail, because damn it if didn’t do my homework on ponytails here). Both Adam and me discussed that the Artificer would be kind of a Buffy, whereas the Tinker would be more of a Willow. So one would be an all out warrior and the other sort of a nerdy counterpart. In retrospective, I probably should had gone for more nerdy little details for the Tinker, which I’ll probably get on in the near future. My favorite thing about this character is the pinkish muzzle flash, which I think I got from the movie Badlands (if memory serves me right).
The next unit is The Bellona, who is an Elite Force Priestess. The unit took some iterations to get to a final version.
The character was originally going to be more of a Valkyrie, which I wasn’t too fond of. I did thought the character would be cool using a Hussar as reference. The Hussar theme evolved to the current more armored unit.
The next sprite is The Legionnaire, previously known as the Flame Dux. The Legionnaire is based on the Praetorian’s design and is something of a subordinate force to them.
I was kind of a fan of the stripped armor, but it looked too little like the Praetorian’s one.
Next is a grenadier called The Devout. The idea behind it was to have some sort of mercenary, a unit that would look like it was removed from the official unit roosted, but that it was still part of the Thermocrats. The end result is a mix of a samurai armor plus industrial protective equipment.
Fun fact, when we tested the Devout we found out he could kill over 300 Knights in a few shots, apparently his grenades did crazy damage (but it was so fun though).
The Dark Scorcher.
And finnally The Dark Scorcher. Originally the unit was called The Scorcher, which was one of Ryan’s favorite units back when the game only had 1 sprite that was used for all units (only Ryan and Adam had the patience to play that extremely early Alpha). The Dark Scorcher was one of the last units we made, for which I cut back a lot of the fat of the animation. It ended up looking pretty good.
And now to boot, some of Adam’s Lore Attack!
Praetorians are the most respected of warriors in all the Thermocrat Empire. Many act as personal guard to government servants, but others stick to their military roots and rise through the ranks to lead and command.
Given access to state of the art equipment they are held to a very high standard and many are crushed under the pressures of their responsibility. To prevent this all Legionnaires who rise to the ranks of Praetorian are granted lordship, with conditions for land if service continues. Those that survive to retire find themselves honing their skills in private and modifying their armor to push it’s limits. Some become good enough lords or use their abilities to become local heroes, but most will return to serve the Empire again and again, until only ashes remain.
Once the Imperial Scorchers were a common in the Legion, their recruits selected from the bravest of all recruits and these warriors strapped tanks of alchemical fire to their backs and use bellows to blast the battlefields with flame. Their life spawns grew to short and the equipment to expensive, now only the Dark Scorchers remain. A brutal group of hardened soldiers who have embraced Void Fire, a flame so unnatural and violent that none dare to even try to learn it’s secrets.
Sworn to the Emperor, but trained and equipped by the Pythenites, the Bellonas the spiked spear that protects the royal bloodline. Most women who become Bellonas are raised from girls too wild or impatient to be raised to the status of true Pythenites. They are trained as hard and long as any soldier within the Legion and are still required to learn at the pace of other girls being taught by the Pythenites. This process has created warrior women that are more than worthy of protecting the imperial family for generations.
All loyal subjects of the Empire follow the Tenets of Fire, but some embrace those philosophies fervently. There are also those that frequent the taverns a little too often and find themselves with steep tabs. It’s the brave men who meet both of these qualities that become the feared Devout. A soldier of faith, keen on the drink, and armed to the teeth with alchemical fire bombs. Those of sound mind are hesitant to rise to the rank of Devout. Despite their reputation for being a rowdy class of soldier, they are well liked by the people.
To recruit the nobles of conquered lands into the war effort they are granted some of the best weapons the empire has to offer and a title that demands respect. That combined with the lavish gifts has many nobles ready to volunteer their sons.
The sometimes violent women who study with the Pythenites are separated into a group known as the Artificers to hone the elements earth and fire that they are usually quick to learn. These longer lessons allow them to inscribe delicate runes and brew alchemical fire.
Most take the weapon given to them by Pythenites and scribe runes with fire enchantments, turning a simple steam powered bolt thrower into a weapon of flame and destruction.
The Tinkers often seem aloof, but their sharp eyes rarely miss anything important. Considered to be the most innovative initiates of the pythenites, they are able to deftly handle the arts of the mind, aether, and metallurgy. It is said that when the tinkers are called to war no one cries out, for death takes them far too quickly. They seem to understand the very nature of mechanical constructs and are able to break down and reassemble their aether rifles at incredible speeds. They are often found in the back ranks of an army firing shots through the ranks in front of them and blasting the enemy.
And that would be all, hopefully you guys enjoyed this, the units took a while to be made for no cash and they look pretty good in-game. All units were drawn by me, Rodrigo Petunio and designed and lore-efied by Adam Waters. We now have 12 working units in the game and we expect to create at least 8 more (hopefully). 2 more units are in production at the time of writing, both of which will have 4 legs. Stay tuned!
Edit: replaced youtube videos of units with gif animations. Added the lore attack section.