Batman Begins Designer Diary #3
Lead producer Reid Schneider talks about Batman Begins' distinctive visual style and the techniques used to create it.
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In his previous Batman Begins designer diaries, lead producer Reid Schneider has discussed his team's overall goals for the upcoming action game, the animation techniques employed in its development, and in-game combat. Now, with the game less than two weeks from release, Schneider talks about the distinctive visual style you can look forward to in Batman Begins and some of the techniques that have been used to achieve it.
By Reid Schneider
Lead Producer, Electronic Arts
When we first saw the production designs of the film, we knew the filmmakers were going for something very gritty and realistic. The film's production designer and director of photography wanted Gotham to have a lighting style that evoked a feeling of dread and urban decay. Nowhere is this more evident than in Arkham Asylum and The Narrows (Gotham Tenements) in both the film and the game.
For Batman Begins we began visual prototyping very early. It took us a few months to arrive at the final visual style, but this was a very important investment of time. We needed to achieve the right balance of color, shadows, shading, and lighting. We also focused on generating a huge number of textures so the game's environments would consistently look different. We never wanted the players to feel as though they had "seen that before" artistically, which breaks the immersion and ruins so many games.
We designed the story of the game so that each level the players encountered would look completely different from what had come before it. We felt it was our job to create a visual experience that was consistently dynamic and unexpected. In the game we have levels in The Narrows, Gotham City, Arkham Asylum, Himalayan Monastery, Wayne Manor, and more. Each of these locales has a distinct feel to it.
A key area of focus for the game was that we wanted it to have a unique and consistent art direction. We focused on the idea that you should be able to pull Batman out of the world, at any moment, and still be able to recognize the game as Batman Begins. Victor Garrido (Eurocom producer) and the art staff deserve all the credit here.
In order to do this we added a few key rendering features to the engine that would enable the artists to accomplish the goal. We integrated a bloom effect, which allowed us to create soft lighting designs that felt stylish. The engineers also integrated a system for HDRL (high dynamic range lighting). HDRL was really important to us as it allowed us to create scenes with strong visual contrast that would not suffer from the "washed-out look" that hurts most games.
A final technique we utilized was rim lighting, which was applied to the Batman character model. This rim-lighting technique gave the character a soft glow that once again created contrast in the world. This process (along with additional texture passes on the mesh) also created the look of additional passes of detail on the character model. Many times we would look at the character and it would have the illusion of being bump-mapped. (Bump-mapping is unfortunately a very costly technique in terms of processing power and is not possible on most games in the current generation of hardware.) However, with our rim lighting and multitexturing we achieved a character model that looks really solid.