Art Design Philosophy of Project: Snowblind
Welcome to the third installment of the Project: Snowblind development diaries. I’m Freddie Lee a Senior Level Artist on the game. We had a lot of fun coming up with how the game looks, and it would be a pleasure to share with you the concepts, ideas, and philosophies we followed to achieve the game’s visual fidelity.
To start, the art team was given an overall story framework to work in. In Project: Snowblind, the player would take control of First Lieutenant Nathan Frost, who would be battling the evil Republic in a not-too-distant future city of Hong Kong. This environment would be realized as an exotic, colorful urban battleground in various stages of decay and destruction. Squads of enemy troops, nano-enhanced elite soldiers, and powerful robots and vehicles would fill this backdrop. We quickly determined that the art should be realistic, but subtly stylized, with judicious use of color, mesh detail, and lighting to create the rich world that we all wanted to make. It was important to the art team to distinguish ourselves from the glut of drab War-themed FPS games on the market. We wanted both a palette and level of detail that would give our game a richness that would harmonize with the deep game-play that the design team was planning. To give both our levels and characters believable, recognizable elements while also standing out, we began all of our designs with elements that were familiar and easily recognizable. Using these elements as an anchor, we were able to branch off and create more futuristic, sci-fi elements that pertain to the game’s story and setting. Simply put, we used the familiar to get the player to buy into the game’s reality, and then we used the original and futuristic elements of our designs to make them feel part of something unique and interesting.
Color me this
To achieve the realistic, but somewhat stylized look for the environments of our game, we poured through reference photos of Hong Kong, captures of countless movies, and played through many of the current FPS war games. Hong Kong, with its rich color palette derived from neon signs to historic structures, led us to Project: Snowblind’s rich color scheme. We defined the base color palette for our levels around both the time of day and the emotional arc of the story where the level falls. We then punched up these base palettes with the use of neon and other lighting, futuristic elements, and colorful environmental effects. As a final touch, we are able to leverage our powerful post-effects system to add features such as specular bloom, depth-of-field blurring, and other unique color effects.
For our characters, we identified early that we needed the player to be able to distinguish between friend and foe on the chaotic battlefield. We combined that concern with our study of modern military uniforms and original sci-fi elements. We designed Frost’s Liberty Coalition around modern SWAT teams, and other international anti-terrorist and peace-keeping forces. We evolved the design of the Republic from elements of the Nazi uniform, China’s communist army, and other proposed “future soldier” designs that many governments have published. We also had to throw in some fetish aesthetic to the Republic elite. They have neon lights, live in a sewer and talk with voice-modulation. What about this doesn’t sound like a Rave? We made sure that both the Liberty Coalition and the Republic had their design ethos mirrored in their immediate equipment and surroundings. Their vehicles, robots, and headquarters all reflected the same visual elements as their base uniforms and weapons.
The Old and the New
Hong Kong’s rich historical mix of Asian and Western cultures is reflected in the architecture of the city; there are modern glass structures sitting close to old English colonial structures. There are old Asian temples littered in between countless concrete apartment and office buildings that somehow seem to glue all of these disparate architectural elements together. We wanted to show this organic development being out of control and in some cases completely redefined. We created old, dense, and dilapidated environments surrounded by futuristic buildings, while the streets are littered with futuristic vehicles, weaponry, and other advanced gadgets. This philosophy also gave us room to create settings where the original purpose of the setting has been modified or completely changed by its current function. Project: Snowblind features a former Opera house that has been converted into a Prisoner-of-War Jail, an emergency Liberty Coalition base constructed in an abandoned Buddhist temple, and a vast sewer system that has been retro-fitted into the Republic Elite’s clandestine base-of-operations.
We approached the various characters, vehicles, and technology the same way. We designed to the familiar, but allowed room for more stylized elements to come into the design. The base Liberty Coalition and Republic soldier’s uniforms are clearly militaristic, but they are augmented by mechanical arms, shield generators, and other nanotech-enhanced features. These futuristic design elements are even more pronounced in the more extreme character designs. Both the Liberty Coalition’s Sgt. Major Chung and the Republic Elite’s leader Yan Lo feature prominent futuristic elements and designs while still feeling continuous with the rest of the game’s designs. Again, the realistic components support and extend to the more stylized versions.
I hope this gives you a good idea on how we approached the game’s visual design. We hope that you agree with us that we created a FPS war game that is not only fun to play, but visually rich and memorable. Thanks for reading, and happy shooting!