Modeling Skyscrapers for Video Games
13 August, 2018
Last September we met with Jim Ivon, the creator of Scraper: First Strike and the founder of Labrodex Studios. We wanted to follow up to see how the project was progressing, and get specifics on the world and the city they are building. Lawrence C. Nelson, CEO & Lead Creative of NVISION partnered with Labrodex Studios to help bring the world of Scraper to life. He spent some time with us to talk about how he approached building this futuristic city.
About the Game
Scraper: First Strike is an original RPG shooter in VR. The game offers full locomotion, large levels to explore and traditional RPG elements like modifications, consumables, a dynamic mission system, interesting NPCs with full VO all wrapped in fun combat with numerous weapon choices to blow away enemy Humech robots. The game is being released episodically, with Episode I targeted to launch this Fall.
Lawrence Nelson‘s Background
I’ve been in the design industry for about 30 years. I have worked as a contractor or consultant, but primarily was running my own business. My formal training is in industrial design. With those skill sets, I have been able to work in most facets of the design and entertainment industry: from products and transportation to architecture, entertainment, attractions, movies, commercials, interactive media and of course video games. I have worked with hundreds of companies, from Disney, Paramount, and ILM to Bandai, Atari, LucasArts, and Google. Currently, I run a creative and real estate development company with my partners in Los Angeles at NVISION Studios and NVISION Development Group. We are still designing resorts and entertainment destinations around the world, as well as building residential developments in the Los Angeles area.
Skyscrapers: Real-world vs. Virtual
Talking about designing a real skyscraper and a virtual one, it’s the same but has a few key differences. In many ways the logic is similar, but we get to play and extrapolate on technologies and advancements that make it fun and challenging as well as an additive to the story. While we still have to be logical in our thinking processes, there is a freedom to designing fiction. We still have to consider real-world conditions like gravity, but we have the freedom of not worrying about budgets, real-world logistics, zoning, permitting, etc. unless dictated by the story content. In many ways, I think we help write the story. The sets and props are like characters, much in the same way that the enterprise is a critical personality in Star Trek.
Once Jim told me about his vision and the story, I tried to continue down that same path with the designs. I took that core content and extrapolated it to a definition and logic for the city and its functions. It appeared in the story, that the cities should be concentrated and focused as if for some reason they were mostly new. The main location in Episode I is “New” Austin. This begs the question: Did something happen to old Austin? What we needed was a logically contrived clean slate, a logic reset.
I discussed with Jim that the future had probably seen multiple catastrophes, environmental or otherwise. There were consequences.
I imagined the new cities to be protected by barriers. Global warming has advanced and water had encroached on the mainland. The barriers around the cities would be large terraforming factories in the process of repairing and revitalizing the majority of earth surfaces. So huge robotic machinery (all sizes) were busy at work, just as Jim suggested, refurbishing and planting the earth’s surface to modify it to exist in the new environment as well as reverse the damage over time. In between cities are large deserts and damaged landscapes. The cities are green and lush and tech.
I also tried to design for expansion: under water, into space, underground, and to other cities. Hyperloop like tunnels could take us to other cities that were designed as the water advanced now completely submerged. Also, at the top of the Transportation Services Scraper is a space elevator that takes us up to weather control platforms, as well as orbital platforms. Transportation between countries and continents takes place at the orbital and suborbital levels requiring less energy and has no environmental impact. We had to consider if all these things are possible within our story time frames and dates.
This, of course, was just the beginning of the process.
Contribution to the Story
The creation of New Austin was all on Jim. He conveyed the story concisely. My job was just to help it take shape, logic it out, fill in the gaps. This is important because it becomes the fabric to host the story. The ideas we came up with provide a stage. This stage needs game elements and circulation routes, logical layout, obstacle courses, major sets integrated etc. It also needs a logical program: where to put industry, schools, living spaces, airports, seaports, transportation, parks. It all required thinking about the evolution of the city, and how it was built. Fortunately, robotics, nanotech, and AI make all kinds of cool things possible, and there we come full circle to the core of the story.
Working with Labrodex Studios
Working with Labrodex and Jim was a pleasure. Jim and I have known each other for more than 30 years. We have a common reference library in our heads which allows a precise and well-communicated dialog. We communicate easily and clearly, which makes this type of effort go very smoothly. Though I would never admit this to his face, Jim has always been a person with Vision. His ideas well thought out, endeavors carefully strategized, and target always clear and defined. This makes my job easy.
In reality, I just drew up a bunch of sketches and our fantastic modeling team massed the buildings and helped refine the planning of the city. I think we were able to contribute a lot of good ideas and content. Of course, most of the credit goes to the amazing team of talent he had assembled. In many ways I feel like I just primed the pump, they are the ones that refined the designs and made it all come together. And don’t get me started on the amazing interiors, characters, and vehicles they created!
When I saw the final results of the concepts in VR, the first thing I thought was: This is pretty amazing! The second was, How did they do this so fast? As I explored the movement and details, my brain snapped into the designer mode and I just started refining and tweaking in my head.
I think we all see there is a path to the “holo-deck” or something more invasive on a neural level. But what it all comes down to is we are on a path to real and interactive virtual worlds. Disney and other large creative companies are already looking into these technologies. But for real implementation, they have to conform to the restrictions of reality that I mentioned earlier. It has to get to the point where it is practical for large-scale implementation. Issues like cost, return investment and other factors all become critical. I guess that in the long run, the reality of Virtual Reality is that eventually, it will not only enhance as it evolves but eventually replace many of our current entertainment mediums and destinations. Now is the beginning of a whole new world, we can just begin to image, like New Austin.
Scraper: First Strike is being released in late 2018 in VR for multiple platforms. To get more information on the game, project, and studio, register at their site at www.ScraperNetwork.com and you’ll receive special promotional information for when the game is released.
You can also email them at Information@Labdrodex.com.