Ten Ton Hammer - Making “saturated” space and monolithic structures were also key points in all of Hermann’s speeches; how has that been accomplished? How do you make space “saturated” and how do you create scale in the empty void of space?

Darrin - Saturation has been a little easier than scale and distance. We decided to use vibrant colors and contrast as a result of researching what people react to when playing a space game or watching a space movie. Saturation and contrast are found more often than not in successful games and films of this genre. I was reluctant at first to do this. But as a team we decided that desaturating set a mood that only appealed to a small group. It didn’t leave the game open to dramatic contrast between sectors and lighting.

As far as scale is concerned that’s been pretty tricky. We have some massive objects but had to figure out ways to make them feel that way at all times. Slight fog, debris moving, and blurring are what give us that. Object placement plays a huge role also. We want every sector to have a dramatic feel very similar to a memorable seen from a movie. I truly believe that’s what creates endless immersion.

 

More images from Jumpgate Evolution

 

Ten Ton Hammer - Ship design is also a huge factor in any space combat simulation. How are the ships created? Does at art team draw up a concept first, then hand that over to a designer or programmer and ask if that works? Or do you pretty much do it all as a cohesive team, since the Jumpgate team is still small?

Darrin - Ships start with our concept artist Kirk Lunsford. His style is the main drive behind the new art direction of JGE (the kid’s a ninja!). He starts with quick thumbnails that are really just black and white silhouettes. He does numerous iterations of these until we all agree on a certain shape. From there he fleshes out the rest of the way, adding detail and color values. Then he iterates on that a few more times. As a team we look it over to make sure it won’t have any tech problems such as “will it fit in the dock” or, “would it be awkward or at a disadvantage to fly” After that is approved, either I or my other modeler, Cole Eggen, take it and create the 3D model. We work closely with the concept artist to make sure we maintain his vision while adding our own slight variations. These variations occur as a result of going from 2D to 3D representation. Sometimes what looks perfect on paper isn’t quite as functional or pretty in real time 3D. After the model is made we texture and create hard points for the FX to attach to. We finish up by creating special FX like engines, running lights, weapons, etc.

With a finished ship in hand we put it in the game. Being such a small team has forced us to be much more self sufficient than most teams. Making a finished asset and implementing it without bothering the programmers too much is a very common thing on JGE.

 

Ten Ton Hammer - In designing art for Jumpgate Evolution, what areas have been your biggest problems so far?

Darrin - I would say that user interface has been the most difficult. UI art has to be one of the things that’s reworked the most in just about every game being developed. What may seem easy to the artist to understand and interpret can be completely mind numbing and counter-intuitive to the player. It takes a lot of blind testing to see what people “get”.

Our other problem area has been our larger objects like space stations and asteroids. This is mainly because of texture memory issues that we want to avoid. We want texture memory at a minimum for min spec but still crisp in its resolution. The larger objects posed a problem with this because in order to maintain those standards we had to approach their modeling and texturing in a different way. We had to use tiling textures and smart shape design to keep them at acceptable performance levels. There’s a lot to explain about how they are made so I’ll just say that “Solrain Core Station” was a cruel mistress.

Ten Ton Hammer - What was your favorite piece of art to design and the team’s greatest accomplishment?

Darrin - To be honest, all of the designs have been fun to work on. Like I said, Kirk Lunsford is a concept ninja and Cole Eggen and I have no problems modeling his pieces. I would say that the new rendition of the games pinnacle piece the “Jumpgate,” is our greatest asset in the game thus far. The game is called Jumpgate Evolution. With that in mind we knew that obviously the jumpgates had to be pretty rad. Cole Eggen was responsible for the modeling and FX and we were very pleased with his initial model. He requested a special shader for the “watery” effect on the gate and that sealed the deal. He worked very closely with lead programmer Ben Lard (super genius) to get the shader effect and transition into the Jumpgate just right. Again, because of the size of the team we are able to work closely with one another on everything. For example if I need some programming support I can look right over my monitor at Ben. Actually I have to look over and down…he’s pretty short.

Ten Ton Hammer - Are there any particular areas in the game so far that have received a “special treatment” and if so, what did you do to make them really stand out?

Darrin - Our whole approach to making JGE is to focus on all areas as being special. We believe that’s what makes a successful game. By starting with this first sector and really focusing on it one piece at a time we have really made sure that everything in it, both visuals and game play, is as great as it can be.

Ten Ton Hammer - Finally, what should fans of the original Jumpgate and space combat simulators in general expect to see when they enter the world of Jumpgate Evolution?

Darrin - I want new players and old players alike to login and see an immersive, high quality environment, inspired by the original Jumpgate…loaded with players :)


Our thanks to Darrin Klein and NetDevil for their time. We look forward to seeing more of Jumpgate Evolution in the coming months.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff
Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.

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