Official Torment Environment Art Discussion

For all Torment discussion that does not fit elsewhere. No spoilers allowed.

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jonG
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Official Torment Environment Art Discussion

Post by jonG » September 25th, 2014, 9:59 am

Hello to all the Torment fans around the world. My name is Jon Gwyn and I am one of the Environment artist for Torment Tides of Numenera at InXile! I thought this would be a good time to get the ball rolling on giving our faithful Numenera fans a little more of an inside look at what we're doing, and how we are going about creating this very cool world.
First a little background on myself. I am a 25 year game industry veteran and have worked on many titles. My main focus has been environment art for about the last 12 years or so on such titles as the Matrix games, Resistance 3, GTA 5, some mobile stuff ( Reign of Amira ) Wasteland 2 and now Tides of Numenera. Prior to that I was the main character artist on Sacrifice from Shiny entertainment and art lead on a few Might and Magic games. Lots of other projects are scattered in between the more high profile ones as well.
I was the first full time Environment artist on Torment and created the Bloom Scenes in the video. I'm still working on Bloom areas and they are creepy and gross as places tend to be when you are inside of a giant living evil beast.
I will be updating regularly and although I may not be able to get into too much detail about the game, I can chat about the work, methods and experiences of working on this title that we all are waiting for.

thanks
JonG

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Jernaugh » September 25th, 2014, 11:43 am

Oh, wow, you did the main character work in Sacrifice? Eldred and Marduk and Hachimen and all of them? I loved that game and I loved its look! :)

Awesome to have you talking to us, Jon.

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » September 25th, 2014, 12:15 pm

thanks! yes I designed and built Eldred, Marduk, Buta, and most of the other wizards as well as the majority of the creatures. It was a fun game to work on and rumor has it that its one of Brian Fargos favorites as well.
I have the initial concepts and models posted on my site if you are curious

www.jongwyn.com

cant belive that was almost 15 years ago.........

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Fry » September 25th, 2014, 12:50 pm

I'm hoping the dev notes you get back on The Bloom just say, "Dammit, I said more slime!"

Seriously, this must be a fun game to work on in that settings in the Numenera world could be just about anything. Are you mainly working off very detailed descriptions of environments provided by the writers, or do you have latitude to make up your own crazy stuff?

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » September 25th, 2014, 2:14 pm

This is a really creative project, and they are really good at letting me establish the look and feel of whatever im working on while also collaborating with the designers on the game play specifics that need to be emphasized. Our art director and lead artist trust me to come up with my own ideas for the environments based on initial concepts and suggestions along the way. Believe me, i have seen more reference of cysts, cancer, skin disease and gore in the last few months while working on the Bloom to last me a lifetime.

On the designer end, we have very specific guidelines for the story and events in any particular area, and create the art to fit into those scenarios. I have had to modify some areas after talking with the designer and getting more details. For example...I made a house that looked like it was built into the body of a giant insect, but later learned that the house need to serve a different purpose, so I tore it up and re positioned the insect into a side wall. So I try to keep the designers up to date on what Im doing to avoid those kind of mistakes in the future.

jonG

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Blacky » September 27th, 2014, 10:53 am

Hi, nice of you to come chat us up :)

I was wondering if you had specific guidelines, and/or a personal touch or point of view on the subject of coherence (was some people may call “realism”, which is a very trick notion in a Numenera setting ;) ).

Like, how the settings influence the gameplay, and sometimes the other way around. I'm thinking about this because I'm playing Wasteland 2 right now, and each time I see those invisible wall on pipes or those fence I can't shovel under or climb atop, I mumble (well ok, no, my neighbors probably hear me rant across the street ^^) about who designed this that way…
Chez Blacky, jdr et autres
If things make sense in a real-world sense, I don’t think people give too much flak for it not being game-y enough, I think keeping the world sense together is the most important thing we can be doing.—Brian Fargo

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by dorkboy » September 27th, 2014, 11:41 am

I believe the word you're looking for, Blacky, is 'tile-based'. :)
marmelade & jam

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Micru » September 27th, 2014, 1:01 pm

Hi Jon, thanks for posting in the forum! I know that you have tons of experience and a great team behind, I was just wondering if you would be happy to get inspiration images or texts from the community. Sometimes I stumble upon concepts that seem very suitable for Numenera, but I don't know if they are welcome.

The other thing I wanted to ask is about the character animation. During the dialogues they seem very static (even they have some idle movements). Is it planned to add more interpretative elements, like the characters gesturing with their hands, shaking their heads, etc. or does it depend too much on dialogue synchronization?

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » September 29th, 2014, 10:01 am

Blacky...it seems that thats just the nature of the beast in games. while we do have boundry guidelines it is usually up to me to find some way to make the invisible wall make some sort of sense. So, yes there are alot of times in games when you run into fences you cant climb and bushes you cant go through and places you cant dig, but relisticaly there is no way you could make a game that did'nt restrict the player from going anywhere they want. You have to design a game with realistic resrictions and focus on making those area you can traverse as tight as possible. In the area im working on now...the Bloom....its all interiors, so i can have walls define the area boundry.
Micru....while we welcome the chance to see everyones interpretations of the world of numenera on fan art forums, we dont actively seek out concept work from un-contracted sources. It gets into all kinds of sticky rights issues and legal stuff that isnt worth going into here.
As for animation, our man Josh is working on some sweet idles and animations which are really giving the scenes life. The video was an attempt to show a near final experience but there is still alot of work to go.

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Larva » September 30th, 2014, 8:28 am

Could you please share with us some considerations about the things that make a game's world feel like an actual world?

I have this idea that some elements in the environment need to evoke a larger system or a bigger picture.

Examples:

A little rain and thunder would remind us of the sky and bigger open spaces that don't quite fit into the screen combined with very minuscule details/textures/props would give us a bigger sense of scale. This way a game would feel more like a world and less like a scale model.

Some peculiar voyagers arriving or departing from an area would convey us that there is something else awaiting us out there, and that the world is not so static. Their gestures could be indicators of what they are preparing to encounter adding more significance to said environments.

Also any quest/event that forces you to traverse a certain path while ignoring every other adjacent location, would make us feel uneasy about getting lost into something huge and problematic (in a good way). This would make us be more aware of the kind of things that we should expect, building some anticipation and playing with our imagination to fill the unseen spots with an expectative that could mislead us in interesting ways.

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » October 3rd, 2014, 1:40 pm

Larva

those are all great suggestions. Were basically working on the framework now, you know, getting the areas built out and working on gameplay. The real detail work happens when we go in and fill out the props and effects. Our effects guys are making some really great strides in that department and there are definately cool atmospheric feelings coming out of the scenes now. Josh is getting alot of the basic moves down now in the animations and has alot of plans for anims that will really give life to alot of the mundane background characters.
We just added another environment artist so another new area is being started that has a really strange and cool feel to it. I can say it harkens back to Baldurs gate in a way.

On the design front..I will say that ive never worked on a game that had such a high ratio of experienced designers compared to the rest of us. These guys want the same thing as you in terms of the world being alive so we are all striving to make that happen.

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Larva » October 3rd, 2014, 3:49 pm

Blessings. I am hoping this game will also become a classic that stands out among the others of its time.

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Blacky » October 3rd, 2014, 10:58 pm

tvs_ted_danson wrote:but relisticaly there is no way you could make a game that did'nt restrict the player from going anywhere they want.
Of course, I have no issues with that.

I was talking about world sense, about consistency.

Let's take a Wasteland 2 example (one among many, many, many others unfortunately): you come back to a location, a vast area in a canyon. You have the choice of coming from the east or the west, with no indication of what's what. You're concerned about the eastern people, so you come from the east. It's a vast area with canyon "walls", an entry point, and a wire wall with a wire gate the very common kind you see nowadays. Behind this "grate", there's two group of people, 2 or 3 meters away. Even though you are an expert at opening everything locked, this time magically you can't (not that the locked was changed and it's un-pickable, the game just won't let you even try). These people don't speak, don't move, don't answer to anything. It's just a wire gate, you could easily put several fingers through it or launch a spear or something. But you can't talk to them. You can't shoot them. You can't interact with them in any ways.

Now, you exit this area going back, move around it (magically, since you know, only one passage through the canyon and it has this magic wire grate locking it) and enter the area from the west. You walk a little in the canyons until you come to the previous two groups area. But this time the game detect you're here, and the same people (who still haven't moved, even if you go away for weeks and weeks) start yelling at each other, and shooting each other, and of course you can interact with the survivors.

That's what I'm talking about. The guys were right there, 3 meters away, and I can't speak to them? I can't shoot through the "grate" ? I can't lob something (let's say… grenade) over it ? Can't climb it ? Can't… well anything.

Or to take another example, you have this vast area with a lot of industrial pipes. You can't walk under, climb over, nothing. Except… except in one specific place. It's no different, it's the same pipes, it is exactly the same, there's no hidden mystery, nothing. But no, here you can walk through it.

I don't mind (too much) tunnel games (like The Witcher) when it's clear and cut. I understand there's budget limitation, and one can't do everything. In WL2 I don't mind (too much) that I can't climb anything beside some ladders. I do mind when that's put in the player face and suddenly he can't climb that ladder or go through those pipes for no reason, or the game is rubbing a scene in his face. I can accept some inconstancies in the name of crpg, but these inconsistencies have to be consistent (if you know what I mean). Yes sometimes that make the writers and designers jobs harder, but that's why it's a job and not a past-time.

Especially when the fix is easy, just put some real wall there and be done with it.
Chez Blacky, jdr et autres
If things make sense in a real-world sense, I don’t think people give too much flak for it not being game-y enough, I think keeping the world sense together is the most important thing we can be doing.—Brian Fargo

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Hakmon » October 4th, 2014, 3:28 pm

Great to see some art guys here after all the talk about game design and story! Everything is looking beautiful so far; must be an exciting setting to work on with all those odd areas.

Can you talk a bit about your thoughts on integrating characters with the environment? I'm thinking in terms of textures and shaders, mostly. A game like Dota2 has done an extremely good job of making the characters look a part of the world - I guess the flat textures are a big help there. Meanwhile, Diablo3 for instance has environments that are more of a canvas with characters on top of it - which also works brilliantly. Textures in both games have a flat, painted look.

The reason I ask is, when I observe the bloom area and then the "outside" natural environment in the recent gameplay video, it looks like two entirely different approaches, if you know what I mean? And I know you're far from done, so I'm just interested in your vision :)

The bloom area and this old kickstarter screenshot seem more like the Diablo approach, with textured character models on more painted/flat backgrounds. But then this outside area looks way different with "photo-realistic" textures. (also, to be blunt about it, it looks kinda standard and map-editor-like at this early stage. Need some handcrafted trees and cliffs with character!)

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by tuluse » October 4th, 2014, 3:55 pm

Do you have any methods for getting into the "mood" for doing specific art? Like do you surround yourself with other forms of art you want to take inspiration from, or do you just mine your own mind (I know Tim Schafer said he hardly listened to any metal while making Brutal Legend)?

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » October 6th, 2014, 9:21 am

hey Tuluse. I am a big fan of sci fi and fantasy art and books movies comics etc., so its not a big stretch for me to be in the mood to do the type of environments we are working on for TTON. People around the office are horrified at what Ive been collecting in my reference folder for the Bloom, namely tons of pics of cancer, disease, scars, scabs, cysts, gory accidents, and surgery. The best reference i have been able to find are nice hi res pictures of a dissected heart. Another goldmine is a collection of tongue cancer images. Its probably warped me a bit, but its all helped make the bloom the really gross evil place its supposed to be. Another mood enhancer would be alot of hard rock the various sites I visit. Im a huge star wars nut, so I spend a great deal of time listening to podcasts about the new movies and a healthy dose of Howard Stern. I will say that I always look forward to coming into work and im having the most fun i've had in years.
Hakmon- I try to get as realistic as I can in the environments without losing the fantasy feeling. This world is 1 billion years in the future so its hard to guess what would be realistic or not by todays standards. All i can do is try to focus on making things as cool as possible and look fitting and functional within the world that we are designing. We arent going for a painterly look and dont have the time and resources to create by hand all of the texture work, so we rely on a mix of hand done and realworld images that are manipulated to get the look we want. The Characters are always a question because on one hand you want them to perfectly fit in the environment but on the other hand yoo dont want them to get lost against the more detailed backgrounds we are making. You just have to accept that the characters will have to stand out a bit but not obnoxiously so.

jonG

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by Blacky » October 7th, 2014, 4:32 am

tvs_ted_danson wrote:Hakmon- I try to get as realistic as I can in the environments without losing the fantasy feeling. This world is 1 billion years in the future so its hard to guess what would be realistic or not by todays standards.
I'm hoping you'll go beyond the perceived “fantasy feeling” when it come to consistency. I much prefer this word than realism, which is always tricky: “you can't have realism, there's fireballs and dragons and space fighter and orbital station and whatnot”. Which of course is just a way for some people to shut down smart creation and writing, since realism isn't base on our current standard, realism means coherent, consistent with however the fictional world is being built.

For example our medieval “dark ages” would not be “realist”, or better yet consistent with D&D worlds because the psychology, sociology, social and spiritual structures of the 11th century Franks or Saxons does not, can not exist with the D&D magic and skill system.

Of course TToN is trickier, Numenera being the way it is, much more freeform, much more exceptions upon layers or exceptions.

Still, a lot of basics foundations are the same for a lot of people. I don't care that a group of settlers live in a multidimensional giant house where each room is at a different corner of the space time continuum, or that they live in a giant dead (or alive) creature like parasites, or that they all share a single body and struggling against each other for moments of control, or whatever. They still need to breath (so they need something to breath years after years after years), eat, drink, sleep, excrete, and probably reproduce, have some kind of social interactions, and some kind of creation of production. You, the Torment creation team, needs to know how they do all these things. Maybe it shows in the game, maybe not, doesn't matter. You still need an answer. And if they doesn't need some of these things, you definitely needs to know why, how, and what are the ramifications and consequences of such a thing.

Basically, every one who put anything on the player screen (whatever it is, a word, an object, a character, whatever) needs to think about where it comes from, how it impact the world around it, causes and consequences. Exactly like a tabletop rpg gamemaster.

So I personally do hope that the “fantasy feeling” (also sometimes called the “lololol unicorn with a rocket launcher way fun bro put some there next to the stormtroopers armed with psychedelic flowers and a +5 vorpal!!!!!”) do take a backseat to consistency, which is the holy grail of any and every rpg, tabletop or computer.
Chez Blacky, jdr et autres
If things make sense in a real-world sense, I don’t think people give too much flak for it not being game-y enough, I think keeping the world sense together is the most important thing we can be doing.—Brian Fargo

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Re: Environmentally Speaking.......

Post by jonG » October 13th, 2014, 3:02 pm

well, just finished the largest area ive worked on so far and its off to Aron for rendering. It will be interesting to see how the lighting turns out for more of the high chrome objects, like the giant statue that occupies a large portion of the area. This level is sort of a central hub inside the Bloom and has passageways leading off to other areas that have been completed. Oopps, im off to a meeting about my next area.....
later
jonG

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Re: Official Torment Environment Art Discussion

Post by jonG » October 13th, 2014, 3:31 pm

per my request..jason was kind enough to change the title of this thread to a more 'official' sounding name. No one was taking me seriously dammit !!!! btw, just went over the design for a cool room where a ne'er do well has been doing things that makes the bloom unhappy. Lots of good stuff in here for nic ( props artist) and I to sink our teeth into!!

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Re: Official Torment Environment Art Discussion

Post by -Archangel- » October 14th, 2014, 3:56 am

Give us pictures and we will take you more seriously :D

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