We were asked by Microsoft to create two game characters for their brand new game Sea of Thieves.
These sculpts were being used to promote Microsoft’s Rare Games Division’s brand new exciting online platform game Sea of thieves at the E3 Gaming Expo, a video gaming conference and show in Los Angeles.
The clay sculpt
The moulding process
The silicone is sprayed on
The de-moulding of the sculpts
Finished fibreglass casts
In the spray booth
At E3 Games Expo in Los Angeles
Clear cast eyes
Home at last
The clay sculptEach character was sculpted in clay. Working on the heads separately meant that we could pay attention to the facial detail and attach it to the body when both were signed off by the client. We worked from images sent to us by the client who asked that the sculpts have a certain angular look to them to be true to the games characters.
The armatureIn order to sculpt a life size clay figure we needed to make a metal armature as the clay is extremely heavy and the armature makes sure that the sculpts stay free standing and in the correct position while we work on them.
The moulding processAs the sculpts were fairly intricate we had to determine early on where the sections of mould would join. We placed a brass shim around the areas of the sculpt where these joins would be.
The silicone is sprayed onAfter first sealing the clay, the first coat of silicone is sprayed on to the entire sculpt making sure that every part is covered. Once this first coat is dry the second, thicker coat of silicone is added and silicone keys are bonded in place to ensure that the silicone jacket and fibreglass casing, which is applied on top of the silicone, will marry up after we have de-moulded and taken away the clay sculpt.
The de-moulding of the sculptsOne of the moulds being re-assembled after the clay has been removed from inside.
Finished fibreglass castsHere we see a finished fibreglass cast that is ready for a primer prior to painting
Testing, testingOne of the characters from the game has a flaming chest and eyes so we made these areas with a pigmented, thinner layer of translucent fibreglass, and flickering LED lights were installed inside the sculpt to give the illusion of flames within. As the sculpts had to come apart in sections for transportation it was easy to gain access to test the lights before they’re painted.
In the spray boothThis is where the really fun part begins. We primed the sculpts and spray painted them making sure we painted in layers to give depth to the finished pieces.
Painted piecesA painted spade and arm ready to be wrapped and placed alongside the rest of the sculpt in the flight case
At E3 Games Expo in Los AngelesThe character with the flaming eyes and chest on the wooden plinth we’d made to look like a ships deck with mast and Sea of Thieves flag
Clear cast eyesThis character in the game has bright glowing green eyes and to replicate this we sculpted the eyes, meant to look like giant rough cut emeralds, then moulded and cast them in pigmented clear resin. These were then sanded and polished to a glass like finish. When lit up they cast a green glow just as glass would do to give a realistic glow effect.
Photo opportunitiesThere were many photo opportunities at E3 with hundreds of gaming fans having their picture taken with our sculpts. Here are the team from Microsoft’s gaming division Rare at E3
Home at lastAfter having hundreds of photo opportunities and helping to promote the game, the sculpts are now pride of place at Microsoft Studios.
What we had to do
They were going to be seen by a lot of gaming experts and that meant the skeleton pirate characters had to be extra precise as they had only just been designed by the team at Rare, and had to look impressive enough to lure gaming fans to their stand.
We were given detailed 360 degree images to work from and in the space of just a few weeks we had sculpted, moulded, cast, finished/sanded and painted and lacquered both sculptures. They had to be shipped to LA and so we ordered specially made flight cases, which had to be small enough to save space keeping shipping costs down as much as possible. So we had to make the sculpts fit the smaller cases, and to do this we made them come apart in sections but that would fit back together seamlessly.
How did we do it?
We first made metal armatures and bulked out large areas with chicken wire and foam and added the clay. This method keeps the amount of clay needed down and also the weight, but more importantly it gives support and structure to the sculpt. One of the benefits of sculpting by hand, as opposed to 3-D printing or 5-axis CNC machining, is that we can include the client in the sculpture process allowing them to make any last minute changes or tweaks.
Once the clay sculpts were approved we made the silicone moulds, which both had many parts to due to the complexity of the sculpts. From these moulds we cast the fibreglass figures, sanded them, primed them, painted them and lacquered them. They were both free standing on bases that we made to look like the deck of a galleon, each with its own mast and sail with printed vinyl Sea of Thieves promotional literature.
Our client from Microsoft Studios loved the sculptures, so much so that they are now on display at their studios. Take a look at some of the kind words our client said about our work:
The statues look f**king amazing at the show. Our social media team have been getting loads of tweets and other bits of info on social media about how cool the Sea of Thieves booth at the show is and how awesome the statues look. Please feel free to tweet about them, I’ll ask the social media team to give you guys a mention on our channels.
FYI – I have forwarded the photos of the statues to some of the sea of thieves team here. The guys have all agreed that you have “knocked it out of the park” with these.
David Sanderberg Head of Facilities Management Rare – Microsoft Studios