Environment Design of Destiny 2
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Latest comments

Amazing art. I'm curious how the rocks manage to be such a natural part of the terrain! It really looks like they have been there for ages.

Great job and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

Frankly I do not understand why we talk about the past of this CEO. As a player I do not care about what he did or not until his games are good. As an Environmental Artist instead I see a game with a shaky graphics. It is completely without personality, emotion and involvement. It can hardly be considered acceptable especially for the 2019 platforms (which I understand will be the target of this game). Well, this is probably an indie group, with no experience facing a first game in the real market. And that's fine. Do the best you can that even if you fail, you will learn and do better. From a technical point of view the method you are using is very old. It can work but not as you are doing it. I bet you're using Unity, it's easy to see that since I see assets from their asset store. Break your landscapes more, they are too monotonous and contact real 3D artists and level designers. One last thing, the last screenshot is worse than all the previous ones. The lights are wrong and everything screams disaster. Avoid similar disasters in the future.

Environment Design of Destiny 2
16 November, 2017
Environment Art
Environment Design
Interview
Materials

Kevin Whitmeyer talked a little about his work on Destiny 2, discussing architecture, environment design and materials.

Introduction 

I’m originally from Washington D.C. but I’ve been working in the games industry for a few years now. My first gig in the industry was as an Environment Art Intern at Sony Santa Monica – working on the new God of War, still set for 2018. More recently, I’ve been at Bungie for almost 2 years now and have primarily been working on Destiny 2. 

I’ve been doing art for years, but, I didn’t start getting into 3d until college. I got an incredible education down at Ringling College in Florida. Many of the Non- Destiny related pieces in my portfolio have been passion pieces, or subject matter that I just found cool in my own nerdy way. A lot draw inspiration from games I play (Destiny, Uncharted, Call of Duty), and some are obviously catered to certain IPs or worlds that exist.

How does the production usually work within bigger teams like Destiny 2 at Bungie?  

We’ve broken up a lot of our different departments into smaller teams to tackle different tasks. The majority of my work on Destiny 2 was on the destination ‘Titan’, and we had a couple different small teams handling different parts of that experience. As for individual environments themselves, it really depends on the space. Most are handled by a couple different Artists and Designers under one or two leads, and always require pretty heavy collaboration to make the spaces play as smoothly as possible. Our number one goal is, and has always been the player experience. It has to be fun to shoot baddies in.

Typically Artists and Designers work to mass-out the destination areas for certain activities, missions, different player rituals they might perform, and then go thorough different iterations, all the way to the final levels of polish. I often do finishing, and sometimes architecting in spaces after mass-out, using with the destination palette and ensuring the broad gestures don’t get lost. However, I’m also a part of the palette team making assets, shaders, and helping develop the look of destinations. 

Materials 

So going into making the new shaders for the Hive, Steve had already done some great research and prototyping for the revitalized look of the aliens in Destiny 2. We knew we wanted to have actual 3d meshes to accompany and support any underlying textures that the palette would have, so we actually worked backwards. Steve and I sculpted a small number of different shapes for the two main textures we wanted to represent the Hive. Since we these were going to be used as actual instanced models too, I actually brought them into Substance Painter to give them a nice 1-1 material on a shared atlas. After this, we were able to move towards making tiling materials to cover more ground – which is where SpeedTree came into play.

Steve had already worked at SpeedTree for a number of years, and had an invaluable knowledge of the software’s capabilities. The 3d meshes I textured were brought into the program and procedurally scattered and tiled in SpeedTree. Since we loaded in all the corresponding bitmaps that were exported from Substance Painter, it was easy to render out macro views of all the different bitmaps, now in the arrangements, we had generated.

After that, I brought those renders back into substance for another pass to add more grime, dirt, sludge, and all the other imperfections needed to make the texture tile nicely and look extra gross.

Once we did that, we had tiling materials that matched the 1-1 textured models that we placed to exaggerate silhouettes and make the hive palette really ‘pop’. The result was pretty nice. 

Have you used any of the new tools from SD?

I have not personally, but a number of our other artists have been looking into the more recent tools to see what’s possible. Dan Thiger, our Palette Lead, is especially skilled with Substance Designer, and his work has certainly been gaining popularity lately.

What were the peculiarities of applying these infesting materials in the environments? 

Steve and I basically took several pieces from the Titan palette as they were being developed and made a variety of palette pieces that fit into corners, walls ect. Whenever an architectural piece was made, we basically made a “Hive Growth” asset to go with it. Blending these unique meshes with other more generic pieces, we could pretty much grow the Hive Infestation any which way we wanted. We then added the small instanced meshes from before, and decals alongside them in polish passes. A lot of times with organic subject matter, the placement and set dressing can make or break its success.

Architecture

I think the ‘Utopia’ mission inside ‘The Solarium’ space was one of my favorites in terms of architecture. Michael Milota and I worked on these very curved, organic, modular building shapes that were extremely useful to make long halls and any curves or turns we wanted. We were looking at a ton of modern architecture and buildings in cities like Dubai, and Dima Goryainov ended up making this incredible concept that was too cool to not make.

As for the actual game environment, I actually took Dima’s 3d render and dropped it into the world, and then made certain pieces of the kit just to fit the curves of the shapes he made. It took a number of iterations, but it was important to get the angles and design as close as possible and keep the integrity of that first evocative image. 

Challenges  

One challenge we had was making sure the rich detail of the hive materials didn’t become too busy when covering large areas of Titan. We began to quickly realize that more sludge-like areas of ‘rest’ would be necessary when creating the Hive nesting areas. However, one of the best things about working at Bungie is your never in a shortage of sharp minds. Pretty much any issue the team might encounter can usually be solved when a couple of passionate people are working together. Teams are stronger than heroes. 

Kevin Whitmeyer, Environment Artist at Bungie

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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