Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bioshock 2: Lead Environment Artist

It is interesting to consider how what we what are currently aiming towards, which is an understanding of the game development process from concept art to creating playable game spaces, is used in the professional industry. I found this video which gives an inside look in to the job of the 'lead environment artist' for the game 'Bioshock 2':

The video description states that there was a 'close working relationship between the art and design teams' within process of creating the video game. We see this through the constant reference to conceptual art throughout the interview. vast and intricate game spaces are followed up by rough sketched out floor plans, which to me emphasises the importance of planning before diving in to building a virtual game environment. Hogarth de la Plante, the lead environment designer in the video explains how his team's role is to contsruct any assets that aren't character animation based and place them in the game world. However, he mentions the importance of constantly referring back to the level designers to ensure that the space is not only stunning visually but also playable as a game level. These are the kinds of things we must consider; how will the player move around our environments? It seems that in modern gaming, the general approach is to produce an immersive cinematic experience. There is likely a considered balance between allowing freedom to the player and confusing the player with too many options. Even though at our level, there are no enemies or tactical decisions required from player, our levels must be  both aesthetically pleasing yet fun and easy to navigate around. 

We see that a strong theme has been established. The design team know that emphasis is required on the rapid production rate of sea coral. This gives a very bright colourful almost alien approach, placing importance on lighting and texturing. We see a constant sense that this once beautiful world has plummeted in to darkness, as if the design team have considered this marvellous pristine city and torn it down. This is a theme that has carried over from the first game of the series, showing how the art direction has stayed focused yet developed with the introduction of colourful sea life.

From what I have seen, the main focus of the video 'Ryan Amusements,' strongly considers how the player interacts with the game world. I heard a quote somewhere once before which brought up the idea that as children we constantly step in to other people's shoes. This sense of play still translates in gaming in later years, and the decision to include a children's amusement park perhaps resurfaces this sense of exploration we experience as children. The player explores the surface through the eyes of Andrew Ryan who sees the outside world as a sinister place, a view he wishes to instil in the minds of his young and impressional inhabitants. It appears there is the ability to press buttons which fires up animatronic sequences. These dummies can be broken apart and used as weapons to fight off enemies. The chicken wire/ paper mache dog displays a fantastic level of detail. This, along with the great level interaction within the game space itself shows the amount of consideration that has gone in to the space.

What I really enjoyed about this video is that it solely focused on the game space. With the objective based gameplay and enemy interaction out of the picture, you can really admire the intricate amount of detail that has gone in to the environment. I am also starting to see past some of the subtle illusion that sell the level design. The normal maps which add depth the textures, the attempts to keep the polygon count down to maintain a smooth frame rate (you can see this clearly two minutes in to the video when Plante points out the underwater environment outside of the glass dome roof. The circular arc of the dome appears quiet jagged, jet gets away with it embedded in the overall beauty of the game space). I am also starting to realise this balance in game design and how it differs from film and animation. Like film, it must offer a strong visual experience yet also has to allow the player to enjoy the space as a game level. Unlike general 3D modelling and animation, there is this balance between visuals and efficiency. I was never truly aware of this compromise between detail and smooth gameplay, and the amount of clever trickery used to produce a seemingly realistic environment. I certainly am gaining a new found respect for processes required in video game production.

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