The GDC Talk About Visual Development in Games

Miriam Bellard from Rockstar North shared the workflow on the environment design, discussed how the developers can control the environment and shared valuable techniques on working with 3D environments in video games. Check it out!

In most games, the players control the environment, not the developers. But the developers still can create some awesome and believable cinematic experience. Miriam Bellard, who leads the visual development artists at Rockstar North, shared their approach to environment design by showcasing the production of GTA V Online DLC

The talk is divided into 3 major parts that define the essentials of visual development: 

  • 2D Screen

During this stage, Miriam tells how the work on the compositing 3D to 2D and how to have nice 2D compositions that can help avoid tangents. 

Since all we see is a 2D, it is essential to work on the depth feeling. Miriam highlighted three techniques that can help you achieve it: 

  1. Using layers that means adding foreground, midground, and background details that have different speed when the camera moves. The speed difference will recreate the feeling of depth.
  2. Repeating elements but with different sizes will make recreate the distance. This, therefore, will give an illusion of depth. 
  3. Shapes of the screen. By using different shapes of objects you can set up the desired atmosphere. In the talk, Miriam goes back to the experience of our ancestors to explain how the shapes define our perception of the scene. 
  • Movement

In video games, movement is defined by two elements:

  1. Saliency that controls what the player and the camera see.
  2. Affordances will help you see where the players, and so the camera goes.

Miriam gave a detailed explanation of these components, what is their purpose, and how they work.

  • Time

The feeling of time is recreated by space. It is similar to the way we see the room - we don't see it all at once, but we get the full image when our eyes travel in the room.

The feeling of time can be created by two techniques: 

  1. Repetition. Repeating elements architecturally will be experienced as a rhythm over time.
  2. Transitions are also achieved architecturally. This works the same way as transitions of thematic zones work in Disneyland that  

During the presentation, Miriam also mentioned a few books that can help you understand each point. 

Check out the video for more!

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    The GDC Talk About Visual Development in Games