A few of the talented folks involved in Cold Storage’s redux answered a quick handful of questions – one of them even rewrote the questions and answered those – about Cold Storage and what they do here at Bungie. Fancy a read, k?
Q: So, who are you guys? What do you do here at Bungie?
VDL: I’m Vic DeLeon, Senior Environment Artist and all-around wiseguy of the Bungie Art Team. I also go by Vickybaby or Mr. Pink from time to time. What do I do on the Bungie Art team you ask? I make maps for both Multiplayer and Singleplayer Campaign and I specialize in organic modeling- that’s the curvy, wavy stuff for you not-so-savvy laymen. I enjoy entropy modeling- broken and damaged stuff, like Legendary Map Pack’s Ghost Town and Halo 2’s Maptacular Warlock, but I’ve done a lot of Flood stuff since then so I’ve been begrudgingly bestowed the honorary title of “The Flood Guy” or “Vic- the guy that likes to make the disgusting looking stuff that reminds you of your cloaca”.
MM1: Michael Milota, Environment Artist, 3d modeling, texturing, and lighting.
MM2: I’m Mike Means, I was the architect and primary finishing artist on Cold Storage.
Q: How’d you get into what you’re doing at Bungie?
MM2: I got my BFA from the Savannah College of Art & Design in “Computer Art Specializing in 3D Animation.” I’ve always loved all aspects of 3D art, and actually began my career in the industry as a Character Artist and Animator. When I relocated to Seattle, the opportunity came up to work at Bungie as a contractor creating objects, props, and various trees & plants for Halo 3. During the first wave of DLC, I was the primary finishing artist on Rat’s Nest, which was the first full-fledged environment I’d ever done. As that was finishing up, the idea to remake Chill Out was beginning to get kicked around, and I volunteered to take the level on.
MM1: I’ve worked in games around 7 years. Lots of hard work and a strong desire to do that work with the best got me to Bungie.
Q: Any advice for folks who want to work in the game industry?
MM1: I’d advise any artist to utilize the immense resources of the internet to find out all the “how to” of game art. Get involved with the 3d art forums, make your own levels, join a mod team, participate in challenges/contests. Look at an awesome piece of art and make something of equal or better quality. Realize that you’ll have to commit to some serious time, hard work, and focus to be able to compete with all the best from around the world. Above all, make stuff that you want to see and can believe in.
MM2: The big thing I’d say is don’t limit yourself. Our industry is rapidly moving into more and more specialized roles, and schools are encouraging people to focus on one discipline and to ignore all other aspects of 3D. I think this can be a big mistake for young artists, as it has been my wide range of abilities that has allowed me to end up where I am today. Learn as much as possible and make sure you have a solid foundation in traditional art forms like drawing and sculpting.
Vic’s Question to himself: Any Vicalicious advice for folks who want to work in the game industry?
VDL: First, go research a PC game that has a lot of mods and volunteer to help the team. Next bust your ass making excellent content until someone notices your work and hires you or the team you are on- even if it’s just as an intern or contractor. You should also make a website with a couple shots of your very best work, just a couple great ones mind you, don’t throw everything you’ve ever made up there. Next, attend the Game Developer Conference or something like it and talk to professionals, learn techniques and pipelines, stalk the job fair and get your website URL in front of recruiters. Join the IGDA and become active in your local chapter. Most importantly, get honest critiques of your work from people already in the industry and follow their advice on how to improve. They’ll know what you need to do to get your work up to par, so treat them nicely and buy them expensive gifts in exchange for their tutelage.
Q: How was the setting for Cold Storage selected? Chill Out was Covenant, Cold Storage is Forerunner.
MM2: We knew we wanted to explore something new with Cold Storage, and fairly early on the decision was made to go with Forerunner because at the time there weren’t many Forerunner maps being developed. The concept of a Flood research facility was briefly touched on in Halo 2, and we thought this would be a good opportunity to take a fresh look at the idea. We knew we wanted to keep it fairly sterile, with almost all of the color in the level coming from the lighting, and we wanted each section of the level to have a distinct feel so that there was never confusion as to where you were at any given time. There was a lot of back and forth with Dorje, one of our concept artists, and he ended up giving us some fantastic pieces that really defined the final look of the level.
Q: It took a matter of days to finish Chill Out in Combat Evolved, what’s the art pipeline like for doing a Halo 3 DLC map?
MM2: Well, as you can see from the side by side comparisons, there is quite a bit more complexity in a Halo 3 map than there was on Halo CE. This translates to a much longer development cycle with multiple artists working on each environment. They still begin roughly the same way with someone creating very generic spaces, basically boxes with ramps, to make sure the size of each room, the height of each walkway, the length of each jump, etc. feel right. From this point the level goes into Architecting, which is when we begin defining the final shapes and feel of each section of the level, what types of materials go where, a rough idea of how the level will be lit, things like that, so that when another artist begins working on the level, they have a fairly good idea of what the final product will look like and what they should be working towards. After that we go into Finishing which is when we really start to go over every surface and create all of the little details. Finally is Polish, where we go over the entire level with a fine-toothed comb and make sure everything looks exactly how it should.
Q: What’s changed from Chill Out to Cold Storage?
MM2: Other than the level of detail and the thematic change, we tried to keep things fairly close to the original layout. There was an overall shift in scale due to the changed run speeds, jump heights, and FOV in Halo 3. There are some jumps you can make now that you couldn’t before, and we opened up some areas of the level which created a slightly different flow . We never set out to make an exact port, but were more concerned with staying true to the overall feel of the original.
Q: What’s the deal with the Flood in Cold Storage?
VDL: Ah the Flood, everyone’s favorite. Seriously.The idea behind the original Chill Out was that it was a very cold storage facility of some sort. Pretty generic in the style department, but fun was the goal there and it excelled in that respect. For Cold Storage we wanted to add a reason for the season, a fiction for the Vic-tion so to speak[Wat? – editor], and the Flood was a perfect fit amongst all that cryogenic mumbo jumbo. The tricky part was how to add the goopy mounds of parasitic loving without messing with the great work that Mike Means and Mike Milota were making so true to the original. The answer was simple, Add the Flood but keep it out of the playable areas, i.e. stick it behind glass windows where you can admire it from a distance but you can’t get to it. The Isolation MP map had the Flood right there in your face and people were frightened. Well we listened and complied. In fact, there is only one tiny little place in Cold Storage where the player can come into contact with the Flood, yet it’s totally benign to gameplay so I think we did good on that promise. Keep an eye out for little herds of infection forms roaming behind the aquarium-style observation windows, and have fun with the pure-form guy in the glass tube just don’t get too close. Someday I will be at one with the Flood and evolve into a Proto-Gravemind and everything in the universe will be simplified for all eternity; however I will still be subjected to taking crap from the Senior Graveminds working above me.