Deus Ex: Breach is finally out as a stand alone on Steam, so it’s probably a good time for me to put a few things out here from my work on this game.
Deus Ex: Breach was a complex task to tackle. I was in charge of the art direction, under the supervision of Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, the franchise executive art director, and I was also producing all the concept arts (Environments, characters, props,…). But since we were a small team, everyone did more than their share, so I also gave a hand on the UI, some 3D assets and even some scripting.
But as a score-based game, we aimed very early at making a lot of different levels, which would all be visually informed by the level design. As a consequence it became quickly clear that I wouldn’t have the luxury to make heavily rendered concept art for this.
But it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t really enjoy doing the sort of detailed and realistic concept art you can see often in the games industry, nor am I particularly good at it. Instead, I opted to work mostly on paper, using watercolor for quick color or lighting indication. That helped me get ideas out faster, to the point of doing some of my concept arts directly during meetings with designers if not directly at their desks.
Quick recap : In Deus Ex: Breach, you play as a hacker doing their handiwork using VR navigation rather than coding with a keyboard. You infiltrate servers of the Palisade network, which hosts data for major corporations, to extract sensitive data that can expose their corruption. The server for each corporation had to look distinctive, while I wanted to maintain the logic of the overall VR world, so I decided to play with lighting and the kind of shapes and structures I could make with the basic building blocks of that world (mostly black cubes and white triangles) that could reflect what those corporations are about. So, for instance, Steiner, being a heavy weaponry (among other things) manufacturer has its server built like a foundry, with heavy pillars and very strong lines, bathed in a warm red and dusty atmosphere.
But the most important effect in my opinion was that 3D artists, especially environment artists, ended up having more say in the final product, with my looser sketches allowing for more room for interpretation for them, and that brought interesting ideas to the mix that I alone wouldn’t have necessarily had.
I was lucky that the team was receptive to this, though. I know a lot of very talented 3D artists who need precise concept art to work and that this “freedom” would actually hinder more than enable. And that’s the main takeaway for me : Leave some room in your art for your artists to breathe life in, but know your artists first. Make sure everyone on board can actually strive in that sort of setup, and if not, provide these artists with material that is more appropriate to them.
It was a difficult project but by far the one I had the most fun on, between how cool the work to do was and the fact that the team was really the best I’d work with up to that point. I’m extremely grateful to Eidos Montreal, and particularly producer Fleur Marty and franchise executive art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête for trusting me with this one.
More images can be seen on my ArtStation gallery (it would have made for too heavy a post, here).