Although my original love of animation was devoted to the 2D platform, exploring entertainment in my early teenage years lead to my discovery of the Bethesda games, and ignited my love for open-world 3D fantasy environments. Anyone with an eye for environmental design has likely heard of Noah Berry, the man behind the environments in several Elder Scrolls titles (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim) and Fallout 3 (80 Level, 2015). With Skyrim being one of my all-time favourite titles and one of the most beloved games of recent decades, it’s easy to see why his influence has been so prominent.
Despite the graphics beginning to show their age after more than five years since release, the sheer enormity of in-game environments, combined with realistic, believable climates and an open-world design has allowed Berry’s work on Skyrim to stand the test of time.
During the pre-production stage of game construction, artists like Berry take into account both the tone, degree of realism and gameplay events to ensure the mood of the environment correlates with that of the game. Real world references, screenshots, and early concept sketches are used during the beginning stages of world creation (80 Level, 2015).
Examples of Skyrim concept art. Retrieved from http://conceptartworld.com/news/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-concept-art-by-ray-lederer/ (By R. Lederer).
During landscaping, environmental artists begin by conceptualizing the larger lay of the land, constructing larger features like cliffs, valleys, passes and roads are implemented before specific details like vegetation and individual rocks (80 Level, 2015).
Skyrim. Property of Bethesda Studios. Retrieved from https://80.lv/articles/skyrim-designer-on-building-virtual-worlds/
His role in the Skyrim project encompasses large scale terrain / mountain prototyping and establishment, generating exterior world visual design, terrain layout planning and generation, atmosphere, weather and exterior lighting construction and refinement and documenting this process for landscaping workflow and reference (Berry, 2017). Berry uses a combination of both Photoshop and 3DS Max along with a collaborative creation and design team, and proprietary world editing and construction software.
Although I’m not necessarily majoring in 3D animation, artists like Berry sure make me wish I was. The sheer depth and scope of Skyrim’s in-game environment is enough to make any gamer with more than half a brain feel inspired, and for fellow artists, it’s borderline ridiculous. His scope of environments, from post-apocalyptic to epic fantasy, showcases both ingenuity and practical skill, and whilst his level of achievement is years away, it’s something to aspire to.
His blog, alongside his other works, can be found here http://noahberry.weebly.com/
80 Level (2015) Finding the Look of Open Game Environments. Retrieved from https://80.lv/articles/building-open-worlds-with-skyrim-envir-artist/
80 Level (2015) The Guide to Open World Environment Design. Retrieved from https://80.lv/articles/skyrim-designer-on-building-virtual-worlds/
Berry, N. (2017) Noah Berry (Weebly portfolio). Retrieved from http://noahberry.weebly.com/