What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
I am the Art Director. I work with the director to develop the visual look and feel of the game.
What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
I try to play a bit of everything; Warlords 3, Master of Orion 2, Heroes of Might/Magic but Civilization is the only one that I ever got 'hooked' into. I have played CivI and CivII quite a bit, and while researching for C:CTP played the original board game.
On what other games have you worked on in the past?
I was Art Director on Interstate 76, and Xtinction.
A classic question: what was the most and the least enjoyable part of the development of the game for you?
The best part for me is always the conceptual phase. That's where you work out all the crazy ideas and innovations that you think will make them game rock. It is my favorite because you have a clean slate and the exchange of ideas is wide open. Oddly enough I was very bummed that the cow has been cut. It was an odd unit being it did not have an attack, but it's death animation was a thing of beauty to see. Perhaps it will leak out anyway? But I wouldn't know anything about that.
What was the procedure of creating the graphics (I'm referring to unit, city and terrain graphics not the game interface)?
The terrain was conceptualized in PhotoShop and every other asset started with a drawing. (James Mayeda is a great sketch artist, I do not think there is a single asset in the game that did not start as a sketch by one of us.) The vast majority of map assets (terrain, goods, cities, and improvements) were made completely in PhotoShop. Anything that has multiple facings, (units, all assets in the great library) are 3d models animated and rendered in Softimage.
In the PC Gamer preview of CTP earlier this year, we read that the units were hand sketched before being transferred to the computer. Is this still the case and if so, why? If not, why not?
First of all you have to recognize how much art is in this game… three times the number of units as any similar game or RTS. With that in mind everything starts with sketches. The sheer quantity of art work that had to be completed in production meant that everything had to be designed and locked down prior to starting production. That required an exhausting amount of work in development going through multiple revisions of everything until every piece was solid. After a sketch was completed a color (marker) version would be done and then all the info would go to Viewpoint for modeling and texturing.
What kind of programs were used for the creations of the graphics? Can you be specific?
In development I created all the proof of concept work with 3DS MAX 1.0, (legion unit, temple improvement, pottery advancement (cut), and prototype wonder movie), but before production we switched to using Softimage exclusively. MAX could do everything I wanted but at the time Character studio was the best way to animate a skinned mesh (as all our units were) and it was just too slow. So I researched and decided that Softimage, at that time, was the only way to pull off all our work with a single package. Specifically here is what we used:
- PhotoShop 4.0
- Lots of markers, pens, pencils and paper
- 700 cases (approx.) of diet coke
- Softimage 3.7 and 3.7(SP1)
- Aftereffects (wonder avi's)
- Indio compression (all avi's)
At the end, in what file format will the graphics be?
Steve (lead programmer, graphics man extraordinare) developed some really handy tools for the art team. The finished sprites are in .SPR format. Pretty clever eh?
How easy will it be to alter them? What kind of programs can be used?
If we ship with the tool, anyone will be able to add and revise any unit. The tool is pretty easy to use, but you will have to edit the accompanied text file to get everything working correctly. What is really nice about a sprite engine like ours is that the art can be produced on any system (or drawn by hand!) and just processed from a 32 bit (24 bit plus alpha channel) piece of source art.
If changing the graphic of a unit is possible, will it be required to make 8 facings and 3 animations for it? If so, can this requirement be bypassed in some way?
Would we do that to an ambitious user? No way man! All you really need is one facing and one frame labeled as an idle animation. I am looking forward to seeing some of the bizarre custom sprites people may be playing with after the game is released.
When you look back on the graphics used in Civ2, what did you and the team feel were the most important aspects to: a) keep..?; b) modify..?; c) omit..?
It was very important to keep the bright upbeat feel of the world. Most of all I wanted to give the map a hand painted quality. Considering the importance of the civ tile system (and especially the users ability to make custom maps) we really had extremely limited parameters to work within. I can say that the map is one aspect I am most proud of from the art team (Jody 'blues man' McMurrian gets the credit for pulling it off, with a lot of preliminary development work done by James Mayeda). I mostly sat around and drank beer during that phase.
There were two major things that I wanted to change from Civ2: the first is that the production team ran out of resourses or time when it came to the improvement, advancement art (you will note certain inconsistencies in the 3d and 2d art) Anyone who has completed a game can easily understand how this happens to the best of us, and one of my main tasks was to see that we finished everything we said we would on C:CTP. The second item was the forced perspective on the city artwork. I assume it was done to provide room for city names and minimize cluttering the map. We did a lot of work in development to make sure we could find another solution, and I am hoping the product will meet with Civ fan's approval.
We've seen on the screenshots that there are several styles for the city graphics. What exactly are they/representative of (i.e. population size)?
Just like Civ2 we have evolving city architecture that depicts three things: Culture (Eastern, Western…), Level of development (ancient, renaissance, future…), and City Size (based on population).
The unit graphics of course have only one style (the opposite would be impossible), and some people are saying that there is a western influence in the design. Your response?
The game is made in the west and our target audience is largely in the western world (Europe, the Americas, Iceland…) so yep, you got me on that one. Kidding aside, we really did struggle over this issue and tried to incorporate as many cultures as our limited asset list allowed.
One aspect of the city designs is that there is some abstraction, or mix, to every 'cultures' architecture. For example, the Asian is not really Japanese or Chinese but some mix of both with Hindu and other styles mixed in. I have done design consulting in architecture and take the ethnic/cultural aspect pretty seriously. None of this was done off hand, or without a lot of thought. Perhaps the best we can do is please most of the people most of the time.
It has been documented in several previews that each unit will have its own battle & death animations. Can you give us a little more detail about them and any other associated animations we may (have forgotten or) not as of yet been made aware of?
Kill or be killed baby! You have not missed any. The basic idea of civ isn't about blood splattering death (not that there is anything wrong with that!) but is more about the 'strategy' of growing a civilization. So to balance the focus (and avoid too many repetitive death animations) we split them up, with some units dying and some celebrating victory. No unit will have both, it is an 'either-or' situation.
We spoke about influence. How did you come up with the art for the interface?
How? Oh, about once every 2 months. The interface has been polished and polished until I can hardly recognize the screens! The main idea was SOPHISTICATED, OPTOMISTIC and CLASSIC. Conveying all the relevant information to the user in a clear, intuitive manner was mind boggling. Much less having any room left over for some eye candy. Jody did a wonderful job on it. The whole team is very pleased with the results, and believe all the agony is going to be appreciated by the players.
Does C:CTP have intro movies, wonder movies, etc? What should we expect? Are these multimedia elements, if any, computer generated or not? Why?
Oh yes my friends, you are in for a real treat here. These are some of the best little pieces that you will see in any game out there. I know that sounds strong but CG is my thing, and these came out right on target. A game with this level of sophistication and style demanded a realistically rendered approach to the intro, outros, and wonders. As for part 'b', there is no FMV in the game. But there is a 3D AVI for every object in the great library, it is one of finishing touches that makes the experience complete.
Also, do we still have the High Council of Civ2, where your advisors on video? Or has this been replaced with something else?
The team went through a lot of agony over this one. In the end it was dropped. Everybody has an opinion on the usefulness of the Council in civ2, but there is almost no gray area. No one we spoke with (or on the team itself) had a neutral opinion. So either way you win a little, and loose a little.
Looking down the road, where do you see yourself and the rest of the team headed in your career plans/goals?
Well this is such a talented bunch of game developers that I expect to see some great things coming from all of them. Personally, I love games, and expect to be doing this for the rest of my life. I am considering focusing more on the production design/development end and leaving more of the management behind. After all, my goal is to make the best art possible, and I get frustrated if I am not producing some art myself every day.