Setting a story in a real location is always challenging, the architecture, signs, sights, smells and atmosphere of every city in the world are very different, they each have their own voice. I`m English and have visited London many times in the past. It is often a bright and vibrant city, but the common representation of London is as a grey and foreboding city of fog and rain. Seeing this archetype of London repeatedly expressed across media can often be frustrating. The true interesting character of the city and its diversity can often be overlooked for Dickensian tropes. Even worse than using the archetypical forms of a location is to simply transpose ones idea of a location they know onto another, I found this to be the case in the strangely American `London` in 24: Live another day.
In Tokyo Dark the city is a main character, much of the allure of the game is in a non linear exploration of the city. So my first concern is to not fall back on easy stereotypes and tropes but to try to represent the city in the same depth of detail and love that I hold for my major characters.
I live just south of Tokyo (in Yokohama) and have lived here for the past 5 years, during this time I have made a point to explore the vast city, taking regular urban hikes through the over passes and under passes. I want to try and show my passion for the city in the way I represent it sparkling spires and deep rotten underbelly in Tokyo Dark.
Although I want to show the real city I also do not want to copy and paste big chunks of the actual locations into the game, but rather I am building a creative mash up, to capture the essence of the city, with a particular focus on the architecture. To do this I first hit the streets, and armed with my DSLR take photos of interesting buildings that I feel would suit particular scenes. I then very roughly Photoshop them together into a strip.
Once I have a rough idea laid out, featuring interesting buildings that look good together I then fire up Blender, and using the pictures as reference build a large 3d model inspired by the photo strips.
Because of the anime style of Tokyo Dark I take care when texturing not to make the textures too realistic, I also find it very important to spend time setting up lighting that help to give the background a modern anime feel, I am particularly inspired by the 3D backgrounds and lighting in Mamoru Oshii`s Ghost in the Shell 2. Though at this point I feel unsure of my 3d modelling and texturing skills. Hopefully by the time I Kickstart the game and open up the demo in early 2015 I will have raised my level of 3D proficiency to be more confident in my own work. Once the model is completed, lit and rendered I move over to Photoshop to paint over the render and add more details and lighting.
Rendered street with digital painting in Photoshop - View larger image here
Finally I cut up the background into small pieces (for memory management) and rebuild it in the game engine, (Currently using Construct 2) adding details like signs as separate layers to make it easy to add effects and behaviors to. The last task is to add environmental effects, like the rain and particles in this example.
When it comes to 3D modelling and texturing I still have a lot to improve, but I think with this work-flow I can successfully capture Tokyo and represent it in an honest way that captures it's essence and diversity. For now here it is represented as a grey and foreboding city of fog and rain.... erm...
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