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Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction
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Medal of Honor:Airborne Art Direction

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Brief overview on my approach to the Art Direction for Medal of Honor Airborne for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Brief overview on my approach to the Art Direction for Medal of Honor Airborne for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Published in: Design, Technology, Art & Photos
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  • 1. Visual Direction and Process Overview Art Director: Justin Thomas
  • 2. Foundation: Visual Target Creating a foundation After working with a few game engines the decision was made to switch to Unreal 3 as a platform. The first steps were to see what could be accomplished and test the capabilities of an engine that as of yet didn’t have a game on the market. The goal was to create a very small space that could be quickly produced and iterated to help artists and production evaluate the capabilities from a visual quality perspective. These images show our “Visual Target”. A very small slice, created with a specific story and mood to challenge the interpretation. Building at the back can be made of stone bricks. We’re looking for the ability to show off normal maps for the demo Edge detail piece for the wall Electrical piping next to the light will help break up the surface and add interest Metal railing and flower pots on the landing also help break up the shapes and angles. It also adds a sense of “life” to the environment. Cobblestone streets add to the desperate feeling of the environment Pottery from original Vtar will help “ground” the buildings and add interest by contrasting the harsh angles Additional Grounding Small, repeatable stone assets will help break up the edges and tell the story of conflict and aging buildings Tall grass around the base of stairs Some brush and bushes along the bases of buildings Small clumps of grass growing between cobblestones Chimney and vent pipes jutting from the tops of the buildings will help break up shapes and add interest to skyline Power cords overhead, gutters and drain pipes will also help break up the skyline and keep the environment alive Tell A Story Use one of our cart assets and put some crates in it. Create a little scene that someone was either loading or unloading crates. Maybe it’s been dumped over to tell the story of a struggle in the midst of small fires. This will help break up the open space in the back and illustrate cover in context for AI
  • 3. Detail from Previous Image In the upper left corner we see our first attempt to create a scene in Unreal 3. I then did a fast paint over to convey the mood, lighting and story. The idea here is to get a good contrast in color and lead the eye down the alley way. This helps create a tension of going from calm into conflict foreshadowed by the silhouetted projections of enemies as they pass by the entrance on the opposite end.
  • 4. Working With Concepts Creating Key Art It’s time to go a little wider and create a larger space the viewer can move through using the principles and learning from the visual target. We engaged concept artists in a place that we needed to convey multiple pieces of information to environment artists: VFX, mood, lighting, architecture, composition, etc. Key concept art has to convey something specific that can not otherwise be conveyed by words or reference callouts alone. This particular piece was also designed so that it would tell a story when the player entered the scene and direct the attention towards the entrance to the building. By spending time on a key concept piece we had a goal to execute on a larger scale in game. This also served as piece that could inspire the rest of the team on what the scope, energy and action might be like in a key moment based on a design brief. Artist: Jose Emroca Flores
  • 5. Environment Direction Now that we have some “Key Concept Art” its time to share details with environment team. First we make a broad, general pass to see the larger picture, and then get to details that will sell it. Here I use a lot of the same reference gathered for concept artists to provide specific direction and placement on assets to the environmental artists to better understand the details during the block out phase. I look at environments as “characters” and often will work to put as much story and depth into them as any other character the player is meant to relate with. Original Concept 3D block out with direction for context -High detail accent points can be used in conjunction with traditional base textures to give the appearance of a more complicated building. The eye has a chance to rest and then is pulled towards a detail. -These are the accents that should be modeled in high res, and the most normal map information reserved for. -In many cases, especially on the moldings a dense, but small tiling normal map could be used
  • 6. Result In Game These images show two angles of the area inspired by the key art in game.
  • 7. Hands On Concepts: For some cases it’s necessary to go beyond 2D concepts and generate concepts from an execution perspective. Since I was an environment artist myself, it can be easier to creatively interpret ways to best take advantage of the engine and graphics pipeline. Things aren’t always as complicated as they might appear. Various tricks can be employed to improve the overall look at a low expense to both time and technology. Below are some specific examples of feedback generated to enhance the look of destruction for Airborne by making silhouettes more interesting and taking better advantage of the way surfaces receive light. We could create a simple prefab piece that matches the scale and textures for all the wood floors. This example is just an extruded box with 3 divisions in length, and some one sided polygon debris Currently we have a lot of floor damage that looks like this. This one shape creates a dramatic silhouette With just 3 divisions along the extruded board, you can get a nice bow, or sag to show violence has torn the floor away, and the boards are warping. Going back to the idea of the Prefab, I created a low poly wall edge. A few variations of this could be made and then attached to the building mesh before export again saving time and improving fidelity Cross section, top down Individual low poly bricks help break up and hide the edge pulling the eye away from it. These should have a texture and normal that is interesting and in scale with the texture used on the wall. This same technique applies to the generic stone core. Only we would have one generic stone shape that could be rotated and scaled. These edges don’t work for a broken building. There is nothing to help the normal map get light and read This sort of edge would be too expensive This is what I did on the example on the right. One bevel on either side to wrap the core around and few pulled poly points on the interior
  • 8. Geometry Based Normal Maps It can be difficult to know when to use geometry to create a normal map or when to use a 2D filter. In these examples, I wanted to not only illustrate a few cases of what you get from geometry based normal maps, but also create the assets myself to understand the time investment involved vs the payoff. Hedgerows We were having some difficulty with creating foliage. Here I wanted to present a way we could get good results using a smaller, repeating texture, very little geometry and place it so there is little overdraw and fill, yet has dimension and depth. Taking it a step further: As time permits, sometimes I’ll do more detailed examples of how something might work.
  • 9. Paint overs: Quick Communication These are images that I did some very quick paint overs to get an idea across. Paint overs are very fast way of giving specific context to a problem area. In each of these cases there was a visual road block to overcome. The focus wasn’t on polish but on getting just enough information to keep things moving forward. These would usually be accompanied by additional reference callouts to help keep clarity. Some times a paint over is used to illustrate several things. Before we had HDR lighting in real time, we had to come up with some creative ways to make it “feel” like we had it. This paint over led to us using a “light card” to make it feel as if the exterior were blooming. Getting the roof to feel more jagged was also important not only in this shot, but in others as well. Original Scene In Game Paint Over Final Scene In Game
  • 10. Lighting Direction Illumination is Key Lighting plays such a big role in today's games. Not only is it important to convey a mood but it can also tell the player where to go and create focus on specific things for the player to notice. It can be used to draw attention away from other things you don’t want them to pay as much attention to. Lighting can also play an important role in how well a surface, object or material sells in the game. Here are a few examples of the way I will approach lighting direction and the results. Many times I will get hands on with it myself to get it started, or just to better understand how an idea might be implemented or if it will work. Hill House Encounter Lighting: Conflict and Resolution -Pull the viewer down into the conflict on the ground from the air -Bold color accents and high contrast creates visual action -Many fires tell the story of conflict both present and previous -Dramatic Shapes: One direction light against dark, the other direction dark against light -Foreground, middle ground, background to create depth -Break the viewers rhythm and create a flow with points of visual rest and points of interest and theme -Culminate with harsh light of the German Occupation and strength
  • 11. Below there is an initial screenshot from the game to the far left. It’s really hard to see any shapes or pathways. I did a fast concept to clarify the paths, and then I did the lighting to prove that it was possible to do in game with the early “grid” lighting that Unreal offered at that time. This scene had to be set up with rows of lights of varying intensity to create the gradient from ground to roof top. Some of the final results from the same level in game utilizing these concepts by the talented lighting artists. Concept Application
  • 12. The Devil is in the Details This is never more true than in the characters for a game. Resolution, surface detail, emotion, viewing proximity, believability, style, technology constraints, how many characters on screen… All of this plays into the decisions that must be used to inform the characters. The following examples were created to illustrate some very specific things. While details are important, it’s important to what you are trying to convey as whole. Even though we were in the “next generation” every polygon has to count, and every detail needs to mean something to the player. Character Direction Dirt On Skin Where the goggles might have been, or the brow ridge where it has a surface change to cling to Face is covered in dirt, its every where. Overall look is speckled and spotted as it clusters in pores: A,B,C,D Along the straps of the helmet Dirt is clumpy in the smudges with different concentrations. It mainly happens around areas that will retain moisture Gathers between wrinkles to create a “tie dye” effect Notice how the dirt really sets off the small wrinkles in the skin and the direction the skin is stretched over neck • Because of the way dirt works on the face and where it tends to fall, if done right it can really set off the features of the face and add a lot of depth when lighting isn’t there to support normal maps • When the lighting is there, it’s just that much more dramatic • This also gives a great opportunity to set off specular highlights and add to the visual disturbance and variation of the surface Clusters in crevices, like the bridge of the nose and around nostrils Dirt clumps up on facial hair sort of like mascara does on eyelashes. This makes the hairs and stubble look thicker in spots Pocket has character. Minor flips on the flap and at the base give it shape and volume Front of his pants aren’t flat, this also might create an opportunity for better deformation. This shape might even help in deformations as it smooths and provides extra polys for the action Compresses at the ankles shapes get smaller, these could be represented by larger block shapes in geo and the smaller shapes with in normal mapped Pocket has character. Minor flips on the flap and at the base give it shape and volume Front of his pants aren’t flat, this also might create an opportunity for better deformation. This shape might even help in deformations as it smooths and provides extra polys for the action Compresses at the ankles shapes get smaller, these could be represented by larger block shapes in geo and the smaller shapes with in normal mapped • There is a great opportunity for flows here • Iconic shapes with in the cloth with specific geo flows. Not suggesting that the amount of contour spans equal polys but hopefully it describes the surface interaction • Creasing in the leg here is still plausible for when he’s in a crouched position • Arrows represent the flow and movement around the leg • Folds don’t have to be crazy or even prominent, just need the flow and movement around the form. Not every fold or wrinkle needs to be represented in the geo, just the major blocks and movements • Light blue indicates the volume of the legs under the cloth. Note how the cloth and folds never dips deeper than the volume this helps give substance to the leg. The cloth actually helps describe the volume of the leg underneath • This would apply to the torso and arms as well.
  • 13. Since Airborne was done at a time when Characters were getting very expensive, I wanted to illustrate that with solid geometry and good textures you could get pleasing results. So I did this quick illustration. Even though I didn’t have time to do a full character I chose on of the more “organic” components to portray. Now just imagine if this had normal maps on top of it… Here I wanted to illustrate how important it was to get the foundation and forms right on a characters face. We had a little bit of an issue with them appearing “flat”. So I wanted to dig in myself and see if I could illustrate with a lower poly mesh, the importance of form and flow. This was an illustration I did to show the effect of distortion from photo reference. If we model from a distorted image, the in game FOV can some times make it even more apparent The image on the top is a quick paint over I did to illustrate the correct proportions to model against.
  • 14. The red circles indicate the areas that design designated as sacred for the D Day level. A quick paintover shows how we can maintain those design driven spaces but create a space more in line with the historical context of the trenches based on research Result in game Reference from the mighty Saving Private Ryan on this exact space Engage Designers to maintain critical game play and use visual communication to bring context to the intended experience. Often there will be an initial layout from design with game play potential. Now the job is to put some context to it. I will find out what the elements that are crucial to the game play and the begin a discussion after research of how to present it in a way that engages the player visually as well. This helps create a total immersive experience. Bringing it all Together with Design

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