STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
I fully managed the art production for Lost Island; one of the game's first high level flashpoints.
The direction was to re-use nearly 100% of assets, but create the visual excitement that players would expect from end-game content. Despite this being one of the longest flashpoints, the art we created had a 6 week turnaround. To achieve this, I focused on using the existing exterior kit, and bringing in a lot of our industrial assets to mix with external lava flows to create an impressive spectacle and evoke a sense of danger.
I completed world building, lighting and design revisions within the 6 weeks. The flashpoint recieved very positive internal feedback.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
Being a war planet, "Balmorra" required a tricky visual style. Internally there were thoughts that players wouldn't enjoy spending much time in a somewhat flat and visually oppressive war-torn planet. I worked with the planet lead to help create a visual style that would show off a beautiful yet war-torn planet.
The designers were already starting on a tiered approach to the zone, so I suggested we gather inspiration from the grassy cliffs in Ireland, with a sandy basin below. The sand would help us provide more contrast against the rocks, and the green grass would be a nice respite of color for the player when on the upper levels. This idea gained traction and I was put in charge of developing the texture kit as well as outsourcing larger props like rock spires, turrets, and other key assets.
The "Amazon Warzone" is a large zone for high level groups and single players to have a base capturing PVP experience against Firefall's AI army called the "Chosen", while also participating in daily activities and missions.
I was assigned the lead role for this zone with a turnaround of 12-16 weeks. The biggest challenge was that the modelers were nearly completely occupied - meaning our ability to request assets would be very limited. We planned on leveraging what we had to create 3 visual styles: a dense swamp, an open swamp and a cratered area. We focused on nailing a great texture kit, requesting a few key assets, designing unique global lighting, and incorporating creative propping to create a fresh feel. We also created a huge crashed ship POI with a gigantic and under-utilized asset. The modelers were thrilled about this since the asset previously required so much bandwidth to create. The writers put a whole story behind it and it became a fantastic feature in the zone.
Early on, my role was to help facilitate the creative ideas, create top down maps, gold standard areas, texture kits, and work with designers collaboratively as they finished their design documents. As we entered into full production, I directed 8 people in the creation of the zone, worked on my own region, finished up areas as people were pulled onto other projects, and finalized lighting.
Despite people being pulled for other projects and insufficient bandwidth from other teams like UI and design for support, we were able to complete the zone within the appropriate projected man-hours by filling in where we could, like designing our own icons and coordinating our own play tests.
It was important for me and our team to make accurate predictions. This not only allowed us to pick up the slack where needed, but kept our work/life balance in check.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
The planet lead for "Voss" was pulled away to manage another planet, and I stepped in as Co-Lead. I took responsibility for guiding the team to finish production in their regions, provide visual feedback, and prototype any regions or assets that still needed to be created. The "Gormak" area in "Voss" was a particularly awesome challenge.
The Art Director and Lead Concept Artist really wanted to have the "Gormak" read as uniquely alien to the Star Wars universe. I worked with them on creating a more organic and chaotic look that would really stand apart from the rest of the game.
After the Gormak hall concept was completed, we talked about ways to introduce a more chaotic look. I was able to come up with a few additional props ideas that would help take the style over the edge.
Our lighting artist had left the studio and we were in need of someone to take ownership of all the lighting in the game. I was given the new Lighting Lead position in addition to my World Builder role. Our engine had very robust tools for creating dynamic day/night lighting cycles, and I was excited to dive in.
Shortly after, there was a push to revisit all the open world lighting in the game and make sure those schemes were up to our current bar of quality. I was responsible for creating schemes that looked significantly different from each other and which fit our bold visual style.
A new PBR pipeline was introduced into Firefall, and many modelers were getting up to speed on Substance Designer & Painter. I was really excited to dive further into learning PBR materials, and the Substance tools.
For one of my projects, I conceptualized and built a Lord of the Rings inspired Orc chest. Process involved working with 3DS Max, ZBrush and Substance Painter.
The goal of the next project shown was to create a virtual showroom that would run at a very high frame rate compiled and built for the Oculus VR system using Unreal Engine 4.
3 separate materials were used for the exterior: A glass shader, car paint shader, and PBR material. Tasks involved material / texture setup, modeling, lighting, and scripting.
We were in desperate need of a tutorial, but our game was still in early-access and not quite finished yet. Also, the design was still in flux. We started a team to address the tutorial problem and find a way to build content that could be reused later, even if the tutorial changed down the road.
The idea was the "Battle Lab". The halls would serve as the tutorial, and the main room could be reused by returning players to test new gear, battleframes, and abilities.
We did a great job testing and iterating on this. I created a whitebox early on and we began play-testing frequently. The whitebox underwent at least a dozen revisions before we settled on the most streamlined approach. After that, I was responsible for all the lighting, the propping and producing the assets we needed for the main room as well as one of the tutorial segments.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
"Tatooine" is such an iconic planet, and I was so excited to be working on it. A huge vast desert is something that can be hard to pull off in an interesting way, but we were up for the challenge.
One of our best artists was put on the job, and I was tasked to create the gold standard area for the "Dune Sea" - a large sand dune biome. We talked a lot about the challenge. Mainly it would be only terrain, and maybe with only one material. He wasn't sure how to pull it off, but wanted me to experiment.
I first worked on the textures and materials. In a lot of dune photo reference, they look like smooth velvet from a distance with a bit of Fresnel effect, and up close you get the great wind patterning. I created a single material and another path material. Because our pipeline didn't support it, I hand-edited the mip-maps to flatten out the normals on the smaller mips to create a smooth look as the texture fell off into the distance. I also brightened the diffuse texture on the smaller mips to create the Fresnel effect.
The dune shapes also proved to be a challenge to sculpt with our terrain. I developed a dune sculpting procedure that everyone followed to help create a realistic look while working on the "Dune Sea."
After completing our work, we were excited to receive feedback. Our world was, according to LucasArts, "The best looking Tatooine we've seen in a game." We were, of course, extremely proud!
After being Art Lead for the tutorial experience, I was asked to help tackle the implementation of the character select screen where players can choose their battleframe types. This project required special attention to detail and a very polished lighting setup that would interact with the players' selections.
I really enjoyed being part of this because it involved collaborating with so many people. Everyone seemed to have a strong opinion and ideas about this; from designers, concept art, studio executives, UI, etc. It sounds like it could have gone terribly with "too many cooks in the kitchen", but it was actually very collaborative and fun! Luckily, Red 5 had a very idea-permissive culture that helped things move along.
Needless to say, the challenge here was juggling all the interested parties and making sure everyone was working together effectively. I fell into a bit of a producer role with this by being a liaison between departments and furthering efficient inter-departmental teamwork.
During this personal project, I wanted to create a scene that would tell a visual story that people hadn't seen before. I envisioned a rough and tumble world of rodents all contained within an attic- sort of a punk-rock inspired Beatrix Potter.
I produced everything for this project, including concept art.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
This is the Jedi Temple, where many players go in the beginning of their journey. The room was looking great, but it was built before a lot of our optimization tools became available. It was also designed without much regard for sightlines. The end result was significant performance problems for new players in this room.
I was given the job of maintaining as much of the original look as possible while optimizing the lighting dramatically. I worked with concept design to build a large feature in the middle of the room that would help with the sightline issue. The lighting required some creative solutions. In the end I was able to get this under our performance budget, and it ran great!
In 2015 I started a non-profit company called Treefort Academy to try and help change the state of educational video games. During that time I created a prototype trailer for a game called Otmar's Adventure. The concept focused on being a super high quality mobile game experience while also introducing the fundamentals of reading. The idea was to provide the game completely free, with no in-app purchases or cost barriers - fully funded by charitable contributions. I worked on every facet of production including animation, rigging, scripting, lighting, world building, concept, and more.
Unfortunately We did not receive the funding I was hoping for.
Also, between 2008 and 2015 I ran a podcast called Games Industry mentor that was created as a way to help people break into the game industry through getting information and advice from professionals. This was a great success! We had around 50,000 listeners, and I am still meeting people who have found their way into the industry that were assisted by the podcast.