Discover the mysterious alien planet where Principal Engineer, Ellen has crash landed. Avoid the hazards and defeat the enemies lurking within the ancient ruins.
Atomhawk was delighted to work with Unity on the game example for their latest 3D Game Kit. The Game Kit provides artists and designers with gameplay elements, tools and systems to enable non-programmers to hook up gameplay without writing any code.
Unity approached Atomhawk to help refresh and reboot their 3D Game Kit with a re-imagined style. We were asked to create an initial visual target image to establish a more unique, stylised look to the game, focussing on invoking a more atmospheric feel, a clear palette and a cohesive visual language.
Well-designed worlds always have a sense of history and so we explored what kind of architecture might have been left behind by an ancient civilisation. We then went on to designing the opulent vegetation of the planet on which the game takes place, as well as creating a spacecraft for its main character to explore the planet in.
Setting the scene
The starting point for Atomhawk was creating a visual target image to set the mood and style of the environments, with a focus on the skies, geology and vegetation of the unknown civilisation in which the game takes place.
As the story is set on an alien planet, it was important to think about how its flora and fauna might have evolved and what its ancient civilisations might have left behind.
We began our process with exploring how the architecture, rock formations, plant life and overall landscape should work together through a series of black and white sketches before taking three of the designs to colour.
"I loved creating these initial sketches and having the freedom to explore what the world would look like with floating islands and unique vegetation taking over the alien landscape."
Matthias Kapuvari, Senior Concept Artist
Creating the final colour image for our first visual target meant introducing striking other-worldly tones for the sky and landscape. The ambient lighting sets the mood for the scene and gives depth to the image, particularly the rim-lit moon in the background.
We also added more vegetation and mossy overgrowth to the architectural elements and further definition to the rocks to help bring this alien world to life more vividly.
Exploring the world
The next step in establishing the look and feel of the planet was to take our visual target image and recreate it from a different camera position, making a clear piece of instructive reference for Unity’s 3D modelling team.
We added additional elements in to the image and experimented further with the rock, water and vegetation, developing a more stagnant and swampy atmosphere.
The next key frame focused on a hidden valley containing a dramatic monumental gateway designed to create a sense of awe and wonderment in the player, inspiring them to explore the world further.
The image needed to communicate the aesthetic of an ancient civilisation with relics glowing with unexplained energies. The valley floor features broken and crumbling monuments covered in fungal overgrowth.
"The great colours and strange rock formations made this a great project to design environments for with lots of scope to explore different elements of the unique alien landscape."
Drew Whitmore, Principal Concept Artist
Focusing on the vegetation
An integral part of the game’s environment is the unique plant ecosystem which populates the planet. Unity tasked Atomhawk with exploring concepts for a mix of large tree-scale organisms, medium bush-scale plants and small scrub-type vegetations, all of which would be completely unlike anything found on Earth.
The designs needed to bring to life fungus, lichen and strange succulents presented in a bright, colourful and playful style to suit the aesthetic of the game.
Initial sketches were then developed and rendered into final images, highlighting the kind of weird and wonderful textures and materials the vegetation would look and feel like.
"The highlight of the project for me was designing the “delicious” looking cheese-like trees! Exploring the different textures for the rich, succulent vegetation provided a lot of scope for the imagination and led to some strange and interesting creations."
Dan Peacock, Concept Artist
Designing the dropship
The final brief of the project was to create a super-hero like spacecraft that would reflect the bold stylisation of the game rather than follow the format of a military-style vehicle. The dropship transports heroine, Lt. Ellen Hooper, around the game’s universe and features in the cut-scenes which provide intros and outros to the game’s levels.
The initial design phases included exploring the functionality of different aspects of the spacecraft. To help communicate the workings of his designs, artist Matthias Kapuvari chose to produce a series of short animations demonstrating how elements such as the wings, engines and hatch would work.
Further refinement of the design focused around avoiding sharp edges and flat surfaces and creating a more sophisticated curve language, giving the dropship a more aerodynamic feel. The interior seating also needed to feel soft and ergonomic.
The orthographics detailing the spaceship’s design from three key angles provided Unity with all the necessary assets to bring the dropship to life in 3D for use in the game.
Producer: Aurore Dimopoulos; Associate Producer: Kat Woolley; Lead Artist & Art Direction: Peet Lee; Original Art Direction: David Llewelyn; 3D/Technical Artist: Roarke Nelson; Animator & Artist: Stefano Guglielmana; Lead Programmer: Simon Wittber; Gameplay Programmer: James Bouckley; Tools and Graphics Engineer: Guillaume Saby; QA: Jacek Mackiewicz