Year: 2019-2021 | Client: Cd Projekt Red | Technology: Red Engine 4
For 3 years the Treehouse Ninjas have been in and all around Night City, creating environment art and lighting across all districts and subdistrics of the city. The variety of locations we've been developing was remarkable as it was the complexity and density of the spaces, especially given their verticality and open-world characteristics.
The overall achievement was developing and managing more than 130 complete locations from draft environment art all the way to final lighting, all fully optimized and fulfilling the gameplay requirements of different play styles, all working through the full day/night cycle.
Given the different vibes and architectural styles of each district of Night City, and given this would have been a long project to develop, at Trehouse Ninjas we decided since the beginning to focus on building the internal skillset and confidence to avoid ending up having each artist becoming the reference for a specific style or district, but instead having each artist able to take full responsibility on entire locations, both environment art & lighting, regardless of the visual style or the area of Night City they belonged to.
This required an extended build up period of time with every team member becoming knwoledgeable and in control of the entire catalogue of visual languages and the mood of each district, but eventually we achieved a team of multi-skilled ninjas who could handle automously the environment art and the lighting of each assigned location, from start to finish, coordinating cross-department about gameplay, performance optimization, level design, and more.
The toughest challenge for us on Cyberpunk 2077 from an environment design standpoint was accommodating the extreme flexibility of the narrative and the player experience as every location was meant to be playable in several different ways, with different approaches and paths.
This concept also applied to the lighting which was crafted with the ambition of making it highly cinematic on both environments and characters, still maintaining a game flow that would allow the player to approach the core reveals and story moments from different angles.
So both the environmental storytelling and the lighting had to be multi-purposed, while still nailing the core events and encouters with good narrative control, by day or by night. Huge challenge of course, as Night City is a very densely populated space, and generally the requirements of one location had to also stay in harmony with the ones of the nearby locations, from around, from above and from below.
Once again, we had the privilege of having Red Engine on-site, so our team members were one thing with the artists at Cd Projekt Red. As a matter of fact, all the communication channels were shared with our team at Treehouse Ninjas, making every conversation seamless, especially after several months on the project, once everybody knew everyone onboard.
We carried on working for Cyberpunk 2077 through the patches that followed the main release of the game: Treehouse Ninjas was responsible for the 4 apartments that V can rent in Night City, again both environment and lighting art.
At this stage our team's reliability was established so we received extreme freedom on planning, designing and dressing the living spaces, based on the different districts they were located in and the different 'social status' they had to convey.
One of the updates we took part to was the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners update, which was released together with the highly successful Edgerunners anime series on Netflix. The events take place in Night City of course and everything is very true to the game. In fact, mainly real settings from the game were used, and it was with extreme pleasure that we learned from our friends at Cd Projekt Red that many of the locations created by Treehouse Ninjas were used on the Netflix animated series. We could not avoid taking this as a statement to the quality of our work, which obviously made us proud.
It doesn't have to be a secret that this was a tough project to deliver, because of the high expectations, the vastity of the locations and their deep complexity, but also because of the layered narrative and the huge challenge of handling from the beginning to the end so many environments, up to their final lighting look.
With such an experience under our belts, our team solidified, our partnership with Cd Projekt Red consolidated, we jumped with both feet on creating more Night City magic, this time for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
MORE ABOUT TREEHOUSE NINJAS' WORK ON CYBERPUNK 2077
- Lighting and Environments for Cyberpunk 2077
Second interview after the release of Cyberpunk 2077, in which veteran ninjas Bojan Tomic, Jack Hunter, Szabolcs Matefy and Levi Gajdos discuss the importance of environment planning and lighting in open-world games.
- Making Locations for Cyberpunk 2077
First official interview after the release of Cyberpunk 2077, appeared on 80.lv, about Treehouse Ninjas' involvement in bringing Night City to life.
- Environment Art and Storytelling
Timothy Dries interviewed Mauro Frau about how to achieve a cinematic feel in games, and the future of the convergence between games and movies.
- Cyberpunk 2077: The Hungarian Team Who Helped Building Night City
The staff at IGN Hungary came to visit Treehouse Ninjas' office for an afternoon chat about the past, present and future of the studio. A very nice and long article, filled with anecdotes and backstories.
- Treehouse Ninjas' Fall 2022 Interview
Zoltan Pocza interviewed by Hungame.blog , a website focusing on the Hungarian game development scene.