Today’s newest blogpost from Arenanet was about environmental artists, and the work that they do for Guild Wars 2. I love reading the Anet blog posts, because it’s quite neat seeing these little glimpses into the behind-the-scenes work that’s being done on GW2. Also, as an artist, I love the bits of concept art and game screenshots that tend to be displayed in these posts; I also find it quite intriguing to see how artists that specialize in a different part of the field work.
The main thing that this particular post made clear, and that I especially love, is that the artists working on the environments in GW2 are working very hard on the little details. Guild Wars had lots of detail in the environments, but as noted in the article, it was possible to ‘cheat’ with that, since there were areas that were initially not accessible to players (and I recall a couple of areas playing through War in Kryta that were obviously not originally intended to be seen close up; usually low-res textures that look fine at a distance but not when you’re standing in front of it). As Peter noted, though, “there are few parts of this new game world that are inaccessible”. The examples he said of what players would do made me giggle (jumping the counter to go sneak into the backroom of a bar, for one), but he’s absolutely correct that players are going to want to explore every bit of the world that we can.
I like how it describes the process of creating the environments; first blocking in the major stuff (cliffs, rivers, towns), and then going back to add in the smaller details. What started out as just a large block next to a road would become a house, a shop, a smithy. Shop stalls would have items on the shelves. A home might have a garden with a cat lazing about. A smithy would have a fire going in the forge. There’d be plants, grass, and trees all over. In other words – it’d have the same things you’d notice about a place in real life.
Of course, it’s not just as simple as putting props into place wherever they please. The environment artists need to keep in mind the tech limits they have to work within, as well as trying to match the concept artists’ visions. The bit about Daniel Dociu furiously sketching on a napkin made me laugh, I will definitely admit. The fact that basically no area is exempt from being redone if needed I also quite liked; the human starting area, Queensdale, has been redone over 700 times. It’s been revised forty times since the demos at PAX and GamesCom last year. I have to wonder, just how many other development teams can make that sort of claim? That they’re so dedicated to having everything work and look so perfect that they’ll redo it hundreds of times before it’s right? Somehow I doubt it’s really that many.
My boyfriend’s response to that blog post, as an aspiring game designer, was “I seriously want to work for them so much. Every art or design post they make perfectly matches my ideals.” I know that I certainly can’t wait to go and explore every last inch of the continent – and I also know that I won’t be the only one doing so.