PC Gamer routinely features Developer Diaries: tales of what goes on behind-the-scenes in the development studios making your favorite games. In this entry, City of Heroes' Art Lead, Gilbert Martinez, explains the concepts behind some of the zone's art . We hope you enjoy this exclusive look into City of Heroes' art design and let us know what you'd like to see developers discuss in future diaries in the comments.
City of Heroes' First Ward: Concept and Zone Art
First Ward is Emperor Cole's first settlement, a lost corner of Praetoria destroyed by a Devouring Earth attack. When the city's levees broke, the sea flooded the city's center and its inhabitants fled. Up until now, this dangerous place has been off limits to the citizens of Praetoria, a no-man's land frozen in time, apparently deserted and forgotten. But looks can be deceiving, and First Ward is far from empty.
What follows is only a brief glimpse of the content awaiting characters in First Ward. Many thanks go out to the artists responsible for the look and feel of this amazing new zone: Ryan Roth, Chris Gregory, and Don Pham from the environmental art team; Leo and Keetsie Braz da Kunha from the VFX team; creature animator Colin Brown; and David Nakayama and Bill Balzer from the concept team.
Where It All Begins: Genesis
First Ward, our most daring zone to date, had many inspirations. One of the biggest was the idea of bringing magic to Praetoria, a goal since the days of City of Heroes Going Rogue .™ This zone was also inspired by modern-day natural disasters, the stories of the missing, and the harrowing tales of survivors. Because we had already done a ruined city, we wanted to take this idea even further, pushing the capabilities of our tech and challenging ourselves to add more drama and visual variety. All of this fed into the overall design of First Ward, resulting in a post-apocalyptic no-man's land infused with the magic and power of Hamidon.
Visual Indicators: The Tentacles
A key characteristic of First Ward is the gargantuan, petrified tentacles of a Devouring Earth creature that nearly consumed the central portion of the zone, known as the Sunken City. We wanted these to be visual indicators of Hamidon's attack on First Ward, dramatic monuments to his power. Rising up out of the murky water, these frozen forms plunge into and out of the skyscrapers. Gaping recesses mar the buildings around them.
More Natural Terrain Tech
We had an ambitious goal for the terrain of First Ward: a large, flooded, destroyed zone that gives characters a distinctive view no matter which way they face. To the south are the dusty, barren wastelands of the Forbidden Crags. To the west can be seen the lush, green wetlands of Mercyview and the dark, hallowed earth of the Mercyview Cemetery. And to the north lie the shattered edges of Eltentown and the Free Fire Zone. This variety of terrain was accomplished using terrain blending, a technique that creates more natural looking terrain without relying on a patchwork of single-texture terrain tiles.
Husk as Art: The Fallen Seed
Not everything that in City of Heroes is planned. Sometimes, cool ideas come up as the game is being created. The Fallen Seed is a perfect example. Off the coast of the Forbidden Crags lies an island in which the majestic husk of a Seed of Hamidon is partially buried. This unique location came about when we ended up with a large, flooded lake between the Forbidden Crags and the Sunken City. We needed to fill the dead space, and Eric Chyn, the character artist who created the Seed of Hamidon giant monster, suggested using that creature's bony husk as a set piece. We thought the idea was brilliant, and the island of the Fallen Seed was born.
Visual FX Brings First Ward to Life
The visual effects department extends the visual drama and movement of First Ward with critter and environmental VFX. Characters who visit Mercyview Cemetery in the evening will encounter flitting bats. Fish leap about near the swamps and shores, and in the deeper waters perhaps a shark or two lurks. Throughout the zone, seagulls circle, looking for a bite to eat. As characters explore the Forbidden Crags, occasional tumbleweeds bounce past. On the city streets, dust can be seen blowing in the distance, emphasizing the desolate nature of First Ward. But the biggest source of movement of all lies directly above the Sunken City: a gigantic, magical vortex that covers most of the sky. Will players be able to discern its true nature, or will its mysteries be revealed in future City of Heroes Freedom content? Only time will tell.