The art of Torchlight III
3D World UK|Christmas 2020
Dmitriy Golovinov at Echtra Games takes us behind the scenes of this action RPG’s level design
Dmitriy Golovinov

From VR to next-gen consoles and beyond, the gaming world has undergone a huge amount of change over the past decade or so. However, if one thing remains constant it’s the incredible popularity of action RPG series like Torchlight, which has at last gained a new instalment – Torchlight III.

Released October 2020, Torchlight III is a light-hearted and fast-paced dungeon crawler for casual and hardcore gamers alike. Developed by Echtra Games and published by Perfect World Entertainment, Torchlight III is set in a high fantasy world filled with epic weapons, magic spells, monsters, loot and landscapes.

Environment artist and level designer at Echtra Games, Dmitriy Golovinov, guides us through creating the art of Torchlight III – from storytelling to scale and playability.

BUILDING FROM SCRATCH

Dmitriy’s first course of action in development was to decide an aesthetic style. His team wanted to stay true to the established Torchlight series, but also use reflections, lighting and new technology like Unreal Engine to introduce high-fidelity art and bring this beloved franchise into the 21st century. This meant creating most environments completely from scratch.

“When building an environment from scratch, you first need to gather some reference materials,” says Dmitriy. “This helps you build a basic idea of what the scenery should look like – whether that’s a bustling medieval town, a picturesque beach or a rugged mountain top. After you get the reference, you’ll want to talk to the concept team, who start making loose sketches. Then we’ll start up a back-and-forth, iterating on those sketches, then we pick certain sketches and build a full art piece.

“At this stage, you’ll make a block-out to make sure everything lines up in game. Essentially, this is a grey, to-scale outline of the environment which testers run around in. It’s important to assess at scale, because some assets might look really great in concept but won’t work as a practical element in game. Now, you can slowly start putting in details and textures that bring the environment to life. Everything goes from biggest to smallest. Start working on the larger pieces of the environment first, such as terrain and towers, then you can fill in props and tertiary details. Finally, there are lighting passes, quality checks and constant iteration based on tester feedback.”

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