Cryptic Conjure: Working on a Stylized Game in UE4

Cryptic Conjure: Working on a Stylized Game in UE4

The team behind Cryptic Conjure discussed the production of their stylized game being developed in Unreal Engine.

The team behind Cryptic Conjure discussed the production of their stylized game being developed in Unreal Engine.

Idea of the Game

Jason Wishnov – Creative Director:

That is, in fact, Cryptic Conjure! Basically, we wanted to make a game where secrecy, information itself, had an incentive to not immediately leak online and share with other players, which we think has kind of leeched a lot of the sense of discovery away from modern games. Of course, it’s impossible to truly stem the free spread of information, but if there’s economic incentive to keep a strategy or secret you find to yourself, there’s enough uncertainty that you feel like something new might be out there…

Building an online game with a robust economy, in some special ways, were integral to this experience. Sharing your difficult-to-craft spells with others weakens the spell for everyone who has it, for instance, and will weaken further with every new owner. How much is trust worth? Will the seller keep their promise to only keep it to five unique users? Or will the siren call of currency break that level of trust? That dilemma is at the core of Cryptic Conjure.

Cryptic Conjure

Developing the Concept

Noe Leyva – Art Director:

The jumping off point for development on Rathe was a concept illustration that was done before production began. The idea was to have a clean “pristine” city/town that would act as the hub for the game. We knew that we wanted the whole thing to be up against a rocky mountainside covered with bright yellow-green grass facing the ocean. Inspiration for the feel of this environment came from games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Rime. The architectural inspiration came from Asian and Mesoamerican cultures, among others.  Being a small team meant that modularity would be an important driving factor for the concept design.

Main Concept

Jacob Wheat – Environment Artist:

Noe and Jason handed me a key-art image and explained the initial idea. In preparation for our world builder, all of the models were made to be modular and snap together in Unreal Engine. Most of the assets you see are duplicated and used around the city more than once, but clever placements make it feel fresh everywhere you explore.

To make sure things would snap together, I set the grid size in Maya to match the grid in Unreal Engine 4. Using this method to model is very efficient because you don’t have to guess if the mesh size will work.

Balancing Unique with Modular Elements

Jacob Wheat – Environment Artist:

The balance between modular and unique becomes skill over time. Eventually, you can make everything modular and super optimized but sometimes you just need that uniqueness to really finish off a project. Using a nice color palette also helped keep things cohesive throughout Rathe.

My modeling process started by taking the given concept and outlining each piece. A majority is modular, and a few are unique assets. For example, the Iridium Reserve is a place we want to highlight in the city, so it has its own unique textures and models to separate it from the rest.

Applying Trim Sheets

Jacob Wheat – Environment Artist:

Trim sheets are amazing. Because of time constraints, I knew that we had to find a way to quickly texture everything. I actually have to thank Morten Olsen for talking about how Insomniac used trim sheets in Sunset Overdrive, their GDC presentation is amazing.

For deciding on what can be a trim sheet, you can actually make everything from a trim sheet if you really needed to. Mostly all of the outside assets, excluding some props, came from this one trim sheet and a few tiling textures. I would recommend everyone experiment with these as it’s a very valuable skill to have.

Approach to Lighting

Noe Leyva – Art Director:

In regards to lighting the scene, we definitely wanted that bright colorful look seen in stylized games. Bumping the light intensity and saturation up helped achieve that look. Lighting is a very important piece of what makes Rathe feel immersive and fun.

Cryptic Conjure Team:

Jason Wishnov – Creative Director

Noe Leyva – Art Director

Jacob Wheat – Environment Artist

Koriel Kruer – World Builder

Pawel Margacz – VFX Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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