Documentation & Evaluation of Creative Process – Ballista

So I’ve been at Childwickbury Arts Fair along with Lee and Joe, showcasing the work that we do and the effort that goes into making a game. We were doing live demos to crowds of people from 10am – 6pm Friday – Sunday, and it offered the opportunity to get a significant chunk of work done.

I turned my attention to one of the more important prop assets for the project, a huge Ballista, and in this post I hope to showcase my creative process behind that.

I would also like to note that due to a request from Joe, the design time that would have gone to developing a Dragon Harness has now been re-invested in this asset. As we are working on a live game project, it is natural that there would be artistic elements limited/cut, and the actual player control of flying on the Dragon has been one of these elements. As such, Joe requested I re-invest the time developing an Environment ‘hero’ piece that he can spend some real time creating for his portfolio.

Process for Prop Design

1 Research & Reference gathering – This is, without a doubt, the most important stage of the whole process as it sets the precedent and builds the pillars for the late stages of the design. As with the other designs that I have done for this project, I start with reading up on the historical elements of siege weaponry and castle defence systems, and watch some documentaries on the subject as well. I also usually set up a private Pintrest board where I collate a series of visual references that I usually have setup on a second monitor whilst I work.

2 Initial Thumbnails – so, based on the research and ref I will then go ahead and create a series of thumbnails that you can see below. These are based around a combination of things – firstly they have a functional element to them, and their overall form must still convey that they are ballistas. They follow historical and cultural expectations of what they ‘should’ look like (or closely enough for entertainment purposes). I also add my own artistic licence to these as well. As my main strength is in creature design, I have a fairly vast ‘visual library’ of animal shapes stored away subconsciously from years of drawing animals. As such, I pull elements of those creatures and their organic forms into my designs. This is acceptable within the setting as these are not human constructed ballistas, but rather built by elves, so have a slight fantastical quality to them that is to define them as separate from human design. There are various influences here – from hammerhead sharks, manta rays, insect legs, crustacean shells, stag beetle mandibles etc.


3 Develop Thumbnail Design  – from here, it’s a matter of scaling up the chosen design (in this case from thumbnail no. 3) and really breaking it down to figure out how it looks in more detail. This means figuring out it’s different views, the materials it’s composed of, and it’s practicality – it’s rotation and firing arc. These are developed as a ‘Dragon defence’ system, and so it’s important for them to cover a wide range of firing angles.


4 Exploded View – next, once the design and materials have been finalised I will go ahead and break down each composing element of the design and lay it all out clearly and concisely. This type of layout and information is really valuable for Joe, as it removes a lot of questions and interpretations that he may have about the design because I’ve tried to anticipate that as much as possible and present the information as clearly as possible.



Any evaluation on my creative process needs to be done on a means basis, as each design is very different and presents it’s own set of challenges. In this case I feel that I had an effective design solution to a problem (which was: “create an anti-dragon ballista”), and my ideas were presented very clearly through the process of those angle views, breakdowns and exploded views.

Personally I would have liked to have developed one of the more adventurous designs from the thumbnail stage, and that perhaps would have worked better as an individual portfolio piece. However, it’s important to acknowledge the design within context and realise that thumbnail v3 was probably one of the most fitting for the rest of the visual aesthetic for the project and therefore a better design.


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