As Lead Artist at Strike Gamelabs, I was responsible for developing the art production pipelines and creating a lot of the initial artwork for the game. Although this mainly included creating in-game art, I also assisted in creating the games debut trailer and promotional material.
The brief for the trailer was given by Underzone's Design Director Martin Darby who provided a written synopsis and brief storyboard. The trailer was to include a mix of pre-rendered elements and in-game assets and footage as well as a few shots that were to be made bespoke for the trailer.
The following page presents the final trailer along with a breakdown of each shot I worked on and how it was made. The trailer was edited collaboratively my myself and Martin with music produced by an external company, who also provided music for the game.
Shot 1 & 2 - 'The City'
These POV shots at the start of the trailer are presented as feeds from two Search & Rescue Drones flying over a post apocalyptic London over 100 years in the future. Damaged skyscrapers now dominate the skyline, the aftermath of a collision from outer space.
The shot was built in 3Ds Max using a mix of hand made objects and asset packs to save time and help make the city feel more dense. Cameras were placed in the scene and animated along paths. These animations were then rendered with Vray before moving to After Effects to add colour correction, post effects and a drone UI overlay. The work also features in game as a background for the front end menu screen.
Overall I would have liked to have spent more time on the city shots really working into the devastation and making everything look more damaged. Additional fire, particle smoke columns, denser fog and dust and ash debris would have really sold the devastation. In retrospect I also think London landmarks could have feature more prominently to make the scene more recognisable. Unfortunately time and resource was a huge constraint in getting the shot together whilst simultaneously working on the game itself.
Tools: 3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop, After Effects
Shot 3 - 'Mole Drop Pod Landing'
For this shot we switch to the city at ground level as a deployment capsule carrying The Mole lands amongst the devastated streets.
This shot is also used in game when a player starts a new run and for that reason, is captured in Unity. The shot was built and animated in 3ds Max before being exported to Unity to add materials, camera, lighting and FX. It was then captured from Unity and brought over to After Effects for further post work such as extra particles, lens flare and colour correction.
One of the corporations HQ, and a core gameplay zone, Hydroroot can be seen in the background. The area the capsule lands in is Piccadilly Circus. As with the city overview shots, I would like to have had more recognisable environmental assets and storytelling in the scene such as underground/ underzone access or burned out transport and debris such as trash and broken building materials. However the shot is very fast and I feel the devastation effects that are in place still sell the apocalyptic scenario well.
Tools: 3ds Max, Quixel Suite, Photoshop, Unity, After Effects
Shot 4 - 'The Mole Reveal'
We are introduced to 'The Mole', the transformable digging mech that players take control of in game, as he breaches into the Underzone to rescue survivors. He can be seen transforming in real-time from his digger to bipedal states.
This shot was created specifically for the trailer and is captured in Unity using in game character models and animations. The animations for the shot were stitched together in 3Ds Max and exported to Unity for materials, lights, camera and fx before being captured in FRAPS. The shot was then taken over to After Effects for additional particles and lens flares and to be edited into the trailer.
The full Mole model can be seen here: http://miruku.co.uk/448534/7202226/client/underzone
Tools used: 3Ds Max, Quixel Suite, Photoshop, Unity, After Effects.
Shot 5 - 'The Underzone Map'
The map shot shot is presented an infographic showing how the drop pod lands in a specified location and deploying the Mole, who tunnels into the Underzone, navigating through the subterranean labyrinth of corporate structures and living spaces. The shot also has a dual purpose in showing how the game has multiple depth layers so that the mole can move back and forth as well as side to side.
The map shot uses the in-game map and UI design however due to the complexity of the camera animation, the shot had to be built from scratch specifically for the trailer. This was done by creating several grid planes in 3Ds Max at varying depths in the Z Axis. Various parts some of the planes were then broken to create rooms and a path was plotted along the grid formations and through the planes, accessing the various rooms. A marker to signify the Mole was animated along the path along with a banking camera to follow it. Finally textures were created that replicated the game map UI and these were applied to the grids and rooms. Each grid plane was then rendered seperately as was the mole marker, drop pod and city element. The whole thing was then reconstructed and composited in After Effects were appropriate colours were added as well as camera distortion effects such as tilt shift and chromatic abberation.
The final part of the shot shows a crash zoom transition from the map into in-game footage of the Mole in that room which was created by building a room that matched the shape and size of the one in the map and using the fast zoom to create a fade transition.
Overall this shot required a lot of planning to get right but was immensely fun to work on! Working out how best to set up all the renders and animation to be composited together correctly was a fun challenge and I am really happy with how this shot turned out overall, though it is a little fast and could have benefited from being a little leaner, maybe cutting out one of the depth transitions.
Tools: 3Ds Max, After Effects
'Game Footage Montage'
The trailer finishes out with some in-game footage that shows off Underzone's core mechanics: exploration and explosive combat encounters.
Working on the marketing material for Underzone was a lot of fun especially when seeing how far we could push the ingame art. Approaching some of the pre-rendered and composited shots provided a nice workflow change from the daily production of game assets and seeing it all come together was hugely satisfying.
Following the debut trailer, a more up to date trailer was later released featuring more up to date gameplay footage. Other shots I had previously worked on can still be seen in this 2017 trailer.