Fallen Earth will launch later this week, allowing players to explore the apocalyptic wasteland near the Grand Canyon after a virus has wiped out most of the population on the planet. Wonder what happens to buildings with nobody around to slap that fresh coat of paint on the house every 5 summers? We've received a new development journal with Fallen Earth Art Director Chris Deavellar highlighting some of the things that were done to give the game a truly apocalyptic feel! We've also included several new screenshots in the journal; Enjoy!
Fallen Earth Overhauls Buildings
Journal with Art Director, Chris Deavellar
When a game has been in development as long as Fallen Earth has, legacy issues are one of the largest pitfalls for artists and designers. When I became art director on the project about seven months ago, I took a good, hard look at the state of the art in the game.
In my job as “the closer,” I've had the opportunity to evaluate and improve areas of the game where I felt we were lacking visually. Working closely with the engine designers (one of whom was my former lead artist), we have improved the lighting, added normal mapped terrain, and we have improved the sky by replacing the procedural clouds with a hand painted texture. We are working to make these major improvements even better.
At the close of these major projects, I knew that our buildings still needed work. Over the years, we've amassed a huge library of buildings, and adding polish for all of them would be a tremendous undertaking. After re-evaluating our process, we have implemented several methods of improving the look of our buildings, adding detail and actually improving performance.
Starting with houses, we looked at the problem from a couple of angles. Most houses have a very similar makeup in their construction. We made a list of the things one would typically see in a house: old electric outlets, roof supports, stairs, railings, doors and windows, among other things.
We then made these assets and placed them on a single texture. Working on a single texture allowed us to add a lot more detail to the additions while saving on texture memory since these items were used in every house. To add the look of destruction that is commonplace for our genre, we made a second texture map with various types of broken walls, broken 2x4s, rotten plywood, and other rubble. Since most houses use a similar construction, the elements of destruction could also be consistent, giving us the opportunity to add more detail to them.
The second challenge was to re-think our texture library. We had a very large variety of textures, but many of them were redundant. Rather than continuing to parse detail from all of them, we reduced our library to a bare minimum. With a few good base textures, we began to add details. A wall texture, for example, was given mold at the bottom, dripping water stains at the top, and some molding and floorboards. If other colors or details are needed for future rooms, we now have the ability to expand on the library without blowing our texture memory.
The last major improvement was to look at the buildings as real-world structures, considering their degradation over the years. The artists are taking a lot of time to add in broken bricks and siding, busted walls and floors, and to make these buildings look run down. Adding this kind of detail can be a laborious process, but we can make improve speed and efficiency using a technique called “kit bashing.” In kit bashing, we use pieces of other models repeatedly. In the early stages of improving our structures, each detail is created from scratch, keeping in mind that many of those details will be repurposed later in other structures. Once a few buildings are complete, we repurpose pieces from them to drop into another building. Broken brick walls, destroyed roofs, and decayed siding are some of the different things we'll use between models to save time while creating a great looking building.
Renovating our buildings and improving performance will take a while, but the results are worth the effort. In the coming months we plan to continue revamping our buildings. In addition to giving the game a substantial visual upgrade, we are taking full advantage of some of the tech that is at our disposal. Players will begin to notice the improvements as we continue to re-evaluate our method for making structures.