Archive for February, 2010

Level Design

This was a quick sketch that was used to communicate a level layout concept: how to create a space that had a lot of game play packed into a small piece of terrain.

The player first enters the space (A) and can see their goal (E) through the locked iron gate. Now the player is diverted into a cafe (B) where they would enter into a firefight with enemy units across the river (D). Next the player moves to (C) where once again the path is blocked. The player then jumps the river and fights his way to (D) where he becomes engaged in a firefight with newly arrived enemies at the café (B) thus changing the feel of the firefight while still taking place within a fairly small piece of geo.


On Blood Omen 2 a fellow designer was struggling to define the space for a puzzle that he was working on and asked for my help. Here are some of the drawings that I made in order to help him plan out his architecture.


This line drawing was done for a Yacht galley for an unreleased Bond game. I was striving to do a sketch that would allow the level artist to construct the space with the minimum number of questions/unknowns.

Grey Block Studies

These are some tests I did in trying to figure out just how complex a space we might make out of prefab mesh pieces.

Here I wanted to use those initial pieces combined with a few more to make a more interesting space.

This images shows how one might go about creating 3d tiles for an organic river valley.

Bond 6

This is a room I built for an IGC that took about 3 days while I was also spending about half my time doing storyboards.

I deliberately used a lighting model that would match the look of an in-game asset.

Call of Duty – Art Director

For a brief period our studio was working an a 3rd person Call of Duty game with a working title of Call of Duty Devils Brigade. We had a pretty meager staff and only had a few months to work on it before they pulled the plug…

Courtyard Visual Target

This started as a test to see how easy or hard it would be for me to grey-block out an urban environment that felt fairly organic inside Radiant. I started by finding two painting of an Italian village then blocked out the space and added some basic lights in an afternoon. It was actually easier than I had hoped. I then broke this thing into two pre-fabs so that our two environment artists could work towards creating an in-game quality bar target. I was also curious to see how well the styles would mesh.

Pretty! We never got around to cleaning up some of the transitions.

Some battle damage.

3rd Person Demo

This was our first milestone for Call of Duty – Devils Brigade. It was done with an art staff of 4 (one being a newly hired character artist), junior designers, and minimal engineering support. It was mostly intended as showcase for our squad based orders system. We spent about 6 weeks creating art assets for this including our new soldier models, and most of the environmental details. There are a lot of things about this fall short of where we wanted to get but the one thing I feel that we spent time on that we got right, and turned out to be a nasty problem, were the bullet trails. Seems silly but vitally important in a 3rd person game.

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Guitar Hero and Band Hero

The final few months at Underground were extremely frustrating for everybody as we went from potential project to potential project. During that time we worked on many demos for products within the Guitar Hero or Band Hero franchise. This post contains a lot of the work done in that time.

Guitar Hero 7

Of all the things we did at Underground (Z-Axis) this demo is probably the work that I’m most proud of. My directive for this was to come up with a visual look for a Guitar Hero game that would breathe fresh life into the franchise without requiring us to re-do all of the work that was done before (like all the Create a Rocker costumes), and was something we could easily replicate for as much as 80 songs on a tight deadline and a tiny staff. What you see here was done in a month completely in-game except for two notable After Effects ‘paint overs’.

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Band Hero

When we started work on Band Hero I was told that the company wanted this product to have a distinct look that separated it from the Guitar Hero line. They were looking for something a little less edgy and more family friendly. With that in mind we went after everything from characters to environments, fonts to UI. These videos show where we ended up after about two months of solid, directed work.

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Another clip, this one with no audio:

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And one more (larger but with more compression) with no audio:

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And this was a demo we created trying to prove out the concept of doing Music Video venues as a change of pace to the regular stage shows.

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And here are a few samples of the concept work we did in that time.

A few turntable animations of the 3d characters.

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Back to Guitar Hero

Here is a very rough animatic for a Guitar Hero intro sequence. One of the things I really wanted to do with this product is go back to really celebrating the core cast of characters and since we were thinking of adding some very light RPG meta game elements we thought that we could weave the core cast into the players story.

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Guitar Hero Van Halen

Regardless of how I feel about how the end product came out I’m still proud of what we were able to achieve at Underground; four SKU’s in 10 months, starting with an art group of four (including myself!), and only three dedicated engineers. In the course of 10 months we hired like crazy (ending up with a staff of 18), we had to learn a completely new engine, and deal with a company that didn’t really know what kind of game they wanted from us. It wasn’t until we were well into alpha that they could even tell us what the title was! Oh yeah, we didn’t even know that we were doing the PS2 and wii versions of the game until about two months prior to alpha. On top of all that we were also shackled by the fact that the company didn’t want us to do any movies for the game and the band didn’t want us to include any interviews and videos of themselves, something that we knew was going to kill us with the press.

It wasn’t all bad though we had some great help from the Toys for Bob group that mostly tackled the art needs for the wii, our Central Art group who helped us generate some of our early band models, and Neversoft for being so easy to work with. We also ended up hiring some amazing people.

At the end of the day I can say that I’m satisfied with how the game ended up looking.

*Images and Vidoes Coming Soon*

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