Behind the Scenes on Phoenix Point
Last week I (UV) took a trip to the studio in Sofia. Whilst there, I had the opportunity to walk around the entire studio and look at what each and every developer was working on. Below is a summary of my tour, along with descriptions of what everyone is working on.
This is by no means a complete list as everyone was very busy and I wasn’t always able to catch everyone sitting at their own desk. It does however highlight the size of the team and how all of the parts come together as a whole.
We start at the beginning - the entrance to the studio. In reality, the team has become so large over the last year that we have now split between two different floors. But this is where it all began. The main floor, where the Phoenix Point Backer Builds were created.
First stop on our tour of the art team room is Elena, one of our animators. She is currently working on the animations for the queen. The queen has a lot of legs, all animated independently. They have to be able to climb over any terrain and obstacles as she moves.
Fun fact: When you hear the queen scream in the Backer Build…. that’s Elena!
Next we have Victoria, another of our animators. Victoria is currently working on the animations for *REDACTED*. It’s a shame I can’t reveal right now what she’s working on. What I can say is; it is something that we haven’t shown yet, and it is really creepy.
Here, Mario, one of our technical artists, it working on the organisation of different weapon types within the game. Bave (one of our game designers who has worked with Julian for many years) and Julian himself join the discussion. Organisation of assets is very important for a project this size with so many different people working together. Good organisation means that everyone can always find the assets that they require, even if they were created by someone else.
Miron is one of the veteran programmers at Snapshot Games. He worked on Chaos Reborn. Currently assigned to provide programming support to the character team, he’s working on the code of human animation.
While the animators create all of the different animations that a character requires, it comes down to the programmers to make sure those different animations all trigger at the correct moments.
Another veteran of Snapshot Games, Stoiko. Also a programmer, Stoiko was part of the original team who worked on Chaos Reborn. He is currently fixing a bug with the Heavy’s jet jump which would allow him to get jump on top of the tower but not back down again. I’m happy to report the issues has now been resolved.
More broadly, Stoiko is working his way through fixing bugs.
Slavi is another of the original Snapshot Games team. He provided most of the concept art for Chaos Reborn and Phoenix Point. Above he can be seen working on concepts for the various alien structures (the equivalent of buildings) which will be found in Pandoravirus maps.
Before I started hovering over his shoulder, he was also working on *REDACTED* (see Victoria above).
As a 3D character artist, Georgi is responsible for many of the “organic” models that you see in Phoenix Point (the humans and the creatures), though he has also worked on other model assets too. Above, he is currently working on turning Slavi’s alien structure concepts into 3D models. These structures all have a very organic look and feel to them.
Another of our programmers assigned to supporting the character team. Filip is currently working on code that connects the correct character animations to the different character abilities.
Elena, another of our animators, works with Nikola on character animations. Programmers and animators have to work closely together to ensure that the huge number of different animations for every possible action all blend together seamlessly, and activate precisely when they need to.
Most of the maps in Phoenix Point are procedurally generated. This means that they are put together from pre-made building blocks (such as buildings and props) in different configurations to give a huge variety of different outcomes. These building blocks aren’t just put together randomly, but have to follow certain rules to ensure they’re placed logically (a door or window shouldn’t be placed right up against another wall for example).
Vesko, one of our level designers is currently working on these map generation routines. In the above photo, he’s working on a New Jericho Industrial sector.
Rosen, one of our texture artists and Kamen, our FX artist are working on a 3-way vertex paint shader. This shader allows different materials to be layered on a surface in a dynamic way. For example, with a concrete floor you could overlay a water and a moss material. The shader will allow the moss to only show on the higher parts and the puddles on the lower parts.
Andy is one of our new level designers and was featured in the last development update. He’s currently working on putting together building structures and working on their interior design.
Alex, another member of the level design team, is currently working on Pandoravirus base layouts. They will have a much more organic feel than other maps. As Phoenix Point tactical missions are played on a square grid, Alex is working to make these alien maps have more flowing and natural shapes while still working with the underlying grid.
We haven’t shown much of the alien structures yet - but you may be able to sneak a peek on his monitor.
Lars is our newest concept artist, and the only Viking in the studio. When he’s not burning under the Bulgarian sun, he can be found working on the concepts for building interiors. Above, he’s working on the interior of the New Jericho elite buildings. Lars also likes to take his work home, and you can regularly find him streaming on Twitch as he puts these concepts together.
Hristian is another new addition to the Snapshot Games family and is actually our data analyst. However, he’s also a more than capable level designer. He’s currently working on structures and building props.
Martin is a member of the environmental art team. He’s currently making building props. Above, you can see him working on a reactor-type structure for use with New Jericho power facilities. He’s even going so far as designing the inside of the reaction chamber. Many props can be exploded apart, and large structures also have their view cut away to make it easier for the player to see their squad inside and behind buildings. For this reason, the inside of props can be just as important as the outside.
Konstantina is one of our texture artists. Can you guess what she’s working on? That’s right! Every surface of every building, prop, weapon and character has to have a texture with the correct colours and patterns. They also must have the correct surface properties and reflect light in a certain way. Our texture artists create these for every item in the game.
Vanya is another member of the environment artist team. She’s currently working on the huge variety of different road sections that can be rotated, shuffled and slotted together to form the bases for each procedurally generated map.
Dante, our marketing artist is the only member of the marketing team located in Sofia. As he is in the studio, he has direct access to the game assets and various tools created by the developers. Dante creates all of the new 2D artwork composites and renders which we use for our Facebook posts. He also produces video content and is currently working on a new trailer.
Simeon is our sound designer and provides everything heard in the game, both sound effects and music. While the main soundtrack for Phoenix Point is to be provided by original X-Com composer, John Broomhall, all of the music in the Backer Builds and promotional materials have been composed by Simeon. He is also the voice of the Crabmen. The Crabmen also have their own unique language which Simeon created.
He is currently working on weapon sound effects.
Bave, one of our game designers, is currently working to collate all of the gameplay definitions into a single place. Definitions are essentially variable values which can be adjusted to effect gameplay. For example, how many health points a creature has, or how many tiles a unit can see for, or how much damage a specific projectile does. All of these are definitions, and by altering their value you can change the balance of gameplay, or the way a specific thing works. By having all of the variables listed in one place, it makes it much easier to keep track of them all and any changes that have been made.
Our lead QA tester is Bozhidar. All bug reports go to him. His job includes reading all of the bug reports, trying to recreate the bug and then assigning it to the appropriate developer or team to be resolved. Once the bug has hopefully been fixed, Bozhidar will then attempt to recreate the bug to confirm that it has been resolved.
One of our GUI designers, Orlin, is working on the user interface for the strategic “Geoscape” layer of Phoenix Point. Ned, one of our programmers is providing support to make the interface functional.
Our GUI (graphical user interface) artist, Yasen, is working on the overall look of the Geoscape. We had previously experimented with a much more photo-realistic looking globe, but soon realised that it became difficult to read once it was populated with the various UI elements and the Mist.
While we’re speaking about the Mist, this is what one of our programmers, Denis, is working on. He is writing the logic that determines how the Mist behaves on the tactical map. It can spread, seep through doorways and windows, slowly climb up and over obstacles and drop down to lower levels of the map. It can also block line of sight to hide units.
Here we have Anton, another member of the programming team. He is currently working on the inventory system. Originally implemented in Backer Build Two, the first version of the inventory system was quite basic. The newer version is easier to read and has more options for swapping equipment, including armor. It will also be usable to assign equipment to a squad before a mission.
As well as being coding support for the strategic layer interface, Ned is also making sure the Geoscape has controller support.
We round this tour up with a stop by the desk of Alex, another member of the programming team. Alex is currently working on the save-game code for the tactical layer. Now you will be able to save mid-mission should you need to leave your desk (or if you feel the need to save-scum). This is the man to thank.
When we return for the next update, we will be taking a look at some of these individual elements in more detail.