It’s no surprise that we’re excited about Dead Space here at the Master Control Program… you can’t be a horror or video game fan and not be. For a while now they’ve been running blogs on their site from the various people working on the game, and now we’ve got an exclusive one (and some never-before-seen images) for you to check out!

In this, his third blog, Art Director Ian Milham takes some time from his busy day to let you know how things are going. Make sure to check out the official site for all the rest of the Dead Space blogs!

Ian’s Art Blog #3:  Let’s Catch Up!

Welcome back, blog readers!  We’re getting heavy into it now!  Stuff is getting into the game lightning fast, and what’s already there is getting polished up.  This time around, I thought I’d update you on where everything is at, art wise, and what we’re doing right now.  Like, today.
At this point in the production, my job is basically to keep tabs on all the art in the game and make sure it’s coming together into one cohesive whole.  So, I thought a good way to keep you updated is to follow me around for a day as I get updated myself.

9:00 am:  Arrive at EA’s Redwood City headquarters.  Go up to the Dead Space area, log in, start syncing to the latest build.  Check e-mail, and come up to speed on what the pressing issues are.  Today I spent a little time choosing some concept pieces to submit for the Into the Pixel competition.
10:00-10:30: Go over Focus Group feedback:   The game is pretty tight and playable at this point, so we’re having a lot of people play it and tell us what they think.  What do they think?  Audio and Graphics (yay!) are getting great marks, as is the gameplay, when people figure it out.  But people are taking longer than we’d like getting the hang of it.   We meet to discuss how our difficulty ramp could be more elegant and some mechanics more clear.   It’s fantastic to find stuff like this out now, when we have plenty of time to fix it.  Except for that one guy who wanted “less scary stuff”.  He is ignored.
10:30am-12:30 pm Environment Art Review:  Whew!  The environment team is so big it takes two hours to see what they’re all up to.  Fortunately, it’s some of my favorite two hours, as we’re now in “Phase C” of building the worlds, which is where all the storytelling comes in.  Blood, signage, dirt, grease, warning labels, debris, and everything else that makes the world seem real.   Most of my feedback is “That looks awesome!”, with occasional nudging towards telling a clearer story, or things like “That dude couldn’t have possibly written that much on the wall with his own blood.”
Some stuff I saw today:  Exterior shots of the Ishimura for the opening sequence, the creepy office of one of the main characters (where big things are revealed), and the flight lounge, where Isaac’s adventure begins (here it is in concept form).
12:30-2:00 Farewell Lunch for Ariel:  Ariel is one of our concept artists, and since we’ve finished up most of this phase, he’s on to other projects.  Ariel’s work can be found on this site here and here.
2:00-2:30 Characters Review:  Quick check in with Tracy (you’re reading her blog too, right?) and the character team.  Right now we’re tweaking the shaders on some characters to make light wrap around them more and have them pop against the background.
2:30-3:00 Lighting Review:  Every day I have a review with a different lighting artist.  Joe and I met today to go over the cargo area of the Flight Deck of the Ishimura.  Our lighting tech is maybe the most cutting edge thing in our game.  So much so that it deserves its own blog topic later, so we’ll just say it looks great.
3:00-4:00 BIG DAILY REVIEW:  This is the big daily review of a single level.  Every day, all the key leaders of the team meet up in this fancy room to see how a single level is coming along.  Today we were analyzing a sequence where Isaac is relentlessly hunted from room to room.  It’s not all polished up yet, but it’s really promising.
4:00-4:25 Concept Art Review:  These days, the concept artists are done creating the work that other artists use to build the game, and have moved to the decorative images players see in the world.  Advertising, signage, things like that.  Here’s a preview of what I saw today.
4:25 – 4:30 Photoshop Condrey’s head onto a donkey.  Good times.
4:30-5:00 Framerate Focus Meeting:  We are deadly serious about a locked, smooth framerate here, on all the platforms.  Twice a week we get together and look at the game to see how it performs, down to the millisecond.
5:00-5:30 Visual Effects Review:  Like with lighting, every day I meet with a different VFX artist.  Today was Brian, and we talked about an electrical wall, a sequence where all the air gets sucked out of a level, and a cryogenics chamber that freezes what’s inside it.
5:30-6 Write this blog!
6:00 – Late Night:  Now that the meetings and such are over, I can get down to real work.  Lately I’ve been making maps of where all the big signs and decoration landmarks in the game need to go so players don’t get lost.  There’s a LOT of ground to cover, so this has taken a while.  I need to get back to it!
Thanks for dropping by, everyone.  See you in the forums!
~ Ian