| || || || |
|Creatively the biggest adjustment for Eskuri was the balancing act between what EA wanted to do and what can actually fit into the game. With the advent of the next generation platforms, there is also a scramble to see what the new technology can or cannot do. “The two rules of thumb are good game-play and a good look, although good game-play will almost always trump look,” explains Eskuri. “Each year the appetite grows for the visuals as well as game-play and it's difficult for the technology to feed that appetite or squeeze new ideas into existing platforms. Things have to run at 30 or 60FPS and you are always compromising on the initial vision with reality. To a degree, it's the same in movies, but in games everything is so much more inter-dependent. Keeping a 512 texture on an object or character to make it look better could bring the frame rate noticeably down. That's not something you'd worry too much about in movies.”|
| || || || |
|There was an immense amount of research and concept work required for constructing the Casino areas, the city, and the suburban streets that made up 'Need For Speed: 'Carbon'. |
Atmospherics, lighting, and the many, many props. “We went through a couple of ideas for the game and locations,” explains Neil. “We had an idea for a large world with more open highway between cities which would take the player through deserts and mountains on long epic races. Four of us went on a 2,500km road trip through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California taking pictures of the different cities, landscapes, road textures, lights, buildings, trees, plants, benches, bus stops, fencing, you name it.”
Thousands of pictures were taken. “Since it was a night game,” Neil continues, “we drove all through the day, then we’d get there and get a couple hours sleep, then get up and spend the night taking photographs of literally everything. Everything from the casinos, to the old casinos, to park benches, road textures. One of the funniest things I remember is of our ‘road texture’ guy. He would take his camera out and just poke it right out over the road and take a photo of the road surface. Of course, people would be driving past, giving him the strangest looks. We would spend at least a couple weeks driving at a time, gathering images, to use for reference and concept art.”
| || || || |
|When the crew got back and started putting the world together, it occurred to them that maybe this isn't the culture of street racing. So they had to crank their concept in reverse and look at it all from another angle.|
The feeling was we were moving away from what made NFS: Carbon such a great game — Speed in an urban culture. “With that, we shifted gears and decided to keep the game within a cityscape,” explains Eskuri. “Our research trip was still beneficial since we stopped in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, which gave us a lot of useful reference and because we kept the game in the southwest United States, the overall flavor of the reference was good.”
Eskuri wanted to maintain a southwest flavor in the art direction so they also took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico to get a bit more of that influence than just the California feel. “With all of that, we drew up a map that would encompass each of those feelings. There's a bit of Santa Fe, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the game and kept it within a sizable, but regional city. I say regions because that is so much of the game-play - taking over regions of the map to ultimately control the entire city, so the design of the city supports game-play.”
After a bit of work, they had a good deal of concept work for each region to make them all feel a bit different and support the idea of the different car classes. The muscle car region was to be more working class. With that in mind, the team used an industrial feel with dock yards, factories, and train yards with a flatter terrain. The exotic region was more up-scale, Beverly Hills, Malibu Beach with the steep terrain and tight turns. The tuner region was more city center with the taller buildings and historic neighborhoods combining a blend of the rolling terrain and flat long roads.
Once you worked through those areas you move to the Casino region which favors no particular car class and the art direction was a blend of all regions to parallel that idea; glitzy, with some residential and industry. “Ironically,” Neil adds, “the idea of the canyon racing came late in the process but fit well with what we were already doing. Southern California has a lot of great canyons near the cities that are perfect for canyon racing. Carbon Canyon near L.A. being one. This worked wonderfully from our road trip because we went through a lot of canyons in Utah, Arizona, and California which gave us a good amount of reference for the many canyons we were going to create.”
With all the platforms on which the game was going to be produced for, it was decided to keep the time of day at night to simplify multiple lighting scenarios. The art direction was to keep things as dark as possible and use lighting to help guide the player's eye down the tracks. Neil uses the term 'Jewels of Color' to highlight the buildings and environment with color to contrast the darker areas. They also tried to use the car's headlights to light up the road so the player would have a better sense of nighttime and speed.
As the different platform requirements were complex and the timeframe to produce the game was very tight, the EA team on NFS:Carbon was pretty big. The number was 170+ for the entire project. Neil Eskuri focused mostly on the worlds, FMV/NIS, animation and cars and had a great support team. Each of those areas had specialists. “Within worlds we have people who specialize on the road splines and side terrain to make good exciting drives,” he explains. “Also, there were those who focus on the creation of the cities and environments. For the FMV and NIS, just organizing the stage shoot was a speciality. Of course, animation is a focus for the NIS characters and police along with the in-game character cut-aways. The camera presentation also had a specialist that involved the coordination of several groups. Since the cars are the main stars in a driving game we have a whole department focused strictly on the creation of the 50+ cars in the game.”
| || || || |