One of the last things I got the chance to work on at 38 was collaborating with Jim Dobbler, Jon Criner, and Drew Whitmore on lighting this interior, which Curt just publicly released on his facebook page earlier today.
Lighting is hard, and none of us were feeling confident about tackling the lighting of these particular interiors; they were circularly shaped, which led to odd focal points, they were full of windows, which made natural light a dominant factor, always competing for attention, and there was so much detail in the set dressing and texture work that it was tempting to show off everything all at once. We resolved all these issues by doing ‘lighting jams’. All four of us spent a couple of hours taking a stab at the problem individually, then we met and critiqued each other, pulling piece-meal from each artist’s solution and downplaying things we didn’t like. After a second, shorter round, where we narrowed in on elements we liked, we then designated a ‘point man’, who was responsible for implementing the best bits of everyone’s work, starting from one of the four as a source. I can’t remember truly if it was Drew’s or my own base that we finalized this particular interior from, but all four of us contributed so much to the final look that it’s safe to say we all can take credit. Once we lit one of the interiors to a quality we liked, any of the four of us could ‘follow the dance steps’ and light ALL the buildings belonging to that race quickly and awesomely, but each of Project Copernicus’ many races provided a unique problem to solve, and spending a few hours ‘jamming’ like this did wonders! It was also made for a great morale-boosting, educational afternoon!
The last five years of my life have been spent working on a little something called Project Copernicus. Well, that’s not entirely true…the first two years were spent building up a company identity and an IP/world within which to develop many games…not to mention the scaffolding of some core technologies from which we could build our game. I wore many, many hats, acting at times as a concept artist, a level designer, a tech artist, a producer, a modeler, texturer, lighter, manager, and guinea pig. I got to know the Unreal Engine pretty dern well and I made a lot of friends. I got a lot better at painting and I had a dern good time.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t all so pleasant. 38 laid off its staff last week, myself included. It’s a long story, and I’m not one for recycling sad news. But, should anyone be interested, here’s an article about the situation (http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/05/sa-editing-schi.html).
The media hasn’t been kind to my boss, Curt Schilling, who really is a decent, well-intentioned, honest man. He just also happens to be a politically-charged sports celebrity too, and the media has no end of fun with that. Say what you want about the financial situations that have been all over the news these days regarding 38, but I can vouch for Curt’s character. He’s never pushed any politics around the office, always did whatever he possibly could to reach out and connect with his employees on a one-on-one basis, and held onto one very big-hearted dream: build an awesome game, an awesome team, and an awesome company. 38 Studios was a really cool place to work, and even in my limited station as but a single developer amid the pools of talent, I allow myself to take personal pride in that. I was there from pretty much the beginning, and I know I helped shape the hardworking and rewarding culture the development team had.
So, along happier notes, here’s a flythrough of some of our zones:
And a screenshot!
On building an awesome game, Curt succeeding amazingly. Project Copernicus looked great, played fun, and was on a fast track to being an amazing game at launch; the quality of which hasn’t really been seen in the MMO space before. It was also a lot of fun to work on. In addition to concepts, texturing, asset creation, level layout, lighting, and modular library masterminding, I spent a lot of time working with engineers to get the terrain tools improved, build out lighting tools, implement atmospheric tools, set streaming standards, refine optimization practices…over five years of time, you name it, if it had to do with the environments, I was probably involved somehow!
I may never again have an opportunity to have my job description vary so much from day to day, but I’m grateful for the wealth of experiences I had at 38. I feel equipped in ways I doubt many other companies could have provided, and consider myself lucky. Out of work I may be, but I’m not too worried about myself, I just hope the everyone else of the ~300 laid off from 38 lands on their feet. It was a fantastic team, a fantastic project, and a fantastic place to work! Thanks Curt!