How do you keep the art team all on the same page? Do you use an Art Bible? What can
you tell us about your crit/review process?
Early in development we had one rule “match the concept.” We concepted nearly every
asset and made sure that everything, from the shapes and silhouettes to the brush
strokes in the textures, were being replicated.
We also have a fairly rigorous testing process. We test people with actual concepts
for our game. The people that nail a 3D asset closest are usually the people that
land the job. So even before they start, our artists know what the goals are. Now
that we have so many people trained up, the team understands the style and helps
teach it to the new people.
To help maintain quality and style, the Leads and I review every new asset in the
game in a weekly review meeting. We review everything, even assets that are WIP (work
in progress). It’s important to catch mistakes as early in the process as possible
so you minimize the amount of rework the artists need to do. It’s a huge effort and
takes about 4 hours a week.
We also do a tons of walk-arounds and sub-team critiques. We really push our artists
and it’s created this great environment where everyone cares about the work they do
no matter how small the asset.
We see you’re using XSI, how did you come to choose it as your main 3D software?
The initial decision was made before I came on board, but if I remember correctly XSI
had some amazing animation transfer tools that we felt could really save us a lot of
time down the road. Funny enough, I was pretty outspoken against it at first, I was
coming off using Maya and loved it.
Back then XSI had a lot of issues with UV features and there were very few studios
using it. Since then, there have been a ton of improvements and we do a lot of tool
development in-house that has helped out our work-flow.
Your engine is homegrown, right? Can you talk about its strengths, and what kind of
artist tools you have?
Our Engine and tools are all proprietary. For MMOs, there aren’t any great “go-to”
engines out there. These are huge, seamless, persistent worlds with thousands of
players running around. I imagine it would be difficult to market an engine that
could do that and everything needed for an FPS and Action/Adventure game. So the best
thing about our engine is that it’s, first and foremost, designed for a large scale
The other great thing about it is it was developed along the same time as we
established the art style. So we were able to request tool features that gave us a
ton of artistic freedom. For example, we can paint color on the terrain, we can also
color tint assets based off their material type. So if we want red leaves on a tree
instead of green, we can just tint the color or the leaves without affecting the
There are hundreds of tiny things we control. We made sure every graphical feature
enhanced and preserved the game’s art style. Having the engineers in-house,
developing their tools with the same goals in mind was essential in pulling off the