My dream to work at HAL Laboratory
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Have you ever had an idea? Something that sparked? Something that inspired you? Where did you go with that? What was it that you wanted to do or create? How far did you go with it? Are you even trying?
Ever since I started getting into 3D, I had a dream to become a 3D artist at HAL Laboratory. HAL Laboratory is a second party game development company in Tokyo that has worked on notable titles such as Super Smash Bros and Kirby. I am a big Kirby fan, I call myself a Kirby fanatic. In fact, the main reason of how and why I got into 3D was thanks to the Kirby franchise and its games.
I've been wanting to recreate the world of Kirby ever since I started learning 3D. Of course, I can't have a proper start without making Kirby himself.
My first character model happened to be Kirby. It wasn't too hard to create the basic model and rig for it, however the challenge came from rigging him, making him be able to move freely, squash and stretch, and ready for animation. I posted multiple renders of my Kirby model on different platforms such as Reddit and DeviantArt and it got a lot of praise, so much so that I decided to give out file copies of the rig for anyone to try out and give feedback. With this, I was able to greatly improve on my Kirby 3D model.
Soon after, I decided work on the ability caps that Kirby would wear, to further add on to the Kirby model. I started off with doing one of my favorite abilities, mike. Right after, I started work on the parasol from the ability, parasol Kirby.
A few months later, after taking a break from working on Kirby, I then worked on the Ice cap from the Ice ability. The ice cap took me the most amount of time to finish, mainly because of the material.
Eight months later, after working on other non-kirby related projects in Blender, I had finally attempted to "actually" recreate the world of Kirby in Blender. Something I've been wanting to do since the beginning, but hadn't start work or attempted to start work on it yet. All I've been doing was improving the same model over and over again, as well as model new ability assets for the model, but now, it was finally time to actually make his world a reality (in my software at least). I wasn't confident at all when starting this project, this had also been what you could call my first environment render. I didn't know where to start, how I would finish things off, and what I even wanted the design to look like. While it was originally the world from the older 3DS games I wanted to recreate, I had decided to go for the most modern design up to date from the Kirby game for the Nintendo Switch, Kirby Star Allies.
Now that the design I would imitate was decided, now it was a matter of figuring out how to and what to start on. When looking at the game, one of the most interesting things I noticed about the level's designs were how the trees were made.
Back at E3 2017, the game Kirby Star Allies was first shown in it's early state to the public at Nintendo's booth. When comparing the version of the game shown back at E3 to the final version of the game, one thing I noticed was how the trees designs were completely redesigned. In the E3 version, the trees had more of real-basic shape with around twenty different branches spreading at the top. All the trees in the level were basically the same design spread out. However in the final version of the game, the trees have more "wackiness" put into them. What do I mean? Well, rather than just basic looking trees everywhere around the level, each tree had it's own unique shape to it, so much so that if you were to just rotate one tree on it's Y axis about only 30 or 40 degrees, the tree would look like a completely different tree. They created the designs of the trees so that when looking at them from a different angle, you couldn't tell that it was that exact same tree you saw before. I also had noticed that they made about five to six more different designed trees rather than all of the trees looking consistent and the same like in the E3 version.
So because of this notable change, I decided to start my new Kirby project by modeling the trees first. When modeling the trees (or perhaps the entire world), I tried to make everything look as close to the game as possible. I used multiple screenshots from the game and it's opening cutscene as references.
Did ya know: The opening cutscene for the game only has the tree designs from the E3 build, assuming because the cutscene was made early on in the game's development.
When I was finished modeling three different versions of the trees, I then began to work on other parts of the world. There were many elements that were part of the world's terrain such as the headstones, grass archs, etc. My plan was to make the terrain elements before working on the terrain itself.
When using the reference images, it was sometimes hard to see the details and textures for some of the objects from the in-game screenshots, so that's where the opening cutscene screenshots came into play, as the objects from the cinematic was more high quality then what would normally be presented within the game view.
During the development of my world recreation, I had to fly over to Florida for two weeks to help my sister move there for a college program, so the project had to be paused, however, I found that the perfect opportunity to post what I had done so far online and get critiqued. Most of what I was already planning on fixing was also mentioned by a few online users, but other than that, everyone seemed to had liked everything else about the render.
After flying back home to Hawaii from Florida, I worked on all the changes needed to be done within one whole day. The next day, it was ready to be posted!
The entire project seemed to have taken a lot less longer than what my other 3D projects normally would. I wonder... Was it maybe because of my motivation for this project? Ha ha! This project only took about a few days in total.
Something I had been wanting to do since the beginning of my journey in becoming a 3D artist, I had finally done it. I wonder if I would recreate another world from Kirby again sometime in the future!
After doing this project, there's a lot of questions that could be asked. Going back to the beginning of this "blog" or "article", I had mentioned I had a dream to become a 3D graphic designer, as the position is called, at HAL Laboratory. So why make a whole post about this one project that only took a few days? Why was recreating the world of Kirby something I've been wanting to do? Why HAL Laboratory of all companies? Why a small game development company in Tokyo with only a few hundred employees when there are multiple other and larger game development companies?
Well, while recreating Green Gardens took only a few days in total, it was part of a journey. Starting from a simple model of a simple character, recreating assets used by the character, and finally, the world it comes from. I consider all of this one whole ongoing project that will not stop for awhile. Seeing a cutscene from one of it's games fascinated me so much that I wanted to make my own. It's one thing playing a game of one of your favorite franchises, but seeing yourself recreating the characters and the world it comes from on your own computer screen is something not everyone could easily say they could do. I know for a fact, because that was me. I said I couldn't recreate it, I said I could only make Kirby and that's it, I said I wasn't good enough yet. I still wasn't confident enough to create Green Gardens, but because I tried anyways, I was able to do it. If it wasn't for that one tree I attempted to model, this post wouldn't even exist, and look now, writing about a render that I made in only a few days.
I honestly don't care where I work as a 3D artist, because I know no matter what, I'm doing something I love. I'm aware HAL is a very small place, but that small place is the birth of one of my most loved franchises ever. It's just that knowing that I'm working at the company home to my favorite character is a great and satisfying feeling!