Art: Donkey Kong Country Returns Environments (56K! lots of images)
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Thread: Donkey Kong Country Returns Environments (56K! lots of images)

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    Donkey Kong Country Returns Environments (56K! lots of images)

    It has been a while since I made a work thread on here, but it has been a long time coming!

    Here are some of the levels I created for Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was a fun project to be a part of, and growing up on the coast in Massachusetts was a huge inspiration on doing a game that takes place on an island. The more cartoony art direction was a new thing for me, but fun going into artistic territory that was largely unexplored for me.

    I played the original Donkey Kong Country a whole bunch growing up, so it was very important to try and make something that lived up to the memory and nostalgia that people had for the series. (hopefully we succeeded!)

    For the levels, we environment artists worked from a base texture set that was created by the whole environment team. I wouldn't want to post any of this without throwing out some credit to the rest of the team, Sammy Hall, Ryan Powell, Sean Horton, Teague Schultz, Chuck Crist, Thomas Robins, Mark Brady, Reed Ketcham, Ted Anderson, Russel Lingo, Amanda Rotella, Luis Ramirez, Elben Schafers, and Jay Epperson.

    My work on the levels mainly consists of taking the blocked in designer level, and arting up the scene, implementing the composition, creating any custom geometry and textures needed for that level, UV mapping, occasional environmental animations, and finally, lighting the scene. For the few silhouette levels, I also had so create versions of the characters, objects, etc. that would have the respective color of the level, as well as the custom skymaps used in them.

    Also, many characters appear in these shots, and these were done by the character artists. The few that I had worked on are specified below.


    1-4 Sunset Shores





























































































    2-1 Popping Planks

    this level was iterated upon many times, and Luis Ramirez and Mark Brady also worked heavily on the final version. I have tried to isolate shots of areas that I had worked on primarily. I created the initial landscape shot of the beach going off in the background, with the ocean surf that comes and crashed upon the beach in the background. Shadow of the Colossus was a good game to study for this effect, to see how what techniques they were using for their crashing waves on their beaches. I also created many of the unique background rock shapes that are jutting out from the ocean.






















    The background rocks were a fun asset to create. they started out as base sketches, then scanned and painted in photoshop, and finally given some dimension to the models in the actual level. with the restriction of the 2D camera, it allowed me to use some techniques that would not work in a totally 3D environment. Another good example was the skymap, which I was able to use on a polygon that was tilted towards the camera. Even though it is a simple scrolling texture, doing this provides the illusion that the clouds that are higher up on the texture, and closer to the camera, will pan by faster than the clouds far off, and closer to the horizon.

    It was a great treat to see these shown during the early playthrough of the game on the Jimmy Fallon show




    http://youtu.be/p93xxvTNkAE


    2-6 Blowhole Bound

    For this level, I given the opportunity to create the Whale character that DK rides upon. This was then given some final touches by one of the character artists, Quinn Smith.














    I created the animated mussels that react as DK walks on the pier above. I grew up playing on the beach during the summers, and it was always intriguing to study the mussels that would cake up on the rocks, and how they would shut suddenly when disturbed. The yellow on the inside of the shells, and the black shell itself gave a beautiful contrast when they would move.


















    http://youtu.be/KBLc2kfQftM



    2-B Pinchin Pirates

    This was the one boss arena that I made for the game. Going from the stormy weather of the previous levels, to a more calm sky for the boss battle. I tried to make an area where the crabs were using the remains of an old wrecked ship as their little hideout.







































    http://youtu.be/kJn6yAhWiV8





    2-K Tumblin Temple

    This level was the secret temple level for the Beach world. It was fun to create a level that was in a state of collapse and disrepair, with lava pouring in through the architecture.




















































    http://youtu.be/L6huZDDQx44





    3-3 Mast Blast

    I worked on this level with Reed Ketcham. He handled the beginning of the level, with the Jungle Temple, and I focused on the Beach area that transitions to the inside of the ship hull, and ultimately across several ship decks.






























































    http://youtu.be/cJde3CIFFIA




    5-1 Vine Valley

    I originally arted out an entire version of this level, but after iterations, most of it got tossed and redesigned. the transitionary area from the caverns to the upper tree canopy was kept, though.






































    http://youtu.be/F52Qw2Tlrsk






    7-1 Foggy Fumes

    This was another silhouette level that was fun to work on. It was much more mono-chromatic than the others, with much of the area being coated with a thick fog. It worked out well as a kind of reveal level for the rest of the factory world, as the fog gets dissipated once you turn the machines on at the end. The designers had the ideas in mind of using the fog to mask the character, and make some of the platforming more challenging in areas.















    I was able to use some throwbacks of the past on this level, putting a distant silhouette of the original game's I-beam structure off in the background that had taken some weathering in years since the original adventure took place.



























    I put a little Mr. Game and Watch off in the background, hammering away at the pipes of the factory. I fell in love with the character after playing him in Smash Bros. I loved how they kept to the original choppy animation speed, and wanted to recreate that here. It was also something of a throwback to a version of the old handheld game.












































    http://youtu.be/yVPH9C9lYTg




    7-R Lift-Off Launch

    Life-Off Launch was fun because of how unique it was. Going from inside the factory buildings, to launching up into the sky, and up into the atmosphere allowed the opportunity to create an interesting way that the level played out visually. I wanted to sneak an aurora borealis into the game somewhere, and this was the perfect level to use it in.






















































    http://youtu.be/xU0BkbOZT6U






    8-4 Smokey Peak

    This level was fun to. It looks better in motion, as the background consists of rolling smoke throughout the area. It was nice to do a Rambi level in this style, and have lots of destructibles. I put some brambles in to add to the aggressive nature of the level. they were something of a throwback to the dreaded bramble levels of earlier DKC games, too.

    I learned a lot of 'low-tech' tricks from the Monster Hunter series. They have done some clever tricks of animating 1-bit alphas across mostly transparent geometry to achieve effects like embers in the wind, or snow billowing in through a doorway. I used a similar thing here with the embers blowing up from the bottom of the frame, and the rolling smoke in the background. The smoke was separated out into four layers, using wavy ribbons of geometry and scrolling textures. The closer to the camera, the faster they would be animating, pushing the illusion of depth in the scene.































































    http://youtu.be/vwrLrbDJpOU




    8-5 bobbing Basalt

    The volcano was the one world I probably had the most influence on the look of. Early on, I worked on the initial look for the world, creating the black stone basalt, lave and rock textures, starry night skymap, and working with the engineers to develop the heatwave effect that would separate the background from the main gameplay path.



























































    http://youtu.be/_0Bc3j5YnG8

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    Last edited by oracrest; June 13th, 2011 at 05:54 PM. Reason: forgot a few environment bros to mention...
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    Extras Gallery Dioramas

    I made several of the dioramas that are unlockable in the Extras gallery.


    Cave Diorama




























    Cliff Diorama





















    Ruins Diorama


























    Forest Diorama






















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    Incredible! Truly incredible...

    I've always enjoyed the art of Prime, it's simply beautiful...but DKC:R was something else! It's very different to the Prime trilogy and it shows that Retro is capable of making games that is completely different. What I also love about DKC:R is how close it remains to the original DKC games in terms of style and gameplay. The art is beautiful, especially those sunset areas...an excellent job!

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    Sorry if this is too much work,but can you give a complete artist breakdown ? i hate that game credits rarely show what kind of work every artist made,or at least what role the others artists like chuck christ,teague shultz,danny richardson,etc had in the graphics aspect of the game.

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    My son and I had a blast on the coop on this at Christmas. Graphics are beautiful and colourful and always a joy to behold. It was obvious from the start that a lot of love and imagination went in to it. Excellent work.

    Al

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetalLord View Post
    Sorry if this is too much work,but can you give a complete artist breakdown ? i hate that game credits rarely show what kind of work every artist made,or at least what role the others artists like chuck christ,teague shultz,danny richardson,etc had in the graphics aspect of the game.
    Ooh,can't believe I forgot those guys, thanks!

    Well, I can't really list every thing that every one did, but maybe I can try to give some more specifics.

    Danny has some real familiar art. He was the one that did that really sweet intro for Metroid Prime with the cells. He did the concept for the hopping DK frog, and worked on the map, among other things.

    To take the palm tree, that was originally something that Sean made, but then the other artists would take that, and populate their own levels, twisting the shape of the trunk, and generally giving a custom touch.

    I don't really want to broadcast who did what in a lot of detail without them knowing. Mainly out of respect for them having the ultimate decision on what they might choose to include on their own portfolios.

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    Oh,thanks guy,i asked because the majority of the artists dont have a portfolio,theres some guys that worked in the four retro studios games during 10 years and dont have a single asset credited to him,but must be their choice to be invisible heroes,while in your sunset stage i found a little easter egg about the frog,great attention to detail !!

    Good work on mario kart 3ds.

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    I'm not sure what detail about the frog you are referring to, the little buzzing fly?

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    Quote Originally Posted by oracrest View Post
    I'm not sure what detail about the frog you are referring to, the little buzzing fly?
    Yes,at least before i told my friends nobody else that i know have noticed,dont know if it is your objetive to be subtle or just we that have realy bad eyes.

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    I believe the fly is with all the frogs, but stands out in higher contrast in that one sunset level.

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