Modern Combat 4 - Meltdown

Interview: Environment Artist

NAME: Alexander Halchuk




How did you get started in the game industry?

A friend introduced me to 3D when he was working on a short CG film. The entire process of his production seemed fascinating, and the visuals you could produce with the software was enough motivation for me to dig deeper into the field. I spent most of my education on architectural modeling as well as doing mod projects for games. I think a combination of the two experiences really led me towards specializing as an Environment Artist. I applied to Gameloft during development of Modern Combat 3 and I was able to work on several single player and multiplayer levels.


What is your role as an environment artist?

As an Environment Art Lead, I have to take a story scenario, and a level design and piece together all of the artwork that's needed to complete the level. I spend most of time modeling and texturing, but I'm also responsible for directing others to work on specific sections of the level, establishing a proper budget for areas so that they meet performance specifications, and making sure we make production deadlines.


What skills would you look for if you were hiring an artist?

I'd examine their previous work and what their contributions to a project might be. A good portfolio is a must, but you should really emphasize what your focus is as an artist and how your talents can make a project amazing. There's people who have a strong creative discipline and can generate fantastic ideas for environment details. There are also artists who can approach a situation from a highly technical standpoint and can offer solutions on how to work more cleanly and efficiently.These kinds of things are very important when working in a team, because you learn to trust a person's specialization and simply let them do what they're best at.

What were the goals for the art in Modern Combat 4?

Early in production, we wanted to address some of the features of MC3 that could have used a lot of improvement. We wanted to figure out a way to create larger, more detailed environments that really conveyed a sense of scale. The other big objective was to look at our lighting techniques and bring in more contrast and dynamic components into our toolset.

To accomplish this, we created every scene using skies and backdrops which are custom made for the level. We had an artist dedicated to creating amazing high-res vistas like mountains, cities, and skyscrapers as well as beautiful skies to match them. We also added a tone mapping system which alters the entire coloration of a scene. It's an extremely powerful tool for artists and it definitely enriches the atmosphere that we created for this game.



What was your favorite task during the development of Modern Combat 4?

There's a lot I enjoy about my work, but I'd have to say the earliest production I did on the project was a lot of fun. I spent a lot of time on the Hawaii setting and establishing the artistic direction for that map. I find it really exciting when you start with a blank slate because all of the variables and possibilities for the environment are open.

What was your biggest challenge, working on Modern Combat 4?

I think the scale and scope of each scene in MC4 is vastly different from MC3, and that provides a new set of challenges. There are actually a lot of levels within the game where you have a large open area, with a lot of enemies, and action taking place. It's challenging from the standpoint that you have to plan and prepare the production for these areas accordingly. There's a lot of back and forth between different departments to ensure that art, animation, effects, dialog, and gameplay events are all working together as one. While this does take some time to piece together, the end result is impressive. You lose yourself in the moment when you run into one of these sequences in the campaign.



If you had a Delorean, what advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out in the industry?

That's a hard question. Becoming a good artist is more of a process than something that can be explained. What I would definitely stress though is that connections you make and the people you meet are pretty invaluable. It's something that I've understood better in hindsight. The good choices I've made have been through connecting with people through my art. That will totally take you places.

Candice Ma
Community Manager

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