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Neverwinter

Art Developer Blog: Castle Never Returns!

By Andy (StrumSlinger)
Fri 19 Feb 2016 10:14:13 AM PST

Hi everyone, I’m Jeff “LCDRMiller” Miller, an environment artist working on our The Maze Engine expansion. I’m excited to share with you what went into the newly updated Castle Never dungeon!

First I’ll start by saying that we know how much the community loved this dungeon, and we here at Cryptic feel exactly the same. So when it came to time to update the art for the re-release I didn’t want to change the base of it too much. After all it is an iconic location with in Neverwinter. The main key points for the update were: performance, materials/texture updates, lighting and support for the bosses.

This image shows some updated lighting in the staterooms.

Performance

When we create new environments, mostly interiors, we create what we call ‘kits’. These kits are created on a grid so they can easily be snapped together when creating the dungeon. Example kit pieces would be a straight hallway or corridor, a 90 degree hall corner, a hallway that ends with a door that would connect to a room to name a few. Many kits expand past these basic shapes to help break up the environment to make it feel more unique around every corner.

The interior kit for the old version of Castle Never had some performance issues; hidden polygons that your computer rendered even though you never saw them. The kit sometimes had gaping holes that let you view straight out into nothingness. It also had texture stretching in places. I’m happy to say that the entire kit has been updated to fix all of these issues.

Material/Texture updates

Let’s start with explaining what materials and textures are. Textures are 2D images that are created in a program like Photoshop. Materials use textures and built-in parameters such as specular highlight. Specular highlight is a number that controls how tight or smooth the highlight is of the material. Something like glossy plastic would have a tight highlight and a matte paint would have a smooth highlight.

For Castle Never, there were certain textures that didn’t really sell what was intended for the final look. The biggest one that needed updating is shown in the image below. There was a section in the interior kit that looked as though there should have been wood paneling. The original didn’t really show off what you would expect from something intending to be wood, such as wood grains. The new update texture now does just that.

Image showing old versus new wood textures. Gray-lined side is old, blue-lined is new.

 

Lighting

Lighting was one of the biggest updates visually to the dungeon. I’ll start with an image this time.

Before and after shot of hallway lighting.

This first image above is a shot of a hallway from Old Castle Never. The second is the newly updated version. The differences here are pretty noticeable. All the old lighting was done in such a way that made the interior feel flat and boring. I basically had one rule with the new lighting: Make every source of light look like its casting said light.

The first pass I did was for all major windows in the map. I placed a smaller light around the window itself to help it feel more illuminated against the walls, then added spot lights as if the light was coming from the window. The final touch was to add ‘god rays’ shooting out of the windows. You can see this update in the images above. Other sources of light that got updated were the fire braziers. Adding more dynamic lights in places meant that you will see more shadows as you run through the map. The final step was to add chandeliers and candles in various rooms.

Boss Rooms

Revamping Castle Never not only meant just making it better, but bringing it in line with our current story. This meant ... new bosses. Each boss is totally different and requires a room that matches the feel of that boss. This meant propping and lighting each boss room to make it feel appropriate. Below is a shot of the Valendra’s Pet boss room from Old Castle Never and its revamped version to support an undead lich that has taken residence.

Top image is Old Valindra’s Pet Boss room. Lower is the same room revamped for the undead lich.

 

Hopefully this blog gives you an idea on what to expect art wise for the revamp of Castle Never coming with our newest expansion The Maze Engine. I can’t wait for you all to jump in and experience the updates for yourself. It was a blast bringing this iconic dungeon back from the past. See you all in game!

Jeff “LCDRMiller” Miller

Environment Artist

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