Spotlight: Designing Art for IA!'s First Environment (Part Two)Development Art
Two weeks have gone by since our first blog post on the subject of IA!'s art, and we've been making tons of progress since. As a followup to last month's entry, I'll be running you through our process in a bit more detail and giving you a firsthand look at how it's all shaping up as we get closer and closer to completing the vertical slice.
Note that the following images showcase textures and assets that are still very much works in progress; there's a long way to go yet! However, I hope they give you an idea of where we are headed with our art style, and I definitely encourage you to check back often to see how it develops over the coming months!
As we mentioned when we first announced Intruder Alert!, we chose an art style that is both bright and stylized, which allows us to exaggerate all the best features of the 60s spy genre (IA!'s theme) and really bring the world of IA! to life. Staying away from ultra-realism is also great for our art team, as it gives us more creative freedom to make the characters and environments of our game as fun and interesting as we can.
This also means that IA! has huge potential for amazing community-created content, and we're building the game with that in mind. We're employing modularity throughout our levels, so assets that make up a big portion of the layout (walls, flooring, ceilings, ...) will all come in modular sections that clip together, making it easy for prospective masterminds in the player community to build deadly lairs of their own using the Unreal Editor!
To create the game's assets, 3D Artists (working from concepts like the ones on display in our Gallery) begin modelling the various sections required for a particular part of a level. When working on a 3D asset, they will often create two versions: one high-poly version which is extremely detailed and uses many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of polygons to capture every tiny detail of the object, and one low-poly version which has a typical triangle count for in-game use.
The high-poly mesh is then used to create a Normal Map: a 2D texture that stores all the details of the high-poly mesh in its Red, Green and Blue channels. When we apply this detailed Normal Map to the low-poly 3D model, it adds all the tiny details in the form of lighting information, allowing a flat surface to appear highly detailed with creases, bumps and dents without increasing the polygon count (and thus keeping the game's hardware requirements as low as possible while still offering stunning visuals!).
While the above texture map is optional and is only used to provide detail to assets that require it (specially those you'll be able to see up close), each and every model will need a different kind of texture called the Diffuse Map, which is used to define a surface's colours. The texture artist's job is to really bring every model to life and make sure it adheres to the chosen art style, so in order to maintain our exaggerated art style throughout the game, these textures are painted by hand; no photographic overlays are used.
This is a basic principle we are following throughout the development process so that, when all our art assets are complete, they will be unified by a characterful, painterly style. And as a special treat for you today, here are IA!'s very first in-game screenshots, giving you a very early look at our work so far!
We'll be sharing much more with you over the coming weeks and months as we make more progress. There's still plenty of room for improvement and tons of new assets to create, and we're confident that you'll absolutely love the end result.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave us your comments and feedback!
-- David "Kitto" S. (Art Lead)