RollBots Special: Making Vertex

MCMSaturday, March 7, 2009

Since today is re-run day for RollBots (and BTW, we're apparently airing two more times per week now, so you have extra opportunities to catch up on your episodes!) I thought I would use today's post to describe the history of Vertex.

As you know, Vertex is the villain in RollBots. He's a big nasty guy. But up until about two years ago, we didn't really know what he'd look like. All I'd noted in my write-ups was "spiderbot", and I was desperately anxious to see what Andrew King drew, once design had started.

On this show (which may or may not be different than other shows), I tried to avoid really dictating designs, because Andy is a genius and I figured the less direction, the better. I'm not sure if he preferred it that way, but it made for some interesting stuff.

So based on the first stories an my vague description of the character, these are the first drawings we saw specifically for Vertex:

He sure has changed. I was shocked, actually, looking back at these designs. It took us a long time and a lot of debating to settle on which one we wanted to bring forward.

In the end, we decided that the black widow design and the all-black one were a bit too... spidery for a spiderbot. Really, since Vertex wouldn't have eight legs, we were already deep in not-really-spider-land, so why not just finish the job? We wanted something that was like a hybrid between a lizard and a spider. Unpleasant to behold.

The design above with the red background was great, but the leg structure would have made it hard to have him interact with the henchbots/Spin when it came time. We toyed with the idea of having separate hands that he could use to manipulate things, but they felt a bit wrong somehow. But we really liked the patchwork leg structure (like in the shiny-domed design above). So we threw together notes about what we liked from each take, and Andy went back to his dungeon to try some more.

This is what we got:

Now you can probably already recognize the body is pretty much what we ended up with. Plated legs, central pointy torso. We were keen, but there was something "off" about the face. We decided to play around with it some more. And by "we", I mean "Andy". And by "play around", I mean "torture horribly". This is a rough recreation of the next few days, as Andy cranked out revision after revision...

"Love the face. Eyes are a bit non-expressive. Maybe red?"

"Hmm. Scary, but kind of skeletal. Needs a bigger jaw."

"Hmm, maybe a bit too big."

"Reminds me of Jean-Luc Picard. An evil Picard. Erm. Maybe give him back his textured head."

"OH! This is good. I ike the jaw and the head and... the eyes are a bit small. Can we get them bigger? Like really big and expressive?"

"Hmm. Well, maybe not quite that big."

"Now we're talkin'! I like it! Say... we never asked YOU what YOU thought would be cool. How about you send something, anything, so we can compare?"

"Oh. Well. Fine. So you knew all along."

This is basically the final Vertex. There were changes to him in the modelling process (details of how the legs worked were revised, and he was given fingers so he could grab things), but the overall impression has stayed the same.

But one issue remained: Vertex had to appear to be a normal RollBot during the first moments of 101. Otherwise, we have no big reveal later in the episode. So we needed to have a "retracted" design done. Something that could mask his true self.

This one definitely worked, with the eyes small enough that you felt like he could be a normal RollBot. But it somehow felt like cheating, like we were dodging the real Vertex-ness. So we tried:

This was truer to life, and we were all happy with it. Until we heard from the 3D folks that we were utterly nutty, and this could never have resulted from a design like the extracted spiderbot. So Andy did up another, more accurate transformation, which looks like this:

(You can see how this got executed in the YouTube video I've attached below).

Finally, we thought it might be fun to try giving Vertex RollBot arms and legs, so he could walk around in Flip City without drawing any attention to himself...

In the end, we decided that probably didn't work, and wasn't worth the time it'd take the model. But now you know what might have been!

So that is your tour of Vertex. These and other sketches will all be in the "Art of RollBots" books for the lucky few super-promoters. There might also be a tiny easter egg in there, too!

Next week is "The Koto Protocol", another one of my eps! Lots to discuss there! See you then!

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