Log 3 – Sonar Gun Design

Hey Colonists,

Today we want to share with you the experience we had working on the game since our announcement in December 2015. We’re currently finishing Milestone 3.

Since the beginning of Milestone 1 last November, we have had a lot of design sessions. During these sessions, we’ve been trying to establish the definitive shape of in-game basic tools, like the Sonar Gun. These tools will play a key role in Rokh’s overall gameplay experience. Here is the Sonar Gun’s visual design story.

First of all, what is the Sonar Gun?

In Rokh’s gameplay, the Sonar Gun is primordial in finding necessary resources spread throughout the map. It fires a sonar/magnetic pulse in the aimed direction and then receives and displays feedback from the pulse on its conical radar screen. It is tuned to specific raw material types such as carbonate, oxide, sulfide, silicate or ice that are located on the surface of Mars.

Long story short, the Sonar Gun will be your best ally for harvesting! And of course,  great harvesting means great crafting.

First Drafts

We started a general layout with basic sketches showcasing different views of the Sonar Gun.  It includes perspective views from front and behind, as well as side views.

The Sonar Gun will be crafted from smaller components, which are themselves crafted by players using Mars’ resources. That’s why we needed to have a general overview of the different components included in our concept art, detailed with an exploded view.

First layout draft for our sonar gun design

General layout drawn first: a great base for our Sonar Gun design

Starting the concept art

We then looked for inspiration from current sonar and radar technologies. We especially loved the design of targeting pods used by ground-attack aircraft to identify targets and assist laser-guided bombs. We integrated this appearance into our handheld tool.

Side Perspective view of our Sonar Gun

Rough version of the initial sonar gun

We liked the fact that this design was forcing the player to raise the sonar gun to his shoulder. Having to aim the gun makes the process of scanning more engaging with the terrain. Also, we wanted in-game tools to have variety in their gameplay.

Achieved concept art

Final colored version of our first sonar gun version

Colored version of the Sonar Gun, with different views


We were really proud of this version of our Sonar Gun: with a great original shape, inspired by related and existing technologies, we found it beautiful. It was well-designed for other applications as well: the Sonar Gun’s rear can be opened and, using a cartridge system, other functions can be added to the sonar (e.g. depending on the cartridge inserted, new raw resources can be detected). Finally, the colors worked great with Rokh’s style guide.

3D modeling the concept art

The natural next step was to realize the greybox model (basic render without textures) for this version of our Sonar Gun.

Our sonar gun modeled in 3D without textures

Geybox model of our sonar gun

Final Version

Once modeled in 3D, we reviewed the model against our game designs. The game design is still evolving at this stage and Marc Albinet, Rokh’s producer, pointed out that our Sonar Gun was looking too good. Most of the components in Rokh are supposed to be crafted by the players, but this one looked polished and factory-made. In-game tools and weapons will be mostly assembled with components. Given that fact, the shape of our tools cannot be something too regular or round and must reveal the home-made aspect of the design.

Also, one of us thought it looked too close to a weapon, especially because the design forces the player to raise the Sonar Gun to the shoulder. We felt players would not easily identify the Sonar Gun as an exploration/harvesting tool. We had to implement a rougher dimension to it and make it usable with a single hand.

Even if we loved the cylindrical design we’d developed, we needed to re-work the asset. It’s part of the production process, even if it can be frustrating.  We started to develop new concepts to showcase the components constituting the Sonar Gun.

Nevertheless, we are not dropping the design for good. We’re thinking to reuse it for a weapon when the player has advanced enough in the game to have a high level of crafting skills.

New version for our sonar gun with a more "hand-made" aspect

New concepts for the Sonar Gun, showcasing the crafted aspect

The new concepts work pretty great in terms of consistency with Rokh’s universe and gameplay. The next steps now are to create other views, add some colors and shadows to have a final overview, and 3D model it like we did for the previous version. Then obviously, we’ll integrate it in the game engine and start testing it. We will keep you posted on the Sonar Gun’s evolution.

What’s coming up next?

I hope today’s article showed you how designing a simple in-game element can sometimes become a huge amount of work! Developing a video game is not a piece of cake: the back and forth we had over the past weeks within the dev team concerning our Sonar Gun is a great example.

Coming up next, our new theme will be the Habitat – one of Rokh’s central game features that allows colonists to design and construct their very own, permanent base on Mars.

Stay tuned and, as always, don’t hesitate to shoot us your questions here or on our social media channels.

Cheers Colonists!