2.06.2008

Concepts

A former colleague sent me this link which, as a fan of Monolith's games, I found really excellent. It's the flickr photo album of Monolith's art director, which includes concept pieces for the NOLF series and FEAR as well as sketches and studies from life. The drawings themselves are quite nice, and I always love seeing original concept work from great games. It's interesting seeing early sketches from FEAR that line up with comments I remember Craig Hubbard making about revisions that occurred over the course of that game's development: for instance, Jin was originally to be sniper support for the FEAR squad, which is why they gave her the red trigger finger on her glove; in the sketch here we see an early Jin with her rifle (which, by the way, appears to simply be the G2A2 with a large silencer attached. Not ideal for sniping considering how it handles in FEAR.) Similarly, it would seem that the ghoulish Assassins originally carried submachine guns. Lots of interesting behind-the-scenes insight to be found.

Oh, here's a funny connection I discovered while researching FEAR during my time in Texas: one of the main factions in FEAR is the ATC, Armacham Technology Corporation. Around midgame you raid their offices and mow down wave after wave of their private security force, including opponents in hulking powered combat armor, trying to discover the secrets behind Paxton Fettel and all the strange goings-on in and around the city's Auburn district. Displayed throughout their facilities are graphics and replicas of orbital satellites.

Funny thing is, the ATC first appeared in the backstory of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, the first game that Hubbard was the writer and project leader for. According to an article on shogomad.com, Armacham is "one of the dominant megacorporations" in the Shogo universe:

Armacham Technology Corporation got its start with the manufacture of commercial satellites and ground-based communication systems. Eventually, they would expand to encompass civilian and military vehicle manufacture, musical equipment, security systems, and, predictably enough, MEV and MCA ["mobile combat armor"] technologies. Their MCAs (they discontinued their MEV lines after some early experiments) immediately caught the attention of the private sector and various military organizations alike.
So, in both FEAR and Shogo, ATC manufactured communication satellites as well as powered combat armor for private and military use. Is the implication that FEAR and Shogo take place in the same universe, with the events of Shogo simply occurring many centuries further down the line? Going a step further, do the events of NOLF also take place in this same universe, some 40 or 50 years before the events of FEAR? I haven't seen any evidence of this last connection, but it's interesting to consider all three of these stories occurring within one strange little off-kilter alternate reality.

Well, enough geeking out for me! To get back to the point: I do wish more game concept art like the above were available, anywhere, in art books or online. It's nice seeing all the concept pieces in No More Heroes' New Game + mode, but why aren't all those concept works up online somewhere in high resolution (aside from a few nice images I found scattered throughout IGN's NMH screenshots?) IGN also houses a handful of gorgeous character concepts from Monolith's Condemned: Criminal Origins, but I unlocked all the concept art in that game and I know there's more to be found. Where's the rest of the great foundation sketches that led to the visual look of all my other favorite games? Granted I probably just haven't searched hard enough to find more of this kind of material, but it seems only the most wildly successful franchises make their concept art easily accessible, usually in the form of an expensive art book like the one for Half-Life 2 or World of Warcraft. Either that, or you get something like the anemic little "art book" that shipped with the Persona 3 special edition, which Atlus practically might as well not even have bothered with.

Have you got any good links to more video game concept art available online? Leave a comment, I'll appreciate it.

[Update: After a bit of googling, I found Creative Uncut's game art galleries. Much of it is devoted to concept art from fairly minor fighting games and JRPGS, but some interesting properties are represented including Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Chrono Trigger, Okami, and Zelda. More resources to come, hopefully!]

[Update2: RPGamer has an extensive collection of concept art for nearly every RPG they list, both Western and Japanese. Click an upcoming, series, or other game title, then click "art." Their set of Mass Effect concepts is rather nice, for instance. Too bad the site is genre-specific.]

2 comments:

WhoZeDuke said...

Wow, I can't belive I never noticed that connection.

While I highly doubt Monolith has been developing shared world for all its games, it would be awesome to see a H.A.R.M. or U.N.I.T.Y. refererence in Project Origin.

Steve gaynor said...

A couple other points noted on the F.E.A.R. Wiki:

* In some levels, there are signs that say 'Heater And Refrigerator Maintenance'. This is a reference to the organization H.A.R.M. in the game No One Lives Forever, also developed by Monolith. The signs have the stylized "H" logo from H.A.R.M. in the background.

* The vending machines in F.E.A.R. displaying "Fizzy Cola" also appear in Monolith's Condemned: Criminal Origins. These vending machines are also found in Monolith's No One Lives Forever.

* Two of the weapons the player gets to use are also found in their basic form in Shogo, the MOD3 multi-rocket launcher, and the MP-50 repeating cannon. This was an intentional design decision and pointed out in one of the interviews.

Are these simply clever little Easter eggs, or would the developers say they're evidence that FEAR, Condemned, Shogo and NOLF all take place within the same universe? Couldn't say, but I personally like to think of them creating a strange little "Monolith world" over their years of development.