Remember when Valve dropped a bunch of faux-concepts for a Faceless Void update along with the Dota 2 character's actual factual model update? One was the glorious Faceless Rex, a dino time wizard with whom I (and a whole bunch of other people) instantly fell in love.
Lucky for us then that French animator, Maxime Lebled, and workshop artist, Yuri Shust, ended up turning the concept into a reality of sorts, fleshing it out as an animated courier model. Over on Twitter he was billing it as "something special for April Fools' day" but his livestream of the work-in-progress was met with rather more enthusiasm from fans than he'd expected after a tweet from community stalwart Cyborgmatt.
"When Cyborgmatt tweeted out one of my work-in-progress shots a couple days ago I was quietly streaming my work on Twitch, as I sometimes do, and my usual viewership of 10 skyrocketed into 750," Lebled told me. "It was insane. I'm used to being able to answer every question I'm being asked in the chat, in-depth, while still working, but that quickly became impossible!
Here's the video Lebled posted yesterday - the little roar at the end is my favourite bit:
As Lebled told IGN, the courier isn't game-ready at the moment and with more time he would have added accoutrements like the traditional courier rucksack or pouch to reflect the creature's role in the game - the Steam Workshop comments suggest a little chronosphere backpack which would get my vote.https://vine.co/v/OL6DzmluzaL
Given the venture began as an April Fool, I asked at what point Lebled realised people might be expecting him to make his Faceless Rex an in-game reality:
"I did another of Valve's fake concepts a while back - the Facefull Void - and that was unambiguously something that wasn't going to be real. But the dinosaur crosses that weird threshold where something has enough effort put into it that people don't think of it as a joke at first. But a lot of people on YouTube and Reddit are loving him, it's very rewarding."
At the moment the courier has its own page on Steam's Dota 2 Workshop and is accumulating votes from people who want it made available in the MOBA. Lebled checks the current ratings with his collaborator Yuri and apparently Faceless Rex is sitting at 97% positive votes. "Usually the best you can get with the recent changes to the workshop system is 85%," he explains.
But, realistically, he thinks the dino-courier has a 5% chance of making it into the game at the most. "It still has a bunch of animations missing, and the textures aren't too great. But on the very remote off-chance that Valve were SOMEHOW cool with this and left us a note, we'd totally go back and finish it up. I think it'd take about a week, give or take a few days."
As well as Facefull Void and Faceless Rex I can see Faceless Elf has also popped up on Yuri's Workshop page. I can't resist asking whether there are any plans to try and animate Awesome-to-11-year-olds-in-the-80s Void - a horrific mishmash of limbs tails and wings.
"Faceless Void has a rather low triangle budget (model complexity), and properly texturing an entire body with the small constraints that were designed with regular items in mind... it'd be really hard," responds Lebled.
"Awesome-to-11-year-olds-in-the-80s is flat-out impossible, even as a courier, as we're limited to 52 bones on that front. I've worked [on] a very cute flying fish courier which is coming out in a couple weeks and she runs into that limit pretty hard already. The dinosaur is at 37/52. Something with as many limbs and body-parts as that rejected Void concept would require so many concessions that it would just not look good in the end, and quite frankly even if all the technical constraints were lifted I don't think I'm a good enough animator yet to make THAT look nice :)"
Anyhoodle, you can now take a peek at all the Faceless Rex assets over on the Workshop page.