Sculpting the Terror

When it comes to creating amazing miniatures, Mike McVey has been a top name for decades. Lately, he’s been putting his considerable talent to work sculpting some of the fantastic miniatures for CMON’s games. Now, he’s taking aim at Night of the Living Dead: A Zombicide Game. We asked him what it’s like sculpting for the game, especially since it’s based on a movie with actual people, instead of artwork of made-up characters. Is the process different at all? Here’s what he had to say.

One of the most enjoyable things about working with CMON is the projects we get to work on. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the development of some fantastic original IPs such as The Others, Blood Rage, and Rising Sun. When creating the miniatures for these games, we really got to let our imagination run riot and push the boundaries of what could be achieved. I’ve also had the privilege to be part of the team creating miniatures for some licensed properties. They present a very different, but no less enjoyable, challenge.

Generally speaking, the original IPs I’ve worked on have been fantastical in their nature. They’re characters and creatures that are either based on mythology or straight from the mind of the design team. The miniatures tend to be very much larger than life, from designs that push the limits of anatomy, pose, and dynamism. While some licensed IPs have a similar design ethos, others are at the other end of the spectrum. Night of the Living Dead is certainly the latter. The original Zombicide games have a very distinctive design language based off Raphael Guiton’s amazing original art. They really pushed the boundaries of zombie and character design. Trying to impose that design style onto a classic film property was clearly never going to work. The key to the project was always going to be staying true to the look and feel of the film while producing miniatures that were exciting and dynamic.

A large part of making miniatures is knowing what needs to be exaggerated to make them work at the desired scale. If you sculpted a truly realistic figure, where the anatomy was completely correct for a human, and the equipment and weapons were sized realistically, they would not only look terrible, but also be thin and spindly, and would bend and break very easily. You’d end up with what I like to think of as model railroad figures; static and stiff, with no life or dynamism. To take this into account, many of the features on miniatures need to be exaggerated. The anatomy is warped in a few significant ways: weapons are made much larger and poses are pushed to the limit. When you are working on fantasy IPs, this is quite natural. But if you tried to take the same approach to make the miniatures for Night of the Living Dead, the results would be far less than ideal. It’s vitally important to be sensitive to the original source material. If we made miniatures for the iconic characters from the film like Helen or Karen that looked like super-heroes, it just wouldn’t work. On the other hand, if we made miniatures that were 100% faithful to the film in anatomy and proportions, they would look equally terrible.

The key is balance. To create a good-looking model, one must exaggerate the anatomy and poses just enough to work well at 35mm tall, but not too much that we lose the look and feel of the film. It can be a fine line to get that balance right, but it’s one I think we have navigated effectively. It helps to have such wonderful art to work from. Karl is a genius when it comes to capturing the style and atmosphere of the iconic film in his paintings. The sculpting team (David Camarasa and RN Estudio) have done a wonderful job on the characters and ghouls, making exciting and dynamic miniatures that stay true to the iconic images of the movie. Hopefully you’ll agree when you see them!

Night of the Living Dead: A Zombicide Game is now live on Kickstarter!

Check out also:

Interview with Gary and Russ Streiner of Image Ten, who were members of the team that produced the movie.

Interview with Guillotine Games about adapting the movie into a board game.

Interview with Karl Kopinski about the art for the game.

Interview with Henning Ludvigsen about the maps and tiles.

Sculpting the Terror

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