Battleborn is full of unique visuals. One of the first things you might notice when you begin to play are the inspired visual effects (vfx). In an effort to learn more about the vfx in Battleborn and how they were created, we asked Visual Effects Artist Ash Lyons to fill us in on the process.
With regards to the creation of visual effects in Battleborn, early in development Michel Gagne created a concept painting which helped define the overall look of each faction; the Jennerit visual effects included geometric shapes and involved shades of red, the Varelsi visual effects were dark, purple-ish and goopy, the LLC typically used shades of blue and gold, etc. However, each artist was still able to bring their own techniques and add their own to each character. There was a total of seven visual effects artists working on Battleborn, so it was important to keep things looking as cohesive as possible. Building off of each other, sharing and swapping ideas, along with the weekly critiques, helped grow the aesthetic of Battleborn’s visual effects during the development cycle.
In the case of developing visual effects for the characters, each artist approached their characters differently. We would go back and forth with Michel on ideas we had for flipbook animations usually varying around 3 animations per skill and a handful for the basic attacks. Characters would go through multiple iterations before finally landing in a game ready state. For Ambra, her Sunspot went through about four iterations before landing on what is in the game now. Originally it was about character sized and sitting on the ground, but that showed issues during gameplay as it took up way too much play space. When Kleese was in the development phase, all of his skills were particle based before the decision to add the geometry was introduced. I believe that adding the visual effects mechanics to Kleese’s skills altered the idea of Kleese more as an inventor/tinkerer and less of a player who controlled science type magic.
During the development for Pendles, it was decided that his vfx animations should include smoke and snakes. Some of my favorite animations were created for use in Pendles smoke bomb visual effects and they’re all present in each of his augments. Also, a little bit of extra information on Pendles, the eyes in his kamas were initially intended to only show during his ultimate attack. Early in development it was suggested that they be left in permanently because they “looked cool.” They also blink if you wait long enough and turn red during his “Furry of Blows” mutation. Why are there magic eyes in a weapon made out of a bird skull? Because why not, they look cool! Plus they blink. And the left eye is dead, just like on Pendles.
With each character, we wanted their visual effects to be characters themselves, to be an extension of their owner’s personality. Each Battleborn is unique, therefore their accompanying vfx must also be unique. An explosion from Oscar Mike is going to look, sound, and feel different from an explosion from Benedict or Whiskey Foxtrot. You’re not going to see Orendi’s Shadowfire Pillar coming from anyone but Orendi. Both Galilea and Rath carry swords, but the vfx attached to their swipes are wildly different. In the chaos of battle, if you see a blue orb flying at you, you will know that ISIC is aiming for your head. We even went so far as to make each impact effect unique per character. When we were creating visual effects for Kleese, one of the things we wanted was a technical look merged with organic elements, as if Kleese was attempting to use Varelsi tech in his experiments. Even with those Varelsi elements blended into Kleese’s vfx, the two still stand different in comparison. Michel did a great job of animating the little touches that gave character and life to all the visual effects animations and the rest of the team added the rest of the nuances to make things feel exceptional.
Interested in reading more and seeing a list of some of the vfx you may have missed in Battleborn? Check out MentalMars’ companion post on his website in which Ash shares a list of some specific vfx to keep an eye out for!