It started with an Angry Orchard Ale display stand at Sam’s Club, the old tree howled when I walked by, “Se-k t— runestones a-d -ri-e Skorne fr–m –is d-sol-te -a-d.” I had no clue most of the words meant, but the sound profile immediately awoke some dim part of my brain.
It was the voice of the yellow-robed wizard, Sumner of Gauntlet: Legends, and immediately after he spoke the tree made that spiraling sound you hear in the game when you get sucked into or out of a level.
My friend Justin perked up when I told him what happened in the store. “Damn, dude! Really?! I’ve got the Xbox version of Gauntlet at my house somewhere!”
We found it in a pile of dirty clothes and trash in his laundry room/basement area.
Environmental concept art is a type of developmental painting used in video game production as a way for painters to visualize the ideas of the creative team. If it weren’t for these great painters in the industry, then there would be no unified vision to lead the increasingly complex demands of modern level design. The production team would be doomed, dead in the water; their game would start looking cheesy and ill-designed. This would be all right if we were still in the 90s, or if a “generic fantasy anime” look was the goal, but we are dealing with 2013 AAA gaming! By now concept artists of all stripe have found an important and greatly romanticized role in the video game industry.
So, at the end of my last “game tour” of Halo 4 I said that I would take what I learned about the level design and reverse engineer some mock concept art out of it. What an absurd idea, concept art fan art! Really I just wanted to paint a laser floor.
Here is what I came up with (click for embiggening):
I was very excited to hear about the impending Halloween release of “CATHARSIS,” the latest “trip” from hard rock game designer Cameron Kunzelman.
So basically in ages past, a corrupt mage named Garm used a set of Runestones to summon a demon named Skorne. However, Skorne crushed Garm and imprisoned his soul in the Underworld. Skorne, fearing the power of the Runestones, scattered them throughout the four realms, so that they could never be used against him. So in comes Jeff, the cleanup guy. His job is simple: kill Skorne. The Runestones don’t matter.
So the other day my girlfriend was at Sam’s Club and bought Halo 4. I thought it’d make for a great game tour, ’cause I grew up with Halo. It’s an absolutely beautiful game, but I’m not sure what I think about it… I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it. Getting into Halo 4 was kind of like this:
Donkey Kong Country. Everything about it—the flowing gameplay, the strangely appropriate music, the 3D-rendered style of the characters, and the world maps combined to create an experience that hasn’t really been seen before or since, tied together by the amazing environments that DK and Diddy blasted through on their quest for the stolen banana horde. In this post I’m going to discuss the design of some of these levels and try to identify a few of the factors that made them so great. Continue reading Visual Tour: Donkey Kong Country→