Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Singularity Environment Art

First and foremost I'd like to thank all the guys who made working on this project more fun than it had any right to be. We busted our tails to get this game out the door and while it had more than it's share of rough times the environment crew on this game made it one of the best experiences of my career.

These shots represent most of what I'd call, "mine" in the game. Plenty was cut or doesn't exist in the same form I left it in. That said, these shots are the combined work of a talented team of artists, and it's always humbling to be able to work with people of this caliber. My main responsibilities included conceptualizing environments, blocking in level layouts, set design from existing props, lighting, post process passes, and overall scene management (collision passes, performance, memory constraints, bug fixes etc). 

The Phase Tick Hive was our team's first major contribution to Singularity after coming off of Wolverine.

I began this area by working with Designer Mike Majernik to balance having the room feel right for combat, but also achieve the goals we were trying to hit with art. I wanted to create a strong focal point in the room which let you know immediately that you had landed in a place that you didn't want to be. I added the large cluster of egg sacks right above the exit so as the player landed in the room it would be the first thing they saw. The large pipe set was meant to draw the eye up and frame this area as well. At this stage I was also placing proxy/test models of the organic nest goop and adding more debris to the room. I put in the curved steel support beams to continue the organic theme even in the man made elements of the room. At this stage I also did a first pass on lighting and atmosphere which I always do to help me get a better feel of the mood. The main light source was the egg sacks themselves. I placed some of them specifically to get highlights where I wanted them. I had to add some man made lights as well just to get other colors in the room, but those are all focused at the back of the room in the second shot.

From here I handed the room over to Doug Smith who did an unbelievable job on the shader work in the room as well as putting the final polish on lighting, post process. 

The tunnels that follow the hive are a frantic escape from the nest and I handled all of the same things that I did with the hive itself. Initial blocking, set dress, first pass lighting/post and scene management. I'm really proud of the work we did on these.

This is the interior of the Singularity Reactor. This was a fairly large area on it's own due to the multiple floors and rooms around it, but the entire Science Labs level was put together in a very short time. We reskinned assets and basically used whatever we could to get this level in game before one of our several Alpha deadlines. The interior of the reactor is based on concepts by my pal, the Extraordinary Eric Spray. On the art end we really wanted to create an enormous space but couldn't quite get the height we wanted after my initial blockout without the player having to climb a nearly endless number of staircases.

This one is kind of a blur because it was put together so quickly. I really wanted to do more with the set dress around the walls of the reactor but performance and memory issues were most important. This room has large combat rooms and corridors flanking around the outside of the reactor that each lead up to the next floor. Designer Jeff Touchstone and I spent many iterations cutting back in our respective areas to make sure all of this streamed and ran without memory crashes. I handled all set dress, lighting, post process, and scene management for this area.

This was a spin off of the reactor for the 1950's. This was originally a scene where you confront Barisov and try to warn him about the dangers of activating the reactor. I lit this area with the intention of highlighting Barisov in the scene as he'd be standing right at the console in front of the reactor.

This area was needed to connect two sections of the game that didn't originally go together. This was the bridge between Barisov's tower and the series of tunnels and sewers that make up the beginning of the Rail Trench level. I wanted this area to feel warm and colorful but still unsettling. It is the player's last glimpse of the "sun" before falling into the very eerie Phase Tick Hive. I wanted to foreshadow this by having some of the organic nest growing up into the maintenance shaft but most players won't notice it until they have to make the decent down into the lower level underneath the catwalk.

Even though it's less flashy than some of the others I'm very fond of this map since I handled basically all aspects of it's creation besides building the actual assets. I conceptualized this area in engine from various models we already had, chose the color palette, handled lighting/post process, as well as all scene management thereafter. The only thing created specifically for this map were textures spin offs which were needed to match the color scheme.

I threw this video together quickly to replace the multiple screenshots that I had originally intended to illustrate this process.

These tunnel shots below are from a later area in the Rail Trench where originally you were stuck with only your flashlight and occasional pockets of lights in the environment to get you through. It was a really creepy section of the game because you were trying to navigate these tunnels in the dark with mutant reverts trudging around in the darkness looking for you.

This area almost made me go crazy. Literally nuts. Lighting is one of my favorite things to do and these tunnels were almost completely pitch black. I would get lost constantly set dressing this map. There were a few areas where I got to add pockets of light, the shot directly below being my favorite. Eventually the flashlight was canned altogether and these areas were re-lit so they no longer exist in game like they are shown here.

These shots are some of the first in the game, but last in production. This area had to be put together quickly and it had to run well. This is one layout in two different time periods. You stumble upon the burned husk of this building and are transported back in time to witness the fire that destroyed it. 

The major challenge was making the map run with all the effects we wanted to get in. I worked closely with FX artist Tim Elek to make this happen. We started with a very performance friendly layout. We iterated on this layout with design and once we had a pretty good idea of where it was going, Tim made fire "cards" that were very cheap and looked fantastic. He made several variants which he populated throughout the map. He also made all of the additional particles like embers, flames, etc. I handled all the set dress, lighting and post process. At first I wasn't sure about the extreme reds, but in the context of the game it felt right because any attempt to reign it in took some of the "heat" out of the scene. Working with Tim on this level was one of my favorite collaborative moments during the development of Singularity.

Barisov's Tower was originally planned to be the hub from which you navigated the entire game but over the course of our short time working on the game it became obvious to us that there wouldn't be time to alter the game in such a radical way. It ended up just being a break in action with a small story segment built into it. It was a little sad to me because we had a ton of great ideas for the storytelling and interactivity planned for this area that never made it in.

The area on display below is Barisov's work station. This is one of the first areas where I consciously began focusing on the value of color in the set dressing, not just post process and lighting. The Original concept by Eric Spray is here and was easily one of my favorites of his over the course of the game. I loved the steely blues and antiseptic florescent lighting mixed in with the orange accents. When putting the scene together I started to lean more towards warm colors. So much of the game is dreary and hopeless that I really thought that Barisov would want a more homey environment to live and work in. I handled all set dress, lighting, post process, and scene management for Barisov's tower.


  1. Very nice write up D. I say it was worth staying up all night.
    Can't wait to play the game, it looks like you guys did a great job.

  2. Thanks, Dan. The whole team is scouring the net and keeping up with all the reviews and player comments and so far it's more positive than I hoped it would be.

  3. Wow, D., I have a much much deeper appreciation for the work you do and your badass skills. Thank you for this post...

  4. Thank you for giving posts and articles were very amazing. I really liked as a part of the article. With a nice and interesting topics. Has helped a lot of people who do not challenge things people should know. You need more publicize this because many people. Who know about it very few people know this. Success for you....!!!