Year: 2017 | Client: Bethesda/MachineGames | Technology: Id Tech 6
This was our first project as we started the company. Big challenge of course as starting a company already by itself presents many complex procedures to untangle, and we had the option of lower caliber clients that would have been 'safer' to start with. Nevertheless, we decided to go AAA from our very first project.
It began with a team of only three talented artists who were brave enough to quit their jobs and join our newly started independent studio.
So we flew to Sweden to meet Machinegames and brainstorm together how to best collaborate, communicate and exchange the data. Many question marks needed to be answered, especially because of the novel idea behind Treehouse Ninjas: not an outsourcing studio, not a specialized service provider, but a co-dev group that's one thing with the central development team. This posed many challenges in terms of organization, logistics, security and technicalities.
The toughest obstacle on this project was that as a newly started company we couldn't have the game engine on-site yet (proprietary tech: IdTech6), and we were expected to deliver complete environment art, not just assets, but fully assembled game-ready environments. Not easy, with no access to the engine.
We managed to survive and succeed by developing our own internal toolset, based on a simplified scene description file format (named .THN) that allowed us to describe entire scenes in an abstract and portable way: think of a home-made USD system. Much simpler than Pixar's USD but the same core idea.
With our own scene description system in place, we could automatize the scene building process, not relying on levels/maps or scene files (and nested references), and we could re-build the same environments seamlessly in multiple packages like Maya, Modo, Unity or Unreal for real-time testing. Machinegames developed their THN format reader to execute their scene-building inside of IdTech. So we became software agnostic since the beginning, as that was one of the original company goals, together with making no overtime work.
We were put in charge of the final location of the game, a vintage TV Studio from the 60s. While absorbing the iconic Wolfenstein art style, we carried on polishing our workflow, establishing calibration procedures and sanity checks to ensure our baked normal maps and exported materials were having the expected visual response in-game, to avoid surprises at delivery time.
After the TV Studio, we moved on developing a destroyed Manhattan subway station, followed by a nazi Venus station. Eventually, many technical challenges were tackled to make our contribution to this first project possible, but afterall it is a known thing that the first year of a company (the start-up stage) is the toughest and most uncertain one. We made it :)
In the end, three complete locations were delivered, made of several hundred unique assets, instanced several thousand times in the game, designed and assembled matching all the tech specs, game-ready. All fulfilling the gamplay requirements, the art style, the narrative and the mood of the game. So we completed our first AAA title, got the first pieces of our company portfolio and officialized our friendship with Bethesda/MachineGames, which was to bring further adventures down the road.
MORE ABOUT TREEHOUSE NINJAS' WORK ON WOLFENSTEIN 2
- VIDEO - Environment Art in Wolfenstein 2
A 40min talk featuring insights and workflow breakdowns from Treehouse Ninjas' first project Wolfenstein 2, presented by Creative Director Mauro Frau at Gamedev Week Conference 2018, Portugal.
- Building Scenes for the New Colossus
A close look at how we build the story ending Tv Studio location of Wolfenstein 2, its destroyed Manhattan Subway Station and the Venus Nazi Quarters, in an interview with Senior Ninja Levi Gajdos.
- Levi Gajdos Interview: Behind the Scenes of Wolfenstein II
Senior ninja artist Levi Gajdos in an interview for 3DTotal.com, looking at our approach and workflows while building the world of Wolfenstein II.
- Treehouse Ninjas: The First Project
Hungarian magazine Meshmag coverage of the work on Treehouse Ninja's first project Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
- Treehouse Ninjas: Studio Visit
First official interview of Treehouse Ninjas' founders Zoltan Pocza and Mauro Frau, conducted by hungarian magazine Meshmag.