Legendary ‘Mechs & MechWarriors Funded! Check Out This In-Engine Visual Exploration! And a Peek Behind the Curtain with Artist Maury Weiss
Huzzah! The Global BattleTech Community has achieved our penultimate funding goal of Legendary ‘Mechs and MechWarriors - putting Stage 4 PVP Multiplayer within sight! (We'll have a bit more to say about Solaris 7 and multiplayer in our next update.)
If you missed Wednesday's Kickstarter update, take a look - we’ve put together several new ways to help us spread the word in these final days of the campaign, such as taking and sharing our "Which 'Mech Are You?" Quiz and signing up to support our Final 48 Hours social media push on Thunderclap.
EARLY In-Engine Visual Exploration
As we’ve said before, we’re still early in prototyping and pre-production on this project. Over the last couple of weeks, one of the pre-production tasks our art team’s been working on is a 3D test-scene in Unity (our game engine). This is an important internal pre-production goal, because it lets us explore how our 2D concept art translates to real-time 3D, uncovering some of the challenges we’ll be faced with during production, and allows us to start setting a target for the final look of the game. Explorations like this get the whole team on the same page, defining a vision that our artists, engineers and designers can all understand and evaluate. It also lets us iterate quickly to make sure our visual goals mesh well with our engineering and design goals.
A couple days ago, this test scene started to really come together. We showed it to the rest of the team, and everyone got really excited seeing what this game could look like. So, while it’s still early work-in-progress, not final… we decided it was just too cool not to show you guys, too!
(Please note, our ‘Mechs themselves aren’t fully animation-rigged or posed yet!)
As with most endeavors here at Harebrained, developing a scene like this is a highly iterative and collaborative process. Below you can see how the scene shaped up as we passed it back and forth between 3D and paintovers in Photoshop.
We had several goals going into this exploration: How do we achieve the overall mood, light, atmosphere and sense of scale that we’re looking for in the game? How do we give our ‘Mechs a clear visual "read" and make them feel large and powerful? What’s the right amount of detail to include in a scene?
We decided to start with a snowy landscape because this would be a particularly atmospheric environment and would allow us to focus more on these effects and less so on the specific modeling and texturing of individual assets. In general, we’re looking for opportunities to push dramatic mood wherever we can!
Atmosphere also plays an important role in emphasizing the scale of ‘Mechs and in adding depth to the scene. You can see that we have a layer of fog moving along the ground that begins to fade out the bottom half of the ‘Mechs. This gradient reinforces scale because it makes the ‘Mechs appear so large that they are standing far above the fog, too tall to be completely covered. It also helps to ground the ‘Mechs in the environment and to increase their readability.
This effect is further enforced by additional animated effects such as fog and dust at the ground level. Right now, the effect is simulating snow blown up by the wind, but in a lot of cases it could be caused by the ‘Mechs’ effects on the environment. Whether it’s a desert, snow, or jungle map, we want to always have a variety of atmospheric effects present in the game to reinforce scale and readability.
Another important piece of the puzzle is a 3D pipeline called Physical Based Rendering (PBR). This pipeline has been used to make computer graphics for films for a long time but it’s relatively new to the gaming industry and is a new feature in Unity 5. Essentially, it’s a workflow that allows us to more accurately simulate real-world materials and lighting conditions by using image-based lighting, global illumination (reflected light) and physically-based materials that behave more naturally and predictably. One of the biggest advantages of PBR is that our 3D assets will look good in any lighting scenario.
We’re also utilizing post-processing effects like screen space ambient occlusion, bloom, color grading and tonemapping. These tools give us tons of control over the overall color, mood and contrast of the final game image.
Once again, this is just an early starting point for us here as we start to hone in on the visual style of the game and plan our art production pipeline. There’s plenty more to explore still but we wanted to give you guys a quick look at where we’re at with all this stuff!
A Peek Behind the Curtain With Artist Maury Weiss
Hello! My name is Maury Weiss and I have been working on BATTLETECH as both a concept and 3D artist.
I was hired on here at HBS as a 3D character artist right after the first Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of almost every project since then. I had a large role as a 3D artist on Shadowrun Returns, though I had a smaller part to play on Shadowrun: Dragonfall since I was sculpting lots of figures for Golem Arcana at the time. Most recently I worked on Shadowrun: Hong Kong as the lead 3D artist.
So far on BATTLETECH, I’ve worked as a concept artist establishing the look and feel of the world, more specifically what the actual in-game world could look like. In recent weeks I’ve moved back into 3D and have been creating the real-time scene shown above.
I’m really excited to work on BATTLETECH because it’s a whole new world for me. I’m pretty new to the series and it’s been a breath of fresh air that has inspired my creativity and has made me want to push myself as an artist. The more I learn about this fallen, gritty world, with its feudal feel and politics, the more excited I get. It’s really unique and interesting and the sort of game I joined the industry to work on - from ‘Mechs, to landscapes, to the pilots themselves. I hope to make a visually appealing, immersive world that is true to the series and that both new and old fans can enjoy.
P.S. Shadowrun Series Sale on Steam This Weekend!
Lastly: this weekend only, all of our Shadowrun games are on sale as part of Steam’s Halloween Sale. If you haven’t played Shadowrun: Dragonfall or Shadowrun: Hong Kong yet, this is a great opportunity to check out the world of Shadowrun!