HBS_Leshy

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Hello Everyone! I am Zach Hartlage, one of the Environment Artists that worked on bringing the Tropical Biome to life. I have been working at HBS for close to 4 years now. My first project was Shadowrun Hong Kong, and the following SR:HK Extended Edition. My claim-to-fame for BATTLETECH is working on all of the foliage, though I also had a heavy hand in a few of the Main Story missions and general polish on a great deal of all of the procedural maps.

I’ll go ahead and jump right in to my process for conjuring the look and feel of the Tropical Biome. I was instantly excited when given the prompt - maps with lots of foliage? This was going to be my jam.

Immediately I started looking into reference images, that’s always a great start. During my collection and absorption of the reference images, I also started dividing things into various folders so I can easily find specific images when I need them. Things ended up being parsed out into Beach (ocean, sand, cliffsides, rock formations), Jungle (deep forested areas), Tropical Plants, and Waterfalls. Waterfalls were a feature mentioned early on that we wanted to test and see how we could approach them best visually for BATTLETECH.

After parsing through the reference, one of the first potential problem areas that stuck out to me was the idea of doing another “green” forested biome. I wanted to take advantage of the tropical aspects to push it away from our Highland and Lowland sets and get a different look. I tried to achieve this differentiation through shape language as well as color. I spent a bit of time on the palm tree in the set because I knew it would be one of the most defining features of the forest here. I played around with different silhouettes and leaf styles, some of which continued to change even as I got into the modeling process.

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With the Biomes, I always do a side by side lineup all of all my main pieces I have decided on, and play with the heights of each piece to make the forest look more full when brought together. Making the forest feel full felt especially important here for the jungle.

Also early in the process, I took a stab at doing a very sketchy look and feel piece.
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I was mostly thinking about ground/rock texture, color, and how we could play with distribution of land in this biome to create something different with lots of small islands.

Another thing brought to my attention at the time was that we had not landed on a Special Design Mask. “Design Masks” are what we call the different sections of ground that affect gameplay. For instance Forest, Water, and Deep Water are all different masks we use. The “Special” ones are the masks unique to each Biome. Initially for Tropical we were considering Quicksand or even a revamp of the Lava mask. Again though, I wanted to push something new into the fold to break us away from some of the stuff we had already done. After looking at so many tropical plants (and probably my general foliage inclined disposition) I suggested what was later deemed the “Pollen Mask”.

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Here I played around some different ideas, again keeping color and shape language in mind. Thinking about how things are going to read from a distance is pretty vital. After landing on some of the designs, I put together a ‘key’ of all the pieces.

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While I worked on modeling foliage and creating textures, our wonderful VFX and Environment Artist Will Avery worked on setting up waterfalls, pollen VFX, and chiseled out rock prefabs for us to use on the maps.

After doing some modeling and texturing, here is an earlier shot where things started coming together a little bit. As you can see there were still some color adjustments we made further down the line. For a brief period the pollen plants were pink.
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There was also a ‘Blue Period’ for the whole Biome, but we pulled it back from that.
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Anyway that is pretty much it. Through lots of iteration and feedback and about 5 months of work we landed on the final Biome you see in game. Shooting for something new, while trying to keep it in theme for BATTLETECH.

I really enjoyed this opportunity to take the reins on this biome from start to finish. It was fun playing around with different ideas and seeing them come to fruition. Hope you all enjoyed the final look!
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Havamal

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Very nice!
 

Prussian Havoc

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HI Zach (aka @HBS_Leshy)!

Your efforts to bring BATTLETECH's Tropicl Biome to LIFE, succeeded to an astonishing degree. It is already one of my favorite Biomes. So much LIFE! Flocks of birds, flowering plants and the beach effects are truly a joy to behold.

Thank you!
And my thanks to Connor and all of Team HBS's Environmental Artists.

Well done! : )
 

gh0s7

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Very nice, I always find it fascinating the details and lines of progress on the work of gamedevs. :)

Also, any possible hint and/or teaser for URBAN areas? :D
 

Marauder3D

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Is now a bad time to bring up that I also worked on the Lunar terrain textures???

And thank you everyone for all the nice comments!
I realized that after I posted. Another foot in mouth moment for me!

To be honest, I don’t like the heat dissipation on lunar, not the tile set!
 

Havamal

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Beautiful!
20180307221215_1 - Copy.jpg
 

CHH_Rampage

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The tropical biome is fantastic. I had asked for something like Gator Bait in a suggestion thread. This is close. Now if there were just some occasions where the entire map was blanketed in a swirling mist or wisp of fog and reduced lighting to give it that spooky, swampy feel then my dream would come true. Great work!

Also, I love the lunar biome and the challenges that reduced heat dissipation offers. The fight to claim the Argo on that moon was my favorite campaign battle. Great work there too!
 

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It is by far and away my favourite Biome already... One of the first maps I played after the update was a tropical, and I spent a few minutes marveling at the little details...

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And this image reminded me I have to set the bloody scale to smaller for the mechs. I keep meaning to do it, and then I get playing and promptly forget.... Sigh....
 

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Good post, thanks.

One challenge I sometimes have is seeing the terrain ahead. On night time type missions, areas not viewable by my mechs are very dark.
I'd also like to see some way to briefly highlight all navigable terrain, as there are a few tricky areas I've run into repeatedly that look like they can be navigated, but really can't.
 

stjobe

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I'd also like to see some way to briefly highlight all navigable terrain, as there are a few tricky areas I've run into repeatedly that look like they can be navigated, but really can't.
Not exactly what you asked for, but you can hold down Alt to see an overlay of movement dots around the mouse.
 

Brother Diogenes

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To be honest, I don’t like the heat dissipation on lunar, not the tile set!
Oh yeah. The lunar terrain's spectacular, but that punishing vacuum makes it hard to appreciate sometimes.

Besides the brighter colors, one of my favorite things about the jungle biome is how rugged it managed to be. Most people probably just focus on the overgrowth when they think "jungle," rather than rocks and cliffs, but I'm glad it wasn't the case here.
 

HurricaneSG

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@HBS_Leshy
Thanks for the insight. I have to say the Tropical Biome IS my new favourite one! Awesome Job of all involved.
 

MeiSooHaityu

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The new biome is very beautiful, and I could tell you put an amazing amount of work into it. Great job!

One of my favorite aspects of the new biome is the birds. The first time I moved a Battlemech into a wooded area and saw the orange birds flying from the treetops to get away, it really surprised me. It was very cool. It might not have been a really big thing, but seeing interactivity with the map was cool.
 

mmurray821

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I am loving the Tropical biome! Well done indeed!

The only reason I'm not a fan of the lunar or Martian biomes is I usually run majority energy 'Mechs and they are hell to fight in. Visually, they are beautiful.