I love it when development teams invite the average fans into their workplace and show them behind the scenes features on how they bring a game to life. Sure, playing it is great, but there is always something special about getting a view of what goes on behind the game. Wish games could include special features like movies do – easter eggs, storyboard art, pics/videos of deleted content, etc!
On the tour of the office, we stopped by the art and level design pit for a sneak peek of TNX, a planet that will be released after launch. Artist Brian Vanderlust began with a graybox of the level and stepped us through the process of realizing the environment in the game’s proprietary engine, revealing a lush environment featuring high vistas and a second vertical layer, pebbled with ruins of what seemed like a lost technological civilization. Though each level represents roughly a 10-15 minute playthrough, Brian explained that the rough cut takes the team about a month to produce, with several additional months for polish.
Level Designer Dale Dowd showed us how he was quickly able to take a map drawn up in a tool similar to Adobe Illustrator quickly to 3D using in house EA tools, saving time on painstaking modeling, and focusing more on tasks like placing mobs and pathing. Mike Perry explained that one of modern EA’s goals is to get to the playable stage as fast as possible to see if what’s in-process is actually fun, and such tools help turn Dale into a one-man level building machine.