Meet the Devs: Ross Worthley

Q: Welcome to the team, Ross! Or maybe we should call you Mr. Worthley to separate you from (Lead Animator) Ross Armstrong? Can you explain a bit about what your role will be on Pantheon?

A: I have been brought on to work as an Environment Artist. Primarily, I’ll be working on the natural elements for Pantheon. Think trees, rocks, foliage, water features, etc.

Q: What does an average day at work look like for you?

A: It depends on what stage of the process I’m at with my current task. Some days I’ll be sculpting a high resolution model in Zbrush. Other times, I may be using Maya to prepare the game-ready mesh (a wireframe, untextured version of the model). Most recently I was using Substance Designer to create tiling detail textures. That’s one of the things I like about what I do: I’m never stuck doing the same thing over and over.

Q: For those who may not understand, how will building assets help speed up development?

A: The assets I’m making will all be added to a large library. The more that library grows, the faster the game worlds can be built. Think of it like Legos. If you only have one kit, you’re kind of limited as far as what you can build. The more pieces you acquire, the larger and more elaborate your creations can be.

Q: What programs do you use and how do you use them to generate textures?

A: I use Maya and Zbrush for modeling, and Photoshop, Substance Painter, and Substance Designer for textures.

Q: How much creative freedom do you have? Do you add your own details to assets or make assets that no one specifically asked for?

A: Quite a bit, actually. Jared provides me with concept art for the assets I’ve been assigned, so I have a good idea of what the final product should look like, but how I achieve that is up to me. I’m encouraged to elaborate beyond the concept art and introduce some of my own ideas. Whatever I make still needs to be approved by the team leads, but the process is very collaborative.

Q: In your experience, what sort of numbers are we looking at, asset-wise, for a dungeon zone with a boss fight at the end?

A: Hmm. That’s a tough question. It all depends on the size and complexity of the area. A small, focused dungeon can be made with 50 to 100 individual assets. A full zone can push 1000 or more.

Q: What pieces make a zone reusable? How do you reuse assets without hurting lore, general aesthetic, and repetition?

A: Oh, boy. That’s a deep subject. Reusable assets are a crucial element of MMO development. Actually, most games rely on this to some extent. If you’re trying to build out a huge sprawling level, it’s just not practical for every object in the scene to be unique. Suffice it to say, natural elements like trees and rocks can reused by simply scaling, rotating, and modifying textures. Architectural elements are usually made to be modular so they can be assembled in multiple configurations. Then there’s a process sometimes called “kit bashing” that involves extracting bits off a model and using them to build a new object with a similar design aesthetic.

Q: What other games have you worked on, and how does the world building in Pantheon differ?

A: This is my fourth MMO. Previously I had worked on Gods & Heroes and Star Trek Online at Perpetual Entertainment, as well as Rift and all its expansions at Trion Worlds. I spent nearly 10 years working on Rift. That gave me a lot of experience creating assets for large scale MMOs. To be honest, my current role at VR doesn’t involve much world building, just modeling and texturing environment objects. It’s still quite a bit different than what I had been doing on Rift. I’m using new tools, a different game engine, and more advanced shader tech. It's definitely more challenging and complex then the work I’ve done up to this point.

Q: What’s the most fun aspect of your job?

A: It’s a strange answer, but the meetings. The team at VR are all really great people. There’s a lot of mutual support and encouragement. Not to mention the jokes and wisecracking. It feels like working with friends.

Q: What’s been the most challenging part of the job thus far?

A: While this isn’t my first time using Unity, Pantheon is by far the most complex I’ve worked on. Starting on a new game always means getting up to speed on production methods, file structure, and graphics tech. It can be a slow process, but my VR teammates have been helpful and patient with me as I work through all of this.

Q: Of the systems we are innovating on, what’s your favorite?

A: The environmental hazards for sure. I’ve always felt like the worlds in MMOs are just too static. The only real danger came from mobs and opposing players. I think it’s going to add a whole other level of immersion if the world itself poses a threat to you as well.

Q: What class will you play at launch?

A: I have to go with the Warrior. I’m always happiest when I’m doing damage.

Q: What’s your favorite zone?

A: Faerthale. I love magical forests. Both to play in and to make.

Q: Is there anything else you’d want the Pantheons to know about you?

A: I make a pretty mean bowl of chili.