DmC: Devil May Cry’s artists on why life in Limbo is anything but dull
Ninja Theory’s art has proved a valuable bulwark in games where the action is less dependable. Whatever you might think of combat in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, there’s no denying the joy of watching their concepts turn into realtime via Hollywood techniques. DmC isn’t just shaping up to be a legitimate Devil May Cry, but is by far the most kinetic and reactive from an environmental standpoint – read our in-depth preview of the game. Truly psychedelic at times, it shows that the rainbow-coloured Enslaved was no Unreal Engine fluke, as technical art director Stuart Adcock and concept artist Alessandro ‘Talexi’ Taini explain.
Are there specific demands to doing a game as kinetic as this one?
Stuart Adcock Not just from a rendering front but also from content creation. We’re not a massive studio and we can’t just get a load of objects from cities and send them to the artists and say, “Break all that up, make sure it has internal faces so we can smash it if we need to”. The engine wouldn’t like to work with content like that anyway. So we did have to be really clever with how we could make a city feel like it’s evolving a bit, the enemies breaking through it, and that you can pull objects and stuff like that. We did a lot of clever little tech solutions, really. It’s smoke-and-mirrors for the movies and we had to do a similar thing with the game. We devised a world that would allow us to smash things procedurally. So in Limbo the building is more like the facade, and inside is the blood, flesh and bones. That straight away meant that if we were destroying things, we wouldn’t have to worry necessarily about what was under or through a building, it could be bleeding. And then we can focus on the big-hitters, where we knew we wanted the player to be able to explore and give them options. We could actually create and open up those areas.
A lot of the city backdrop is 3D rather than the usual giant skyboxes.
SA Texture memory was becoming more of an issue than geometry, and so, if you can achieve some of the city lines with geometry, you get slightly nicer rendering, more true lighting, and you don’t get any texture resolution problems that you’d get if you had to pack them into a certain budget. And to a large extent a lot of the concepts early on made us aware that the skyline leaves such a dramatic impression that, if it was all static and baked into a texture, it would be less inspiring. So we needed it to feel like a lens flare could go through the elements that were in the sky, and it all gels a lot nicer then. A big thing for us was getting the atmospherics to support Limbo and make it feel cool, and for you to know there’s a difference between that and the human realm. So the human world is very much monotone, and I remember at one point the direction was: make it look like a few games that are out there that strive for this kind of photorealism.
Alessandro Taini It’s fantasy. Even if we create something really familiar – because the city is very European – the best way to surprise people is to show them what they know and then twist that. Movies where people are hurt more realistically are much more effective, and it’s like that with our environments. You’ve seen these European cities before, but then you look and a building is leaning slightly; you’re like, ‘Why is that?’
SA When you’re referencing these places in Barcelona, even places where [Alessandro] grew up, it’s cool but it’s quite a low-level city and there’s no real metropolis. The concept of adding this height to the skyline by adding older and more gothic buildings on top of each other, suddenly made that skyline quite unique.
Is Dante a bit of a dickhead?
AT When it comes to character, especially one like Dante, we think about his past. If he’s a little bit of a dickhead it’s because, in the past, he’s been through a lot of things. We’ve been looking at a lot of movies about attitude – characters like Fight Club’s, for example. The way they speak and pose – it’s better not to have an argument with them. The eyes, the look. So we really concentrated on that for Dante. He has to be a believable character. If this guy walked into a club with a big sword and leather jacket, it wouldn’t work in our game.