Terrifying Sandworms

I love Kenshi’s bestiary. It is full of diverse and terrifying monsters, some of which are hidden at the farthest reaches of the world, waiting for a clueless player to stumble upon them. Naturally, I’m eager to expand this menagerie of fantastic beasts with my own creations – and as you may well have guessed, I like to do things a little differently.

The idea was simple. A deadly creature that burrows beneath the earth to ambush its prey. I pitched the idea to a friend who’s savvy in blender, and he whipped up a prototype in a flash. It’s a little rough around the edges, yet brought my imagined creation to life.

The defining features of a mythic, giant worm are there; giant teeth; worm-like body; big enough to swallow a person whole; and hella ugly.

Off to a good start, then.

With the base mesh done I created the prototype animations I’d need to test it out. Crucial were two concepts – that it could slither around beneath the surface; and that it could slink back underground and emerge elsewhere when attacking. Both worked, and so I set about painting a texture onto the worm. This was probably my first real foray into hand-made textures.

Hm. It looks decent… but ultimately it’s not up to the standard I’d like. The model itself is rigid and blocky, the texture too complex with a heavy reliance on the scale pattern. To rectify this, I subdivided the mesh (fancy lingo for increasing the poly count and smoothing out hard edges), and added a lot more teeth. Having done that, I made its silhouette more pronounced to emphasise the carapace – and then I painted the texture from scratch. A fresh attempt is often the charm.

Say cheese!
They’re called ‘Prawns’ now, after my girlfriend insisted it looks like a prawn.

Much better. You won’t want to run into one in the middle of the night. Or the daytime, really, or any of the hours in-between. Just stay clear of anything with teeth bigger than its face.

On to the animation. Movement is easy. After all, it’s “burrowing” beneath the surface and you’re never going to see it. Attacks? Not so easy. This was notably tricky to get right owing to how Kenshi understands attacks and blocks, and targets. Too much movement, as with a burrow-attack pattern, will push the target character away to keep it in front of the attacker.

So, how does it move, while showing its position? Simple. I hide the worm deep underground, keeping a single, unattached bone trailing along the surface. This ‘dust effect’ bone doesn’t deform the mesh, as do most parts of the rig. Instead, it hovers at ground level, allowing me to draw a trail of dust that is kicked up in the worm’s wake.

I call the dust effect several times per second, to create a trail that follows it around while it burrows. It’s kept one full length below ground level to allow it to traverse uneven terrain without popping into view.

These idiots have no clue…

For its attacks, I wanted the Prawn to be able to burrow and re-emerge. In practice (or, well, blender), it looks like this:

Of course, its attacks aren’t limited to burrowing. Its main attack is a static, wind-up attack that keeps it firmly rooted in place. In fact, most of its ‘combat state’ animations – turning, strafing, short-range movement – have it remain above ground and static. This allows for it to be attacked and killed like any other monster you might happen across. But occasional burrowing attacks, including this, mean you’ll have to be on your toes if you every encounter one of these… things.

What else can it do? You’ll have to wait and find out. No more spoilers!

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