All of game development is magical, truly, but there is a very special kind of excitement when environment artists unveil their work. A senior game designer over at Respawn Entertainment has done just that, showing off what some Medal Of Honor: Above And Beyond levels looked like before and after she turned them over to environment artists. It is, without exaggeration, wonderful.
Alexa Kim shared several images side by side to show off her versions of levels from the VR shooter game and what they looked like after working together with the environment art team to beautify them. As Kim explains, the left images are often referred to as "blockouts" or "greybox" levels—spaces that are generally functional but aren't visually finalised.
Be nice to your environment artists (1/5) pic.twitter.com/2MSpdItZf3— Alexa Kim (@alexabkim) January 2, 2021
Above And Beyond is a VR shooter, so Kim explains that her functional levels took things like cover objects and sightlines into consideration. She's placed things like tree stumps, wagons, and huge rocks around the level to make the space function as intended. After the level plays about right, game designers collaborate with environment artists to balance the functional needs of the space with visual design.
If you squint, you can pick out some of the notes attached to certain objects explaining what the final space should be like. In that tweet up above hiding behind the tree you can just make out something about "erosion" which is reflected in the version on the right. Another image specifies that a wagon should be broken with holes in it and that the watermill gears inside the building should be missing parts as well. Kim has also posted a video with a few anecdotes about how this particular level was the first she worked on at Respawn.
..and make your boxes mean something (3/5) pic.twitter.com/3p6kODw5v8
— Alexa Kim (@alexabkim) January 2, 2021
During my days in development, this was always my absolute favorite part to witness. The work of every team is important, but I always felt the greatest emotional reaction to something after it's been translated from a blocky layout to something that looks like the final vision that the whole team is working towards.
If you're as fascinated as I am by this kind of thing, check out some similar silly in development shots of Sea Of Thieves and some Hades levels. You can also find game designers sharing their prototype levels in the "blocktober" tag on Twitter which is always a treat.