Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient

Starting Spirits: New team, new game, new art!

Who am I?

I’m Matthew, the environment artist with Open Door Games. I make 3D art and most of the supporting assets for the team.

What are we making?

We’re making a game called ‘Spirits’ its essentially a combat demo where we want our player to experience telekinesis and other mental powers.

Where I am so far.

This week was all about defining our environment for me. I’m newer to this team, so I’ve taken some time to get a feel for what we already have, and what we need to be doing now.

I have pretty consistent workflow, I almost always begin a project on paper. I also really like using the guideline of thirds to organize things other than composition.

So I developed 3 concepts to build from:

The 80s Mall

Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient
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The sketches for my 80s mall concept.

This is hands down my favourite concept because it is much more anchored in reality, this will make designing each piece of art significantly easier.A balcony in swapbox, even the hand rails are engineered to look organic, but also fit our cubic collision.

I recently finished crunching on Swapbox (Exhibiting at ImagineNative October 20th!), we went all out on originality and abstract design….and  it was so brutally excusing to sustain that level of creativity, very much the hardest art I have ever worked on. So right now, being able to draw more form historic reference is massively attractive.

The great thing about using a mall is that it gives us instant access to the 80s nostalgia we where looking to harness, and it  gives us dozens of simple objects we can give to the player to throw around with their powers. In the sketch I have added some props that are easy to model but can also be enhanced with simple effects (simple cloth sim of the hanging clothing, sparks on TVs).

Since I could call on reality it was really easy to identify some basic zoning for the level, to start thinking about art can help the player stay oriented in the level.

The Falling City

Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient
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A sketch of the up side down city with a relatively simple level.

The city upside down came out of conversation with our character artist, a way of hinting that this is a battle in the mind of our protagonist character. It also gives some neat possibilities for introducing new props over time. I’ve drawn potential things that can fall from the city in the sketch. The map is very poorly defined here, without a well defined enemy it can be hard to build an arena to fight in.

The looped arena is similar to the design of the mall concept, where the enemy stays in the centre of them map.

The Void

Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient
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Concept render for an environment

This one is the most minimal, and the most abstract. The sketch I had didn’t seem to convey what I was going for so I took them into blender and whipped up a render.

The Void concept is a isolated dream world made up of select elements form our characters normal world. Anything form trees to cars could be put into this environment without really messing up anything.

A nice feature of this sparser environment is that it can be laid out any way we want. This concept is better suited for an enemy that can travers the environment in some way.

Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient
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My sketch of the ‘void’ inspired level

Here are the initial sketches to, with sketching you have more freedom to scribble in details that take time to make in 3D, so I think sketches convey the feeling of a finished environment much more efficiently (general). In order to keep my modeling time under 30 min for that render I had to limit what props I put in, focusing on big pieces (ground, 2 trees, 3 rocks, sky swirl, and a 45 frame water sim for the ripples.).

With these three concepts we have a lot of room to develop. These aren’t final by any means, but more of a jumping of point. With a second round of iteration we got to a neat mashup environment that seems a bit more promising:

The Compilation Enviroment

Matt Murch: 3D Art logo on a soft orange gradient
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This environment came about after presenting the other concepts to the team.

This design features the dream like elements of the upside down city, set int he more grounded mall environment, and has a lower level that acts as mid combat progression taken form the void. The idea would be to have the player enter the mall, fight the boss for a bit, then fall through the floor to the void/arcade area.

In the sketches I have also been working out technical problems as well, such as how to effectively ‘sell’ the upside down city without using up our effects budget.


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