Dev Diary Entry III – It’s Alive! A Toy Pipeline


In a couple of weeks, there will be a new set of Box O Zombies toys demoing at C2E2. I was fortunate enough to design several of the new figures.  Among these figures, is a special edition that will debut at C2E2 and will only be available at trade shows. That special edition figure has been named,  Zomic Book Guy. In this developer diary I will take you through a relatively brief overview of the process of taking something from my brain, to paper, to the imaginary world of a computer screen to the imaginary world of reality. So if that sounds very uninteresting to you, just scroll to the bottom to see what the final digital sculpt looks like.


(A few images collected for inspiration. These are all sources that capture elements that I would like to learn from. So the idea is not to imitate, but dissect their appeal and understand the principles in a way that will strengthen my work.)

  The first step was wide open for this character. Unlike the others, he had no written description. All I knew was that I needed to have a figure ready for C2E2 and that they wanted it to be a play on a convention visitor. I usually let things cook in my head a bit before putting them on paper. Meanwhile, I gather reference and inspiration. This process helps be develop a better idea of who the character is and where I might find the appeal. This is something that is a pretty standard approach and for good reason. It usually works out for the better.

For quite some time I had made the full transition to digital. However in developing this character I was reminded not to phase out the traditional materials completely. I came up with some initial thumbnail sketches while away from my desk. It was the early stages of transferring thoughts to a page. It was a small sketch pad and a relaxed moment when I found something that clicked (A good reminder that it is best to forget the certain pressures and trust your stream of consciousness). I found a shape, posture and personality that struck a chord. In most cases I would keep going through a couple more iterations to see if something better comes along or just dig out some other ideas. Unfortunately time was dwindling and I needed to trust my instinct and run with something.


(I eventually decided to go with cartoon-ish damage to the eye to help cut our the silhouette and make it stand out more. I also played around with different hats and bag designs, trying to find a proper balance of shapes and line work.)

I scanned the pencil and ink sketches and brought them into Photoshop and began to knock out more rough iterations of a particular design. I hacked away flesh, swapped hats and played with accessories until I found a combination that worked best for the character, printing constraints and thegame’s art direction.

Early on there was concern over the character’s size. I chose the size in order to create an interesting silhouette, movement and some character contrast. This contrast not only comes with the body size in comparison to his accessories, but his intimidating size paired with his somewhat nervous expression. Also, the contrast in size and accessories helps create define the humor. I wanted this character to have immediate pay off  in the game’s universe, as a reference to the sights of C2E2 and as a statue you wouldn’t mind having displayed amongst your collection. I felt his size and the motion in his pose helped create the appeal we needed with out mocking his wright.

EarlyThumbs2(These are the iterations building up to a near final concept. I tried different color and accessory combinations. In some cases I’m figuring out the logic of the details and in others I am looking for something that just feels right. Usually, there would much more iteration, but deadlines change things.)

       After deciding on a general size and accessory combo, I then carried it through the concept stages. This involved figuring out scale in comparison to other characters, color pallets and smaller damage details. The advantage I had with this character was that I would also be the sculptor, so I could leave some room and further define the character in 3D.
From 2D Thing to 3D Thing

 (An early look at the sculpt progress, as well as a glimpse of what Zomic Book Guy looks like under the mask.)

     I decided to sculpt the head and body separately in order to allow myself a good amount of resolution without my PC chugging. They could later be decimated (a process of reduction in ZBrush) and combined if there were any file size issues. I don’t usually like to work this way but it helped me focus on the bust and really develop the personality in the face.
     During the sculpting stage I did quite a bit of adjusting. The pose needed to be tweaked to make sense in a more realistic space. Although I think it works in 2D, it looked a little awkward in 3D. It also made it a little tricky to balance. It changed his personality a bit, which I liked, but with more time I would have fleshed out his pose a little better. I like that he looks apprehensive, but it looks a little too light footed, as if he is sneaking around. He looks to be in mid-transfer of his weight and it probably would be a more effective pose if I planted his weight on the leading foot.
     The uncertain, socially awkward reminiscence of his personality was pushed through out the sculpting process. I gave his facial expression a little bit more life to animate the statue. I wanted to inject a little more character into this statue compared to my last one that was a bit lifeless (which I guess is fitting in a way). Yes he is a zombie, but I would like people to feel a connection when looking at him, a feeling that he was once a person and not just a monster. I tried to do all this while keeping the details defined by simple shapes and cuts to ensure that it will transfer to the 3.5 inch print. The limitations in this case helped assist the style in a satisfying way.
(The final concept alongside the final sculpt. There a good amount of changes when looking closely, but I think the general feel of the character was captured. I do feel like I could have done a better job of figuring out how to make the wings play more of a part in the 3D silhouette.)
     So in terms of the sculpt, there you have it. I spend a good amount of time playing around with subtle color changes when poly painting. I usually paint skin temperatures, but in this case I wanted more of a flatter, cartoon feel and cut that step out. So I blocked in the colors, then painting in highlights and shadows, finishing with smaller details like the blood and the swag bag design. The base was a bit rushed due to the impending deadlines. I would have liked time to do something a little more interesting, detailed and story oriented. However, the production must go on and it was on to the next phase.
 (A peak at the digital version of the Zomic Book Guy. The blood had to be changed from red to green which was a concern at first, but I found my self pleased with the way it turned out.)
 (Close ups of the final sculpt, I try to push the detail with out crushing printing costs. I learned my lesson with the Samurai Zombie from last year.)
Not Done Yet! Printing and Adjustments

(This nonsense is a sheet calling out the color codes for the printers. This is always tricky, for there is no way to say for sure how accurate the colors will translate. In some cases I trust the printers, while in other spots I call out a few colors within a gradient.)

     Although it feels finished, it never is. After turning in the sculpt for printing it bounced back several times. Adjustments needed to be made to accommodate the strength of the toy. I made the bag strap thicker as well readjusted pieces to overlap more in order to make it a but more structurally sound. There were also renders that needed to be mocked up to ensure scaling was properly translated. The renders seen above were prepped to assist in the coloring of the figure. The colors in this case, were not pulled directly from the poly-paint, so a Pan-tone code was provided for the main colors.
     So there you have it, this is the process and amount of work that went into the figure. The process took a little over a month, with various eyes constantly reviewing the progress. It may have been shorter, but my attention was split between this and the art direction, which was a challenge in itself. Anytime you have a work split like that, you always feel with more time you could have done things differently. That is just the nature of production art. At the moment, it is coming down to the wire and I will be seeing the final toys the day before the show. I did get a chance to see some prototype prints and they looked great. So here is hoping you guys will enjoy it as well.
    We will be showing 3 of them on the C2E2 floor. This one in particular is a special edition, meaning it will only be available at C2E2. We will also have the 10″ Samurai figure available, alongside personal prints and BoZ prints for sale. So check us out at Booth #1018 and I also will have a table somewhere in artist alley, so find me in the sea of prints. Thanks for reading my ramblings.
For more updates from Anthony Sixto, stay tuned!

Zombie “8” My Wallet!

In honor of the Chicago Zombie Pub Crawl this Saturday (which we are proud sponsers of) and C2E2 in a few weeks, all Box O Zombie figure boxes are temporarily on sale for $7.99!!!! Buy at box at the Zombie Crawl, C2E2, or our shop here!

The Chicago Zombie Pub Crawl is this Saturday, April 20th at 2pm starting at  The pH Comedy Theater (1515 W. Berwyn). You can still register at

We’ll be posting some more information on C2E2 in the upcoming days!





Dev Diary-Creating a Universe, One Shack At A Time

Narrative Through Environment
(Featuring the pixel art of Eddie Einikis)
     Something as minor as a Latrine says a lot about a community. How much spare time it has, what materials are available, how much they value privacy, how clean things are kept. These things only begin to skim the surface (seriously, no pun intended). In order to build a successful universe, for even the smallest details, levels of thought and practicality need to be applied. So yes, even a Latrine has to make sense and has the ability to break a piece of the universe. Leaving it floating there in still waters (…This is a very serious analysis).
      When constructing the buildings of this makeshift community, there has been and continues to be a lot of tweaking and revisiting. Partially due to new design information, but also due to the art team’s determination to really push the level of informative detail. Sometimes we put too much in, over building objects and making them a little to advance for the initial levels of the game.
(I was excited about Eddie’s first iterations, but it was pushing the construction a little too far for level 1. I asked for something a bit simpler and primitive, we ended up with something that better fit the level of advancement found in the first level of the game. The old asset is kept on ice, ready to be used for later levels if needed.)
     We just don’t want to create your typical post apocalyptic shanty town, we want it to feel unique and representative of a world that is a little different than the norm. In the first level things are pretty straight forward, but as the levels roll out more and more twists will be revealed. Revealing more and more of the malleable character that is the survivor camp grounds.
      Not only do we want the buildings to actively and interestingly inform the player of the game’s universe, we want them to seem practical. We want each phase of upgrades to make sense and not feel like a magic button turned wood into bricks. They need to exist on the border of disbelief in order to create a sense of discovery and wonder. So there may be a moment of disbelief, but through design we can bring the audience back in and have them rationalize what they are seeing. The way we went about this was establishing a style guide early and the process deconstruction.

    In a way we stumbled upon our approach. One of the first buildings we made was on target but a bit too advanced. So in order to make sure things didn’t get out of hand we worked backwards. Stripping the building down to make the lower levels. This helped create a nice blueprint. So even if future buildings were built up the chain of levels, it established a mindset on how to make the buildings feel natural and connected.

Visual Hierarchies and Handles

We also need the buildings to serve the game functions as well as the platform. The primary platform at the moment is the iPad and iPhone. The assets are a low resolution art style on a high resolution platform, they need to be designed to make the leap. The buildings need to read clearly, in regards to their function, status and position on the map. The player has the option to zoom in and out a good amount. So players will want to keep tabs on all the game elements at once. This creates problems with even more details lost at the most zoomed out state. We approached this with a few layers of detail, hue and saturation coding. I was also told this can be referred to as a visual hierarchy so now I’m saying it’s that thing. VISUAL HIERARCHY (credit to Matthew Board, professor at Columbia College for the additional vocabulary).

BuildingDetails(The logos for cooking and hunting will probably change. After so many generations of games, player’s develop a preconceived notion for certain icons. Looking at those logos makes me think, archery and potion. We may also push the color saturation to make that distinction pop more.)
     The base layer is saturation in context. So the ground detail, like rocks, grass and dirt, are a little less saturated than the buildings (not seen here as the ground is under construction). This provides a foundation that will help with the initial pop of detail. The next tier of identifiable detail is color and familiarity. There are a series of tents that serve different functions. In order to translate that they serve a similar purpose in a larger context, (perform fundamental functions for running a community), we made them share a general structural design, but varied them a bit. So they don’t look exactly the same, but are familiar, maintaining uniqueness within the larger context. Similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers or Swedish people.
     On top of that, each tent is color coded providing a player sort of a visual handle bar. So rather than trying to remember what the Lumber Mill looks like or it’s location, there eyes can scan the screen and grab onto the color. This has been a bit of a tricky process so far, color balance against the colors of the environment poses some challenges. An additional UI icon system is being developed to further assist with this system.
     The third tier, serving as an accent, is key items with in the tents. We tried to design and layout specific items that pop visually from the other tent details. This not only helps create uniquness amongst similar tents, but also helps clearly and quickly translate the different levels. Again, it is kind of like another handle for players to grasp. The more handles, the easier it is to…….HANDLE.

Artist of the Week

This weeks artist was inevitable considering the entries topic, Eddie Einikis. He is an extremely talented concept artist with some tools in the 3D realm as well. His adaptation to pixel art has been incredible, producing high quality, unique art in a short amount of time. He works as our primary environment/structure pixel artist.

HighlightsBuilding(Some early iterations of buildings. These are not to scale and are sized for presentation purposes.)

      This concept process is usually through description, reference photos, conversation and iteration. Most of the time I give him the designer’s description as well as my interpretation, sometimes with a few specific details I would like to see, and he get’s to work. He has done a stellar job at not only building assets but also contributing effective ideas for visuals and production pipelines. In short, he is good and a artist who I imagine will continue to create really cool stuff. Below is a bit of what he has to say about the process.
“I was not familiar with pixel art when I first joined the BoZ project, but I’m glad to have experienced and learned it. I’ve enjoyed creating buildings with function and personality, and it’s cool to see them implemented in mockups and early builds of the game.”
For more updates from Anthony Sixto, stay tuned!

Dev Diary – New Life for the Undead


  The next phase of the Box O Zombies line involves taking the art style and narratives in new, fresh directions. Rather than starting from scratch, we are playing off the first run in order to really expand the sense of discovery and unpredictability. We are starting this new universe with the iOS game and a new line of toys focusing on survivors. The two will interact with each other in a very cool way. The narrative of the game and the new art direction, really help us contribute to the genre with diverse characters that begin to feel a little different from the norm. As we begin to roll the world out, it will open up to more possibilities and unexpected turns. Hopefully, the plan will be executed in a manner that people can appreciate.

The Road to C2E2

The path has been set since late October. C2E2 is down long stretch of road. A production plan has been roughly blocked out. New toys and a game must be ready for the masses roaming the maze of pop culture t-shirts, comics, action figures and if we are as lucky as last year, Bubble Man! (or was that wizard world in which he graced us with a booth?). It is at C2E2 where the Box O Zombies game, and how it works with the new toys, will be demonstrated. The new line will not only be cool little sculpts, they will be game pieces. So scanning a figure into the game using NFC data, will unlock a character and some special abilities.

Now with that made clear, new challenges are presented for art direction. On top of an overall update and improvement on the art style based on what we have learned, the art direction has to walk a fine line, pleasing two mediums. It has to create a feel and temperature for the universe while working for a pixel art game. On top of that it has to make sense for a 3″ printed figure. This has been a challenge but incredibly fun. The concepts have to be consistent, meaning that they characters can’t feel dramatically different as pixel art, concept art or a sculpture. Otherwise the sense of connection to the characters across the mediums will be lost. So there is a fine balance of creating interesting detail that builds a character history and design, while still being able to translate key details with simple pixels and more complex sculptures. Where as too fine of detail, will lead to quite a bit being lost in the two different conversions.
(Early concepts of some survivors along side early pixel conversions. Both have since been updated to find the a better balance. This includes updating the pixels to match details, replacing Able’s rifle with a flashlight and giving Nathanial a cast. It also includes bouncing back to the concepts and injecting a bolder color design. Illustrator Vicky Kao has done a great job bringing character’s to life through pixel art and animation.)

This time around the characters are pushed towards a more stylized, painterly feel. This was a case where it served an artistic and practical purpose. Now characters can be given more energy and interest with harder edges, simple strokes and pushed proportions. So if we encounter a character who may seem pretty plain in description (Nathaniel for example), we can ramp up his appeal with the art style. It also is easier to convert to pixel form, due to some key components are already exaggerated. A good example of this is Abe’s lanky figure, round buckle and over-sized hat (get it, it’s an over-sized hat). The simplicity also lends itself to manufacturing, if characters can be strongly and uniquely defined with a less detail, it makes them cheaper to produce. It took awhile to fully develop the new art direction, but eventually we found a nice harmony amongst the many variables of the project.

Production is at full steam, but it is still a bit too early to reveal game details. The next entry will begin to pull the curtain back ever so slightly, so if you close one eye and look through the slightest of cracks;  you will sneak a peek at what will be shown at C2E2. This includes more concepts, pixel art and introductions to new team members.Over the coming entries the blog will flesh out the overall art direction of the game. Don’t stop looking at words yet! More words below!

Featured Artist: Vicky Kao

CharPixels(Pixel Art done by Vicky Kao)

The developer Diary will introduce a member of the art team with each entry. It is a small group of young artists, some still students. However, it is an incredibly talented team worth highlighting. They all have great abilities and provide lessons to any artist through their work.

This week we have Vicky Kao, an illustrator on her way to graduating from Columbia College’s Art and Design Department. She has a great range of anime style illustrations that bleeds into more surreal imagery. She modestly is hesitant with animation, but has a great sense of movement and the ability to capture a character’s energy. She is definitely an artist to follow and you can do so by clicking letters, that reference some code that makes your computer show you lot’s of cool things. Click the letters below.

For more updates from Anthony Sixto, stay tuned!


I Saw Mommy Biting Santa Claus

Looks like Santa went down the wrong chimney this holiday. Check out this Zombified Santa created by the Box O Zombies team. This creepy Mr. Claus will be a full flesh figure with in-game content and is available through pledging the Box O Zombies game on Kickstarter.

The Box O Zombies game began with Shawn Recinto’s Box O Zombies figures. Recinto was influenced by his own children’s toys to create 2 inch Zombie figures that resonate the little green army men we all enjoy. He is now collaborating with Eight Bit Studios, NFC Data, and Pixeldom to create the Box O Zombies game. The game evolves around the player building and defending his camp from Zombie hoards. With NFC chip technology, the Zombie Santa and other figures will trigger exclusive in-game content with a simple scan.

Pledge today on Kickstarter!

Seasons Eatings,
The Box O Zombies Team
Undead Box O Zombies Santa Figure Concept Art

Undead Santa Concept Art from Anthony Sixto

Undead Zombie Santa 3D Model WIP for limited edition figure in red

Undead Santa 3D model for NFC Figure, WIP from Ryan Blake