Valorant: The environmental art of maps!

Valorant: The environmental art of maps!
Lydia "PHRISK" Zanotti, the 3D Environment Artist who curates and develops the 3D environments in VALORANT, took advantage of the arrival of the new Icebox map to "break the ice" and tell us about the complete process of developing the maps.

The Riot team involved in the development of the VALORANT maps is quite small and made up of level designers, 3D graphic designers, sketchers, lighting specialists and quality control managers.

It takes a real choral effort to bring a map from a stadium where it is made up exclusively of gray shapes (the first playable version of a map) to one ready to be shown to players.

When it comes to maps, it is generally the design of the levels that requires the most attention, as those who deal with them spend months working on the structure between tests and adjustments until they have a product ready to be entrusted to the graphic designers.
This story is told from the point of view of one of those graphs! That is, the person who takes care of the models, the textures, the sculpture, the coloring, the shaders and more generally to create the visual sector of the maps.

Before a 3D graphic designer can put his hand on a map, the artistic director and the creative director work closely with the sketchers to find ideas on how to make their appearance unique starting from a series of free proposals.

At this stage, the artists and project managers often confront each other to make sure that the map respects the narrative component of VALORANT, that it has a certain uniqueness from the point of view of the visual sector and, above all, that it is something able to ignite the enthusiasm of the whole team.

After establishing a general direction, the sketchers begin to work based on specific places and landmarks that emerge from the map structure, trying to cover it as much as possible before the 3D graphs step in and start modeling the basic forms of architecture.

The map production line can be divided into various stages:

- structure.

- draft.

- artistic production.

The environments are made entirely using Unreal Engine 4, and most team members use Maya for 3D modeling (although some prefer 3ds Max).

When to start modeling a map, try to test it on a weekly basis to get a rough idea of ​​the spaces, find any bugs, make sure that collisions are correct and identify areas that are too distracting from a visual point of view or that do not allow to clearly distinguish agents.

Sometimes it can Level designers happen to implement changes while we are already working on the models, so you have to take them into account whenever necessary. This typically happens during the creation of the graphic draft and in the early stages of building the map. Since sketches and structures are subject to change, in those moments it is better to work with simple shapes to avoid having to do it all over again.

Two excellent examples are the drafts of the "Kitchen" and "Center" environments of Icebox, where changes have been made to widen the spaces a bit.

The team's main goal is to provide players with maps that are graphically satisfying but also perfectly functional. Sometimes we start with ambitious ideas, but at some point you have to limit creativity to fit the underlying structure of the map or more simply for performance reasons.

Performance is a key factor in tactical shooters, and when you finalize a map, then spend a lot of time working with the engineers to clean it up and make it run as smoothly as possible - there are many ways to do it, and compromises are usually required such as having to sacrifice graphics quality to get a small performance improvement.

A lot of small improvements, in the end, make a big difference!

Optimizing a map is quite simple, however, since you can analyze the data to understand which textures require more memory or which areas they have an excessive amount of draw calls (or resources to render). In these cases, it may help to "instantiate" the meshes, or group them (if we have 20 rocks, we can combine them in a single instance so that the game engine considers them a single mesh). This technique comes in incredibly useful when it comes to populating the object map.

While developers are forced to follow the sketches to the letter, they must make sure they stick to the basic structure.

Often we export the meshes of the construction phase of the structure and derive the 3D models, so that the walls and edges are perfectly aligned. This is of paramount importance in the areas where most of the game takes place (as we'll see shortly).

You try to shape and build the basic architectural shapes on the map before you begin to refine and texturize them. When you start adding colors to meshes, you make sure they aren't too dark, especially in closed areas. The goal is to safeguard the integrity of the game by ensuring that the environment does not interfere with clarity and that the characters are always clearly visible.

As for the textures, on the buildings and on the larger structures the Valorant staff uses tiles and trim sheets created using programs such as ZBrush, Substance Designer, Substance Painter and Photoshop. If necessary, they use textures tailored to specific objects, such as the coffee machine in the kitchen or the forklift near point A.

As we have already said, even if the aim of the graphic designers is to maximize the appearance and the sensations transmitted by the environments, this is subordinated to the clarity of the game and to ensuring that the agents are always clearly visible.

To minimize visual noise they make sure that their materials have similar values ​​and that contrast and dark tones are not excessive. They can also improve clarity by using lights to illuminate darker areas or to highlight points where excellent visibility is needed, such as where the Spike is placed or the most used corners.

When designing a map you don't have to set limits… or almost.

Graffiti, objects and small details tell a story to the players. Generally, we try to place most of the details at a height higher than that of the agents, in order to maintain the maximum clarity in the corners or in the points from which we lean out.

and the points of reference, it is always better to choose simple things that are easy to interpret, to avoid the frustration of having to hear your classmates shout "Over there!" rather than referring more explicitly to a garage or market.

In addition, environments with short names that are easy to pronounce are preferred even in the middle of a fight. Some are trivial, like "kitchen", others like the yellow container in point B.

Having fun building and telling stories is probably the best part of an environment designer's job. Each artist who works on the map adds their own personal touch, and sometimes even manages to slip in a Tactics course without getting caught.

They always use common sense and try to follow the sketches, but if they come up with interesting ideas or are inspired from something, they don't mind getting their creative energy flowing over the map.

Another way to add detail and visual narration to environments while staying true to the basic structure is to build outside the play spaces. A striking example is the bunker built on the glacier wall of point B: inside, an intriguing warehouse with a curved tunnel has been created without having to worry about anything, as players cannot access it.

What do you think of this story?

Source: play.valorant

Don't forget to follow us on our social networks to stay up to date on your favorite titles!

Valorant: The environmental art of maps! on November 19, 2020 by CS_cavallo

Lydia "PHRISK" Zanotti, the 3D Environment Artist who curates and develops 3D environments in VALORANT, took advantage of the arrival of the new Icebox map to "break the ice" and ...

Valorant: New weapon models! on November 16, 2020 by CS_cavallo

With patch 1.12, the development house of the famous strategic shooter Valorant, has decided to release new weapon skins, characterized by a simple and futuristic style, where lines…

VALORANT: New rewards with Prime Gaming! on October 21, 2020 by Federico “HARVOK” Grasso

Thanks to the collaboration between Riot Games and Twitch, here comes a new reward of VALORANT, available for free for those who own Prime Gaming! Also this time it is a gun bud…

Last modified: November 19, 2020

Powered by Blogger.