Livestreaming STYLIZED ENVIRONMENT ART every Tuesday at 9pm MT!

General / 07 January 2019

It's back for 2019! Streaming environment art every Tuesday night at 9pm MT. We're gonna dive deep and figure out what lies beyond the basics; what makes environment art GREAT.

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#gamedev #gameart #3d #3dart #environmentart #environmentdesign #art #stream #livestream #twitch

Overwatch HQ Work Log 2 - Getting Started. (Repost from November 2017)

General / 14 March 2018

I'll be at GDC2018 next week! Get in touch if you'd like to meet up!

This is a repost of an old writeup I made in my Polycount project thread in November 2017. That thread can be found here:

Now streaming work on Overwatch HQ 2 nights a week @!

So I decided to go all-in on a long-term project set in the Overwatch universe. A lot of good artist friends recommend that 3D artists go out and look for an existing piece of concept art from a solid artist and build from that; that way you're starting from a well-designed foundation. On the other hand, the artist in me wanted to have a bit more creative input and besides, where was I going to find solid concept art for Overwatch that wasn't already in the game? I started putting together a tearsheet of a few options like mountain-top observatories or middle-American missile silos. Then a friend got a really awesome brainwave: The comics! The Uprising comic had just come out which shows the halls of the Overwatch headquarters in Switzerland for the first time. Pages of perfect, unused, official concept art!

Here's the tearsheet I made of my "concept art"

At this point I started thinking a lot about Overwatch levels: how they're constructed, what elements and areas make up OW levels, and how they are designed for gameplay. I wanted to make an environment that was big and fully-realized enough to be worth working on for 6+ months. A couple hallways wouldn't cut it, I thought. There's a panel where Cdr Morrison and Cpt Amari are walking down a hall and an exterior is shown with a large Morrison statue. Overwatch maps tend to be made up of:

• A POI or point of interest in a large, open area. These are main story "beats" of the map. Capture points or payload checkpoints.
• Main routes run from POI to POI. These are medium-quarters areas for fighting.
• Side routes criss cross through the main routes. These are close-quarters areas.
• Peppered throughout the routes are smaller vignette areas. These are filled with interesting props and often contain backstory hooks to other characters or more obscure lore. They also tend to have health packs in them.

I'm technically not making an actual playable, balanced OW map, but I wanted it to at least feel like one, so I thought I would at least include some of these elements, even if they didn't make for great gameplay in the end. At least the space would feel authentically OW. I also wanted to add a lot of my own elements not shown in the comic. The environments in the comic are frankly pretty sparse compared to in-game OW levels which are much richer in population and variation. It was all about my interpretation.

I went for a few walks and talked my way through the design. I wanted a comic book-feeling HQ facility that looked solidly Overwatch themed but set in the alpine mountains of Switzerland. I would have close quarters hallways, a medium-sized atrium room, a vignette area, and a large POI exterior space.

My projects never start pretty. Here are my post-walk brainstorm "sketches":

I'd be surprised if anyone could make any sense of this except me!

I also watched a ton of tourist videos of Switzerland and compiled an Alps tearsheet. I'm looking for the essence elements of the alps: the things that you recognize when you look at an unknown photo and go "Hey, that's the Swiss Alps". In this case I honed in on the unique color gradient: rich green valleys with deep grey cliffs that spring right out of the grass, get clipped with white snow just at the tops, mirrored by snow-white clouds on vivid blue skies.  Also the Matterhorn. I'm also looking at architecture styles of the chateaus, gondolas, and local flora.

With raw ideas, I then go right to 3D block in. This is pre-preproduction 3D work. It's not even prototyping and I only call it "block in" because I haven't thought of a better word for it. None of this geometry will survive even into the next iteration, but it does become my underdrawing so to speak for the project. The goal here is to get into the game engine asap and start developing a sense of space. This is where I begin nailing down units, measurements, and scales and it's where I begin setting up my pipeline and workflow. This means making project folders, deciding on naming schemes, getting a feel for the export process, and deciding on tools. This can all remain malleable at first but it will need to solidify and become Policy pretty quickly so I can avoid tripping over myself weeks and months down the road. Organization is king!

Anyway, I get this block in into the engine as fast as I can so I can start running around the space and getting a feel for how things need to be proportioned. Once it starts to feel physically ok, then I use the block in to do some quick, simple concept drawings. I do these drawovers throughout the project as things pop up. Drawovers for me are a creative problem solving tool.

Here are my initial drawings of the exterior space and some of the skydome as those areas needed the most creative input from me. The interior was done more by riffing directly from the concept art, but I'll get into that in my next post!

Overwatch HQ Work Log 1 - Why a Long-Term Art Project? (Repost from November 2017)

General / 07 March 2018

This is a repost of an old writeup I made in my Polycount project thread in November 2017. That thread can be found here:

Now streaming work on Overwatch HQ 2 nights a week @!

6+ years into my career, and after going through yet another studio closure, I decided I would take my time and strategize a bit before I made my next move. I've been through the layoff routine before and a lot of people will make wild flails to grab whatever parachute job they can get, and this sometimes leads to jobs that are just as unstable. I have a couple kids and such, though, so I wanted my next move to lead away from the one-studio-closure-per-year cycle I've been in lately (at least as much as possible).

  Talking to some friends and mentors and looking around at portfolios of people who had the job that I wanted (environment artist/senior env artist) at the companies that I liked, I noticed that these people's portfolios look different from mine Their portfolios are comprised almost exclusively of several screenshots of fully-realized, fully-developed, polished, complete environments. Very few of them had individual props, half-finished dioramas, or little texture studies, whereas most student and junior level artist portfolios I've looked at recently are full of that stuff.  MY portfolio is also full of that stuff!

  So I decided to take a hiatus and begin a long-term environment and treat it for all intents and purposes as a professional project. I've tried to thoughtfully run through the actual production process as I understand it and treat this as if it were my full-time job, with a main goal of producing a functioning, polished, shippable product at the end. I've gone through pre-vis, approvals, blockin/prototyping, and am now in production using a workflow that I developed for myself. I've tried to be very thoughtful and purposeful about what I produce and why. I began my project in April 2017 and have tried to devote at least a few hours per weekday to it (2 kids in daycare means sometimes taking care of sick kids eats a week here and there).

  I wanted to start this thread now that I have some progress to show, both as a place to get eyes on the project and get feedback but also as a way to organize and collate some of the things I've learned and experienced so far. This may just turn into a thread full of me replying to myself, but that's ok, I just need a place to come to avoid hiding my work away from public eyes and share my thoughts. If it strikes up conversations or helps someone else, all the better.

  I'll keep my latest updates pinned in the OP and talk about my process down below. In my next posts I'll post my current work-in-progress screenshots and then talk about my pre-vis process and how I settled on this particular idea.

Here are screenshots as of the day I made this thread: