"Overwatch HQ" - Long-Term Environment Working Thread [UE4]

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I'm designing and building the Overwatch Headquarters which is located in the Swiss Alps. Check out the 2nd post for more explanation.

OWHQ Jan2018 Progress Walkthrough:


OWHQ has also been featured on 80 Level!


https://80.lv/articles/overwatch-hq-creating-a-game-level-for-portfolio/

All images are still works-in-progress!

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  • Bunnirobotcat
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    Bunnirobotcat polycounter lvl 4
    I'm trying to overcome that hurdle of my portfolio looking too junior artist. Takes a hell of a lot of time and determination to keep on one project. Ill follow your thread to help motivate myself and to see your awesome progress Worth :D  

  • Larry
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    Larry keyframe
    I totally agree...I only started recently and my one and only portfolio piece was a unicycle. After being so excited to upload it, it just didn't feel right to have only this as a portfolio piece, so i started doing a whole interior scene. And still, A full interior environment will propably make me be a little bit "meh", because i also want to make a couple of landscapes. You see, the problem with "environment" artists is that environments can vary from interrior to exterior and outer space, and making a scene consisting of as much as you can show is very, VERY crucial.

    So thank you for pointing out about your experience in portfolios, it really helps me stick to my project as well :)
  • jesusblasco
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    jesusblasco vertex
    I also have that problem with my portfolio pieces, I am not entirely satisfied with them at all, your post inspired me to keep pushing myself to make long term porfolio pieces treated like professionals ones, I will follow your progress and good work :)
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Bunnirobotcat Thanks so much! Good luck. :)
    @Larry Yeah, environment art can be pretty brutal. You don't get anything for free and you have to make everything from what's under your feet to what's on the horizon and beyond!
    @jesusblasco Thanks, man! Good luck!

    So I decided to go all-in on a long-term project set in the Overwatch universe. A lot of good artist friends recommend that 3D artists go out and look for an existing piece of concept art from a solid artist and build from that; that way you're starting from a well-designed foundation. On the other hand, the artist in me wanted to have a bit more creative input and besides, where was I going to find solid concept art for Overwatch that wasn't already in the game? I started putting together a tearsheet of a few options like mountain-top observatories or middle-American missile silos. Then a friend got a really awesome brainwave: The comics! The Uprising comic had just come out which shows the halls of the Overwatch headquarters in Switzerland for the first time. Pages of perfect, unused, official concept art!

    Here's the tearsheet I made of my "concept art"


    Awesome!  
    At this point I started thinking a lot about Overwatch levels: how they're constructed, what elements and areas make up OW levels, and how they are designed for gameplay. I wanted to make an environment that was big and fully-realized enough to be worth working on for 6+ months. A couple hallways wouldn't cut it, I thought. There's a panel where Cdr Morrison and Cpt Amari are walking down a hall and an exterior is shown with a large Morrison statue. Overwatch maps tend to be made up of:

    • A POI or point of interest in a large, open area. These are main story "beats" of the map. Capture points or payload checkpoints.
    • Main routes run from POI to POI. These are medium-quarters areas for fighting.
    • Side routes criss cross through the main routes. These are close-quarters areas.
    • Peppered throughout the routes are smaller vignette areas. These are filled with interesting props and often contain backstory hooks to other characters or more obscure lore. They also tend to have health packs in them.

    I'm technically not making an actual playable, balanced OW map, but I wanted it to at least feel like one, so I thought I would at least include some of these elements, even if they didn't make for great gameplay in the end. At least the space would feel authentically OW. I also wanted to add a lot of my own elements not shown in the comic. The environments in the comic are frankly pretty sparse compared to in-game OW levels which are much richer in population and variation. It was all about my interpretation.

    I went for a few walks and talked my way through the design. I wanted a comic book-feeling HQ facility that looked solidly Overwatch themed but set in the alpine mountains of Switzerland. I would have close quarters hallways, a medium-sized atrium room, a vignette area, and a large POI exterior space.

    My projects never start pretty. Here are my post-walk brainstorm "sketches":

    I'd be surprised if anyone could make any sense of this except me!

    I also watched a ton of tourist videos of Switzerland and compiled an Alps tearsheet. I'm looking for the essence elements of the alps: the things that you recognize when you look at an unknown photo and go "Hey, that's the Swiss Alps". In this case I honed in on the unique color gradient: rich green valleys with deep grey cliffs that spring right out of the grass, get clipped with white snow just at the tops, mirrored by snow-white clouds on vivid blue skies.  Also the Matterhorn. I'm also looking at architecture styles of the chateaus, gondolas, and local flora.



    With raw ideas, I then go right to 3D block in. This is pre-preproduction 3D work. It's not even prototyping and I only call it "block in" because I haven't thought of a better word for it. None of this geometry will survive even into the next iteration, but it does become my underdrawing so to speak for the project. The goal here is to get into the game engine asap and start developing a sense of space. This is where I begin nailing down units, measurements, and scales and it's where I begin setting up my pipeline and workflow. This means making project folders, deciding on naming schemes, getting a feel for the export process, and deciding on tools. This can all remain malleable at first but it will need to solidify and become Policy pretty quickly so I can avoid tripping over myself weeks and months down the road. Organization is king!



    Anyway, I get this block in into the engine as fast as I can so I can start running around the space and getting a feel for how things need to be proportioned. Once it starts to feel physically ok, then I use the block in to do some quick, simple concept drawings. I do these drawovers throughout the project as things pop up. Drawovers for me are a creative problem solving tool.

    Here are my initial drawings of the exterior space and some of the skydome as those areas needed the most creative input from me. The interior was done more by riffing directly from the concept art, but I'll get into that in my next post!






  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    Obviously i first clocked because of the "overwatch" in the title, but i'm really glad i did your post is very inspiring!! I especially love to read you workflow and the evolution from your initial idea to the final project cant wait to read more, good job!
  • EliasWick
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    EliasWick polycounter lvl 3
    This is by far, some of the best work that I have ever seen! Very inspiring!
  • Tectonic
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    Tectonic polycounter lvl 5
    I really like your design and I think the modeling is good, but I think you should study some of the overwatch materials a bit more.
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Olingova Thanks! I'm glad that my excessive words are useful to some. I've needed a place to compile my experience, so I figured why not do it in a thread?

    @EliasWick Wow! Thanks! I don't think I agree, but I'll do my best to live up to that. :)

    @tectonic Oh man, you're dead on. Getting the materials feeling like they're in the same neighborhood as Overwatch's has been one of the biggest challenges with this project. I'm planning on making another tuning pass on the base materials, but if there's anything you see specifically I would be suuuuper interested in hearing your thoughts! Thanks! 
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    I tend to view any project as a collection of creative problems that need solutions. Once you've both designed and executed solutions for the full list of problems, then the project is finished.  Between the exterior drawovers and the panels from the comic illustrating the interiors, I felt I had enough concept to start 3D pre-production by doing a vertical slice. 

    Usually a vertical slice for a game includes all sorts of other things like gameplay prototypes and even UI etc, but for me it just meant picking a small area and pushing it through the complete pipeline to get it to a "finished" point. I had a few goals during this stage:

    • Figure out how, exactly the interiors were constructed. The comic art is somewhat vague as to what walls and floors and ceilings are actually made up of.
    • Establish, at least initially, a good look and feel for materials.
    • Explore detailing solutions like decals.
    • Author an initial library of materials.
    • Hone in on a longer-term lighting solution.
    • Map out a broader pipeline workflow to rely on for the rest of the project.

    I picked the most fully-realized area from the comic, Commander Morrison's office, and focused just on that room alone and started blocking in, tinkering with sizes relative to the player, doorway sizes, etc. One of the first things I did was assemble a quick and dirty "temp" materials library as fast as I could to slap onto my blockin geometry to start differentiating materials. Here's a sloppy sample:


    I feel like overall this is a good idea, but I eventually had to admit that my execution of it was really dumb. I made them with a grid pattern on them because "that's what temp textures look like". All that did was create visual noise in the form of lines and square details where they weren't needed and actually made it hard to look at overall shape language, proportions, and everything else. I wish I would've just done flat colors and tones along with the material definition (glass, plastic, metal, etc). Durrr!

    I wanted to keep the physical feel as close to the concept as possible but also make the in-game sizing feel as close to an actual Overwatch level as possible. Doorways got wider, and everything got slightly more roomy, but I got to an ok place, I think. The bigger challenge was deciding exactly how the walls were constructed. The art played lose with the in-between areas; the seams between the panels, especially around the corners and the intersection with the floor. I ended up tinkering a lot with exactly how much detail to put in, again balancing it with the level of detail in actual Overwatch maps.

    Here's a shot from the comic:


    And here's where my vertical slice ended up (I've turned off a few props to make comparison easier):


    It's obviously not perfect, and looking at it now after having moved on from it so long ago and having done so much work since then, there are several things I'd like to go back and change, but I feel like the main problems were solved at the time, and it helped get the workflow established and set a good quality target for the rest of the project.

    Here's a few more vertical slice images, in various stages:









    I feel like some elements were more successful at recreating the Overwatch in-game look that others. I was able to keep lessons learned in mind moving forward (which I did at the time to keep momentum).  There are definitely some elements in here that I'd like to revisit:

    • Initially I was much too high-res with my textures.
    • I relied too much on roughness and not enough on hand-painted albedo. 
    • I had to remodel almost everything twice due to my tendency to model everything too small and intricate. Overwatch (and the Blizzard house style in general) is very chunky, and MUCH more round than you think it is. "If you think it's round enough, go 1.5-2 times rounder" became a rule moving forward.
    • It began to set in just how. many. props. Overwatch levels have in them, particularly in the vignette/story heavy areas.
    • Decals are vital, but they can only carry you so far before you need to bite the bullet and model in some details.

    And more! I learned a TON by doing a vertical slice and it gave me those good feelies that come from seeing shiny, pretty things so soon. Great for momentum and general artist well-being!

    From here, I wrote down my actual workflow I wanted to follow, at least initially, and I made sure I had a proper organization system in place. I'll post about those next time.
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    It's really interesting to read the evolution of your "overwatch style" analysis! Like so many of us, i tried to make some overwatch style props this year but you definitely get wayyy closer than i was :p i still have this feeling that there are maybe more totally metallic parts used in overwatch, maybe you could use more in yours, it looks like you only use non metallic parts for the moment.

    Rly look forward to read more anyway!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Olingova Now that's an interesting piece of feedback! I am definitely using metallic materials in there, and it's more apparent as you move around the space, but I also think that my reflection spheres are lacking. Perhaps I need to go through and tune my metals to get them more apparent?  I've also added some more metals since starting the thread, so maybe that will help too. I'll definitely jump into a few empty maps and run around with this in mind and see how the overall material variety feels..

    Overwatch metal materials in general actually have a lot more albedo in them than you initially want to think. I'd love to see what their internal rules and ranges are for the metals in the game.
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    Glad if it can help you! By the way it could be awesome if you could post a little walktrough video i'd be really curious to see that!

    I'm at work right now but i could try to take some screenshots at home to shw you the kind of areas/materials im thinking about
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    The vertical slice was a great time to test my initial workflow and processes with an eye to adjust and set some policies before I went wide and moved into full on production. Small problems or disorganization only amplifies over time, so if I started, for example, saving my files as "texturethingy1_final.tga" it would never get MORE understandable and, in fact, would only get more confusing as time went on!

    Similarly, based on past failed projects where I had lofty goals and grand dreams, I knew that I would hit what I call creative friction. If we can all recognize when a project has "momentum", then I feel like there's an equal and opposite force that works against us in our projects and I call that friction (I know, I'm super clever, right?). Creative friction comes from anything that makes it easy for me to NOT work. Life stuff, clutter, disorganization, even having Facebook and stuff open on another monitor. The more things I have to solve or put in place before I start working, the less likely I am to start working, and the moment when creative friction is at its strongest is in the minutes/hours before I sit down and begin working. In the past I've had projects in progress that only halted and failed because I had a bad night one night and decided to not work that night and I never went back. Friction can kill a project.

    So getting organized and writing out a pipeline that I will follow are ways I can reduce creative friction to make it as easy as possible to sit down and start a work session. Knowing the pipeline and having it accessible to look at and reference is good. Setting up your project folders and directory structures logically and ahead of time is good. Making sure your equipment works and stays working is good. Making sure you have backups and version saving is good. Making sure the physical space you're working in isn't buried under a pile of papers or dirty dishes is good. Making a list of tasks that you can refer to when you sit down to start is great. Making a note at the end of a workday about what you want to do when you sit down tomorrow to work is good. etc etc.

    Anyway, if anyone's curious, here's how my project is set up:


    Basically, I have a project directory where source files and the actual assets live, an overflow where reference and tertiary materials live, and a backup if I have to migrate up a version in the engine or whatever the reason. Inside the project directory, there are essentially 2 neighborhoods: the Source directory and the Content directory. Content is the actual Unreal project files, and I segregate root-level assets like plugins and default content away from my personally authored assets.  That's basically it, but you can study the image to go deeper. 

    Additionally, I have what I imagine is a pretty standard naming scheme. It's all pretty straightforward, but I find it to be vital to the health of a project as big as this. With just the interior in production I already have over 200 texture files, 146 materials, and 190 static meshes (blockin and final). Since I set up my organization before I really started production, months later I can still find things pretty easily.

    Here's the pipeline I wrote after vertical slice:


    As for my pipeline, I found it to be an excellent source of early momentum, even if I eventually ran into places where I deviated from it. After a little while, since I'm the only person working on this project, I found that keeping momentum was more important than strictly adhering to the steps in the list, so if, for example, a specific area was becoming a slog to continue with, I'd hit pause on that area where ever it was in the pipeline and then go visit a different area which was inevitably at a different point on the pipeline.

     I have my project organized by logical areas or zones (which is where those first 2 file prefixes come from). There's the exterior (EXT) and the interior (INT) and in the interior there's the east hall, west hall, atrium (AT) and Morrison's office (MO).  Instead of bringing the entire project through the pipeline steps all together, I found that areas naturally progressed individually through the pipeline steps somewhat separate from each other. This meant I could maintain momentum by getting to later, "prettier" steps sooner in a certain area but I could also jump over to a less-finished area to do modeling when I got burned out on texturing in a different area. Obviously, if I was working on a team then the pipeline might be a bit different or I'd approach it differently.
  • WadeWT
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    WadeWT polycounter lvl 6
    That is a nice post with useful information.  I am finally seeing the value in being more organised and it's helpful seeing how others go about it.  Thanks!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @WadeWT Thanks! Yeah, it's been enjoyable to really dig in and try to do things right. Project management is a side-interest of mine and at scale it's easily a few people's full time jobs.

    One thing I didn't touch on but should have is backups. My project folder at this point is over 14gb large and it would be terrible to lose that much work. One thing I haven't done a great job of is keeping my Maya file clean and organized. I at least have things in layers, but man, I really should be keeping things separate and referencing things in and the like. Maya crashed once while saving and I almost lost my master file. I didn't have version saving on either. Luckily, I had been saving in Maya Ascii so I opened the .ma in notepad and found where it had gone corrupt and deleted that bit and resurrected it, but it's been more unstable ever since. Now I at least have versioning on.

    Backups are pretty vital too. Just having an external HDD that you copy/paste your project to at a bare minimum. There are also apps that can sync 2 folders to mirror them, etc.  Additionally, Dropbox and Google Drive do file history now, so saving your stuff to the cloud can be very useful, like a poor-man's Perforce. Speaking of which, Perforce is free for small groups or individuals, so if people REALLY want to dive into source control, that's an option too.

    Nothing kills momentum like losing your project, but even having to burn an entire workday salvaging after a catastrophe can really take the wind our of your sails.
  • Joao Sapiro
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    Joao Sapiro polycounter
    watching this one very closely :)
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Oh man, @Joao Sapiro !  You are VERY welcome here! :smile: If you see anything with your trained eye that needs fixing, please please let me know!
  • [HP]
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    [HP] polycounter lvl 10
    Oh hell yeah man, this is what I'm talking about! Liking what I'm seeing so far, for sure!
    So wait, let me see if I understood, you did a vertical slice as sort of a art styleguide, and now you went back to blockout stage and you started fleshing out the environment? I'm asking because I see blocked out areas, and some interiors more fleshed out.

    I had fun going through your process and organization guidelines, it's actually one of the most important and vastly overlooked part of environment art in a production environment, so that alone I found really impressive about this project already.

    Let me know if you need some pointers in anything more specific.

    best of lucks man, this is looking great already.
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @[HP] Thank you so much! Yeah, so it's a bit confusing since I'm backtracking a bit and filling in from where I started up to now, but I posted some more recent screenshots in the OP. (I'm prepping some old walkthrough videos from my blockin stage, but they're bad quality so I'll probably draw a little overhead map just to clear up the different sections of the space for ease of understanding later.) You're essentially correct, though: I picked a small area (Morrison's office) to push through the stages all the way to a reasonably solid state in order to solve some of the bigger creative problems, mainly the details of the construction of the architecture and how to match my style target (Overwatch). Then, once I had that one office feeling reasonable (albeit not complete) I went back to the interior space in general and started over at blockin using what I learned in the vertical slice to fuel my work.  It's not perfect (and I don't think I'm quite nailing the OW style everywhere) but it was a nice, small, compact place to solve some BIG problems up front.

    I feel like it has paid dividends in that (A) I got to get to see "pretty stuff" pretty quickly since the office is such a small, controlled space, (B) I established base-level construction and design languages that I based the rest of the interior's architecture on, and (C) I came out of vertical slice with a small library of basic, usable materials that I've been using for the entire rest of the project so far.

    I'll be up to current day pretty soon here and then the thread will turn into more of a traditional work in progress thread, which will be good because I REALLY need more eyes on some of these spaces since I've been staring at them for so long. :neutral:  I'll be coming to you for help! :smile:

    Edit: Oh, geez, I didn't realize who you were, haha! Welcome! Yes, I will DEFINITELY need your help on this! Gibraltar has been my go-to map for studying the "Overwatch facility" design language. :smile:

  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8

    (Big version)


    As I mentioned before, in the past a lot of my personal 'for fun' work has been dioramas or prop collections. My goal with OWHQ has been to produce a shippable, professional, functioning environment, with the emphasis on looks first (I'm an artist after all) but design a close second. For lack of a cooler term I've been calling this design-minded art and it follows my professional experience wherein form follows function.

    I think that the real magic of video game environments is born from where the constraints of design encroach on the demands of art. Constraints breed creativity. For example, level designers work a lot in grey cubes and primitives and their primary focus is on making a space play and function in fun ways. "There needs to be a ramp here and a large spacious room here." Then story and art direction comes up with the context for that space, and the 2 don't always match. "This level needs to be set in a police station because of story/theme reasons x, y, and z." It becomes my job to take those 2 directions and respect both of them and execute something beautiful and unique and visually engaging. I love this process.

    In my personal projects, though, I get to be the art director but I often don't think much about design at all, and that's why I try to pick what I call a Reference Game. Reference games give my projects a grounding in game design and help me make a unified environment that looks professional. If I use the reference game effectively, I can reduce creative friction and make decisions more easily and end up with a result that the viewer can imagine having fun in as opposed to just looking at. I want to communicate gameplay with my environment art.





    At the outset of this project, instead of asking myself "What kind of environment am I making", I tried to ask myself "What kind of gameplay am I making?" and Overwatch the game has served as my art director and my level designer. Some creative problems are easy to solve: the ones that are polar opposites. "Do you want fire or ice?" Easy. Some problems are harder to solve when they seemingly are all the same equally. "Does this crate need to be made of wood or metal or plastic?" Probably doesn't matter too much, but I've still been in meetings where we discuss the minutiae of the pros and cons of stuff like this. I've found that the hardest problems, though, are ones where the solutions are all vague shades of the same color. "This kind of architectural feature frames ground-based action but this other sort of feature directs the eye upward. Which is better?" Sometimes these types of art direction questions can take a lot of time and energy to solve. Having a reference game gives you a place to go to hold up your various solutions and see if they match. As you bounce your solutions off of a reference game, you start to make unified decisions and you start to learn the visual and design language of your chosen game.  If you picked Uncharted 4 as your game, for example, you could go into that game, learn its design language, and use those principles in that game. "Oh, levels usually start out in this kind of room but they quickly open up into a multi-path platforming section made of modular assets. Platforming sections are built with these metrics in mind, but combat areas have these waist-high features to hide behind..." It gives you a creative scaffolding.

    Even if you're not doing a direct emulation (like I am), I feel having a reference game can help reduce creative friction.

    Overwatch game mechanics (particularly hero abilities) directly affect how levels look and feel. I'm not claiming to know the minds of Blizzard's designers, but these are just observations I've made as I've tried to analyze and learn the various languages being spoken by Overwatch's level design and art, and I've tried to hold to some of these as I decided how to layout my environment. Here's a very quickly-drawn schematic of the playable areas:



    So in addition to studying texture style, color, and lighting, I also looked at Overwatch maps as a whole (playing it a ton has helped ;) ). In general, maps are made up of:

    • Large, open point-of-interest anchors where most of the major engagements and point captures happen. These contain the main story beats of the map itself and few props.
    • Connecting those areas are main paths and chokepoints that are medium-sized areas where teams push forward; the goal in these spaces is to battle through them to the next POI, so again, few props beyond some map flavor stuff.
    • Occasionally, a map will have a mid-size arena that opens up for more vertical/mobile combat.
    • Close-quarters vignette/story areas off to the side or along the way. These are the areas packed with props where you're most likely to find broader story hooks to the map, characters, or past lore. "Easter eggs".

    I tried to include each of these elements in thoughtful ways. The layout may not be the best for an actual map, but I was also trying to hold true to the comic concept art I'm working from, and there was a clear shot of Jack and Ana walking down a hall that has served as a piece of key art for me. This frame:



    I made some changes and additions (ok a lot of them) but this frame has served as a starting point for my layout. Small-quarters hallway paths with a POI outside on a terrace, a mid-sized arena connecting the hallways, and vignette areas in Morrison's office and a breakroom themed area.



    Here's another example of an instance where design considerations won out over pure aesthetics. For the atrium area, I wanted a break room as a separate area but still integrated into the space under the dome. I made these 2 quick schematic drawings to run the idea past a few friends:



    As an artist, I thought the top layout, with a main path circling around a central break area, was the most interesting architecturally. I could put an enclosure over the top and windows on the walls so as to make a sheltered center that enemies could see into and poke in and out of! But that solution creates a desire path through the "side area" and to avoid putting a health pack along the most direct route, I have to cheat and put it on the "main path". I had to admit that the 2nd option, where the sheltered side area rewards the longer, more complicated route with health and allows for a more direct main path, was the better design. Design (based on how real OW levels are set up) dictated the layout and it was up to me to make it look pretty.

    I have other examples, but I'll bring them up on future posts as this one's getting a bit long. I'll try to post some blockin progress walkthroughs this weekend. Holidays and some paid contracts may slow some updates now and then, so thanks for sticking with the thread. :smile: It's been super fun compiling my process on this. Happy Thanksgiving!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Alright! so enough talk, let's get up to date and into the weeds.

    As I mentioned, after I got Morrison's office up to a certain level, I moved right into solving out the 2 hallways and the atrium area.  Here's some walkthrough videos in a couple stages of blockin and modeling. Some of these give a decent wander around the Terrace as well:










  • Jakro
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    Jakro polycounter lvl 2
    Loving the progression on this! You're doing great work! Looking forward to seeing more!
  • RustySpannerz
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    RustySpannerz polycounter lvl 8
    What a detailed an helpful walkthrough! This is what this forum needs more of! 
  • RitualSynergY
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    RitualSynergY greentooth
    This looks so fun! Really cool how your walking us through your thought process as well. Keep it up!
  • Optimus
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    Optimus triangle
    looking great! i think i might create a game environment from my favorite game as well!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Jakro Thanks so much! Hopefully I wont disappoint..
    @Optimus Try it! Emulations teach you a lot. Don't forget to bring your own creativity to it, though. :)
    @RustySpannerz Wow, thanks. I hope there's something useful among all the words..
    @RitualSynergY Thanks, man!

    On that note, I'll keep talking about various things, but if anyone has any questions about long-term projects, my environment art process, or project management then please ask! If I don't have any thoughts on it, hopefully someone more knowledgeable will come along and inform us all. This stuff is just my personal experience and observations, I'd love to hear others'.

    Quick update today, but I have a gift for other Overwatch-inclined artists out there.

    First, here's an old friend we should all be pretty well acquainted with by now:


    I'm converting the area above the shipping container offices into a storage area (for interest but also as an excuse to block that area off from fliers), and I wanted to pepper in a few of these guys. Remodeled by hand and a quick texture job in Painter.

    You may notice a splotchy texture effect in those, I laid in on a bit thick since these will be smaller props tucked away in a corner. In a GDC talk from March of this year, Arnold Tsang (OW assistant art director) and William "Bill" Petras (OW/World of Warcraft art director) discussed the development of the Overwatch art style. It's super cool, available here, and required viewing for anyone wanting to work in this style. One thing they discuss is this brush that they developed to use in surfacing and texturing that helped them unify and establish the comic booky handpainted style of the textures. If you look, you can see it ALL OVER the game.

    Anyway, they graciously showed a small screenshot of the brush shape itself, and I've done my best to create my own version. It's called "WDBootlegOverwatch" and here it is for anyone who wants it!


    https://www.dropbox.com/s/51vfw4avu3fk32b/WDBootlegOverwatch.abr?dl=0

    And here it is in png form for use as an alpha in Painter and where ever else:


    It's not quite the same as the official one, but it's dang close. You can use it to paint in solid blocks of color for a super textured feel like this:


    Or use it strategically for subtle standout details like this:


    Here's a clean version of that texture to see how I'm actually using it:


    Here's a different texture using the brush in-game:


    So just throw that preset into Photoshop's brush presets and you should be good to go! As usual, any feedback is welcome, and thanks for your comments, they help out a lot!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    I decided to jump ahead a bit in my schedule and model out one of the several story hook ideas I've had for the space. Some paying work has zapped a bit of my momentum lately, so I thought I'd take the weekend and do something more on the fun side of things. I'll let it speak for itself and hopefully it's understandable :wink:



    Here's the current state of the Atrium looking in from the East Hall:



    I have a task list written out that I focus on, but outside of that I'm generally trying to compare the "feel" of the space to the "feel" of spaces in Overwatch levels. The general goal is to get my level to "feel" similar to a finished Overwatch level. Feel and emotion and a game environment's sense of place is hard to quantify and codify, but I think it's absolutely vital and the core of why I love environment art over any other. To stand in an environment I've made and suddenly feel it switch over from being a collection of assets to a PLACE is bloody magic. I'll get there!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    ( @[HP] )Getting textures and materials tuned and looking right has been a challenge. I'd love to blame it on the engine and say "Unreal must just work differently from the Overwatch engine" but that's a huge cop-out and I don't actually believe it besides. That said, Unreal IS super happy to just take metals and chrome them out to be as shiny as possible, and I think my metals are some of the weaker materials in the project.

    So, if I could ask y'all: Here's a collection of my metal materials. Which ones feel most "Overwatch" to you? Which feel wrong or off target? I have my own opinions on them, (for example, I think most of them need much more hand-touched/hand painted elements) but I'd love to get some independent, fresh reactions to them overall. I have screenshots and video clips. Please watch the video clips especially as that will show the materials in motion.

    As usual, any other feedback is also welcome!

    Main Metal Trims (Feel free to comment on these individually. This is probably one of the most-used materials in the project.)

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/znno1wgjni8pgry/metaltrim-basic.mp4?raw=1

    Blue Shiny Pipes


    Video clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vcivfhofj1he3cb/bluepipes.mp4?raw=1

    Doorway Trims (Some of these will be trim sheets that are still not filled up completely. Forgive my empty UV space!)

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/v3y12czpu41gqk9/doortrim.mp4?raw=1

    General Gold

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/40i7sprefruln3o/gold-basic.mp4?raw=1

    Blue Matte Pipes

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8mkfjfukh6r141d/mattepipes.mp4?raw=1

    Metal Grate Walkway

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kbh5xh8lv8dmsr1/metalgrate.mp4?raw=1

    Square Vents

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ivbaizgev1u5365/movent.mp4?raw=1

    Round Vents

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4ahggqt5ctqhcv7/roundvents.mp4?raw=1

    Shutter Door

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kxldn9mdc4cqtym/shutterdoor.mp4?raw=1

    Understructure

    Video Clip: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jggarkmmx56fspa/understructure.mp4?raw=1
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Here's a before and after of some work I did on the Shutter Door material. I think that one is one of the worst offenders.

    Before:


    After:


    In general I'm trying to bring the albedo out and push the chromey-metal back. Pushing unifying, wear and tear, edges, and variation while trying to avoid too much detail and noise.  I may need to back off the noise even more and add more graphical and blatant elements.
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Since I spent a few hours yesterday staring at the shutter door on the security checkpoint, I decided to give the whole thing another pass last night.





    Here's what it looked like before yesterday:



    I was playing with a viewing-angle material with a vague, blurred "interior" texture behind the glass. It would change perspective based on your viewing angle, but it was so close quarters that the effect wasn't going to fool anyone. I was also using several different metals and some surfaces had placeholder white plastic materials still. I unified the metals and quickly threw together an unreachable interior space using props and materials that I already had. The result looks much better, the structure makes more sense mechanically, and it has a MUCH stronger sense of place. I can now make a list of the bespoke props it needs to really flesh it out and give it character.


  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    I noticed as I was revisiting the hallway sections that my lighting was overblown. Sometimes it just takes leaving an area and coming back to it after a good amount of time away to finally see something super obvious. I'm using a pretty simple LPV realtime lighting set up for this, and most of the lighting is driven by an environment light, a sky light, and the LPV settings in the post processing. Simply cutting the LPV amount down brought my histagram levels back into a MUCH better place. Here's some before and after of the 2 hallway sections:

    BEFORE


    AFTER


    BEFORE


    AFTER


    Let me know what you think! To my eye it feels much more balanced and much closer to the target style, but like I said above, I've been staring at this stuff for so long, it really helps to get new eyes on things.

    Speaking of the west hall, I made a small pass at solving out some of the wall space:


    I'm trying to balance areas of detail and areas of rest. I feel like having the wall in the foreground there mostly blank is ok, but it still needs a little something extra. Compare to a before shot of this hallway here.

    And finally, weekends are generally times when I have to work away from the computer for most of the day, so when I get a chance I try to use pencil and paper to work on things. This weekend, that led to this:



    And a far shot (and also the Atrium in the new lighting):


    There's a right side companion piece that I'll work on at some point too. 3 guesses as to what the other side of "JUSTICE" is. ;)
  • Sajeet
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    Sajeet polycounter lvl 3
    i really enjoying following your process. And im impressed with the amount of work you are putting in to this one! :) And i also learn alot from this! thx! :)
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    This new pass on the reception is amazing, great ameliorations there :) and i feel like you reaaaally improved the feeling of your metalness. Keep it up!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Sajeet Thank you so much! If you are learning, I am very glad. Like I said, I was mainly looking for a place to collect and record my own thoughts, and if that's helping people, then I'm suuuper happy about that.

    @Olingova Oh that's great to hear! I feel like things are all progressing. With some of this stuff I'm moving into that 80/20 split where the last 20% of the work takes the same amount of time as the first 80% of it did, haha. If some of my metals are looking better and more accurate to the source, then I am very happy to hear that. Thanks for coming back and following up!

    Working on getting the actual architecture squared away so I can move into making interior props in earnest. I'm also playing with some movement/life/motion to add in here as well. 
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    My pleasure, honestly you post is really interesting and of aaaall these overwatch fanarts i saw yours is the best! I also really look forward to see what you will do for the exterior part, of what i already saw/tried, foliage from overwatches are really simple but still look damn good.
  • dllxtt
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    dllxtt polycounter lvl 3
    Read all your posts, your progress is amazing , you're doing very nice job! Ohhh keep it up! I wish you to land stable job you want! Again keep it up ! Will follow you 100%! Thanks for the inspiration too^
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Olingova Thanks! The exterior will certainly be a gearshift from the interior, but I'm excited for it too!
    @dllxtt Thank you so much! That is very nice of you. I hope we all get good gigs! ;)

    A bit of a mashup of updates today, but I did want to talk about one thing first..

    I'm continuing my detailing pass over the architecture by hitting the extremely bare walls in the Atrium that I'm sure you've all noticed. I allowed myself a detour tonight to dabble in a non-primary discipline. I have often tried to go out of my way to implement disciplines outside of the core modeling and texturing in my personal projects. It runs the risk of creating a fatal amount of creative friction, but it enriches the end result in really cool ways, and if you can get to a level of proficiency, I think the project will stand out in really personal, cool ways. Additionally, I feel that being aware of what goes in to creating aspects of the project in other departments only makes me a better production artist. I call this having a full pipeline mindset in your work. When I first started as an intern, I would get a task, I would perform that task, and then I would hand the result off to my mentor or art director and then get a new task. This is fine for an intern, but as I progressed, I started to collect as much information as I could about what other departments were doing. I eventually learned what happened to my assets after I handed them off and actually learned how to take my assets several steps further than I was expected. I learned how to trace the path of my art from my workstation all the way to integration within the game. Most importantly, I also learned where my decisions impacted the lives and workloads of other people down the pipeline. Eventually I felt that I had just clear enough a picture of what the broader consequences of my creative decisions would be. Do I put text in this texture? That will have to pass through legal and localization. It's likely to get changed or cut. How can I design around this? If I model and texture a digital readout into this machine does that have to go through a designer to give it functionality? Rigging to animate it? FX to make it prettier? Sound to support it? How many bugs will all of these moving parts create? Is the bang for the buck worth it? Who do I have to talk to or inform? I stepped on several toes in my career before I wised up to this butterfly effect, but these were lessons well learned. Since then I try to be mindful of and to dabble in multiple disciplines.

    So tonight I made the first animation for OWHQ. It's a simple UI-style animation, but I got to flex my rusty animation muscles a little bit, expand my library of graphic design for this project, and learn some corners of UE4 that I rarely stick my head into. It's a litttle keyboard/console terminal that responds to the player's approach. It unlocks when you get near and locks again when you leave.


    High res version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xrqjbib6x1izvq1/console.mp4?raw=1


    High res version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0jc0nsm6ymign4n/console02.mp4?raw=1

    Let me know what you think! I'm pretty pleased with it all in all. (The BreakfastWatch screen being there is temporary) 

    On a related note, I've been a graphic designer hobbyist since I was a teenager, and I've always loved games that go out of their way to integrate quality graphic design into the game. Not only do I feel that it gives the game world a feeling of deeper authenticity, history, and life, it's also great for merchandising. :) Plus, graphic design is based in the same visual principles as all art: shape, proportion, line, color, composition, etc but often for a much more direct and singular purpose. Look here. Buy this. This object functions like this. This is what's in this container. Overwatch is full of great graphic design. 

    I always keep a huge Adobe Illustrator design farm file for all my projects that I gradually fill up with pieces of design as I need them. I thought it'd be neat to do a WIP collage of some of the design I've had to do to bring OWHQ to life so far:



    After all, graphic design is just another department in the full pipeline and they do a ton of work on modern games. 

    And finally, as we head into the holiday, a progress shot of the Emblem in the Atrium:

  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Welcome back, everyone! Hope you all had a good holiday. I enjoyed some much needed relaxing, but it's time to get back to it!

    I needed a drinking fountain for the west Atrium wall, so I made one!


    And here's that wall. You can tell in-game that a lot of thought and design goes in to the doodads and greebles in the Overwatch themed areas. Hopefully I'm putting the right amount of thought into these. My goal is to make them interesting without drawing too much attention.


    As usual, thoughts, feedback, and especially critique are welcome from all. Onward!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    As I fill in some more polish in the architecture of the interior, I've decided to start chewing on some of the larger, more impactful problems on the Terrace outside to avoid getting worn down by the small, iterative steps I'm taking inside now. Here's a concrete slab I painted up this evening to help give me a neutral base to build on outside:

    The actual albedo:




    I also set up and started tinkering with the outside post processing settings so it's not so blown out when you go outside. Much more fiddling with that to come, I'm sure. It can get so subtle and minute that it can turn into one of those "different shades of the same color" issues. I'll reference the actual game to help me dial it in.

    Edit: Oh, I should clean up that intersection where the rivet hole meets the edge. Always more to do!
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    Again, the quality is amazing :)

    I actually think  you nailed those lill "points of interests" (blue lighted fountain, screen...) definitely makes a big difference.

    A massive, enormous thumbs up for taht bacon/orange overwatch logo; llllove it !!
    Really cool to see that you take time to work on every aspect of this project, keep it up!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Olingova Thanks again! It's definitely good to hear that at least some of what's in my brain is coming through in the final product. :)
  • Lucas Annunziata
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    Lucas Annunziata polycounter lvl 7
    This is really impressive man! Maybe pump up the bloom a little bit more?
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Lucas Annunziata Thank you! I love your stuff, gorgeous fantasy-Arabian nights work.  

    Bloom! This is a great topic. I'm assuming you mean I should pump it up throughout the piece? Or specifically in that concrete image?  I have bloom in the post, but I also have a really hazy, wide lens flare bokeh texture to cloud the player's vision a bit when they get close to lights or bright reflections, which is something I've noticed in-game. I have to be really careful with the lens flare, though, since because it's so wide and subtle it can tank framerates.

    I think some atmospheric effects like subtle god rays and the like will help soften some areas too, but that's further down my lists.




    This is it at its most intense. Balancing the intensity so it's still noticeable in cases like the light below but not overpowering like in the reflection above has been most of my tinkering. I'm not quite there yet.


  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    Hey! So stealing some moments here and there from caring for a toddler with pneumonia, I tried to set dress the break room area in the Breakfastwatch corner. Behold!











    These were all way too much fun to make, by the way.

    Additionally, a big part of how Overwatch environments feel involves a simple effect that's been a tenant of fps games since Half Life 2: physics props. I'm sure you've noticed how a lot of Overwatch props seem to even be "rigged" to snap off and fly away at the slightest touch, kinda like they do things in movies. I'm sure that's intentional.  Once I had items on the shelves in here, I wanted to make sure that this effect was at least represented, so I turned physics on for the first time!


    High res version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3uyuyv6zhuged4b/physicsfood.mp4?raw=1

    Like I said, way too much fun, haha.

    More exterior work next time! I'm jumping around a tiny bit to balance progress and momentum. I'm getting a lot of friction from life in general right now (sick kids, money issues, client work, poor sleep, etc) so in order to keep moving forward I'm playing a bit loose with the workflow and doing what feels good right now. It's all stuff that adds to the progress; I'm not wasting time or effort, but it just might look a little sporadic. I'm just trying to make sure I touch the project every day in some meaningful way right now rather than forcing myself to push in a certain area or another.

    Thanks for lookin', and as usual feedback is welcome and appreciated!
  • Gannon
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    Gannon polycounter lvl 9
    Love the detail you're going into with this, great stuff. Keep it up!
  • mutatedjellyfish
  • Olingova
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    Olingova polycounter lvl 3
    Yeah everybody love to mess up with those physics props haha, glad you could take some time do add those.

    As i said, really curious about what you will do with the exterior! And stay strong for those life problems, i hope you ll find the strenght and time to finish this awesome peice :)
  • Gearman
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    Gearman polycounter lvl 7
    Love watching your progress. Those little props are perfect and give the real OW environments their soul. Can't wait to see what you do with the exterior!
  • mutatedjellyfish
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    mutatedjellyfish polycounter lvl 8
    @Olingova I couldn't resist! And thank you. Thankfully a lot of the logistical legwork and organization I've done on this up front is paying off when the schedule get a little complicated. There's just a lot of friction I don't have to worry about so I can take a couple days off to take care of something and trust that I'll be able to pick up the project right where I left it.

    The exterior has been a bit of a growing storm on the horizon since I can literally see all of its unfinished uncertainty through the window of my interior space, so it's been a breath of fresh air, so to speak, to get out there and start solving those problems. I'm excited!

    @Gearman Thanks so much! They're their own little projects. It'd be very easy to dig too deep on them and try to put too much effort into them, but as I've learned, Overwatch's style seems to look best when you only put as much detail in as is necessary. Hopefully they all fit.

    Onward! 
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