Diablo III and GDC

Lynn sent me some great links about Diablo III’s fx and technical art. There’s a couple of talks on the GDC valut and I’ve also got the artbook and the making of DVD, so this is going to be a big round up information about it!

Julian Love on usability, design and fx: “Sure. Combat is what we work on, and most of the effects in the game. Most of the role of effects in all games is to spell out the mechanics of the gameplay. That’s the first rule.

We’re not just there to make cool explosions and zombie barf. We do that. But the area that the zombie barf paints when it hits the ground is significant. It’s not just any zombie barf. Sure, I get to pick what kind of chunks I want to go in there. But, you know, it’s got to show, “This is what’s going to happen and it is in this big of an area.” And we have to serve the design first in order for it to feel right and be successful. So that isn’t going to happen unless we’re really big fans of game design. And that we’re really tied in and connected with that department to a high degree.”

About colour matching and spell integration/separation with characters and environment: “It’s actually a little more driven by concept. And the concept, in turn, does tend to allow us to have the kind of separation you’re talking about.

So when we sit down and design a class, we do talk at a really high level about what kind of themes we want to evoke with that class. And inevitably, there are certain color schemes that come out of that. And so we do end up with a little bit of a mental chart of colors that we would rather not have associated with a certain class. It’s kind of tough when you’re making runes — like a 150-some-odd skills per class — to avoid every color. But we do tend to exercise a certain amount of avoidance…

But because of his themes more so than anything else. He’s going to be throwing bugs and frogs and stuff like that at you. So that does kind of indicate a certain color thematic — like acid cloud and those kinds of things. He’s got this big voodoo vibe, and so fire, poison and those kinds of things really feel like they belong strongly to him.

And when it came to something like the wizard, we are looking at it from a different angle — this sort of cosmic magic theme. We wanted to make arcane feel ancient and powerful, so we kind of pick cosmic themes. And that led us to a lot of yellow and purple combinations. And blue lightning-type combinations. That allows us to get some separation both in terms of color and shape.”

Start with themes, colour and shape from that – same as in Impeccable Scene Design. 

Blizzard Art Philosophy – The Art of Diablo 3 @ GDC , Christian Lichtner 

– Great Art is Ageless

– Stylisation Over Realism

– Strong Silhouettes

– Bold use of Colour

– Dynamic Animations

“Pushing the visuals as much as we possibly can to tell the stories and really support the gameplay that we really want to bring across to the audience” –

“The more we stylize things, the more we push the envelope visually, the more we can tell stories.”

– Gameplay First

– Visuals must tie into gameplay

Diablo Themes, History and Art

– Good vs Evil

– True to older games – want to replicate mood, feel and gameplay.

– Fast paced – needs to read – legibility of monster silhouettes, colour variation in environments, weapon and armor      designs.

– Dark, gothic fantasy.

– Isometric camera.

– Classic globe UI

Diablo’s Painterly Style

– Supports visual clarity – its legible, you could see where things were coming from, gameplay wasn’t hindered by trying to     figure out what things were.

– More freedom to push past realism

– Visual identity with long lasting appeal

– Colour Progression – Supports emotional context and ideas, mood and feel. Rhythm to changing environment and colour.   Colour variety supports feeling of progression in game.

– 2.5D Geometry – taking advantage of isometric camera. High fidelity – low poly cost. Painting on planes. “Storybook             coming to life, living painting”

Developing Environments

– Lighting used for clarity – lights middle of screen to draw the eye.

– Soft environments don’t interfere with game action.

– Low saturation is hard to read in busy environments.

Developing Skill FX

– Readability, tieing in with character theme and telegraphing power.

– High saturation, magma in Barbarian UI reflected in skillset

– Strong and powerful

– Colour important – yellow and blue used in monk for holy vibe

– Strong impact on feeling of character

– Important to sell fantasy that player has for each class

Blizzard tech art team made up of riggers, fx artists and scripters. – Interesting that toad fx was done without programmers.

Skill FX in relation to character personality would actually be a really cool project – but I need to stick to one idea!

Diablo III: Behind the Scenes

“he doesn’t have a face so we can’t identify with him emotionally though his facial expressions, but his wings are his emotion…when he gets mad his wings get brighter” – Check Who said this Rig modeled after real bird wings.

Other wings modeled after octopus – procedural animation, sine waves, animate on frequency. Added cloth solver to add randomness.

Rigging solutions – Rig had to be able to essentially break its back but still be believable as there was confusion between modelling and concept teams.

Ups and downs in lighting and mood.

“when you change the colour you can really evoke a lot of mood, but it also changes the pace so your not in the same thing all the time, keeps it interesting” – Lead Exterior Env Artist

“make use of the colour to create mood and feeling” – Lead Concept Artist

“If its very red you’re going to think, uh-oh, this has a very sinister feeling to it”  – Lead Exterior Env Artist

“We started translating every aesthetic vibe into a skill” – Wyatt Cheng, Technical Game Designer

“The monk is very round shaped, peaceful shapes, circles, spirals” – Paul Wazcheska, Lead Character Artist

Diablo III Art Book

Some shots from the art book, just some things I found inspiring.

GDC 2013 Round Table

– VFX should be designed with gameplay in mind – skill fx should represent actual damage, scale etc.

– Work from concept artists isn’t particularly useful, fx artists should be able to make their own, not to show to people as such, just for personal workflow.

– FX in larger studios are often created in kits like environments would be so that designers can use them.

– BlendAdd/Premultiplied alpha – texture map can be used to define additive and masked areas in material, this allows you to use particleColour in only some areas. “The point is that you can retain fantastic color saturation and texture detail, even against a bright background, while still getting the bloom and glow that’s so necessary for sweet looking fx.”

– ” Using a vertex shader to get an awesome organic beam effect. This was done by making a unit long ribbon with very dense vertices. Then the unit beam can be oriented to face a target, and scaled in the vertex shader by the distance to the target, effectively making the ribbon reach out to the target’s position. At this point sweet multi directional sine waves can be used to get wonderful, organic, wiggly awesomeness.” – This is similar to the technique I used to create god rays. It would have been useful to know this when creating the sence switching and smell trail FX for seek, as I had to use beam particles for these that stretched in a way I didn’t like.

– Use flipbook textures with uv displacement so that you can use fewer frames but still look smooth and not obviously flipbooky

-Things to learn:

● An understanding of both the art and the tech behind it
● Being resourceful – we often have to do a lot with extremely limited tools
● Communication is key
● Learn about performance profiling for your game
● Learn to sometimes be pushy and reach outside your discipline
● The ability to learn quickly and pick up new tools
● Being able to isolate the essence of an effect, making it look cool, while keeping it performant.

– Using particle set ups in different lighting conditions: Bake ambient lighting colour information into trigger volumes or other empty gameplay objects, and then use that in shaders. Create all fx with one lighting setup in mind, then see if there are global tweaks that can be done to make fx work in all light setups, consistency allows this to be tested.

– How are FX used in MMOs? – fx need to be modular, as there as so many assets. Lots of kits help to standardize fx. Performance knowledge is very important.

– So how do you be performance-centric? – use tools that show shader complexity and overdraw. (Unreal does this 🙂 ) Artists should be responsible for their own optimization.

Think about emotion, purpose and character/setting before creating fx. Design it with shapes and colours that reflect these. Understand lighting, colour and optimization. 





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