Vehicle Graphics for Maleme, Crete and Beyond

In the last blog entry we took an in depth look at what was involved in creating unit cards for men based formations. Like the colourised photos shown previously, we have a number of approaches and techniques for the other in game graphics

This blog entry will take you through what’s involved in creating vehicles in game.

All our vehicles are built up from line drawings rather than the photographs used for men. The main rationale is that photos are rarely taken from the same angle and using photographs results in a lack of conformity. With a preference for side on images for vehicles, it is easier to use consistent drawings.

We usually start with a grey scale image – that can be coloured up to the base colour required. Below is the sketch of the Matilda II tank that was present at Maleme airfield in grey scale, as well as two different base colours applied.



The finished Matilda II for Maleme doesn’t adequately show all the steps we go through to create a vehicle, so we will use some examples from one of our prior games – Panzer Battles, Kursk – Southern Flank.



For all our Panzer Battles games, we try to build our vehicles in a modular fashion. Many of the combatant’s vehicles operated a broad range of different environments and we needed to be able to reflect the differences in terms of equipment, configuration, camouflage and markings each vehicle had.

For example, the Germans fought in every theatre (other than the Pacific) and their various vehicles looked different in each due to the environment, time of year and camouflage required.

Below is a grey scale PzKw III J. Following that is a yellow base coloured version that could be used in either the desert or Russia.



In Russia in particular, additional plates were added to vehicles to protect against anti-tank rifles as well as HEAT charged weapons such as panzerschrecks and bazookas. Plates can be built up as a component that can go over a vehicle in various configurations. Here are both turret and hull plates;



Using these kinds of plates, allow a staggering array of individualised vehicles to be created. Here are some examples;



One of the really cool things about Photoshop and its offspring is the great filters that can be used. Camouflage by VanDerLee is a great example. It allows you to mix up to eight different colours in a dazzling range of size, blur and pattern. Any colour can be used and even the order of overlay can be determined. Creating a camouflage layer to overlay a vehicle is quick and easy;



Here is our PzKw III J with the camouflage layer overlaid;



And after changing the blending type to ‘Multiply’;



Adjusting the opacity setting down;



And then trimming all the superfluous ‘over spray’ after merging the layers;



The next step is to add decals and other identifying markings. There are many sites on the web where authentic markings can be sourced;



And after application, here is our finished vehicle;



For comparison here are some actual variations of the above tank type that were included in Kursk;



The vehicle ‘silhouettes’ end up as both the unit card and one of the selectable counter sets. Here are some examples;



The other counter set used is ‘top down’. Almost as much work is put into these as the side views.

One of our artists (Richie61) builds the top view for a vehicle. Using our PzKw III J as an example, here is the vehicle before and after applying camouflage;



The turret is then separated from the hull as follows;



Both the hull and the turret are given drop shadows. Both are then outlined, with the turret given a wider shading;



Finally, both the turret and hull are bevelled to give more of a ‘3D’ look;



When combined, we have a finished vehicle that looks like so. The outlines are accentuated because when the image is shrunk, many of the features are lost. Highlighting the hull and turret maintain the basic shape;



To prepare to place the vehicle onto the counter it has to be orientated in the general direction of the fighting. Here the vehicle has been rotated to 40%;



And finally here is the tank shrunk down to approximately 40 x 40 pixels. The first image shows it put on to the ‘graphic background’ with the embedded NATO symbol. To the right is the top down counter in game. It’s obvious how much detail is lost, but the basic shape and turret are still evident;



When doing open topped vehicles, additional depth can be done by ‘reverse’ bevelling the interior. The interior is separated from the vehicle and ‘given depth’ and then included back into the model. You can see below how effective this is with the below German Wespe self-propelled artillery piece – the final in game model is on the right;



To wrap up this blog post here is an example of the silhouette/side on counters in game;



And the same screen shot with the top down counters;



I hope this blog entry, when read concurrently with the previous blog on infantry centric graphics, gives some idea of the work involved in creating in game unit cards and counters. Everything is done by hand and every unit has a third counter set with traditional NATO only counters.


The next blog post will be to go through the setting up of our Maleme scenario.

6 thoughts on “Vehicle Graphics for Maleme, Crete and Beyond

  • Thank you for writing this blog. It has been enlightening to say the least about the game development process.

    My biggest interest is how the AI is done. I find that to be the most intriguing. Is the game multi-threaded? How do you try to avoid when the human player learns how the AI reacts and uses that to win, when multiple reaction possibilities might eliminate that. I don’t know of a specific example, but I’m assuming it happens.

    Once again, keep up the great work,

  • I’m also very interested in the AI. Will you be doing a post on the AI?

    Enjoyed this post too. It’s a lot of work! Though I had realised that. When I look at Kursk now and compare that to what we see of this so far, or, in fact, Normandy, the graphics improvements are very clear. Normandy has a great detailed map. When I open Kursk it looks like lots of blank spaces. I realise that the nature of the landscape is a little like that compared to Normandy, but not to that extent. For instance, one thing I’ve mentioned before is that the Kursk map just does not look like the actual Kursk landscape, and the principal reason for this is the absence of the extremely prominent and clear ‘Balka’ features that litter the region – these are the shallow gullies that you immediately notice if you check out the battlefield on google earth, for example. I checked out the heights of these Balkas on google earth and discovered that very often they are so shallow that they wouldn’t make the height differences available in game, yet they did provide crucial cover and avenues of approach. So, I ask myself, why didn’t someone shade them in (without a height difference) as grass or scrub? If that was done the map would more or less look like Kursk (then you would only need to straighten out all the irrationally bent railroads and roads). But I know the answer now – the Kursk map was computer generated from a much coarser grained map (the PC map), so it really is great news that you are hand drawing these PB3 maps. I’m really looking forward to the title.


    • Hi,
      I hadn’t planned a dedicated post regarding AI, but will probably cover that as a sub-section regarding scenario setup/design. I also saw a post elsewhere regarding terrain graphics that was mentioned in the previous blog. I may cover that soon also, but this blog entry re. vehicles was longer than expected and I decided to focus on that. Finally, the current Kursk game map actually does have some striking similarities to the current typography. I was fortunate enough to walk the battlefield for 10 days during the 70th anniversary in 2013 and altered many of the map details based on that experience. The team I went with took over 10K photos of the various battlefields and with much of it still unchanged from 1943 the map was fairly representative. The balkas played a part in some areas (Prokhorovka) but not enough for us to dramatically change the map. We have even looked at redoing the map for Kursk, but have decided that it would have little impact on the existing scenarios and will leave them be. Anyway, you will see the difference with the new maps that are coming…


  • Thanks, David. I realize that the balkas (which really are the most outstanding feature when you look at aerial photos) are mostly too shallow to show up on map, but they did provide significant cover and concealment at some points – plus, just for it to look better I would like to see them! But, that said, I definitely agree that you shouldn’t spend time revisiting the Kursk game instead of concentrating on PB3.

    You got to Kursk. Amazing. That must have been a fantastic trip. I’m envious. You should post some of the photos (somewhere)…

    Have you also been to North Africa, in prep for PB3?


    • Peter,
      Of interest, we did try and include balkas, but with gullies being a hex side and no balka 250 metres wide (the size of a hex) we struggled to work out a way to represent them. Ultimately, we decided that if the turns were less than 30 minutes this terrain feature would be significant, but at 30 minutes a unit would be in and out of it in that time. We did try a range of things and found that various options changed little from the current layout.

      As far as photos, if I have time, I may post some at the Blitz. At one point we were going to include photos in the designer notes with examples of the actual terrain and how it is represented in game. This got cut as we were running out of time and it was a ‘nice to have’.

      As far as going to North Africa – no. Egypt and especially Libya is way too dangerous for anyone with a Western passport. The same thing now for Southern Russia unfortunately, Belgorod is just across the Russia/Ukraine border and we know what happened there after 2013…


  • I still have many friends here (in Europe) who happily go on holiday to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, with families too. I think Tunisia especially is relatively safe. Relatively. I wouldn’t myself go, let alone take my kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.