During my last pitch, my evaluation of some weapons came into question: what did I regard as “good designs”? Dieter Rams has composed a great list of principles to follow, and one that coincides rather well with good weapon design.
As demonstrated by the multitude of modern-day blacksmiths who still create original pieces, I would argue that weapon design can still be innovative.
2. Product usability
This aspect of design is at the very core of this project. Weapons that we see in museums are products of thousands of years of iterations and evolution. Their form reflects exactly what they were supposed to do. So should new weapon designs, as we have thousands of years of history to draw from.
3. Aesthetic quality
This point is rather difficult to argue, as it is the one I was specifically berated on during my pitch. However, I think a good, universal understanding of aesthetic quality can be drawn from the more traditional principles of design.
4. The product is understandable
Relates to point 2 above. A minimal knowledge of weaponry is required to understand its functions. One would expect a sword larger than a man’s torso to be held in two hands, yet many games show weapons such as these held in just one, for example. In games where weapons have stats, one would expect a long-barreled rifle to confer an accuracy bonus, for example.
Here, I somewhat disagree with Rams. While this is true for real-life weapons (where simpler is, indeed, more beautiful), weapons in games or films have the additional function of informing one of the character’s role or status. Decorations should be used on weapons in games, but with restraint and relevance.
Again, with reference to games. A weapon that looks like it should do a lot of damage, should, indeed do that much damage. This ties a lot into animation and character design, as well as the design of the game itself.
Along the years, swords have changed very little. Their form is so easily identifiable, that they have become iconic. The same can be said about other weapons, as well. Anyone can recognize a sword, a spear, an axe, a revolver. The reason their forms are so long-lasting is because they do what they are intended to do so well.
Every detail must be carefully considered. This point speaks for itself, I believe.
9. Environmentally friendly
Unfortunately, this point does not really apply to weapon design in general, much less so to digital weapon design.
This ties in to point 5 above. Rams suggests here that use whatever deign gets the job done, and nothing else. As above, however, I would argue that weapon design in media should be a little over the top, to give the respective piece added character, especially in the appropriate setting.
List of media to be analyzed and reasons for choice
Conan the Barbarian (2011 and 1982 versions): Stereotypical fantasy film, especially the ’82 version. Will be interesting to see if anything has changed in the 2011 version.
Samurai Jack (series): Highly stylized, contains some very unique-looking pieces
The Lord of the Rings trilogy: an iconic trilogy, with both traditional-looking weapons, and some more interesting designs. Each race has identifiable characteristics in terms of their design, this also affects their weapon styles.
Hellboy and Hellboy 2: not many weapon examples, but the ones that are there are quite interesting (prince Nuada’s sword/spear is particularly striking)
Dungeon Defenders: Stylized, but weapons seem to have been given some thought
World of Warcraft: easily identifiable style, high focus on form rather than function
The Witcher (+ The Witcher 2 to indentify changes, if any): focus on realism.
Bulletstorm: Science Fiction style of guns
Darkest of Days: contains both real weapons and futuristic gun designs. Will be interesting to note the functionality of the latter
The Elder Scrolls Series (Morrowind and onwards): the style changes significantly throughout the series, though some elements remain unchanged. Also, Skyrim allows for observation of items from any angle.
Team Fortress 2: Weapons here have the added function of identifying the characters.
Mount & Blade series: Strictly historical approach to design.