• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

HBS_Mazzoni

Private
1 Badges
Nov 6, 2018
15
0
  • Harebrained Schemes Staff
Greetings MechWarriors! Marco Mazzoni, Art Director on BATTLETECH: Urban Warfare here. I wanted to share some insight on how our small team of artists brought their skills and passion together to create beautiful cities for you to blow up and give them the chance to talk about some of their work.

First, some quick backstory before I get to the pretty pictures…

Our next expansion is called CityTech. Your job is to figure out what our cities look like”.
That was my takeaway after Mitch and Jordan pulled me into a closet (which I later discovered was an actual meeting room…) to tell me about my first assignment here at HBS. The name was later changed to Urban Warfare to temper old-school fan expectations, but looking back now and seeing the scope of the project and what we accomplished, I think we could have stuck with it.

Even with over 30 years worth of art to pull from, the urban settings in BATTLETECH seemed to lack a consistent look and sense of scale, so that’s the first thing I’d have to lock in. Without the resources or time to hand craft thousands of unique buildings, I created a set of building archetypes in Google Sketchup and established some quick and easy rules that we could apply to every building moving forward. I wanted at least three core visual themes that could scale from single unit structures to towering skyscrapers that would ensure our cities feel varied and unique from our pulled back camera angles. (You may have already seen this image in Dave McCoy’s most excellent Dev Diary)



Later on, some additional styles like this construction site were created to add little pops of color. These would show up less frequently so they needed less variations.



I made a Sketchup scene with a quick street layout using the blockout buildings and made our first urban biome illustration. At the time I was feeling optimistic, but I had no idea how close this image would get to what ended up in game.



So how do we get the building variety of a dense thriving city without setting everyone's PC on fire? We keep building geometry to a minimum while getting smart with our textures. Leading that charge was one of our newest environment artists, Alina Godfrey. Talk about hitting the ground running!

“These urban maps are crowded - each one has thousands of destruction-ready buildings and props. That’s a ton of stuff for Unity to render, so aggressive optimization was a top priority for the entire team. On the environment art side, that meant keeping our 3D models simple and our texture count low.

To that end, we designed a trim sheet system that allowed the same material to be shared across dozens of buildings. This let us get a good variety of building styles without having a ton of unique models and textures. Here’s a Civilian building showing the trim sheet layout:



To save on poly count, most structural details were represented in the materials rather than geometry. I used Substance Designer to generate all of our building materials. This Substance automatically converts a black and white heightmap into a set of Unity-ready textures:



We assembled building models from a collection of basic lobby, tower, and roof components using Dave McCoy’s Houdini tool. This modular approach let us quickly crank out a whole bunch of buildings using a few shared components, adding to the visual variety.



Using this system, we translated the structural details from Marco’s concepts - heavy ferrocrete trusses, metal panels, reinforced doors - into our urban environments in a pretty efficient way. Here are some of the final Corporate building models and materials"



A believable city should look like an appealing place for humans to live (until the ‘Mechs show up at least), so we needed some parks and plazas to give people a place to unwind. This would also allow us to provide some light forest cover and cooling ponds. Unfortunately the monorail system in this concept didn’t make it to production. It would have been a purely visual element that you could plow through in the movement phase so it wouldn’t have any effect on gameplay, but it would have looked cool and given me an excuse to make more Simpsons references around the office.



Our veteran environment artist Zach Hartlage stepped in to make sure these areas provide just the right amount of visual relief from our sometimes oppressive ferrocrete jungle.

“It was fun working off of the concept art provided by Marco and trying to get the feel of the parks to sit with the rest of the Biome. It feels important to have the visual break up among all of the towering buildings.

After working on BATTLETECH for so long, creating organic assets like the statues here was a very different and fun experience for me.





I also thought the effects and visual style of the fountains were a cool idea, those were fun to model and bring to life with the help of the VFX artists.”





Of course, these cities should be far less appealing to live in after our 'Mechs have resolved their differences, so destruction was a major focus throughout development. How buildings collapse was just as important as their construction.



Our explosion-happy VFX artist Tracy Landau was always eager to run our buildings and props through her destruction process to make sure you feel the impact of every missed shot. She would laugh maniacally while blowing up all of our hard work… but that’s just how we knew she was on the right track.

“I'm Visual Effects Artist Tracey Landau, and for Urban Warfare I blew things up
!

Between props and buildings, there are well over two hundred items to blow apart in Urban Warfare, all of which require their own unique destruction effects. I realized early on that organization and communication with the artists modelling the props and buildings was key to taking on such a big task.

I ended up with a couple test scenes; playgrounds to put all my props and buildings in to design fx and test them out.



Most prop destruction fx have at least three emitters (sparks, smoke, and rock or metal chunks), but get more complicated as the model does (for example, bags of chips and sweets from snack machines, or colorful fluorescent liquid explosions for coolant tanks). Many of these required new sprite sheets and materials, so I'd bounce between Unity, Photoshop, and occasionally After Effects. For buildings it was all about starting with a quick, properly sized smoke shock wave, appropriately matching explosions, sparks, glass, metal debris, rock, and smoke to the structure, nailing down timing, sizes, and colors, and providing enough kick-up dust and dirt at the foot of every collapsing building.



Since there around 79 different buildings this took a while, but was a lot of fun. I also made video ads (which I quite enjoyed) and some hologram signs."



Our cities are evacuated in a hurry at the first sign of ‘Mech deployment, so by the time your drop pods land the streets have already been abandoned (at least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night...). Still, even without people I wanted to make sure our environment felt “alive” and lived in. Blinking neon and scrolling ads felt like a great way to achieve that.



Our veteran VFX artist Will Avery created most of this signage, often pulling from companies that exist in the BATTLETECH universe. He also made several ads for the non-cannon “Pizza Place”, because let’s face it, even in the 3020s pizza is still the best food in the galaxy.

“The orbital drop pod sequence was extremely fun to put together. It's a shame it couldn't be any larger -- the original sequence, slightly more realistic, had the pod descending about 50% faster and the initial impact spike nearly twice as high!



It was tricky to get the particles in these ads to appear contained within their screens. I spent a lot of time just adjusting curves so that hologram stars, pizzas, and film strips would flatten themselves into oblivion just before escaping into the world outside their borders. All in all it was a neat challenge, but I think I'll pre-render videos next time. Less restrictive."



Since our streets and buildings rely on limited geometry, we had to create a new set of low poly props that we could deploy to give us that “crunchy” tech look from the concept art. Designing tech bits and greebles is something I do for fun, so coming up with dozens of vehicles, vents and space-crates might have actually been my favorite phase of this expansion.





Thankfully our environment artist, Zach Whitchurch loves industrial design as much as I do, so when he wasn’t cranking out a ridiculous number of grounplates, he was unleashing his hard surface skills on our unique props.

“The new props presented in Urban Warfare Range from the tiniest of park benches, to towering skyscrapers. Handling this sort of scale variation across props was a difficult task, as each urban map had tens of thousands of props, many of them viewable up-close. With this sort of prop density, each prop needed to be painstakingly optimized.

Many of the street-level props in urban warfare consist of 100 polygons or less, looking like something made for the Nintendo 64 when viewed in wire-frame. We were able to work around this limitation by using a technique called 'Parallax Occlusion Mapping' (POM) along with our standard high-poly to low-poly baking workflow. Using POM, we were able to fake geometric detail across our props that standard normal maps wouldn't be able to achieve.

We were then able to store all of the individual textures into only a few 2048x2048 pixel atlases, massively reducing draw calls. This was the key to squeezing thousands of destructible props into our urban scenes while maintaining a level of detail consistent with the rest of the game without the scene grinding to a halt.”



Before heading into full production I wanted to create one last concept image that would contain all of our previously established elements together in one shot, this would serve as a main reference for our art passes.



I figured we’d be in a good place if we could even get somewhere close to this level of density, but the final results blew me away. I mean… just look at this...



To say I’m proud of what this team has accomplished would be a massive understatement. Now every time I land on an urban biome I spend at least a few minutes flying through the city, taking screenshots before diving into combat… and even then I’ll still get sidetracked taking photos in the middle of the action.

Protip: If you’d like to do the same, you can toggle free camera with “Ctrl + Shift + I” and toggle the UI with “Ctrl + Shift + U”. You can take 4k screenshots with “Left Ctrl + K”. Your shiny new images will appear in
WIN: C:\Users\\AppData\LocalLow\Harebrained Schemes
or
MAC: MAC: Users\\Library\Application Support\Harebrained Schemes\BattleTech
I’d love to see some of your favorite shots in the comments!

Edit: As mentioned by Wumpus, "It should be noted, for anybody new to the "Left Ctrl + K" screenshot function, that the images will be OVERWRITTEN the next time you play Battletech and take more screenshots. So it's important to go into the picture storage folder (~/.config/unity3d/Harebrained Schemes/ on linux, btw) and rescue them after playing, but before the next time you play!"

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re all enjoying Urban Warfare and looking forward to some HEAVY METAL!
 
Last edited:

Packrat

Lt. General
25 Badges
Feb 23, 2018
1.400
0
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH
  • Stellaris
  • Magicka: Wizard Wars Founder Wizard
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Warlock: Master of the Arcane
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Magicka
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Divine Wind
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
Kudos to everyone here. The Urban biome is, IMO, the best-looking in the game.
 

Wumpus

First Lieutenant
4 Badges
Apr 24, 2018
223
0
  • Stellaris
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
Wow, thank you so much for the informative post, and of course for your (and the whole team!) outstanding results making the new urban biomes awesome.

I love all this eye candy!

It should be noted, for anybody new to the "Left Ctrl + K" screenshot function, that the images will be OVERWRITTEN the next time you play Battletech and take more screenshots. So it's important to go into the picture storage folder (~/.config/unity3d/Harebrained Schemes/ on linux, btw) and rescue them after playing, but before the next time you play!
 

stjobe

Moderator
Moderator
15 Badges
Jan 3, 2018
2.669
253
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Magicka
  • Stellaris
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Tyranny: Archon Edition
Great job all around - these cities look fantastic!
 

Wumpus

First Lieutenant
4 Badges
Apr 24, 2018
223
0
  • Stellaris
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
By the way, I really love the bird statues. Every time I see them, I think of Sumire and I keep meaning to go to her home planet (new vandenberg? I forget) looking for urban missions so that they will be fully contextualized. :D

The human statues are great too, and leave me wishing for more variety... in addition to the standard dude you already made, it would be cool to have a couple more statues of humans, perhaps one with a woman and one with a group of three or more people. :)
 

CHH_Rampage

Second Lieutenant
6 Badges
Feb 25, 2018
182
0
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
The biggest compliment that I think I can give you about the Urban Warfare maps is that I absolutely love playing on them. They look wonderful and they are just fun and different to play on. What a great addition to the game they have been. Thanks to everyone at HBS for their hard work.
 

HurricaneSG

First Lieutenant
16 Badges
May 19, 2017
249
6
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • Age of Wonders III
  • Pillars of Eternity
I just have to say one Thing:

*MONORAIIIIIILLLLLL* !
 

Colonel Flamestalker

Moderator
Moderator
12 Badges
Jan 4, 2018
390
2
  • BATTLETECH
  • Age of Wonders III
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
I just have to say one Thing:

*MONORAIIIIIILLLLLL* !
lego monorail.PNG


Well done to the good people at HBS.

I'd like to ask for a large garage/warehouse to hide my STK-3F in.
 

MeiSooHaityu

Field Marshal
13 Badges
Jan 3, 2018
3.411
129
  • Cities: Skylines
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • Magicka

MeiSooHaityu

Field Marshal
13 Badges
Jan 3, 2018
3.411
129
  • Cities: Skylines
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • BATTLETECH - Digital Deluxe Edition
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • Magicka
I love these Dev Diary posts!. Thanks for creating it, it is an insightful read.
 

Eximar

Major
6 Badges
Feb 23, 2018
518
37
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
These peeks behind the curtain are fantastic.
 

Baron Jukaga

Loyalist Commander
72 Badges
Dec 27, 2001
3.626
1.395
Visit site
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • 500k Club
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Tyranny: Archon Edition
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
  • BATTLETECH
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
  • Divine Wind
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Magicka
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Naval War: Arctic Circle
  • Rome Gold
  • Semper Fi
I don't know why, but I love the sci-fi trope of Earth expanding out across the galaxy to build 1980s versions of early 21st century looking cities a thousand years in the future. I'm not being sarcastic by the way. I suspect it comes from growing up on Macross/Robotech. It's like comfort food for my brain.
 

HBS_Mazzoni

Private
1 Badges
Nov 6, 2018
15
0
  • Harebrained Schemes Staff
It should be noted, for anybody new to the "Left Ctrl + K" screenshot function, that the images will be OVERWRITTEN the next time you play Battletech and take more screenshots. So it's important to go into the picture storage folder (~/.config/unity3d/Harebrained Schemes/ on linux, btw) and rescue them after playing, but before the next time you play!
Ah, forgot to mention that. Edited it into the post for visibility. Thanks!

I don't know why, but I love the sci-fi trope of Earth expanding out across the galaxy to build 1980s versions of early 21st century looking cities a thousand years in the future. I'm not being sarcastic by the way. I suspect it comes from growing up on Macross/Robotech. It's like comfort food for my brain.
Oh yeah, that retro-future aesthetic is definitely 100% intentional. Our 'Mechs (courtesy of PGI) have very modern designs yet still manage to remain faithful to their source material, so it only made sense that our cities should reflect a similar blending of 80's future with modern sensibilities. This is something that we leaned into particularly with the billboards. I had the FX team to watch dozens of 80's production intros to get a feel for both graphic design and levels of distortion. This one is hands down my favorite...
 

Brother Diogenes

Major
25 Badges
Feb 23, 2018
601
7
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Magicka 2: Ice, Death and Fury
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • Magicka 2
  • Magicka
  • Warlock 2: Wrath of the Nagas
  • King Arthur II
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
The next time I hear somebody complain about the urban biome being "just a new tileset," I'm sending them straight to this thread.
 

Haresus

Things are often as they seem...
50 Badges
Oct 9, 2010
753
252
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Semper Fi
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • March of the Eagles
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • BATTLETECH
  • Surviving Mars
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
  • Age of Wonders III
  • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Achtung Panzer
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Victoria 2
  • 500k Club
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
This looks really great, awesome dev diary!
 

unclecid

Lt. General
13 Badges
Apr 24, 2018
1.537
12
  • Stellaris
  • BATTLETECH
  • Age of Wonders III
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • BATTLETECH: Flashpoint
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II
i love how the city looks in the pics...i mean it truly looks like a living breathing city.
maybe some day with optimization i too will be able to do a mission in the urban biome and see all the goodies.
 

gh0s7

Captain
19 Badges
Apr 24, 2018
438
31
  • BATTLETECH: Heavy Metal
  • BATTLETECH: Season pass
  • BATTLETECH
  • BATTLETECH - Beta Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Backer
  • BATTLETECH - Initiate of the Order
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Crusader Kings II
Thanks for the Dev Diary, it's always great to have a peek at the development process. :)

The Urban Biome is just so different in all aspects of any other map (currently), that it still bedazzles me whenever I get a mission in it. Now how about a Devastated Urban Biome? :D

P.S.: Suffice to say, that while I don't think it's mandatory, it sure would be nice if we could get in the future an addition of more props to further differentiate each city, even if only a tiny bit.