Amazing students from New3dge art school in France did a breakdown on their phenomenal work, talked about challenges of working together and shared some tools they used.
Hi! We are the team Haven, composed of Sophie Deschamps, Nicolas Le Bars, and Céline Bader. We come from New3dge school in Paris. Aside from Haven, we individually worked on different projects, Sophie Deschamps did an internship at Eugen Systems as a level builder on the game Steel Division II. Celine Bader did an internship at IUMTEC Project as a 3d Artist, based in Strasbourg. She is now working as a Texture Artist at Substance for one year now. She worked part-time during this last year of school and during this project. Nicolas Le Bars did the illustration for a communication company.
It was the first time we worked together.
We met at New3dge art school, where we were discovering the world of 3d art.
Nicolas Le Bars is the character artist of Haven project, Sophie Deschamps is the level artist, environment artist, and illustrator. Celine Bader is the environment artist, texture/shader artist, weapon artist, and tech artist.
Gathering the reference for Haven
Haven is a post-World War I world, where the blood of war has awakened an army of creatures. Forced to retreat into cities, Humanity survives and are subject to the laws of the growing religious order. You play Aloyse Nestor, a former militiaman guardian of the clergy, now a mercenary and doing his own justice. He’s one of the only ones who can go outside of the cities.
If you want to know more, here’s the introduction video.
We chose The Order 1886 game as a reference because of its atmosphere that suits well with the idea of our game: something cold, neutral, sad, inspiring despair. We also wanted something realistic, and The Order 1886 was a perfect reference for that.
Art and Design
As said before, we wanted our game to illustrate how poor and desperate the world of Haven is. So we searched for games like The Order 1886 as a render target, but we also took inspiration from Vampyr, The Witcher, Red Dead Redemption, whether to be inspired by the environments, the characters, their atmosphere, but also by the gameplay.
We made all the assets in 3dsmax, sometimes, we used Zbrush for some details, but as we went further, we realized that Substance Painter was enough to achieve the desired level of detail.
To keep everything within one visual style, we often shared our finished assets, even WIPs, to make sure that everything was going well. In the beginning, we had too many references. During the year, we needed to clean and focus. In fact, we did a lot of research: what we really wanted, since none of us are concept artists. The ideas came throughout the year, and thanks to our teamwork we managed to make everything work together.
The first thing Sophie had t0 do for creating the city was to make blocking to define the path the player while taking. Then she did paintovers to define what the houses would look like.
At the beginning of March, too many different references and some technical errors made us decide to restart the town while keeping the same layout. Since only four months were left to recreate the town, Sophie used techniques such as different trim sheet, to quickly create little meshes like the borders you can see on the buildings as well as bigger assets like the fountain or the different wagons.
To build the city, we used modular meshes that were created with 3dsmax and textured with tileable textures made in Substance Designer.
There are around a hundred pieces strictly for the architecture. Then the buildings were put together using blueprints in Unreal Engine so it was easy to move them around. There are only two buildings, the bank and the religious manor, which required exclusive modeling, because of the unique pieces such as the stairs or roof.
Buildings created with the modular assets
We re-used a lot of stuff during the production of our game. We made a list of all assets we wanted to make, some of them just got killed because re-using was enough in most cases. Ropes, chains, sidewalks, papers, forge tools, all of them are used in blueprints so we could place them with different parameters like random rotation and size, or with a spline mesh, we could drag the spline to create tubes and ropes. As a tech artist, Celine often asked Sophie what could be useful for the level build. In the end, we just shared each other’s assets to fill our respective environments, instead of making new ones.
Tech art presentation
The Biggest Challenges in Detailing
Everything is procedural and made with Substance Designer. Thanks to a Master Shader we made, we could change all parameters of material, exaggerating sometimes on the roughness to make it really stand out. In the forge, the wall needed to be more humid, since it was a closed and really hot room. And for the outside, since we wanted a cloudy atmosphere, the humidity was also credible. We played a lot with the color, making it more or less saturated in addition to the lighting. Both needed to work well together.
Celine also created some materials we could use in World Align on an object, like iron, black iron, rusty iron, wood, paper, so on some objects we didn’t even have to work on the texture
Thanks to Substance Designer, we could get a great preview of what the heightmap would do on the material. We used a lot of decals to add variety in our environments. They were very useful for dirt, moisture, cracks, things that would not be really realistic to have done procedurally since the repetition wouldn’t have been realistic.
For these trim sheets, after sculpting the borders in Zbrush, Sophie textured them with substance painter using a lot of references, and with the help of Celine, we could improve them greatly for the roughness and base color.
Trim texture, for wood and stone assets and for wagons and fountain
Tips and Tricks in Adjusting the City Size
To make it feel like a big town that has a lot to offer, Sophie did the continuation of the main street to make the player feels like there is more to explore and making curvy road made it easier to hide the dead-end street.
For the background, the cathedral gives immediately a sense of greatness, and the roofs and buildings hiding in the fog helped make the player think that there is more than just this street.
Beauty shot militia
For the militia, we wanted to create an army that makes people obey the law through violence and fear. Their design had to be frightening and imposing.
The Militia’s design was inspired by the SS uniforms and helmets, and I had to combine armor without falling into a medieval knight to give them some protection. I also wanted to give them a little something that would distinguish them, that’s why I added a mask that combines knights’ helmet and gas mask in order to dehumanize them.
When I started, I did a lot of variations in Zbrush while avoiding going into detail to find the overall shape and validate it with the team.
Once validated, I could start to push the sculpt while avoiding adding details I could add later into Substance Painter.
The only complex shaders that we used in Unreal are the ones for hair and skin. We studied Paragon’s shader to create ours because they are sufficiently complete and functional.
For the weapons, Celine and Nicolas had to work together. Each weapon needed to illustrate its owner well, the colors and materials needed to work with each other. The Militia’s weapon illustrate their dominance and the clergy’s wealth, whereas Aloyse’s weapon is a simple shotgun with an axe, which shows his violent and wild side.
The advice I could give:
- Give yourself deadlines that will allow you to work with some pressure
- Look at professional work and give yourself the goal of having the same quality
- Keep the process in mind, avoid adding superfluous details to ZBrush while you could add them on substance painter. example: clothing tissues
The biggest challenge was to keep in touch while Celine was at her part-time job two weeks per month. We still managed to speak with each other and share our progress, and the result shows in the end! Working for a game production of a high caliber is one of our main goals.