By Ken Morse, Senior Art Lead for City of Heroes/Villains
A Greek and Roman
inspired Task Force is on its way for Issue 12.
As the Senior Art Lead, it’s my job to figure out how to turn
Positron and the rest of the team’s ideas into visual
realities. Coming from both a film and environment art
background, I am always excited when the opportunity to create new
settings for the game presents itself. A Task Force inspired
by ancient Greece and Rome, however, was genre-stretching territory
we’d never ventured into before, and presented some serious
Could Heroes and Villains of every imaginable variety fit into an
ancient, fantastic setting? Would Cimerora feel as connected
to the Hero and Villain experience as Atlas Park or Mercy Island? Would
it be exciting to see super powered battles between leather and bronze
clad warriors in sandals versus Heroes and Villains in
tights? I’d like to give you a glimpse into the
process that took Cimerora from concept to completion!
Creating Cimerora: The
Players will be
venturing to Cimerora to engage in alternate timeline antics.
1 – Genesis of
Creating Greek and Roman inspired mission content was something that we
wanted to do with Issue 11: A Stitch in Time. It was always a goal of
ours for that Issue to really make you feel like a time traveler by
going back to ancient times and interacting with the locals there.
Unfortunately, when all the art tasks for Issue 11 were estimated, it
became apparent that we would not be able to complete it for that
Issue. We did, however, start work on several assets that we knew we
would need once we got the content underway.
For Issue 12, Positron (Matt Miller) and Hero 1 (Joe Morrissey) had a
time traveling Task Force in mind with several fairly epic
missions. It quickly became clear that in order to truly
support the Task Force content, Cimerora would need to become a place
of its own.
Advance work on
Cimerora was done during Issue 11.
Taking Heroes and Villains to ancient times was a huge challenge
conceptually and visually, and we felt that providing a persistent area
for players to explore, team up in, and even resurrect if
needed, would help make the experience feel more natural.
Another key conceptual goal for Cimerora was to make it feel like a
real place, rather than just a play space. To make this a
reality, we decided that all mission and zone content should be
interconnected, forming a more continuous geographical area for players
3 – Asset
Concept and Creation
While Hero 1 retreated to his cave to design the mission and story
content of the zone, I drew up a rough map of the spaces we’d
need and the environment artists began gathering reference and
prototyping assets for the zone.
For signature architecture and locations we turned to our fantastic
concept artist, Carolina Tello Alvarado, who illustrated all of the key
architecture and iconography for Castellum Quarter and the
Oracle’s Island . These illustrations,
along with the advance work we did during Issue 11, helped the
environment team work quickly and effectively to create and refine
literally thousands of new visual assets encompassing everything from
cliffs and terrain to buildings and fortresses.
The Cimerora content
is fairly extensive and needs thorough testing.
4 – Environment
Layout and Prototyping
Once the library of Cimeroran assets had begun to take shape, Don Pham
and Ryan Roth of our environment team worked closely with Hero 1 and
War Witch (Melissa Bianco) to create the map layouts
you’ll find in Cimerora. Reveals and vistas were
carefully planned and “white boxed” in order to
ensure that the story was revealed visually as intended.
“White boxing” is the process of using an easily
changeable, temporary layout to make sure game play,
“pathing” and overall flow is working
5 – Revision
White boxed zones often change daily based on play testing, story
modifications; or simply because some ideas sound great on paper, but
don’t work so well in game. This was the case with
the Castellum Quarter mission map for the Time’s Arrow Task
Force. The original design of Castellum Quarter called for a high class
temple district with beautiful gardens, but when the environments were
created in the editor, it became apparent that the mood just
wasn’t sinister and epic enough to sell the story content.
The white boxed level was torn down, and a new Castellum Quarter was
born as a huge fortress atop craggy cliffs , connected by
enjoy their travels in Cimerora as much as the team did.
6 - Population, Revision
and More Revision
As the Art and Design teams reached consensus on the layouts for
Cimerora and its associated missions, War Witch began drawing on the
fantastic Greek and Roman inspired characters and costumes Jay Doherty
created as well as the spectacular new animations and FX that Back
Alley Brawler (Chris Bruce) and the animation team supplied to populate
each map with dynamic spawns and NPCs.
Shortly after the maps were populated and missions were hooked up, it
was time for play testing, and inevitably, more revisions!
7- Polish and Release
During the final days before release, feedback from internal play tests
as well as from closed and open beta testing is examined. Game play is
tweaked, geometry holes are plugged, and textures, scene settings,
music and audio are all finalized for release. By the time
you set foot in Cimerora, its final content will have been contributed
to by almost every member of the Art and Design teams.
Cimerora is one of my favorite places in the CoH/CoV universe, and is a
truly unique zone that has allowed us to push the game’s
visuals and level design in new, more focused and immersive
directions. I hope Heroes and Villains alike find their
travels in Cimerora to be as exciting and memorable as it has been for
the team to create this new zone!
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