Concept Art of the Naval Update
The Naval update had been something everyone on the team has wanted to do for a few years now. Over the years we have been vocal that to do naval combat justice we would need to dedicate a large amount of attention and effort. It would need to be the focus of the entire Foxhole team and be designed and built from the ground up. The plan that formed was for this to be the first big update after 1.0 launched.
Very early on we knew that we wanted the gameplay experience to feel completely different than playing on land. We did not want the boat gameplay to feel like tank combat on water.
Production started with a lot of meetings about what would be the priorities of the gameplay loop. We wanted to aim for a few large ships and support ships engaging in ship to ship Naval conflicts. The winning fleet then could threaten the coastal areas on land. We wanted to support the idea of beach landings and large artillery broadsides attacking the land. The teams goal was that if a Naval landing is prepared properly, then there would be a very high chance for success. A few ideas came and went, like the idea of ships that could fit in rivers vs ships that could not. Dubbing it blue water and shallow water craft. We eventually opted to have all ships be able to use all waterways.
My first real task was planning and generating basic top down images to pitch classes and the amount of firepower ships might have in game. These were intended as talking points for meetings to see if we could even do something these sizes.
Next I took a bit of time to just sketch with no particular end product in mind. The goal of this was for me to capture the feeling and scale of a battleship. During this time I was reading, watching videos, and painting from reference, and generally educating myself on the topic.
I need to stress how complex and interconnected the process of developing the naval update was. Implementing brand new vehicles, the largest so far in-game, for a brand new gameplay system with brand new physics took everyone working in unison. At this point it wasn’t even clear if boats could have interiors, would float with water physics, or have any of the features they ended up with. When it came to actually implementing a first ship the goal wasn’t ‘Which faction gets which boat?’ but ‘Can we make a boat actually work the way we want without breaking the game?’. I drew up a ‘block in’ concept for a Destroyer, Submarine and Storage ship with intentionally little detail. This way, the programmers and gameplay design could have something to work with quickly. The block ins were scaled up and down to help us figure out how big all the ships classes would be, and the submarine wasn’t anything more than a reskinned boat for months.
Colonial and Warden Navies:
A debate went on for a number of meetings about what the first set of ships would be and how many ships we could feasibly complete in time for the update. What came into picture was Battleships, Destroyers, Submarines and a revamp of the gunboats for the combat side of things with plans to expand the fleets in future updates.
My main visual design goal was to ensure that the boats felt totally different than the land vehicles. I really wanted to separate them from the tanks by using colour and paint schemes. I spent some time considering each faction and what would influence the look of their navies, and to establish a new visual language for both new fighting forces.
After a few meetings with Mark we ended up deciding that the Colonial visuals should feel spartan with light metal decking and heavy cloth to break it up. I wanted to retain the angled look of their armour but I did not want that influence on the hulls of the boats. Looking back at the old gunboats, I was unhappy with that idea and this was the time to re-establish a new look. Overall the existing theme that the Colonials would care less for fine details and stick with ‘mass production’ was continued. Both WW1 and WW2 era ships, American, British, Russian and Japanese ships were referenced. To contrast, The Wardens would have a darker metal hull, wood decking and their vehicle insignia would be extremely prominent. The Wardens would have spent a lot of time crafting each boat and we wanted to imply that in the design. A ‘pre-dreadnought’ era look was very inspiring with WW2 Italian and Swedish influences.
Interiors and Engines:
The interiors of the ships were not concepted in detail. This was due in fact that at the time we did not know the final orientation or final room count which was still being worked out. It was early in production and not clear yet that rooms could store items or be a deployment point or flood with water. All this was being tested with the block-ins. Instead, we found reference for a few interior assets to model per faction and populated the final rooms with them.
The engines I set aside as a separate task. These were big enough that they required a full concept and it was an opportunity to include faction specific aesthetics for all three factions including Logi.
I worked on the Colonial Destroyer in tandem with the gameplay design. So I was pitching features that might be fun for players while what was possible was being worked on. This led to a few elements being left off the final models, like the life rafts and upper deck heavy item storage, but it also influenced a few features like the depth charges, spotter seat, and sonar seats. The Colonial Destroyer also overlapped with Mark and my discussions about faction colours, so a number of colour variants were tried.
Early in development for the Naval update we considered not having submarines, and that it might be easier to have one destroyer sized boat each. Mark absolutely wanted to launch with submarine gameplay. In addition to the ‘wow factor’, it was a keystone for him that the team develop the pipeline and logic for future content. In addition, developing counter gameplay with the destroyer. The key here was devoting the right amount of time to develop both the gameplay, and completing all the naval art assets.
The Submarine gameplay was a challenge. Max, Casey and I spent a while learning how the systems and complexities of submarines actually worked. The hard part was abstracting that complexity down to gameplay that fit within the rest of Foxhole.
Unlike the other boats, visually the Submarine exterior was the easy part. The complexity came in the interior, this took most of the time and required full concepts. I wanted to capture the chaotic feeling of pipes and levers everywhere while designing the control stations that players would be interacting with. A player's first time on a sub, they should be able to intuit what they can interact with, after that they can figure out how to actually operate the submarine.
Both the Battleships were a lot of fun to work on. I had pushed hard to make sure that the Battleships were as large as they possibly could be. This was worrying to some at a few points in development and I had to defend the screen spanning size more then once. This also caused trouble for implementing the dry dock, but I am glad I fought for it. Once players saw the Battleships in the first trailer everyone was happy we took the risk. There were two key visual elements I wanted to capture:
First was to get the feeling of a battleship without it feeling like a cartoonish/ chibi simplification. Early on in planning, we had decided on 10-20 seats/ people per large ship. I still wanted to give the impression of a full sized ship, but our game scale obviously can’t handle a single boat with 2000+ crew. A lot of consideration was taken to retain the ‘feeling’ of a full sized battleship. I focused on where details are located at each point of the ship to make sure things weren’t crammed too close together. Effort was put in to mimic the negative/ open/ ‘boring’ spaces on real life battleships.
Second, I wanted to capture that image of firing a full broadside. This impacted both the visuals and the gameplay. As a result, the number of turrets, arcs of fire, and crew number requirements were all considered, since the dispositions of each faction's battleships was a tool for me in the visual language of the factions. The Colonial Destroyer also factored into the decision that the Colonial Battleships had fewer turrets with more cannons per turret and Wardens more turrets with fewer cannons per turret.
Third time’s a charm. Long time players will know that this is the third re-introduction of the gunboats. Technical limitations informed the first two versions of the gunboats. There were many issues with walkable areas on moving vehicles at first including border travel, ladders and vaulting while on moving vehicles. With full revamp and dedicated time to the naval gameplay in the naval update we were able to overcome all the issues from before.
The visuals designs were inspired by riverboats and converted fishing boats. The only outline I had to work with was that these could not challenge the battleship’s, even in numbers. I wanted the gunboats ‘identity/feel’ to support tripod weapons. I figured this would be their ‘cool factor’. We still wanted them to be able to support land combat and mortars were chosen as their main turret weapon.
The landing ships were simple. We knew making beach landings work was a major factor in this update. We wanted these to support infantry and up to a light tank. All that was left was designing Warden and Colonial variants of the D-day Higgins boats.
Late last year we hired a new concept artist, Luke. He has been working with me and getting up to speed on the look and feel of Foxhole. The Naval update has been his trial by fire and I decided that he would take on the Logi fleet to be a new set of eyes to define the visual language of some of the biggest ships in the game. There were a few new things to consider with the Storage ship, this was the first logi ship to have guns on it. It was also the most technically complex of all the ships. We were basically combining a stockpile or seaport and a moving vehicle with ladders and a fully functional crane all together. This level of complexity required a few redesigns throughout the implementation of all the features for the boat.
Next up for Luke was the base ship. The key visual goal for this one was to make it distinctly different from the Storage ship. Both ships were based on Attack Transports or Assault Transports class vessels. We focused on the immediate ‘read’ of the two logi ships making them unmistakable from one another at a glance. As the gameplay developed and it became clear that this is where players directly build the landing craft, Luke visually developed the davit arm animations in the boat’s deployed state.
As part of Luke’s trial by fire, I went largely hands off with the Dry Dock. He worked with the rest of the team to figure out all the complexities of designing the largest structure and getting it to fit into all required rivers and waterways. This was another gigantic challenge for the team to come together and figure out.
The Offshore Platform concept has existed for years at this point, vet players will remember its storied history. Shockingly it almost wasn’t included in this update until the resources you extract from it became key to the Naval pipeline. I created a layout, Glen modelled and assembled the final asset.
Future Naval content:
The Bulk of the team's effort was planning and implementing the systems and gameplay for the Naval update. With this launch we basically set the groundwork to get the Navies and Logi ships floating and functional. We have plans and are excited for the naval game to expand in the coming years.
With the need to defend shores and have more late game options, Luke's first task at Siege Camp was developing the 150mm Mobile Artillery for both factions. We wanted them to be new variants of the battle tanks, as that felt appropriate. Matt and I wanted to stick with the in-game lore idea that Cormac Flood took ‘inspiration’ from the Colonials for the Warden Battle Tank. Luke adapted well to the themes that Colonials would look at their tanks as a ‘tool’ of war and Wardens would bring ‘artistry’ into their war machines.
20mm Field Guns:
Luke was also tasked with adding new early game field guns to Foxhole. These were planned for an earlier update but held back to be released with the towing feature of the Naval update. The idea from Rob was to add some early game content for infantry. The visual design task was to make two distinct 20mm field guns, both needed to appear relatively weaker and intended for the first few days of the war.
Vehicle towing has been Mark's passion project this update. He has wanted this in the game for a long time. It’s genuinely something we didn’t know was possible but once Mark felt comfortable that we could do it, nothing stopped him taking the lead. Towing field guns and trailers was a no brainer. Mark and I only bumped heads over which vehicles should be able to tow. I was focused on the idea that halftracks should be top tier and Mark countered with his vision of a more fleshed out level of depth and complexity, no one size fits all vehicles. This led to the new heavy trucks. What made this clear to me was that Mark wants to have an individual screenshot of a Logi hub have as much vehicle variety as a screenshot from a front line.
Luke and I split up the work on the Heavy Trucks. I gave him first dibs and he chose Colonial. *Cough cough…Bias* After working on the ships of the Naval update, these felt easy to design.
In the end Mark wanted one half track variant per faction to tow. This meant looking at the existing vehicles and coming up with a plan. Rob wanted the least used Colonial halftrack to get a second life but the Wardens really didn’t have anything that didn’t already have a clear role. Rob and I settled on a variant that could defend itself from infantry but combat was clearly not the main goal.
Luke and I split the work. Visually there is not much to them and that is exactly how it should be, clear and simple.
Heavy Field Guns:
This idea felt natural to do. We have wanted deployable field guns for a long time but without towing we would just be making already hard to move weapons even harder. We all agreed that the idea to repurpose the existing larger guns was the right way to go.
Future of Vehicle Towing:
Like Naval, now that the system is in going forward we can expand the feature. I know Mark has plans within plans as to what can tow and what can be towed… Expect us to explore more classes of trucks and logi vehicles too.
The future of Foxhole:
The Naval update has expanded Foxhole in a new direction. We are excited to see what impact it will have and how the game will evolve once it's in player hands. We want to express that full support for land and water based content will continue. There is a general mood for revisiting, supporting and reinforcing all the elements of the game going forward. After that, the possibilities are sky-high.
As is tradition here are the work in progress steps for the promoart, enjoy!