Author : korpehn
  • Loading...

    User Name

    Register | Lost password?


    A password will be mailed to you.
    Log in | Lost password?

    Retrieve password

    A confirmation mail will be sent to your e-mail address.
    Log in | Register

  • Article The Environment Art of Halo 4

    November 20, 2012 by adam



    The forerunner aesthetic was both ambiguous and epic in scale. Ambiguity was used to communicate how advanced and ancient the forerunner civilization was. This also allowed the environment team to play with scale. Small rooms give way to huge atriums and huge pits fall seemingly without end into the planet.   Such variety in scale helped create a sense of wonder and mystery for the player while also creating a compelling visual pace to the imagery. It also served a technical requirement of allowing the engine to stream in large portions of the mission while unloading previous areas out of memory. These smaller transition spaces allowed us to create a relatively seamless experience across a mission as the map would be loaded behind the scenes without the player noticing.

    Paul Pepera, Lead Mission Artist



    Cauldron is one of a few maps specifically made for the Halo 4 Spartan Ops story branch.  The challenge behind making these Spartan Ops maps was that we needed to create a single multiplayer map, with no streaming support, to encompass numerous missions without the player feeling like they were always in the exact same map.  The best way we found to combat this potential repetitive feel was to create different visual sections of the map.  All the sections shared many of the same assets, but each one had its own “vibe” which was accomplished by changing the lighting, FX,  and scale of the area.  In Cauldron we had three distinct, yet similar, areas.  First, the upper plateau area that was greener and reveals a wide open picturesque vista shot.  Second, the largest section in the middle of the map contains the large lava river and forerunner bridge. This area was broken into even more smaller visually unique sections or “call outs.” And finally we had the claustrophobic lava rock ravine, where we really played up the dangerous feel of lava with dramatic lighting and FX.

    Justin Dinges, Senior Environment Artist



    One thing we included in our forerunner aesthetic was the concept of gravity defying architecture. Huge pillars and platforms levitate in the air suspended by mysterious forerunner technology. This concept of floating architecture allowed us to construct environments that would otherwise be impossible with a more traditional set of physical rules. Interesting gameplay encounters were also crafted to take advantage of floating set pieces resulting in some of the more memorable parts of the game.

    Paul Pepera, Lead Mission Artist



    For Midnight, the final level in Halo 4, there were two big beats. The first beat was a race across the surface of the Didact’s giant ship. For reasons which are probably obvious, this area got nicknamed “The Trench.” The Trench ended up being over 30 real world miles long so the big challenge was figuring out how we were going to be able to build such a huge space while still creating visual interest and maintaining a high fun factor. We ended up creating a modular system which had the dual benefits of cutting down production time while also giving the mission designer a “lego” set that he could use when creating the layout of the level. The second and probably most important big beat for Midnight is the final confrontation with the Didact and his doomsday weapon,  the Composer. A lot of things needed to happen in this area– we needed to convey the emotional climax of the game; we needed a gameplay experience that felt like a satisfying final fight; and finally we needed an appropriately epic spectacle with which to finish the campaign. The area was an exercise in extreme collaboration– just about every possible discipline worked simultaneously on the area to create a suitably memorable conclusion to the Halo 4 campaign.

    Wade Mulhern , Lead Mission Artist


    The Forerunner exterior in Shutdown is the largest playable space in the game, but has one of the smallest environment memory and performance budgets. The reason for this was to afford resources required for non-linear progression.  With the exception of the terrain, the entire environment is built from low-res geometry with ~10 tileable textures (two or three per spire, one for the ground structures, one for the lights, one for the ceiling, and a couple for the landing areas).  The spires needed to strike a balance between distinct, bold shapes and smaller, busier details.  The scale of the space was achieved by the details on the spires (such as the points of light) as well as the atmosphere and terrain painted by the Skybox team.

    Chris Emond, Environment Artist
    Next Page: Requiem – An Alien Terra



    1. dtschultz on November 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      "The majority of the game was lit statically using a baked-in lightmap method. This static lighting solution allowed us to achieve very realistic lighting results with full global illumination and ambient occlusion. A specular term extracted from baked spherical harmonics helped bring out the forms in the modeling work and added a great deal of depth of the lighting. A final color grading pass allowed the art director great control in determining the final look and feel of the game."

      This a great article. This game is truly stunning. I am curious about this "specular term extracted from baked spherical harmonics." I looked up spherical harmonics, and I am not a math wiz (to put it kindly), so I am curious what this means? Are you saying you used spherical harmonics to bake out a geo based specular? I'd just like to know more about it. Thanks!

    2. Thousand on November 30, 2012 at 7:34 am

      343 did a perfect job – first game that i replay, just because i want to get another look on that stunning environment

    3. vargatom on December 3, 2012 at 8:06 am

      I can has character art dump? :)

    4. FuzzYspo0N on January 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

      While the models are stunning, I can't help but feel they wash out the scenes with so much glare and white that you can't see any of it.

    Leave a Reply

    You must verify you are a human before you can leave a comment.

    Find out how to accomplish this by clicking here!