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Pantheon Development Team Spotlight: John Diasparra

Posted date / 9.14.16

Pantheon Development Team Spotlight: John Diasparra

Have you ever wanted to know what it really takes to bring a massively multiplayer role playing game to life? Not just the basic surface knowledge that we all have; the coding, the artwork, the massive amounts of caffeine to make deadlines, but what the various member of the team actually do? Beginning this month we will peel back the curtain some more and introduce you to the talented team who work hard every day to bring Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen to life. We begin with our Lead Environment Artist - John “ Montreseur” Diasparra.

1) For the uninitiated; introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your role in bringing Pantheon to life.

My name is John Diasparra, I am the lead environment artist for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. I have my hand in creation of landscapes, architectural features, natural environment assets (trees, grasses, etc.) and many of the other props that go into the world. I get to go in after asset creation and do some heavy construction and level design as well; creating buildings and variations from our modular theme based asset bundles, laying them out, molding the environment around them, dialing the lighting, and adding mood/atmosphere with post processing and particles.

2) How do you begin your process for creating the environment? Do you have a specific task in mind that you are attacking, or is it a flash of inspiration that is molded into something within the game’s framework?

The process begins when I get a nice thorough lore document hot off the press from Justin (ed: Justin Gerhart - our Lore Master and Lead Writer). The world building team gets together for a series of meetings where we go through the document, all the moods, the histories, the conflicts, who is involved, and all those juicy details. This part of the process is important for spatial orientation, scope, and many other things. I usually walk away from them feeling really fired up and inspired. The meetings have many important functions, but the burst of energy I get from the collaboration is a big thing for me. I start getting a picture of the impact I can have on the player using all the great information that gets vetted. With that fire burning bright I start hitting the pipeline, and one of the most important early steps is collecting as much reference material as I can. For example if it's a set of ruins I look for style, age, type of wear; was it just rained on for a 1000 years? Was there a battle? To answer those questions I use real life examples of sorts of areas. To gain inspiration for the fantasy elements, like if it needs a giant metallic, magic mechanism floating with particles for example, I find smaller elements to help me bring that together as a whole.

As for the latter part of the question, I stay specific to our pipeline and process. This is important for creating continuity in the areas that continuity is necessary. The constraints placed by that pipeline actually help more than someone might think they would, it gives me a good process, and achievable milestones, and since the skeletal framework for the task is set out, I can actually focus on being more creative while hitting those marks. Those flashes of inspiration happen in a natural way that fits into the pipeline with no friction, it really is a beautiful process.

3) What programs do you use to create these environments, do you ever draw things freehand before creating them in a virtual space?

I've found out I am sort of a software enthusiast. I love checking out new tools and workflows, increasing efficiency and overall production, which has me using a lot of things these days. For modeling I still stick with Maya. Sculpting high polygon detail I lean hard on Zbrush; Zbrush is one of those software applications that keeps on giving. I've found myself thinking "It would be really neat if I could do ______" and then usually find Zbrush can do it already! I am starting to supplement in 3D Coat for special use, it is also an extremely robust sculpting and retopology tool. Allegorithmics Substance Design, and Substance Painter 2 are an absolute essential for me. I use Designer to rip maps from high detail models, and also for creation of procedural materials (all generated from various black and white noises and algorithms to produce a realistic physically based material. The other programs in my toolbox are World Machine, Photoshop, Knald and Meshlab.

To the latter part of your question- I definitely draw some things freehand, layouts, some scribbles here and there to explore some compositional layout of some buildings or something. I like to do my personal concepting as a hybrid 3D with 2D paint overs.

4) Are there any processes in place to ensure overall world continuity between zones?

The short answer: YES, tons. Things need to be done very intentionally to ensure this. Objects of certain size are allowed, certain texture resolution, building sets of re-targetable procedural materials, and others; just to name a few. Certain softwares and tools make this process more fluid, things like creating Smart materials to be reused on objects makes a massive difference in speed and continuity.

5) What is the most rewarding aspect for you in creating Pantheon?

This is a tough one as there are so many rewards involved in this for me, so I will try and narrow it down. The first is being able to bring a world to life, there is nothing quite like it! Having an inspiration and vision, and then seeing the place come to fruition after many hours of work feels really good. This really hits when we get something new patched into the client and I get to see my colleagues’ work integrated with mine, seeing previously barren zones filled with patrolling mobs and camps. The other is when we get to show something new to our VIPs and followers; feeling others excitement for what is being done is one of the biggest rewards I've come to know.

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