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SC3K Art Director Ocean Quigley

Wednesday, February 17, 1999 - 22:00

Chat transcript February 17, 1999


MaxisDarren: Welcome

MaxisOcean: Hello everybody.

MaxisDarren: Can you quickly describe what your job entails?

MaxisOcean: Sure, I'm the art director for SimCity 3000. Basically that means that I created the aesthetic for the buildings, cars, people and so on. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

sonnyboy: how long does each piece of art take to make?

MaxisOcean: Different buildings take different amounts of time. A large building like a 4x4 skyscraper might take a full week to build, but a little house could probably be done in just a few hours We created people pretty quickly too, just a couple hours per. Actually, the hardest things to do just from a time standpoint were all of the networks. Bridges, roads, etc. were a bunch of work.

zyx: what inspired you to create buildings with 4 unique faces?

MaxisOcean: In 2k we made the buildings in DPaint, it's basically just a pixel pushing 2d paint tool, and you would have to do 4 times more work to make a four-sided building, and it would be boring work. But times have changed and now that we're building everything with 3D art tools it's not much harder to actually sculpt the buildings in the round. When you do that, it's a simple matter to render all 4 sides. Also it looks better when you can rotate around the building.

stinkysocks: are they made with wireframe modles

MaxisOcean: Yep, we used 3D Studio MAX and built everything with polygons. Lots and lots of polygons. Some of our buildings are made of hundreds of thousands of polygons.

safter: what architecture did you study for simcity3000?

MaxisOcean: We took field trips to a bunch of US cities: Boston, New York, New Orleans, and of course the San Francisco Bay Area. We took lots of photographs -- we also looked at lots of architectural books. One series in particular is basically hundreds of beautiful photos of factories, blast furnaces and other industrial sites. It's by this German couple, Bernd and Hilla Becher -- we used that for lots of the inspiration of the industrial areas.

simson: How many different kinds of people and cars are there?

MaxisOcean: We started out with a couple hundred different people but wound up chopping it down to under a hundred. Lots of cars, too -- probably 40-60 counting the civic vehicles.

X-ViRGE: How many different bridges are there, and are they modeled after specific real life bridges?

MaxisOcean: Let's see. We made one bridge based on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, another based on the Golden Gate, another based on the Brooklyn Bridge. The highway bridge and the raised bridge for the roads are just generic. The rail bridge is based on this cool railroad bridge in Scotland. So let's see, 6 bridges? Somewhere around there.

MayorMike: the action items like traffic, I notice are sprites, these were first used in the commodore if memory serves me. Are the SC3K banners in the stadium done the same way as well as the players on the field or did you find these had to be done differentl

MaxisOcean: No, they're sprites like everything else. We just had to make lots of states for them so that it would look like a crowd was present.

pressbox: are there non-landmark buildings that you've designed that aren't in the game?

MaxisOcean: Oh yeah. We made lots of art that didn't make the final cut, but basically all the stuff that we thought was really good went into the game. It took us a bunch of practice to make really nice buildings and the practice buildings got thrown out.

MaxisDarren: here's a follow up to the question before ...

zyx: i know this seems like a stupid question but what is a sprite?

MaxisOcean: A sprite is just a little bitmap that gets thrown on screen by the programmer. Nothing fancy.

simcity3k-com: how many people did you have working with you?

MaxisOcean: At our peak, the art team for 3K was about 15 people, more or less. People would come in and work for a while then go to other projects, but for a while it stayed pretty busy over here. We also worked with a couple outside art groups, so counting them, it's probably closer to 40 people.

whitedd: What time period are most of the buildings aimed for?

MaxisOcean: I figured, that since the whole concept of making cities on a computer is very high tech already, it would be good to balance out the aesthetic with lots of buildings inspired by early 20th and late 19th century architecture. So we looked at 1930s era skyscrapers and at beaux arts style apartment buildings and at nasty 19th century factories and power plants. If you look at the coal power plant, it's inspired by the Battersea power plant in London, the same power plant that appears on the cover of the Pink Floyd album "Animals." Of course, some of the buildings look like contemporary ones, but I think that it's best to sprinkle modern ones in a context of traditional ones.

Lexus: What games have u worked on?

MaxisOcean: Let's see. SimCity has been a three-year project, so you have to go back a bit, but I worked on a bunch of other games here at Maxis: SimCopter, Full Tilt Pinball, among others. Before working at Maxis, I did freelance art -- some for Broderbund in the Carmen Sandiego series, some for Lucas Arts.

qwerte: was all the wrk done on computers-or were they sketched by hand too?

MaxisOcean: Lot's of the buildings were at least crudely sketched before creating them. Some of them were simple enough that we were able to just jump in and start making them in 3d.

emkubed: for the neomodern buildings, like the waste-to-energy plant, what did you draw ideas from?

MaxisOcean: There are actual waste-to-energy plants out there that we used as reference, but for the really futuristic ones we just went and exaggerated the characteristics of the thing that the building represented. I'm a big fan of 1930s-era sci-fi, so I tried to go with a Buck Rogers-metropolis aesthetic for the futuristic stuff where possible.

whitedd: How many different types of "abandoned" buildings are there? Is there one for every building?

MaxisOcean: There's a bunch, but not one for every building. We did one for every size (1x1 -5x5) for each zone type, but not much more than that -- It would have been too great a demand on the users RAM. Maybe for the next rev we'll make unique abandoned and construction buildings.

Teleboss: Hi Ocean! Why couldn't you have programmed the game in a lower level, and have done it in smooth full 3D?

MaxisOcean: A couple reasons -- probably the most important is that real-time 3D is still pretty ugly compared to the detail that you can get with pre-rendered art. The other reason is that if we limited the user to a low-level in the game, they'd never get to see the whole (or even a very large part) of their city.

zyx: when are you releasing more landmark buildings?

MaxisOcean: March 2nd. They'll be nice.

Lexus: did u work on the Bat?

MaxisOcean: Yeah, but another artist, Joseph Knight, is doing most of the real work on it. All I did was come up with some early mock-ups and then nudge it one way or another over its development.

simson: Will we be able to create buildings using BAT which look as good as those in the game?

MaxisOcean: Probably not. BAT is going to be relatively easy to use, and as a result, we had to simplify it. Compared to the freedom to create that you have in an open-ended 3D package like 3D Studio MAX, the BAT will be pretty limited. I've made some cool-looking buildings with it, though, so if you're determined, you could make some good stuff.

X-ViRGE: What's with the eyeball rolling out of the science building?

MaxisOcean: That's the nature of science -- you never know what your results will be. We were just trying to be true to the spirit of the scientific endeavor.

Saddam_Hussein: Are you a better artist on or off the computer?

MaxisOcean: The broad aesthetic skills are universal, and I'm more or less the same artist regardless of the medium that I'm using I have noticed that all of the best computer artists are also very good with traditional media, so I expect that they reinforce each other. You can see what kind of work I do on the PC ... I'm about as good with oil on canvas.

whitedd: What was the inspiration for the courthouse reward? It looks like a building at Willamette University in Salem, OR.

MaxisOcean: The one we actually used as reference is in Boston, I think. It's a pretty generic example of federalist style architecture -- a style I'm fond of.

X-ViRGE: Besides the science center and university, are there any other little "different" building animations?

MaxisOcean: Well, the crowd in the stadium changes, the toxic waste plant pulses and there are a bunch more, but they don't spring to mind right away.

sonnyboy: do you use Mac or PC?

MaxisOcean: I started out with Macs and worked on them for five years or so, but when I started getting serious with 3D I wanted to use 3D Studio, and regrettably, that's only available on the PC. So I switched, grumbling the whole time, but now I'm used to the PC and don't mind it.

MaxisDarren: Here's the final question ...

X-ViRGE: What is your overall favorite building in the entire game?

MaxisOcean: Probably that 3x3 golden skyscraper -- the one that looks a little bit like the American radiator building in New York, but nicer.

MaxisDarren: Some great questions today -- thanks for taking part ... and thanks, Ocean, for stopping by.

MaxisOcean: My pleasure, I hope you got some interesting answers. Bye! -- O.

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