Stretching the Genre: Creating Cimerora
With the release of Issue 12: the Midnight Hour for City of Heroes and Villains, NCsoft has prepared a non-exclusive dev journal by Senior Art Lead, Ken Morse, which looks at the process behind creating the new Greek and Roman inspired area of Cimerora.
As the Senior Art Lead, it’s my job to figure out how to turn Positron and the rest of the team’s ideas into visual realities. Coming from both a film and environment art background, I am always excited when the opportunity to create new settings for the game presents itself. A Task Force inspired by ancient Greece and Rome, however, was genre-stretching territory we’d never ventured into before, and presented some serious challenges.
Could Heroes and Villains of every imaginable variety fit into an ancient, fantastic setting? Would Cimerora feel as connected to the Hero and Villain experience as Atlas Park or Mercy Island? Would it be exciting to see super powered battles between leather and bronze clad warriors in sandals versus Heroes and Villains in tights? I’d like to give you a glimpse into the process that took Cimerora from concept to completion!
Creating Cimerora: The Process
1 – Genesis of the Idea
Creating Greek and Roman inspired mission content was something that we wanted to do with Issue 11: A Stitch in Time. It was always a goal of ours for that Issue to really make you feel like a time traveler by going back to ancient times and interacting with the locals there. Unfortunately, when all the art tasks for Issue 11 were estimated, it became apparent that we would not be able to complete it for that Issue. We did, however, start work on several assets that we knew we would need once we got the content underway.
2 – Mission/Zone Concept
For Issue 12, Positron (Matt Miller) and Hero 1 (Joe Morrissey) had a time traveling Task Force in mind with several fairly epic missions. It quickly became clear that in order to truly support the Task Force content, Cimerora would need to become a place of its own.
Taking Heroes and Villains to ancient times was a huge challenge conceptually and visually, and we felt that providing a persistent area for players to explore, team up in, and even resurrect if needed, would help make the experience feel more natural.
Another key conceptual goal for Cimerora was to make it feel like a real place, rather than just a play space. To make this a reality, we decided that all mission and zone content should be interconnected, forming a more continuous geographical area for players to explore.
3 – Asset Concept and Creation
While Hero 1 retreated to his cave to design the mission and story content of the zone, I drew up a rough map of the spaces we’d need and the environment artists began gathering reference and prototyping assets for the zone.
For signature architecture and locations we turned to our fantastic concept artist, Carolina Tello Alvarado, who illustrated all of the key architecture and iconography for Castellum Quarter and the Oracle’s Island . These illustrations, along with the advance work we did during Issue 11, helped the environment team work quickly and effectively to create and refine literally thousands of new visual assets encompassing everything from cliffs and terrain to buildings and fortresses.
4 – Environment Layout and Prototyping
Once the library of Cimeroran assets had begun to take shape, Don Pham and Ryan Roth of our environment team worked closely with Hero 1 and War Witch (Melissa Bianco) to create the map layouts you’ll find in Cimerora. Reveals and vistas were carefully planned and “white boxed” in order to ensure that the story was revealed visually as intended. “White boxing” is the process of using an easily changeable, temporary layout to make sure game play, “pathing” and overall flow is working properly.