Direction

Dark Void was one of those projects that metamorphosed over time, and as the project solidified my role did as well to match the needs of the team.

I joined the Airtight Games team in January of 2007 as their Production Art Director and was responsible for overseeing the art team to deliver on the vision of the studio's CCO, Matt Brunner. At that time, the game was called "The Black Cloud" and had a very unique and stylized art direction (see bottom of page). Over the course of the first year, the project vision changed so much it was decided to reset the project to what is now known as Dark Void. At this stage, I worked alongside the CCO to help define a new art direction and then managed the art team to deliver on several major milestones; vertical slice, E3 Demo and our CES demo which later became the Xbox 360 playable demo.

The void was an alternate world where "The Watchers" were banished to by early humans, called "The Adepts". When their world began to die, they made plans to return to Earth and take back their planet. For Dark Void, we wanted to create a world that was familiar but also fantastical, and lure the player into believing that they were stranded in the south pacific someplace. "The Void" is a dangerous world in the midst of a violent end and we wanted the danger of the world to escalate as the reality unfolded.

Concept art by Stephen Daniele

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Characters

The Survivalists are a colony of earthlings who became trapped in the void when their vessels entered the Bermuda Triangle. The survivalists have joined together to prevent the Watchers from returning to earth.

To win the battle and hopefully return home, they must cross the huge expanse of "The Void" in an airship designed by Nikola Tesla. The safest place to live and build their airship was away from the native villages where the Watchers made frequent raids. They chose to create their colony at the edge of the void in the Borderlands where they could hide their giant airship in the rocky cliffs.

The Borderlands is a very dangerous and caustic environment, so the Survivalists equip themselves with layered clothing and various breathing apparatus to help protect themselves from the elements.

Concept art by Mike Uziel and Chris Madden

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Prototype

The plan was to announce Dark Void at E3 in 2008 and we wanted a playable demo at the show. We decided to use our "Breaking Camp" mission for the E3 demo since it had some elements we felt was fairly unique.

This would be the first time the team would get to see Dark Void in a near ship quality state and the excitement was quite high.

At this stage it was all hands on deck and I was able to contribute in many different areas, from directing to hands on content production, and it was probably one of the most memorable moments on Dark Void.

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History

When I first joined the team at Airtight in January of 2007 we were working on a different game called The Black Cloud and I felt it would be interesting to include some samples from that effort for contrast. The Black Cloud had a very simple and clean look where low frequency textures, radiosity lighting and ambient occlusion would work together to create a very stylized but natural feeling world. Although we didn’t have our lighting or post process features implemented yet, you can still get a sense for the desired end result.

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Character Tech

Some of the early tech I designed for "The Black Cloud" used a similar base mesh and animation sharing system I designed for "The Element", but I felt the system really proved itself with the extremely stylized character design.

When combined with the body part swapping system and shader instancing, we could create an infinite variety of characters from a very small base set of assets.

Aside from the mesh and animation sharing system, I also created the skin and cloth shaders for our characters by using a light vector to map a gradient over the surface of our characters. By modulating the base texture with the gradient, we could simulate many complex materials like silk, satin, velvet and even skin.