So with the original trilogy you were able to re-use a lot of the assets but with Judgement you basically had to back up and start over?
We actually reused assets like crazy, tweaking textures and shaders, making the world look less destroyed. Or in some cases, just recently destroyed but not yet old. We needed to remember that Judgment describes events 14 years before the trilogy. The cities, towns and other environments shouldn't look like the war has been going on forever.
So, yeah it was possible to recycle assets but we had to introduce a new post process and lighting for Judgment, giving an additional layer of warmth to all the levels. This and other tweaks allowed us to use older assets made for previous games.
In terms of the game's feeling, Judgment definitely has much more color, depth and layers of light than previous Gears titles. Moody and beautiful vistas add a lot to the new look.
How did you use references to create your characters? Loomis, for example?
Loomis is a cross between General William Sherman and Vincent Price. We created a bunch of concepts for this guy, trying to nail the distinctive look our art director was pushing for. References played a big role in the process, but getting the design done took us a lot of time and many iterations. Combining those two looks into one persona wasn't easy at all.
Loomis was also unique because his armor didn't have the "circles". (Or "speakers" as we sometimes like to call them!) He is still big and bulky, but that's the core of the Gears design and we had to stay true to that at all times.
Baird is another interesting example. We had to go back in time and imagine him much younger, living in a different environment but still having the same attitude and charisma.
As far as the process goes I was able to just grab a .ZTL file of the Kevin Baird model from GoW 3 (since we keep all source files stored) and use his head as a base for my sculpting. Erasing wrinkles was the first thing I did, making the eyes less sad looking. I had to do a sort of a CG face lift for him. His haircut was also refreshed, with new textures and slightly tuned placement of the hair planes. Thanks to that I was able to keep the style but introduce something new at the same time. This was all done in ZBrush.
His armor in terms of the design and materials had to look almost new — just gently weathered here and there. Scratches were fine but that was as far as we could go.
Judgment Baird had to use the same proportions, armor style and detailing as his predecessors — or rather, his older versions. The goal was to make him look a bit simpler and newer, without any of the handmade parts which could suggest his long involvement in battle.
As far as the quality goes we wanted to add to it, making our models better than before.
References were very important to give Loomis a proper charisma. We wanted him to look cruelly tough and also sneaky. It was quite tricky, though. We thought we would just give Loomis the tough looking face of William Sherman and mix it with sneaky Vincent Price. This required a lot of re-design work and tweaking, though. We finally managed to establish a nice combination of both references, creating one solid look for Loomis.
In terms outfit design it's much different from what we know from previous GoW games. Loomis wears his parade uniform even when fighting a Locust horde.
Starting modeling and sculpting a character in ZBrush gives me better control over the silhouette and proportions. A fast method to do rough shapes is to just use Clay Buildup brushes combined with the Move brush.
Retopology helps me to build the low res cage the way that I want. The next step is exporting this cage to modo for further beveling and refining. After that's done I import everything back into ZBrush for polish and final touches where we also add small details such as scratches, fiber patterns, noise, rust or old paint. This adds tons of polygons to the model, but sculpted detail is very helpful for texturing. Baked detail is better than something created from texture.
ZBrush is present in my modeling pipeline from the beginning through the end of a production cycle.
With technology like weapons, you actually did some reverse engineering; is that right?
We made some new weapons for Judgment: Booshka, Markza and Breechshot. All three are very interesting. Markza and Breechshot are actually two different versions of the same gun.
First we made the Locus version, Breechshot. After the model was complete the designers decided to create Markza as basically a UIR one-shot version of the same gun. Yeah I know that's a bit confusing. In game development you need to be prepared to think backwards if called for, being ready to fulfill different needs that might also be coming from the design department.