Today we are continuing our look at the Art of Battlefield with Hardline, a series in which we look back at most of the Battlefield titles throughout the years and gain some insight into what it was like at the time of when those games were released for the franchise.
As a refresher, Last month we had released several articles within this series and you can view those by clicking here.
We have also invited a special guest to talk to us about Battlefield Hardline today, check it out below and enjoy our next entry into the Art of Battlefield series.
Battlefield Hardline Interview with Patrick O’Keefe
Escape The Level: We are at our next article for this special look at the Art of Battlefield, could you introduce yourself Patrick and tell us about your history?
Patrick O’Keefe: Currently, I am a Canadian-born illustrator living in the Bay Area of California (San Francisco).
I studied art in secondary school and eventually entered into an Illustration under-graduate degree at Sheridan College, outside of my hometown of Toronto. After two years of study I followed the other love of my life to Vancouver where I resumed my studies in Film Design.
While in my final year of school I took a job as a Storyboard artist. Months before my graduation, I received an offer from Electronic Arts to work as a Concept Artist, where I have remained for 7 years, and in 3 different locations, working on titles such as Need For Speed, Dead Space, and Battlefield.
ETL: We’ve landed on Hardline the latest title for Battlefield, and we’ve seen the art styles and atmosphere of Battlefield change substantially from Battlefield 4 to Hardline. Do you think that transition was difficult or refreshing?
PO: The transitions were difficult, but very refreshing. Our desire was to maintain the fan favorite feeling of the Battlefield series while changing the world it exist in. I was excited to bring the franchise into a more personally familiar world.
Since a kid, I’ve always been infatuated with street art. I love the urban jungle for its vastness, density and variety, from the modern castles to the row of toxic warehouses. The beauty of the city is something that I have always been drawn too. In the city, there is a different battle raging than on the military battlefield.
In the city, people are battling for their livelihood, and will go to extreme lengths to achieve their goals. Most people are just working their regular 9-to-5, but on the fringe of society we have a group that is desperate enough to do anything, I wanted to tell their story, if only through the visuals.
ETL: What do you feel had changed, and what was important to you and the team about the locations of this game?
PO: Opening up the Battlefield series to a more urban environment was a pillar in our game design, and picking places that felt very familiar was a must.
I wanted to make sure the player felt the gravity of the battlefield, that it is not always some place far away that we never visit, but in our own backyard. As a child I played cops and robbers in the city both downtown and in abandon buildings, I wanted to take the next step in that fantasy.
ETL: A lot of time even goes into the very small things like graffiti and in-game adverts/billboards. Do you have anything to share on that?
PO: Making the world seem real takes a lot of work, the big picture needs the support of the little details. Creating a world that has both a history and a future helps give it context, and with context comes believability.
Creating fake brands and films help place the audience deeper into the world. Covering the world in graffiti gives it an attitude and an opinion – it speaks to the society that exist in the world. Personally, I love doing this stuff as it gives me a chance to change up my work and get very creative. Making fake brands and fictitious T.V. shows is one of my favorite parts of production.
ETL: What was the plan with Growhouse? It is one of the most frantic maps within Hardline’s vanilla offering. Was this always intended even from the concept stages?
PO: The aim with Growhouse was to create a world that had multiple layers with each new layer acting as a whole new world. The urban landscape is a dense environment and spaces have multiple uses. From the outside you would never know the scale, smell and sounds of the industrial dry cleaner on the inside, and once you get below, the world transitions again to a large scale Growhouse. You feel as if you walked through a gateway into another world, but that is the reality of the urban state.
ETL: How did you begin to imagine the settings of a few of the singleplayer missions, the streets?
PO: Choosing locations is all about supporting the main vibe of the game. We wanted a very urban and authentic experience for the audience so choosing realistic locations was a must.
We then used our narrative and artistic licenses to inject the emotion that we wanted to convey. Environment artist and Art directors later went on location scouting trips to get all the details and layout, but in the beginning it was about the type of story we were trying to tell.
ETL: Part of the work done in Concept Art isn’t simply about mapping out locations but also working on storyboards of sorts to portray how a scene would happen. How long does that usually take and did you take anything away experience wise from doing so on Hardline?
PO: I enjoy many aspects of game creation, but working on the story is what really gets my clock ticking. Battlefield Hardline was the first time I had the opportunity to really dig into the story by creating these little vignettes and the colour script. I have always been a fan of crime drama and stories of gangsters. This was a perfect fit for me to explore a genre that has always had appeal.
The creation of some of these vignettes happens very quickly, in a matter of hours. However, things like the colour script, a series of almost a hundred paintings that is a visual representation of the entire game, can take months. Lots of work goes into cultivating the mood and aligning the proper emotions. There is a ton of editing and adjusting, but in the end it serves as a road map for the entire production.
ETL: Were you open to using any reference material while working on the concept art for Hardline?
PO: In high school my art teacher stressed reference heavily. He had a huge filing cabinet filled to the brim with reference of all kind. I am the same way, except most of my filing cabinet is a Dropbox folder that I add to everyday. Inspiration can be a difficult thing to come by and great ideas are elusive. Having a solid amount of reference can really promote the creation of great ideas.
As I began creating art work I would gather lots of reference. Sometimes it was specific maps and architecture to inform on design. Other times it was films and editorial photos to express emotion. In a game like this that exists in the real world, the amount of reference can be overwhelming, so you must rely on your taste to help curate the world in which you wish to create.
ETL: Concept Art usually goes through lots of versions, and even then some aspects don’t make it into the game from the artwork. Is there any reason to that?
PO: The goal of early Concept art, or visual development, is to be both aspirational and inspirational. More than often the work goes through many different versions. Visual Development art is created in a bit of bubble, without tons of consideration to game engine capabilities or even game design.
Its purpose more often than not is to get those that will be creating the actual game space excited and interested, to get their wheels turning.
I feel I have done my job right not when the game is one-to-one with my artwork but when an environment artist or gameplay designer see’s my work and say’s, “I want to make that,” and then they go and improve on the idea. Game production is like climbing a staircase: the goal of each step is to lead to the next step.
We’d like to thank Patrick O’Keefe for taking the time out to discuss and share his experiences on Battlefield Hardline, and we hope you have enjoyed taking in the concept art and his words. Stay tuned for the next article in our Art of Battlefield series.