Client: People Can Fly / Epic Games | Platform: XBox 360

Working with People Can Fly – Poland and Surface Digital in the UK, we were tasked with developing concept UI design and in-game particle FX creation and optimisation for the next chapter in the Gears of War series. James was briefed on the existing concept artwork and the developing chapters in order to come up with some main menu concept ideas around the ‘Crimson Omen’ – the infamous cog and skull logo. As the games events are based around the destruction caused by ‘emergence day’ of the locust horde, various styles of animation involving breaking and shattering shard pieces, crumbling buildings were explored, using particle FX tools in 3ds Max. These concepts were used to try and work out a feel for the menu system presentation and develop a style that runs throughout the game.
As a primary development task, James was also recruited to create and optimise the in-game particle FX, using the Unreal Engine UDK. Particle FX are essential to provide any game with the finishing touches of ambient and special FX such as fire, rain, explosions, dust, floating leaves and sparks in order to bring the world to life. This task involved playing through each level and creating new systems and improving and tweaking existing particle systems until perfect using Cascade, Unreal Engine’s particle FX system. The VFX was then hooked up to the code in the Unreal Editor using Kismet. Following this was a period of optimisation, dedicated to improving performance, frame rates and removing bugs so that each level looked and played exactly as the team intended, striking the balance between aesthetics and speed.

Using 3ds Max and the particle FX and rigid-body dynamics tool Rayfire, James designed and animated several animated background concepts to test out styles and ideas for the main menu. These involved a slow shatter reveal of the infamous ‘crimson omen’ Gears Of War logo and also a stylistic city crumbling. The animations served as very early rough concepts, turned around very quickly in order to get a feel for how and if they might work if implemented.

Working closely with the VFX artists at People Can Fly in Poland, James was called in to help with the in-game VFX and animation requirements as production ramped up before the release date. Perforce allowed us to sync up to the latest build of Judgment and start helping to develop particle FX assets and libraries – and to implement and optimising VFX assets. Using regular meetings and Skype, we were able to work remotely with the team in Poland extremely effectively.

Using the Unreal Engine UDK cascade system to develop the particle FX, James helped to develop fire, rain, dust, smoke, falling leaves, flies, sparks, lens effects and many more FX systems. Many elements needed to be added, refined, improved and tested in order to add the all-important graphical polish required. The particle FX were then hooked up to the code using Kismet and levels test-played through to make sure that all elements on the checklist had been met. Towards the end of development, numerous particle FX had to be checked and refined during a set of optimisation passes. This involved playing through the level and addressing issues of framerate or glitches that might have been flagged up by the testers and other FX artists.

Stills

In-game particle FX:

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Menu & UI background concepts:

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