Thursday, February 7, 2008

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Art

In July of 2005, I moved to Austin, Texas to work for Retro Studios. The project was a lot of fun, and a really exciting challenge for me. The first two games had already received quite a bit of acclaim for their art direction, and environments specifically. the bar was already set very high in that respect, but it was the best kind of challenge.

I worked alongside some of the most talented people I have had the fortune of knowing.

I was already a huge fan of the Metroid series, Super Metroid being one of my
favorite games. It was a constant struggle from a design standpoint to want to re-introduce throwbacks from the older games, and also introduce new things that would add to what had already been done.

I am an environment artist at Retro, so that is what my work consisted of during Prime 3.

My first room was just at the tail end of the Galactic federation planet and ship worlds. there were two versions, a damaged east hallway that forced you to use the morphball tunnel, and an undamaged west hallway:


Bryyo, crashed ship:

Bryyo, Generator halls:

These hallways were designed to have destructible barrels throughout that you could shoot to damage enemies with. I wanted to tie in Space Pirate tech from earlier games, so I made them a variation of the "zebetites" from the first metroid, which were the collapsing canisters you had to shoot through to get to Mother Brain at the end of the game.

Bryyo Fire, landing site:

The landing site was fun to make. I made a variation entryway statue based off of Ben Sprout's original Bryyo statue. Keeping with the reptilian theme, I made the twisting fangs that curve around the room. I thought the fire landing site should feel like the most dangerous and aggressive, and tried to incorporate that into the aesthetic of the architecture. I also imagined that the inhabitants of Bryyo would hold some sort of holy significance to the glowing fuel gel. I liked the idea of rivers of fuel gel culminating at this one spot, and funneling through the architecture and hidden plumbing.

Bryyo Fire, entry hallway:

This was one of my favorite rooms to make. Again, working of off Ben Sprout's original Bryyo statue, I made a series of busts to display throughout the room. Sort of like a hall of heroes, or hall of gods. While making this room, I wrote brief mythologies for each head, and put together a loose history. Although these descriptions didn't make it into the final game, I like to include them here so you know where I was coming from when making them. Again, these are just from my own personal notes.

"From the sleeping chaos awoke the high god. It was he, the Antecedent, the propagator of the genesis, and the eternal body in the sky. In the beginning of creation, the life giving sun created its first child, Bryyo. Upon it’s surface it poured a vast ocean in which the beginnings of life could thrive. The high god then laid down to resume his eternal sleep. From his body, the 23 keeper gods sprang forth as the watchers and caretakers of the world.
Within the expansive waters, the children of Bryyo were borne. In their primitive forms, they wandered the currents for eons, becoming masters of the deep. The gods watched this burgeoning life from atop their holy island, where the eternal flames burned within the Garden of Light.
When the Reptilicus had dominion of the oceans, the gods granted them access into the divine province, to be one as them, and partake of their knowledge. Given new forms to walk upon the land, they dwelt within the garden for a time.
After bestowing their wisdom to the mortal sons of Bryyo, the pantheon ascended to live upon the sun. All departed the celestial first son but one god, Thalyys, who remained as the keeper of the Garden of Light and watcher of the mortals.
Arkithun crafted for the gods the City of Glass, wherein the vital light of the high god’s form could eternally penetrate. It was after this that he bestowed the knowledge and gift of architecture to the curious reptilicus, to forge for themselves a civilization.
The oceans sank, and the land spread out from the divine island in all directions. The great migration occurred, and the kingdoms and cities spread throughout the world. Having long departed their primordial territory, the Garden still remains at apex of the lands highest mountain, abandoned by all but Thalyys, who tends to it eternally."

"Chronicler of Ages – Ordyyn: Nestled deep within the walls of the great library, Ordyyn tirelessly scribes the history and events of Bryyo. Those chosen ones that have most impacted the histories of the world ascend to assist the chronicler in their afterlife, helping to maintain the infinite halls of knowledge, and forever bask in the radiant light of the high god."

"Instiller of Venom - Korphyygis: At the beginning of each life, and before birth itself it is Korphyygis who bites each youngling, pouring into their body the physical essence that is as a poison to their enemies. This blessing is carried within each mortal for life."

"The Lord Artisan – Arkithun: After the gods departed Bryyo, and chose to live upon the sun, it was Arkithun who crafted for the gods the mighty City of Glass. Its sprawling towers and buildings are their eternal dwellings. From within its walls, the light of the high god may still penetrate to soak all with vitality and life. After crafting the divine city, Arkithun granted to the children of Bryyo the knowledge and gift of architecture, to forge a civilization for themselves."

"Dreamer of the gods – Pharandrin: This half blind deity remains in a perpetual dreaming state. It is within his mind that the resting conscious of all children of Bryyo travel. He is the god of abstraction, and the weaver of mystery. For those attuned to him most, he is also the god of insight."

"The Sacred Transmuter – Anglyyn: When the children of Bryyo became masters of the deep, and then left the water to pursue a life upon the land, it was Anglyyn that crafted for them new forms to better traverse the world. The spirit of Anglyyn is with each mortal at all times, providing eternal growth and replenishing the body when needed."

"Caretaker of the Dead – Ekrosyys: Within the body of the sun itself lives Ekrosyys. It is here where all spirits of fallen children of Bryyo ascend to. He keeps watch over all souls of the deceased, who’s life essence is absorbed into the light of the sun, to lend themselves once again to the never ending cycle of life."

"Keeper of the Garden of Light - Thalyys: Atop the highest mountain in the burning plains dwells the god Thalyys, forever tending to the gardens there, and maintaining the eternal flames. It is written that when the last child of Bryyo has fallen, the flames will extinguish themselves, and the light of the sun will cease to be, casting the world into a great darkness."

"The Travelling sustainer – Kromdyyn: When the great continent expanded outwards, and the children of Bryyo migrated with it, Kromdyyn traveled with them for a time as well, seeking to learn the ways of the land, and discover the mysteries that the ocean had concealed since the beginning of time. For an age afterwards, Kromdyyn disappeared into the frozen dark lands, and wandered the expansive plains of ice. When he returned from his dark sojourn, he had learned much, and bestowed to the mortals the ability to conceal themselves, and hide from their enemies."

"Harvester of Nectar – Vyyth: When the oceanic waters receded from the primordial island, and land spread outwards in all direction, Vyyth poured upon the naked crust of the land the invigorating and restorative burning nectar. This immaculate serum has the powers to heal the sick and diseased. All newborn younglings are ceremonially bathed in this curative substance to ensure strong vitality."

Bryyo Fire, Temple:

I made this wall as a bas relief of what the Bryyo locals would create, being influenced by the natural world around them. This had a heavy art noveau influence as well.

These displays of ceremonial armor were fun to make. I was hoping to imply more culture and ceremony than what was there in front of you, to hopefully get the player into imagining how the Bryyo society might have functioned.

Bryyo Fire: Korba hallway:

This Korba creature was originally just the mouth that would grab you when you get too close. Danny Richardson created the original creature. Using his textures, I added the thick slug body embedded in the cross section here. I liked the idea of an enemy like this, who does not move away or die, to be heavily incorporated into the environment around him, like some sort of worm that buries himself and waits for hundreds of years, as food occasionally passes through.

This was a small hiding spot I decided to put into one of the morphball tunnels. I was thinking of some small scavenger that scurries into here, and feeds off stray bits of corpse he comes across. I wanted it to seem as if Samus was the first person to ever come across this little feeding spot.

Icicles! Working with one of the particle artists, Sean Horton, I covered the ceiling of this room with icicles that are slowly dripping at their ends, in the eternal ebb and flow of temperature in this room between the portal to the frozen side of Bryyo on one side, and the sweltering heat of the Fire lands to the other side. I had made some Bryyo native skeletons to arrange in ceremonial burial poses, but didn't end up working on the room they were intended for, so I placed them in here, within the tomb alcoves built into this section, for crimes long since forgotten.

Skytown, entryway Chozo statue:

The Chozo statues were always some of the most memorable set pieces for the metroid games that I had enjoyed so many times before. It was important to make ones here that were recognizable, but also influenced by the unique artistry of skytown. For this entryway statue, I thought of the statues from Zero Mission, and adopted a similar indian style sitting position for him.

Skytown, Spiderball chamber:
This room was fun in many different ways. It was tight, and a little bit claustrophobic, which felt like old school metroid. You journeyed into the hearts of one of the skytown pods, so it was an opportunity to show off the guts of the mechanism. It also gave me a chance to put a chozo statue in. I actually created this one first, and the entryway statue second. For this one, I wanted to pose him in the traditional statue pose, but incorporate some elements of the prime style chozo, which had a thinner head. I also created the armor the statue is wearing to reflect a similar method of technology as Samus' own chozo armor. It was while searching through some reference images that I discovered that they already did this in Zero Mission.

Skytown, exterior hallway:

Skytown, landing site:

Skytown, interior hallways:

Skytown, save station:
I always loved the feel of the save stations in prime. I thinks its the immediate sense of comfort and safety you feel when entering one. I wanted push that feeling that I always got, and make a very serene little hideaway type of save station. Along the walls, I made celestial clocks, that correspond to some unknown solar system, and the respective orbits of their planets.

Space Pirate Planet, Metroid laboratory:

This room was a lot of fun too. I always considered the Metroids themselves to be one of the most interesting aspects of the series, and easily one of the most original creatures in gaming. I wanted this room to feel something like a metroid museum of sorts. I thought about the ways the pirates would test and analyze the metroids, and different experiments they would put them through. Like the statuary room in Bryyo, I wrote many notes to correspond with some of the different things I put into the room. Many of these made it into the game actually, although they had to be edited due to text size resrictions. I made the metroid eggs specific for this room. I watched the intro to Super Metroid again, and noticed that the fluid inside the egg dries almost instantly when exposed to the air. I created some "hatched" eggs similar to this, with the embryonic fluids hardened immediately in their dripping state. I'll include the notes I made as well, for those interested in the fiction I created personally for the room.

When I first started working on this room, I envisioned all different types of Metroids being housed here, as if this was the main research facility where all different variations of the creature were brought and studied. Due to a number of reasons, many of these variations did not make it into the final game, but some of the write-ups mention them.

Metroids exposed to the Dark Aetherian atmosphere displayed significant changes to their physiology and behaviorial patterns. Exposure resulted in altered cutaneous pigmentation, solidified carapace with superficial dermal striation, emergence of multiple luminescent ocular organs, and two additional cuspidate teeth.
Advanced physical durability was observed, as well as more instinctual and aggresive behavioral tendencies. Subsequently nocturnal, Dark Metroid developed a fatally acute sensitivity to solar light.
All attempts to recreate this atmospheric transformation have met with utter failure. Test specimens yield a 100% mortality rate.
Experiments rarely live more than a few hours after artificial transformation is achieved. Of these rare instances, specimens require complete artificial sustainment. No sentient behavior has been observed in any instances.
Failure attributed to unknown variables.

Side by side observation of metroids native to different planets show subtle variations in dietary cycles, energy consumption abilities, and aggressive tendencies. Theoritical analysis suggests that the Metroid's environmental versatility is due in part to it's adaptness to survive in differing atmospheric conditions, marked changes in gravitational influence, and varying levels of gamma type radiation.
Specimens native to SR-388 still display most consistent growth and energy consumption maturation.

Working off the older metroid models from the first two primes, I created these virtual wireframes for the testing facility.

Exposure of unhatched metroids to alien sustentative chemicals and levels of radiation has been insightful as to the adaptability and survivability of the organism, even at this early latent state.
Specimens that survive have been observed with greater scrutiny as to their cumulative behavioral augmentations, as well as any affect exposure has to their ability to drain life energy.

Metroids derive from a parthenogenetic birthing process. Amniotic egg fluid provides both nutrients and phsyical protection of the developing larva.
Once hatched, this fluid experiences rapid desiccation, hardening completely in several seconds.
Hatched Metroid larva still retain a full coelenterate body structure. larval tentacles harden to become cuspidate teeth in adults. Energy draining abilities in this form are primitive, but still very fatal.

Here are the remaining notes for various contained metroid specimens:
Tallon IV specimen - One of a small batch of Metroid native to Tallon IV. This was the only group transferred from local research laboratories on the planet before their subsequent attack and destruction.

SR388 Specimen - Metroid recovered from Ruined structures excavated below the surface. The frequent presence of Chozodian architecture wherever Metroids are found to habitate naturally leads to theories of possible connections between the two species.

Zebes Specimen - Research laboratories located below the surface of Zebes consistently yield the most relevant data on Metroid developmental cycles, and physiological composition. This could be due to the vast changes of climate on the planet. Observations and tests may be performed in a multitude of naturally-occuring native environments. Progress of research on this site has led to Expansion of the labs, as well as a stronger security presence. The Zebes station remains our primary Metroid research station.

In one chamber, I wanted to put a fat giant metroid, like in the end of Super, and then tie in an explanation as to why some metroids (like the one in super) get really big in their larval state, but others evolve into more adult forms. Again, none of this is canon by any means, but just the fiction I wrote for myself when making the room.

Observations of captive Metroids display a rare anomaly in their developmental growth. Approximately .08% of contained specimens never reach the biological process that leads to their otherwise natural metamorphic stages of maturity.
While developmental stages are stunted, physical growth continues at a congruent rate. Efficiency of energy consumption increases steadily as well. During behavioral analyses, greater intelligence and problem solving skills are observed.
Heightened abilities of energy consumption make this anomaly a potential key in isolating and duplicating their feeding process artificially.

Space Pirate Planet, hallway:

Space Pirate Planet, Mining room:

This room was fun to work in. I wanted it to feel like a natural part of the planet that the pirates were slowly boring through. I gave the floor a makeshift feel. Working with Todd Keller, the art director, we came up with an idea for a type of mineral/metal on this planet that was a mix between wood and muscle in it's shape, but actually composed of metal ore, with veins of hot blue glowing substance inside.


Space Pirate Planet, elevator hallway:


At the end of the project, I made several dioramas that could be purchased using points acquired through playing the game. These were made quickly, and use many assets created by many other artists at retro. I made the bases for the dioramas, and arranged them all into a scene, using characters made by Quinn Smith, Danny Richardson, Ben Sprout, Andrew Jones, Elben Schafers, and Ian Olsen. Sorry if I forgot anyone!

Bryyo Throne:

Mogenar battle:

Steamlord Battle:

Ghor Battle:

Aurora unit Battle:

Metroid NES cart project:
This was actually a personal project that I did before getting to Retro. I always wanted to recreate a sprite pixel for pixel with NES carts, and chose to do the Metroid sprite. They had been in storage for a while, and with the help of some folks at Retro, especially Al Artus, these were repainted, and suspended on fishing wire so they could hang from the ceiling. I donated it all to Retro...


ChozoBoy said...

Wow, man! Great stuff.

Hellkaiserryo12 said...

These are incredible! You are so talented at this. It's a shame that nobody has commented yet though. Well apart from ChozoBoy but whatever.

Hellkaiserryo12 said...

We have made an article about you on a site called Wikitroid. We love your work and i think that since you have worked at retro, you would be a really big help to us. Please check it out and you could join up if you want!

Emil said...

I truly can't believe this! You are amazing at what you do. Just this afternoon I was discussing with my friend how extremely good looking the landscape in the Metroid Prime games is. And now I run into this!
I have always been very interested in the Bryyo lore and those statues in the god chamber. It's really a shame that some of what you've written did not make it to the game.
It is really cool that you actually designed most, if not all, of the best rooms. If they'll ever make more Metroid games in the future, you should be the first person to contact.
Thank you a lot for sharing this with us!

Sean said...

Why did you remove all the epic pics? D: Seeing them makes me WANT the game! D: But.... why bother removing them? D:

Kamata said...

Wow! I just love what you've been doing. Your talent is simply amazing. When I played MP3 I was deeply in awe whenever I went anyplace in that game.

Your art took me on a ride, I love the fact you added those red tower thingies that were in the original Metroid game when your going after Mother Brain. I was pleasantly shocked when I entered that area for the first time. It's sometimes the littlest things that make a big different.

I can see you put a lot of time, and love into your the levels, it worked out nicely. I don't think I would have enjoyed the game as much without all the nice detailed in the statues, the small cracks on the walls, and the sci-fi looking architecture which is amazing in of it's self. I do believe that in your work you did capture the past of what the time was like. I enjoyed seeing all the work you did on this.

By far for me Metroid Prime 3 Corruption was the best in the Prime series, congrats man. Your work paid off!

You sir, have made me a very happy Metroid fan girl. ;D

Roy said...

I see you designed the Fiery Airdock, Main Lift and Save Station B rooms. There are some elements in said rooms that I question the name of. In the skies of Fiery Airdock, there are strange "creatures" that can be shot and killed. In Main Lift, there's a plant on a ledge (not the Korba) that you can bomb, but it grows back. And Save Station B, the "unknown solar system" on the celestial clocks. Please respond as soon as you can. Thanks in advance.

Anthile said...

My favorite rooms on Metroid Prime 3 are ALL made by you XD (save 2 rooms).

onethousandtwenty said...

Hi, I'm not sure if you'll see the comments here, but I figured this question was worth a try.
I've noticed playing the Metroid Prime games that pretty much every room has entirely unique geometry. This seems to go against the wisdom of the modern industry which suggests that you should create modular components and reuse them as much as possible.
Could you shed some light on your workflow? How do you (or the other artists at Retro) manage to use so much unique content while still meeting logistical and performance constraints?