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Hello again, Nate Herzog here, lead environment artist on Neverwinter. For today’s blog I’m joined by my fellow environment artist Jason Marquez. The two of us tackled the environment for Ravenloft Castle, hope you enjoy!
Nate: During pre-production we worked closely with design to scope out what we could accomplish in this module. Ravenloft has been around in different revisions since 1983 so we had a ton of really great concept and spaces to work with. This definitely came in handy when we were defining shapes and spaces for the exterior and interior of the castle.
From the beginning I wanted to go with a run up to the castle to give us the iconic shape we’re all familiar with from the concept.
Because we’re a small environment team it was touch and go for a while as we began expanding story and how much content was needed it started to look like the run-up to the castle would have to be cut. Fortunately, after some re-working we were able to get this environment in thanks to Jason joining the team at an integral time and jumping right in and tackling the castle exterior.
When we received the green light I began a rough whitebox like we do with most of our maps to gauge layout, rough composition and distances between fights. Communication is key during this time, design may have specific needs and sizes for encounters both small and large so the whitebox phase helps give everyone a quick rough idea of what’s needed and we’re able to adjust them quickly and easily without excessive re-work.
A lot of times we’ll re-use existing kit pieces like the Stronghold ones here to get a quick layout in place.
Design needed the bridge leading up to the gate to be a specific length and width so a simple whitebox bridge was made representing the correct size.
Jason: After taking a look at the presented white-box, some Design-Environment discussions, and a touch of lore review, I proceeded to examine the needed playable space to determine what we needed to keep and what we would inevitably cut. Following the first play space reduction there were talks about cutting the exterior castle portion all together and focusing on the castle courtyard. In my prior talks with the team they seemed rather excited on having a grand reveal, as you battle your way across the suspended bridge and rally through the castle gates.
I took some extra time to flush a basic terrain sculpt with included materials and a basic lighting pass to give the team a better idea of what the introduction of this dungeon could feel like to the players. Following the initial world building phase, I set up some white-box pieces with more representative shapes, repositioned the moon to give some rim light, and added some basic glow planes where the windows would be located. Even with a bare canvas, the representative shapes and lighting was enough to give the team an overall sense of mood and experience. It was well received and gave tangible hope that we would be able to deliver an approach to the castle.
From here, I would move to the courtyard and bring it to a more complete state; it would be imperative this was complete if the lead up and bridge would be cut. Using the same method I used on the lead up, we were able to quickly iterate on the playable space and feel of the courtyard. Following the initial mood and white box pass I proceeded to lay out world fill props and flush out the terrain with proper materials & foliage. Within a short amount of time and a few iterations the courtyard had its mood and was cut into two sections; the boss arena and the castle entrance.
From here I would move to complete the castle structure. This part of the creation process would take a decent chunk of time and would take a number of iterative passes. Once the larger shapes were flushed out, I switched to creating the basic materials and then the unwrap process would begin. For me, this phase is a mashup of Unwrapping, geometry and material iteration. As I would layout the materials I would adjust, add or remove sections of geometry which would lead to material & unwrap changes and vice versa. After a few passes I was able to create a castle kit consisting of a few different towers, walls and bolt-ons. I would take this process to about 85-90% finished where I than handed off to Nate. He would take the last 10%, add his own flare and polish to the kit, giving us what we would launch with.
After the castle courtyard was complete, I than returned to the lead up and bridge using the same creation techniques to give a complete experience. Once this portion of the map was on par with the courtyard we would take it into our polish phase. This is where any additional changes, whether that be materials, geometry, lighting or mood, would take place. I would take this to a solid state in which I was happy, and hand it off to Nate who would than add his own polish pass & flare too. With a tactile creation approach by the art teams, in link with our dedicated Design team, a dash of luck, and some much needed help from our Production team, we were able to craft a compelling castle experience.
While I was working with the exterior portion, Nate was chiseling away on the interior.
Nate: Sometimes in the industry we don’t have the indulgence of existing concept or there may not be time for our concept artist to deliver an idea to us and that was the case for the interior of the castle. So with our limited time I re-purposed an older kit by updating the geo and materials, most noticeably the pillars.
Very early WIP whitebox of the Castle interior.
A little more progress on the interior, I’m starting to get a feel for materials and lighting.
Everything starting to come together here, floor is still WIP along with the lighting.
And the final result.
Hope you enjoyed this look into the environment art process of Ravenloft Castle.
Nate Herzog – Lead Environment Artist
Jason Marquez – Environment Artist