Artist Spotlight - The Making of a Real Life Blunderbuss Prop
Get a closer look at the handmade blunderbuss in our tavern!
Glancing around the newly updated interior of our tavern, a pirate can lay claim to a well-used tankard, tell tales of the times they outsmarted a shark or, should the revelry ever dissolve into something less than friendly, one could grab hold of a handy blunderbuss. The one stored in our tavern’s been handcrafted by Ricardo Robles (Principal Concept Artist) and this week, he steps into our spotlight to give us a good look at the making of this impressive prop! Anchors aweigh…
Being a concept artist for this game and loving prop making, I often think how cool a physical object, straight from the world of Sea of Thieves would look in one’s hands. It’s not very often that a fan-made prop gets made before the game is released, but as a developer I got inspired to start a personal side project, as well as create something special for the studio.
When you browse the concept art archives it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of possible candidates. Until now, we have designed a very respectable number of lore objects, clothing pieces, weapons of all types, magical and treasure items, trinkets and more daily use props. All stored in our bodega, we keep all sorts of production-based items as well as blue-sky exploration. After thinking for a while, I decided that it would be cool to recreate something practical, an item that players normally can carry around and use, rather than a static object from the world. A weapon in this case!
We normally have a few plastic swords around the studio, which are sometimes used by animators to study fighting movements. They’re mainly used by the members of the Concept Art department for simulating gut-cutting slashes, beheadings after bad reviews and treacherous executions/varied fatalities. Although a sword seemed cool, I thought creating a more complex item would be more challenging: the deadly blunderbuss! I then remembered the very first batch we were asked to design, and how excited we were about it – flintlock mechanisms, powder and pellets, explosions and orthographic sheets. I decided on the very first blunderbuss concept we ever created, specifically concept artist Victoria Hall’s design. I loved the massive trumpet shaped barrel and the iron stock details, also the sculpted wood patterns would make for a nice paint job on the finished prop.
I never aimed for a heavy, exact replica but for a light and portable EVA foam version. Although all my efforts were focused on making it as accurate as possible and truly depicting the game art style; an imperfect, pirate-made, chunky and worn firearm which surely had seen better times but is still deadly in the hands of the right pirate. I also thought it would be nice to increase the prop size by around 15-20% to give it a more imposing look.
I gathered the materials I was going to need for the construction and took a whole lot of reference screenshots of the 3D model, making sure every shape variation and dink was there. Then I prepared a full-scale side view print and decals of the different pieces to make the foam cut-outs. The making took around 2 weeks working during spare time in my home workshop. Here’s a selection of the process photos:
Tracing the main body shape pattern and cutting many layers of foam and sticking them together to achieve the desired body thickness. Special attention was paid to the way the layers stack to form the hole which will hold the barrel. Creating the patterns for the funnel-shaped barrel parts was trickier than expected. I had to revisit some forgotten maths formulae.
The different parts were cut from their respective patterns and sanded with a rotary tool to get the rough, sculpted metal look. An orbital sander was used to smooth the stacked layers of foam and shape them correctly. Another tricky part to produce was the butt plate. Although it looks simple, the bottom and back parts were quite difficult to fit together. Filler putty was used to fill small gaps and sanded down to give a solid single-iron-piece look. I also added Concept Artist Jamie’s cool smith symbol.
The barrel took a lot of sanding and shaping to achieve the desired stylized look. The rotary tool was crucial to sculpt edges and add a damage pass to everything. Here are the final steps of construction: All pieces finished and ready to assemble (shown in the image below, top left), all parts assembled (top right), the blunderbuss primed and ready to paint (bottom left), the blunderbuss after 5 layers of liquid rubber (bottom right). I also made a last-minute decision to create a base stand for displaying the gun.
The final result:
It’s been a lot of fun to make this prop become a real item. Physically carving and chiselling the surfaces was such a great experience. It felt quite different to modelling in 3D, it feels great to have a piece of the game in my hands! I hope you all like it, and I’m looking forward to the next project. See you on the ocean, peeps!
And there you have it – a full account of how our blunderbuss was made! Many thanks to Ricardo for taking all the time to craft this prop and tell us about it. It goes without saying that we’re all eagerly waiting to see what else the artists on our team come up with!
Until next time, if you fancy making your own Sea of Thieves inspired art or simply want to stay connected with all the latest news, be sure to connect with us on any of our social channels.