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Halo 5 Art Showcase

By 343 Industries -

With commentary from the 343 Art Team

The 343 Industries Art Team created an insane amount of artwork throughout the development of Halo 5: Guardians. Moving to the Xbox One gave us new opportunities to create bigger, more complex worlds and to push the art further than ever before. Almost every single asset was rebuilt to take advantage of the increased power of the Xbox One. There are many disciplines across the Art Team including Concept, Environments, Lighting, and Cinematics to name but a few, and all of these teams are comprised of unbelievably talented and passionate artists who are dedicated to their craft and working as a team to deliver the most immersive and beautiful experience possible. This collection contains imagery from across the game - a combination of in-game shots and behind the scenes art that showcases great work across the team. Enjoy!

CHARACTERS, WEAPONS, AND VEHICLES

Locke went through several iterations to get to his final look. The goal with Locke was to make him feel like a fighter jet, very aerodynamic and stealth oriented. His armor was meant to feel like a prototype, much of it is left as unpainted metal, with part and manufacturing numbers visible.

If Locke’s armor is a fighter jet, Vale’s armor falls more into a racecar theme. With the unique tech-suit and integrated plating, her design was supposed to reflect a prototype design as well. The key goals of her armor were to make it feel sleek, lightweight, and acrobatic.

Characters were generally blocked out in ZBrush and retopologized as high poly, hard surface assets in Autodesk Maya. Game resolution assets were generated in Maya based on the high-resolution source files, sampled, and exported to the engine. Textures were painted in Photoshop and 3Dcoat, using a physically based rendering approach.

Developing Halo 5 on Xbox One meant rebuilding all of our sandbox art content for the next generation. Updating and advancing existing assets is always a fine balance of pushing designs and evolving the asset while at the same time keeping it true to the original intent. For example, the Scorpion and Needler were rebuilt to massively increase the fidelity of our in-game assets; we really wanted to make the Scorpion feel more tactile and weighted for its appearance in Halo 5. You can see some of the high-resolution modeling in the images below compared with the in-game version that contains the detail and form baked down for real-time use.

New sandbox assets like the Plasma Caster were designed with Smart Link in mind so that we could reveal some of the inner workings of the weapon when the player utilizes the scope. This was also a way to make it very recognizable on the battlefield and add interest from the first person perspective.

CONCEPT

A team of artists and designers worked closely with narrative, character art, environment art, and the directors over a span of approximately 3 years to create the concept art of Halo 5: Guardians. During development, the concept team had the opportunity to touch nearly every asset or aspect of the game. From quick sketches, 3D asset paint overs, and line art depicting subtle details to full-color illustrations showcasing key moments of the game, concept art is the tip of the spear for all art teams in the studio. 

CAMPAIGN:

To create the organics for the Sangheili homeworld, we trialed a few methods before deciding upon the right course. Eventually, we decided that instead of building a rock set from scratch and trying to mesh the pieces organically together, the most efficient way to create the natural cliff landscapes was to start with a single mesh. We spent a lot of time on this particular rock mesh, making sure that it offered different kinds of erosion and rock detail from each angle. We also tested using the rock in various combinations to create new, attractive, and natural shapes that blended well into each other. This process allowed us to keep a consistent natural feel to the rock formations and their erosion details while adding variety and also being very efficient with our memory usage.

For Genesis, we wanted to create an original alien planet that feels like the logical manifestation of the Forerunner lore. It needed to be a lush alien environment composed of geometric patterns that are reflected in the gleaming architecture. To get the creative juices flowing, we traveled to Iceland for a week of reference gathering. Though the final world is very different, we did retain many influences including the beautiful Icelandic waterfalls.

When establishing the visual look of the ONI station we needed something that would separate it from the standard UNSC palette while still remaining visually human in design. We wanted the area to look mysterious yet functional. Inspired by aircraft exteriors, we initially started off by modeling bulbous metal fairings that conceal the underlying technology of the ship. After Art Director approval, the concept team came along and provided us with some great designs that really helped nail down the ONI style. Also, since we knew the station would be in a powered down state, our team paid close attention to how light would play off the shapes when building the final geometry of the level.

For the underbelly of Sunaion, we wanted a bit more of a utilitarian feel than the rest of the mission. To achieve this effect, massive desalination devices were created to push it away from a purely decorative vibe.

An early look down into the Guardian event aftermath. The room was first created in pristine form before we took a wrecking ball through it and flooded it with water.

A look into the interior of a Covenant hall of worship. Holograms are inspired by ancient, giant sculptures found across Sanghelios. 

The final fight of Sunaion. Construction was a bit tricky because of all the tilted surfaces and buildings. However, that paired with the debris and the backdrop of the giant Guardian made for a memorable visual.

With the vertical scale of the Meridian space elevator, we wanted to have the supporting infrastructure also echo that verticality. Buildings were placed above the player and embedded into the glassed rock formations to emphasize this.

The Mining Town served as the main hub for life on Meridian. Density and a general feeling of being lived-in were a couple of the key elements we were trying to convey in this environment. The numerous power cables strewn throughout the area, lead up to the mining ship that provided power to the camp.

The glassed landscape adopted flowing shapes - as if they were melted into place - to contrast the man-made architecture.  The majority of the background geology were custom sculpts to achieve this visual. Molten glass falls were placed to add color and light to the scene. Props shifted to a warm hue as well to help them pop out from the background.

ARENA

Plaza is intended to be a very working class, international part of town which is run down and displays a lot of history. Initially, the conceptual inspiration came from some of the older sci-fi movies with gritty futuristic city environments. It varied a lot from the typical Halo environments because it was entirely civilian. With experimentation and some excellent direction, we found a look that worked for the setting. The most difficult part of this level was not to overwhelm the player visually with the complex lighting scenario.

Set within the protected facilities of AMG Transport Dynamics Warthog manufacturing facility, this location marked the first instance where the Spartan program was openly used to quell an insurgent uprising. Artistically, we were trying to convey what a rapid dominance strike by Spartan-II’s would entail: efficiency and an overwhelming show of power. The red team base indicates the Spartan-II’s point of entrance, a crashed Pelican, while the sprays of bullet holes which pocket the nearby walls indicate the Insurgents panicked and fired wildly before being subdued.

WARZONE

Warzone maps are 4-5 times bigger than any previous Halo multiplayer maps, this meant that we had to be very diligent around performance and technical budgets for these maps. It was an exciting challenge for the team and we tried to focus our efforts on the big picture and areas where players would notice it the most.

The central theme of this level is the idea of this cold planet with eternal winds, powering this massive wind dam structure sitting at the edge of a mountain ridge. You play on a cliffside that is the location of UNSC service stations and the transport hub for the power station.This level was the first one to take shape while we were developing the actual game mode Warzone. In a way, this the first prototype and testbed for so many of the different ideas and technology that we were developing for Warzone at the time; a new game mode, new kind of level layout, new terrain technology, new surface shading techniques, and new art workflows.

The idea is that all these directional visual themes would reinforce players sense of direction, location, and ability to find paths while still providing excellent tools to form memorable visual compositions. The level and its layout are what we called "the banana" for the longest time. In essence, it’s a long curve that allows us to limit sightlines while keeping visual elements within the level as low as possible. When trying to create strong visual compositions, it can be quite challenging to stay within the confines of gameplay, and so we picked this basic ‘banana’ layout shape to marry art and gameplay a little easier.

We used a combination of the stark straight shapes of the UNSC architecture juxtaposed with curving organic flows of the landscape to provide strong visual contrasts. The massive structure up high in the mountain on one side, and the grand vista of the winter landscape with pipelines carving through it, the slanted cables connecting the two main background themes provides for some excellent postcard style views. We specifically wanted a strong composition for players coming out of Home Base and also give the center Fortress a lot of attention with a clean profile against the background and the large service platform echoing the same shape.

The vehicle lanes, terracing, moats, tunnels and the enormous Fortress in the center all make this level a very dynamic map, both visually and gameplay wise, and create great moments when infantry down low is fighting flying vehicles strafing across up high.

PROPS & MODELLING

This piece was modeled in 3DS Max. We needed to give the players call outs to help gameplay so we worked to come up with a great piece that is both easy to see and easy to understand that this is a base.

These pieces were part of the re-imagining of the Breakout style. One of the things I was trying to convey was that these pieces were used in UNSC training facilities but also didn’t show too much part exposure. As this would also become a new Forge palette, coming up with a style that was easy to read and gave the impression that there were a lot of complicated inner workings was a great challenge, how can you show great detail while being conservative.

Modelled in 3Ds Max, this was using reference from our Covenant vehicles and working back and forth with concept. This was a challenging piece as it was both hard surface and organic and needed to fit into Covenant style. It ended up being a piece used all over the map as it was great for kitbashing.

CINEMATICS

Thanks for viewing and reading, and we hope you enjoyed our artwork as much as we enjoyed making it!

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