How to make the Levels the Two Towers Way

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A Word About Environmental Team Organization

When I first came on the TT team as the Lead Environment Artists each environment artist built, lit and textured his own level. I didn’t think this was a good idea but the Art director at the time wanted it that way because that is how they did things in the past. I wanted a more streamline, assembly line like system where artists specialized in the tasks they were naturally good at. When I took over as Art Director, with the blessing of EA, that is what I did.

EA wanted to ‘to go deep, rather then wide.” We had twelve modelers, and in the past we would have had them work on one level each. But with this new philosophy we created four ‘fire teams.’ A stupid name, I know, but that is what we called them. They consisted of one team leader and two to three subordinates. The team lead coordinated all his teams’ efforts and was responsible for all the art in his team’s level. The tasks were assigned to who could do them the best. Fort example Rob was fast at geometry so he built the landscape, while Ian was good at trees and buildings, and Josh, who was good at textures, would create all the textures or do the final pass on the textures the other Environment team members did.

Usually the team leader made the world geometry, another team member would build the sets and props, and a third would do all the final textures. This could not have been done without EXTENSIVE preplanning. Each team had detail level maps, 3d block outs, concept art, storyboards and color storyboards as well as tons of photo reference from the movie. It was the job of the Art Director, me, to make sure they followed the plan.

In order to give all the locations a consistent look we would assign the same team one or two settings. For example one team did Rohan Level 1 and Rohan Level 2. While another team did Fangorn 1 and Fangorn 2, and Balin’s tomb.

Also, the team would work on one level till it was at Alpha, and only then would they start on the next level. That meant that some levels near the end would either get cut or shortened in order to make it in to the game. So the levels we thought were the most important, the most difficult and most labor intensive were done first. This created a short game, but if EA had instituted this system early on they could have gotten in a lot more levels.

I hope all this is clear and makes sense, and more importantly is adopted for games where it is appropriate.

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