Bloodborne Review

Despite not being incredibly interested in Dark Souls at the time, Bloodborne hooked me the moment I watched the announcement trailer. The trailer featured a bunch of really cool environments, interesting weapons and a unique Victorian dark ages look. I was in the mood for a dark game done right and oh boy, does this game deliver.

If you don’t know what the game is about, Bloodborne takes place in the city of Yharnam, where the inhabitants have fallen victim to a mysterious plague somehow related to a blood practice very popular among them. You play as a Hunter who travels to the city to search for the origin of the plague to hopefully get rid of it. But you probably know that already.

Anyways, what sets this game apart from others is how consistent and visceral the experience feels. Just like your Hunter in that world, you too feel like an outsider, armed with only very little information and clues about what the hell is actually going on. The story is dense but it’s delivered very subtly through the environment and some occasional cutscenes. It’s up to you to take the pieces and figure out the puzzle yourself. Even after watching a few lore videos on youtube, the story is still a bit fuzzy in my head. That is not necessarily a bad thing… this is one of those games that you can go pretty deep if you like rabbit holes, but can also enjoy if you just want to touch the surface. All I can say is that the story is pretty badass and very well fleshed out. In fact, I’d totally read a book set in this universe, even though I never read books based on videogames (the only one I ever read was the first Mass Effect book, great read btw!).

The lore can also be delivered via messages left by other players. Bloodborne features a neat social feature that lets you leave notes for other players using premade phrases and words.
These messages usually contain warnings about imminent ambushes or bosses, but sometimes you come across gems like this.

As I’m sure you know, Bloodborne is a hard game. This is not a game you can sit down, turn off the brain and power through on autopilot. You gotta be in control all the time, paying attention to enemy attacks, dodging and getting better with your weapons. While the game can get incredibly hard sometimes, it’s never unfair and can be conquered with proper patience and dedication. It’s so rewarding to finally beat a freaking hard boss after the 12th attempt or so.

Now for what matters to us here, is that the environments are superb and show a really high degree of skill from the team. The architecture is constructed in very efficient ways but still feel handcrafted. This is achieved by a combination of adding extra geometry cuts on top of tiling textures and by sculpting reusable modular pieces. Buildings are usually built out of smaller modular parts that are repurposed in several different areas in the game, instead of being unique monolithic pieces.

Even if the windows are uniquely sculpted, they are still treated as modular pieces, allowing them to be reused anywhere.

It’s interesting how some of the props (like statues) are used thousands of times in the game but somehow don’t look repetitive. They really belong in the world the game is set in.

These status are a good example. Some streets are filled with these on both sides.
Most, if not all of the architecture in this screenshot uses tiling trims. The railings look uniquely mapped but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were using trims too.
This tower is a good example of tiling textures mixed with unique elements.
This is just beautiful :P

Playing through the game is like moving from painting to painting, as you can tell a lot of care was put into compositions and vistas. They tell you a lot about the events taking place in the world and help navigation a great deal.

So much environment storytelling and mood setting on a single scene.Take a moment to appreciate this!
Pay attention to the moon while playing the game. It plays a big importance in the story.
This is one of the noisiest areas in the game but still look very readable and navigable. Note how organic everything looks!

The biggest accomplishment from the environment team in my opinion is hiding the level design under a great world that looks and feels like it exists somewhere. Some of the places are very abstract level design wise, however, when you are playing, they feel like a real place. Hiding the level design under a virtual world that makes sense and breathes is one of the hardest things to pull off and this game is a great example of this.

Making fictional worlds that make sense has been one of my obsessions lately and the subject deserves a blog post one day. I think dominating this aspect of environment art goes a long in becoming a great artist, one that makes virtual worlds that go beyond being simple eye candy for a game and immerse the player in the artist’s creation.

Go play this game now if you haven’t already.

Score: 5/5

Blogging… again?

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I created this space on my website so I can share thoughts, ideas, workflows, recommendations, personal stories and stuff like that. I don’t plan on writing very regularly and the frequency will probably vary a lot, but I still think it’ll be fun to sit down and write whenever I feel like doing so.

I think the idea to start blogging again came after I stopped following Facebook  closely. It’s funny how Facebook now feels just like cigarettes after I “quit” to me. I still lurk a bit, the same way that I still smoke one or two cigarettes every now and then, but not being exposed to as much noise anymore lead to increased focus on my personal projects.

A lot has happened since I last had a blog, about 4 years ago. I moved to California to work at Blizzard and since then I’ve had the honor of working on some of my favorite IPs ever. It’s really crazy to realize that when I started my career I had very small dreams, and now I work on the game that I would choose over any other game in the industry, Overwatch. I feel really lucky and grateful for having this opportunity and I’m having a blast!

Recently I have also discovered another passion: VR. I was mildly curious about it, never being totally convinced by the current iteration of devices until I decided to buy an Oculus DK2 to try it for good. I fell in love immediately. VR is a dream come true for environment artists and we will be able to express our ideas in ways never possible before.

I ported my Temple of Utu scene (a collab with my friend Martin Holmberg) to VR and the feeling of walking around my own creation was indescribable, it literally brought tears to my eyes. All our work, that felt so static in the editor, came to life in VR. It felt like a real place. The only other time I had this exact same feeling was when I played my very first level for the very first time. I stopped that project to focus on other things for a while, like this website, but good news: I’m back working on it. There isn’t much left to do really, and I think it will be really awesome to release something playable after several year of just doing “static” scenes. Maybe I’ll document some of the new assets here on the blog, so watch out for that!

Another really cool thing that happened with that scene was that a very talented music composer, Nate Combs, volunteered to create a theme song for it. Working with Nate was a great experience and made me look forward to working directly with music composers in the future, for other personal projects. I would send him some ideas and examples of what I had in mind, and he would show up the next day with his own compositions that were much better than what I had in mind in the first place. Everyone check out his top notch work!

Anyways, it’s hard to say if VR will really take off in this generation because it will depend on a lot of factors, but I’m pretty sure that it’s a brand new media and that it’s here to stay. Right now it’s a new frontier and no one knows how to make great experiences yet, so if you are of the adventurous type now is the perfect time to join the revolution. Maybe you will come up with new standards that everyone will follow?

I’ve been also planning a big VR project for several months now, but it’s still very far away from being presentable. All I can say for now is that this project is everything I have always wanted to make and I have never been so inspired by anything before. This project also has a different feeling than other projects in the past. I feel more mature and experienced now, so unlike my past personal projects, I really want to take the time and develop every single aspect of this project to the fullest extent possible. It’s still in the planning stages and I’m writing a lot of backstory and character development. Hopefully I’ll have something to show in a few months!

Well I guess this is it for now, this post turned out a lot longer than I intended. Stay tuned for the next post which will be a love letter to Bloodborne, a game I just completed recently that really blew my mind. See ya!