This work was an exploration of noir, particularly with the “ashcan” school of art. The process itself is an inversion of the typical game design process. Instead of starting out with elaborate concept art and then using that as inspiration for an in game environment, I began by piecing together a rough map, and then let that inspire a final piece in colored pencil and charcoal.
The environment itself pays homage to your typical circa 1930′s Chicago or New York. The buildings are rusty, rocky, and distant. The road is pinned on either side by rows of offices and scaffolding, completed in the distance by an ominous horizon of smog. The textures used are cracked concrete, decaying metal, chipped stone walls, brick, and ash (of course).
After getting the physical structures in place, I began constructing a scene. The use of human ragdolls, blood overlays, and abandoned vehicle props insinuates the cold aftermath of a violent incident. Two lone gunman finish off the last offender in a side-alley (left). The dying man appears to be saying his last words, begging for mercy, or perhaps giving crucial testimony to an ongoing investigation. In the other two pictures, several bodies lay slaughtered in the street, and two Ford Model As remain unmoving witnesses.
The above photos illustrate another grueling scene, this time with less blown-out color saturation. The added orange-red hue lends it that classic noir look.
I chose one final photograph, and from that I began sketching the ashcan version on newsprint. The sketch was overlaid with colored pencil and some charcoal for added contrast. The three versions can be viewed side by side (above). The two on the left were taken in game. The one on the right is the ashcan representation, taking liberties to add more detailed elements of a sprawling city. I removed the bodies and violence eventually, because I found it a bit too distracting from the atmosphere.
This project was created with Valve’s Hammer Editor on the Source Engine. The scenes were tweaked in game and photographed using Garry’s Mod. All the photographs were not edited in post – the colors of the game were shifted in real time using the Color Tool.