Behind the Scenes: Crafting the Immersive World of Mighty Action Heroes

In this article, I’d like to share with you my thought process when building the environment art in Mighty Action Heroes. While it may not be the absolute best practice, we’ve found it to be effective given the time constraints. At the same time, we’re constantly working on improving our pipeline and making progress. I believe it’s valuable to share our experiences with others, so that they can benefit from what we’ve learned.

1 — Research, and reference!

Mighty Action Heroes is a game that pays homage to the classic action movies of the 80s and 90s. As the concept artist, I have to design environments that evoke the same sense of excitement, adventure, and nostalgia.

80s Era
To create believable visuals that capture the spirit of the 80s era, researching and referencing real-world elements is essential. I’ve watched multiple footage pieces of LA and New York from that time, identifying elements and details that can be used: telephone booths, mailboxes, vintage cars, scrolling LED billboards, traffic light types, TVs etc. Dioramas and miniatures have also been a valuable resource, as they offer a level of detail and multiple angles that can be difficult to discern in blurry 80s photos and videos.

80s Action Hero Movies
Many of us grew up watching classic action movies like Predator, Escape from New York, and Die Hard, which have left a lasting impression on our imaginations. Here at Mighty Bear Games we have regular movie nights, during which everyone gathers to watch classic action hero films and enjoy pizza as a group. Mighty Movie Nights have provided the perfect opportunity to revisit these childhood favorites and rekindle our love for them, as well as to draw inspiration for our work on Mighty Action Heroes’ environment art. By studying the aesthetic and tone of these films, we’re able to better capture the vibe and atmosphere we want to create in Mighty Action Heroes, and to ensure that our game’s visuals reflect the exciting energy of classic action cinema.

How the reference board looks like in presentation/ art guide
Reality on how messy my working board is

2 — Storytelling through visuals

Color and Lighting

To create an authentic 80s feel in Mighty Action Heroes, we’ve incorporated a yellowish filter for daytime scenes concept to emulate the vintage look often seen in movies from that era.
For night time scenes, we’ve decided to push the 80s action hero movie vibe further by utilising bright and colourful lighting. While this approach may not be strictly realistic, it’s a deliberate choice to achieve a more cinematic look and feel, which was a hallmark of many 80s action movies.

Day and Night scene concept for the city
Day and Night scene concept for the desert

Ongoing stories in the scene

Adding elements such as the aftermath of an accident or signs of ongoing chaos can help to convey a sense of storytelling. For example, a crashed car can suggest a recent accident, while a chaotic and dirty street can give the impression of a lawless and dangerous city. Broken windows may imply that the area has been abandoned or is in a state of disrepair.

Comparison of a clean city and chaotic city
Adding unexpected elements to an environment can enhance storytelling, such as a damaged desk in the middle of a pristine area or a crashed helicopter nearby. These details suggest chaos and create intrigue, inviting viewers to imagine the events that led to these situations. For example, a car inside a mall with a broken entrance implies a dramatic crash and prompts the viewer to imagine what happened. Similarly, empty cans and a radio on a rooftop newspaper stand could indicate a party that recently took place, adding depth and personality to the environment.
Adding environment animation to a concept art can make the city feel more alive and dynamic. Elements like a damaged fire hydrant, fire on barrel and sandbag, or sparks flying from an electric cable can help to convey a sense of activity and movement in the environment.

3 — Visuals to support game design

When designing visuals for a game, it’s important to consider the game’s perspective and overall design style. In the case of a top-down view game like Mighty Action Heroes, the visuals should be designed with this perspective in mind so that they look good and are easy to read from that angle.

Isometric Layout in Environment Concept

Our in game cameras are not isometric but top down with a bit of perspective. Keeping it to isometric layout in concept, makes it easier to manage the environment concept and speed up the process: with consistent isometric angle, the props can be easily reused in different environment art.
Some clarity on size estimation. Each grid units in the concept represent 1×1 metre in maya and unity.

In game camera angle
Environment Concept Layout : The camera frame is used to remind artist to keep the details just right for the camera view, or too minute details won’t be seen. Things need to be slightly chunkier to keep it readable.

When designing an environment for a game, it’s crucial to include the character in the concept to ensure that the proportion and relationship with the environment is consistent and matches the desired art style. This is particularly important for chunky-style games where accuracy and consistency of proportions are vital to maintain the overall aesthetic of the game. (Designed with wrong character size before D’: ( no good))

Design layout and technical aspect

The initial block out created by the designer provides a rough overview of the size and position of buildings in the game. While this design is still flexible and subject to change, the concept art will aim to cater to the needs of the game design based on this block out.
Buildings’ height ranges from 1 to 4 storeys (max). There was a test done by the tech team and engineers to determine what is the maximum height that didn’t obscure the player’s view too much.
There is a very specific size on how the modular tiles need to be built, wall size, door size etc.

Keeping all the game design considerations in mind, the concept art is developed accordingly to ensure that the visuals fit seamlessly with the game’s design and perspective.

Sample of the concept:

Pizzeria exterior concept. The modular tile pieces allow the 3d artist to expand or cut down the size of the pizzeria without needing to rebuild the entire shops. It can be used to create variation for other building as well just by changing some of the modular pieces.
Note how the interior asset was reskinned and reused from pizzeria to diner
VHS store exterior and interior ( still trying to keep the shelves design similar to the all mart shelves)
When designing the interior for All Mart, the layout had not been decided yet on the designer’s side. However, in the concept phase, I created repeatable assets and props that could be easily rearranged to meet the design’s needs for different layouts.
The position on the props should leave enough room for the player to walk around the space, and the obstacle props need to be in a group that can be easily translated to simple collider shape in game.

Okayyy. Endinng~~! ^^
Lol that’s abrupt, here are some more examples with an overview of the city, super awesome work of our 3d team! ~

Extra Easter egg of the test scene that our 3d team did, spamming all the rain, wind, dust vfx plus the post processing (blur, chroma abbreviation, etc)

Behind the Scenes: Crafting the Immersive World of Mighty Action Heroes was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.