Massive Black 2 creation

Tue 30th Oct 2012, by Paul Hellard | Production

CGSociety :: Special Feature

30 October 2012, by Paul Hellard

Ballistic Publishing and Massive Black are very excited to announce the PreSale of Massive Black Volume Two. After four years of production, and the success of the Massive Black volume 1 book, which is one of the highest selling Ballistic books to date.

Since 2003, this company of ultra-talented artists has contributed original art, design and animation for some of the most successful consumer brands and franchises in games and film. They have also conjured up their own world-class Intellectual Properties: Zombie Playground, Mothhead, PROXY, and Transient.

“Part of the nature of our business means that we make a lot of artwork that never sees the public’s gaze. Projects can be discontinued, or never picked up in the first place,” says Kemp Remillard, Massive Black 2 editor. “Companies close or are acquired by others - a common occurrence in the Entertainment industry. This really can make for a tricky tap-dance when culling images for a printed tome.” Some of the projects shown in the book are well known, some are unknown and all are very close to the Massive Black heart.


“The Void Star project was one of these jobs that was not for a large publisher, so we were given more of a free reign on what we could do. This draws really good results more so than not. The theme of the game was particularly cool, centered on near-future space guys, a bit like private security soldiers who get to fly around in a free reign kind of orbit. We had a really good repore with the developer Drew Card. Some of the best work came out of this project because the theme was right and one where all the artists here at Massive Black got involved in. Void Star was a true passion project. The idea is that the player can fly around with the jet pack. But, as it says in the book, this project was relegated to the land of conceptual fantasy.”Kemp Remillard had quite the tap dance to do in selecting images to go into the book, so part of the challenge was selecting the best images, keeping everyone represented, while making the section of the book ‘pop’ with the most creative display from each project, and showing a complete gamut of what Massive Black did on each game.

“A lot of the book is free-standing, white background art,” Kemp explains. “This is a big contrast to the first book. The black background keys what the darkest value in the image is. My goal with the design of the book was to make it an open, clean and make sure the actual art the top visual queue on the page. In most sketchbooks, the only presence and deviation from white is the art itself. Most of the book is characters, creatures, weapons and free-standing stuff like that.”

There are so many gems in the Massive Black 2 book. “We never thought we’d be allowed to show this art,” exclaims Kemp. “We never thought we’d ever get the go-ahead to publish this work anywhere, but the signoffs were given and we are so proud, all of us, to see this in glorious print, published by the guys at Ballistic, and we are so grateful to the game publishers to let us move on this.” Infamous concepts, even though some images are from 2007, they were included to show the continuity for the Massive Black studio, having worked on the franchise since the beginning. “The nature of most of our work, is that it is other people’s property,” explains Remillard. “We originally had a 300-plus page count for this tome. We had to cut back from there.”

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Griffon Enemy, by Bruno Nox Gore

From Game visuals, through to Movie concept art, then into some surprising Advertising color and some inhouse Massive Black Entertainment IP, the Massive Black 2 book is jammed, literally jam-packed with never before seen pieces.

"The Games industry has been the bread, butter, and life-blood of the Massive Black engine for many years. We’ve had the pleasure of working on some of the biggest franchises over the years and the even more pleasurable experience of making our mark on some of them. It almost goes without saying that all of us played games excessively at some point in our lives and a great deal many of us are still suffering from the affliction. Luckily, games are fun and we love making and working on them. So it works out. Working on lots of different types of projects has been one of the best things about working in our office over the years and it keeps us fresh. One day it’s space marines and the next it’s robot-monsters. No cyber-dragons yet but it’s probably the next biggest thing to break in games. Working from the position that we do, we’ve had the unique opportunity to see first-hand how game assets are generated and implemented. More importantly, we’ve had an insight on how game documents are written, asset lists are drawn up and reviewed, and how our artwork is used by our clients for purposes of modeling, animating, and implementation. The experience only strengthens the drive to do it better and make cooler stuff. It’s what keeps us all going."

"Having a hand in making stuff for something that you love, like games, something that’s fun and everyone enjoys, is pretty damn awesome. We are lucky to have been able to carve out our niche as a small studio in such a big industry. The fact that we’re still here today, publishing our second volume of commercial work, is a testament to the dedication of our artists, both former and current, to the craft. Making cool stuff is something we all take very seriously, and is the reason for our success. It’s what keeps us together, putting Wacom pens to tablets and saving out files. We’ve worked on lots and lots of great titles over the last four years, of all shapes and sizes in probably just about every genre at this point. What you see here in the subsequent pages is only a cross-section. Fortunately, some of our best clients were gracious enough to allow us to present to you the fruits of our labor for them. We can’t be more thrilled to do so.

The Siege by Jason Chan. The Seige animation and concept design produced at Nexus by concept team Smith and Foulkes.


Every now and then one of those jobs comes in that’s fun, awesome, and kind of insane in the level of exposure your work gets out of it. Such a job came across Jason Chan’s desk when Nexus productions approached him to do some concept storyboard illustrations for their commercial, which was to air during the 2011 Super Bowl. Like all advertising jobs the time-line was short. The story behind the scene was that a large and terrible approaching army of Orcs is threatening an ice castle of hearty ice-dwarves. The Orcs are accompanied by a mighty and terrible dragon that they intend to use to melt the dwarven hold and possibly some dwarves as well. Luckily, the dwarves are cunning and have a plan, and time to make ice sculptures. Having constructed a beautiful ice sculpture of a dragon (with delicious Coca-Cola inside), they present the gift as a sort of good-natured Trojan horse. The dragon melts the sculpture but feels compelled to drink the soda that’s hidden within it. The unlocked magic causes the dragon’s breath to be rendered harmless, putting on a delightful fireworks show instead of a burning stream of flaming dragon mucus. Jason worked up some boards in Photoshop, then got some feedback from the client. Two options were explored for how the delicious Coca-Cola would affect the Orc/ dragon’s breath using both harmless fireworks, and balloons. Unfortunately the direction didn’t survive the final production, but it makes for an amazing illustration. Nexus did an awesome job and all of us were thrilled to see the almost one to one re-creation of Jason’s work on the TV.


Zombie Playground Kickstarter

MB Entertainment

One of the most original works is saved for the back of the Massive Black 2 book. In a section tucked away behind the big players is where the MB team venture into the crazy world of creating entertainment from scratch. Kemp takes up the story again. “We think making things is great. We’ve always been trying to venture into making our own games since the beginning, but over the last two years our hopes for embarking on the treacherous journey have been fueled and bolstered more than ever before. Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter and Crowd-sourcing, our Zombie Playground Kickstarter campaign was a success. With $167,000 worth of seed funding secured we’re able to begin the even more treacherous road of developing a fully playable demo. We’re up for the challenge like never before. The success of the Kickstarter demonstrated that there’s an interested and growing fan-base and a source of support that would like to see us make our own games. For this, we are in total honor, love, respect, and affection for the loyal fans that helped make our funding-goals a success. Our efforts in game development were helped in no small part to the collaboration with Unity on the Mothhead Unity-tech demo. Fortunately, Unity Technologies was interested in developing one of our properties as a demonstrator for their robust game engine.”


Zombie Playground Kickstarter

”Needless to say we were thrilled and jumped on the opportunity to flesh out a beginning stage for our Mothhead microverse. The end result is fantastic and we’re looking forward to developing the idea further when the opportunity arises. In the following pages you’ll see our concept for a multi-player FPS called PROXY with awesome battling robots. Also, a preview of Coro’s competed graphic novel Transient, which chronicles the tale of our favorite scuzzy homeless- guy-turned-hero. After all these years we are still a small but tight group of game enthusiasts that would like nothing more than to develop our own properties. After years of continuing and fruitful client-side work, at MB we’re devoted to creating unique and interesting independently developed games that are cool and fun. A simple formula for happiness for everyone involved.”

“I was hoping that it might be possible to expand the character class system,” says Jason, “and make a game with a great role- playing element. Character customization keeps you engaged on a personal level and is something I always look for in games. That, and a big part of childhood adventure is living out the role of the hero, being able to craft that is part of what makes good games fun. ”Along with the characters, they needed a setting. Jason blocked out this scene using 3d elements and artwork to begin a classroom. “Everything started with the classroom,” says Jason. “We said if we could make a classroom, and a character, then maybe we could make a school, and lots of characters.” So the 2D and 3D teams set out putting all of their ‘D’s’ together, at first on a classroom, but eventually expanding to a gym and interconnecting hallways. Production on building a playable demo for Zombie Playground was in full swing. Using the Unity engine experience gained from building the Mothhead demo, our small team of five guys fleshed-out a school hallway that connected multiple styles of classrooms. Work began on a gym and the all-important task of making the 3D mesh for the Playable Character was underway. “At this point, as a studio, we decided that we would throw our full weight behind ZPG,” says Chris Hatala.


“For Massive Black, this idea for a new property was too good and seemed like a culmination of all the knowledge Jason had gathered as a commercial concept artist. We were born to make this game and everyone was in agreement, so we decided to go for it. That’s when the decision was made to plan a Kickstarter campaign. We needed additional funding to get this off the ground, and Kickstarter had recently been in the news for raising real money out of the blue for indie developers. So we gave it a shot and everything seemed to fall into place.” Along with Kickstarter came the expanded universe of ZPG you see here—Randy the Raccoon is the school’s lovable mascot, that is of course, until he’s infected by the zombie hordes. Then his mind becomes twisted and his only desire is to grab children in the clutches of his sharpened claws. The player will have to be quick witted to defeat this guy, who has more than a few surprises up his sleeve.

Every ounce of the art in all of these projects have that distinct Massive Black flavor of awesomeness, translating beautifully in the pages of Ballistic Publishing’s Massive Black volume 2, a visual tour de force that chronicles many of their artistic achievements from 2008-2012.




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