The Art of Gears of War 3 is the latest book in Ballistic's Art of the Game series and it is now available to Pre-Order. At a massive 320 pages, it is also the biggest. Learn the techniques and secrets directly from those who created this best selling game.
Featuring concept and production art for characters, environments, weapons, vehicles, and monsters, this hefty tome gives you behind-the-scenes access to Epic Studio’s creative genius. It includes quotes, anecdotes, renders, early-stage art and works-in-progress, all leading-up to the completed package of the game.
Choose either Soft Cover, Special Leather Edition or the very exclusive Folio Edition.
The Art of Gears of War 3 is the perfect book for any lover of Games and Art.
Heavy armor… gritty character designs… the sound of a lancer revving it’s chainsaw bayonet… Marcus Fenix screaming out “Nice!” after a successful Active Reload.
These are the telltale signs of the Gears of War series. Gears of War 3 marks the culmination of the Gears franchise and storyline. Already it’s been received with outstanding adoration by the fans and the media and is a top-tier contender for Game of the Year in 2011. Very few popular games out there exude the kind of effort, uniqueness and artistic mastery that is expressed in Gears of War 3.
It’s a safe bet that any of the developers at Epic Games are more than willing to use that ever so familiar ‘blood, sweat and tears’ phrase when describing their contribution to this title.
To do just that, I got a hold of Wyeth Johnson, Lead Artist at Epic Games to tell us about the strife, sophistication, satisfaction and any other ‘s’ words that he can use to describe the development of an ‘Epic Finale’.
So what’s the main thing anyone should take away from Gears 3? Wyeth gives us a bird’s eye view of what Gears of War 3 means as a whole. “Gears of War 3 is one of those rare projects that is bigger, more fully featured, and also more polished than its predecessors. The story, written by New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss, is the most nuanced and rich that we've ever presented. ”
“Obviously we're pushing Unreal Engine 3 to the max, and graphically Gears 3 is the most visually striking game we've ever released. The biggest areas of focus for us revolve around looking at how to evolve the franchise. These games have been built on the backs of passionate fans just as much as from our own interests, so making a game like Gears 3 is a great balancing act between satisfying all the millions of gamers who love Gears while making sure you draw in the next generation of Xbox 360 gamers.”
Summer wasn’t the only season considered for the planet Sera. Gears of War 3 was almost set in the winter time. Wyeth tells us a little about the idea of a “Gears of War Winter Wonderland” and also shares a little bit of never before seen art. “We also went in the other direction, however, and did a couple of early investigations into a cold setting, considering snow and ice, and how the COG might equip their soldiers in that type of setting. The resulting concept, drawn by Epic’s senior concept artist James Hawkins, has a great blend of macro shapes and micro detail and feels like Gears, even with a different color palette and different overall shapes and forms. I've always liked this concept, and it’s fun to show it to Gears fans. You'll notice the ‘snow’ treatment of the Lancer as well, which we also explored a bit before abandoning the colder setting for the hazy summer of Gears 3.”
“The majority of our modeling is done in 3ds Max although we do have one who loves his modo,” says Johnson. “Character and environment models are built primarily on the hard surface end in Max and then brought into ZBrush for organic or soft surface work, or the ever-present damage and weathering pass that most of our assets undergo.”
“A couple of the character modelers do use ZBrush for hard surface work as well, but it's more limited. We'll generally bring our assets back from ZBrush (after decimation) to Max for low poly tracing. We generally texture in Photoshop but get good use out of CrazyBump and a few other small tools if we have special case needs such as normal map blending and so on.”
“Animation is all done in Maya,” adds Johnson. “We have a large number of custom Maya tools to facilitate animation, including an auto rig tool.” [I’m sure many artists reading this right now would love to get their hands on that auto rig tool!] “We’ve also developed a universal head geometry which allows us to transfer facial weights to a new character in a few clicks as opposed to re-rigging a whole face, which can take hours or days.” As a quick side note, the facial animations in Gears of War 3 are amazing.
The rendering mechanics is something that Wyeth is very proud of, the same way that the rest of the Epic team is proud of it, because it’s powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 game engine. “Gears 3 is fully forward, however Unreal Engine 3 also supports a full deferred rendering pipeline as well, as seen in our Samaritan real-time graphics demo,” says Johnson. This was shown at GDC earlier this year in San Francisco, California. “All those features are available to full UE3 licensees as well as anyone who wants to download the free Unreal Development Kit toolset from UDK.com.
As for gameplay, Wyeth calmly lets us know that his favorite moments are the Boss Waves in Gears 3’s new Beast mode which is a gameplay mode that allows players to play as the various monstrous creatures of the Locust hoard. “My palms still get sweaty when a pair of angry Berserkers team up and charge our team defenses while we scramble to light them up with a flamethrower. I love the boss waves,” he adds. Gears of War has always been known for new and stylized weapons. Many new weapons have been designed for Gears 3 but none seem to be as stylized, nor even as comical, as the Digger Launcher. “A highlight is the Digger Launcher, which fires a chomping Locust critter underground that gnaws its way across the battlefield, under cover, and pops up in a wide-area explosion. I really do love that gun.” And now let the Pokémon jokes begin.
On a more serious note, it was great to see that Epic’s overall gameplan entering development for this title showed incredible wisdom by the team. In fact, Epic shows a familiar wisdom which Wyeth tells us about. “Fail quickly so you can get on to the business of being successful afterwards,” is his guidance. What makes this kind of game development wisdom so familiar is that art director Ash Huang said that exact same thing during an interview with him on his development of ‘Dante’s Inferno’ for EA.
No matter how many times I talk to anyone who works at Epic, they all seem to give the same inclination that Epic must exude a fantastic work atmosphere.
The team of talented individuals often openly honor their team mates such as the way Wyeth Johnson honors long time Gears of War veteran, Chris Perna. “Gears wouldn't be Gears without our fearless Art Director, Chris Perna,” says Johnson.
“He has that gut-check, deliberate, visceral instinct about how an artistic choice affects the game as a whole, and that weight and gravity that the characters, monsters and environments have comes from him at the highest level. Badass artist!”
Of the many games that will be remembered as time goes by such as the Mario games, the Zelda titles, the Street Fighter titles and the Halo series; the Gears of War series reaches that well deserved ‘legendary’ podium and is sure to be adored by fans for years to come. The entire Gears of War series can be found and played exclusively on the Xbox 360 with the very first Gears title being also available on PC.