What’s your name and what do you do at Respawn? What is that role responsible for?
I’m Ryan Lastimosa, Lead 3D Artist. I specialize in weapons and hardsurface modeling. My department is internally named “The Modelshop” because we create specific assets such as Characters, Titans, Weapons, Vehicles, and Hero Props. My main responsibility is to make sure the Modelshop has the direction and resources to operate at 100% badassery. I’m also responsible for the arsenal in the Titanfall universe, where I team up with other super talented developers and define the look, feel, and mechanical systems of each weapon for both Titans and Pilots.
What are you going to talk about? What are your initial goals and challenges?
I’d like to share with you all the process of creating a weapon in the Titanfall universe. From concept to the final in-game asset, there are some wonderfully talented people bringing these weapons to life.
Let’s talk about my favorite weapon, the G2A5. I’ll go over the weapon’s initial inception as a concept, to modeling and texturing, and finally getting the weapon in the game. I can’t stress enough how much this weapon is my favorite, not because I can hold a 2.0 average k/d ratio, but because it’s an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
How do you start designing a weapon? What considerations do you have to think of? What kind of inspirations do you pull from?
When I was a young, snot nosed kid, my dad once told me, “You can’t trust everyone, but you can trust your M14.” The G2A4 was heavily influenced by the M14, specifically the Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR). The original concepts for the G2 were conceived from a very early draft of Respawn’s first title. At the time we didn’t know it was Titanfall, but what we did know was that we wanted a weapon that was very close to an M1 Garand. It would be a semi-automatic rifle that shot searing hot bolts that could ricochet wildly. Internally we called it the “AJP20” or the “Garand Generation”, which led us to name the weapon the “G2”. This weapon had a wooden stock, was beat up and used for years, and was held together by duct tape or rope. The G2 weapon platform (along with the R101) were initially concepted as a fully modular rifle system. The thought behind this was to use the same receiver and swap out barrel lengths and stocks to fit the roles of a sub-machine gun, carbine, battle rifle, DMR, and light machine gun. There was even a quick sketch made to use the working parts of the G2 as a machine pistol, which we called the “Joker Pistol”.
As the weapon evolved, the G2 fit a more practical role as a semi-auto battle rifle. It’s gameplay design was simplified into a hard hitting semi-auto rifle. The silhouette of the rifle never really changed since the weapon already had a very distinct and no nonsense design. Elements from the M14EBR and M21 made its way back into the fourth revision of the G2, which landed it with the name “G2A4”. J.Allen Enterprises (JAE) have an amazing drop in weapon system chassis that influenced the final G2A4’s look. What guided the look of the G2A4 is heavily influenced from the lore of the Titanfall Frontier. It’s a weapon that will survive interstellar space travel and land itself in the hands of a colonial farmer or would see some action with the Frontier Militia. It’s made from practical components that could easily be field stripped or routinely maintained to keep it in reliable working order. A colonist could easily print out a missing or damaged component or an armorer can customize it for a particular role, whether it be for hunting game or for protection of property and land against marauders.
Soon after we shipped Titanfall 1, we immediately started work on Titanfall 2. Since the hard work was done in designing the aesthetics and gameplay mechanics for the G2A4, we moved on to designing the G2A5.
What’s the balance between creating a weapon that is grounded but also fits into a sci-fi universe like Titanfall?
Part of what we do in the Weapons Department is we make sure the asset is practically grounded and its design doesn’t need much explanation. We often say “If it can exist in a DARPA video, it can work in Titanfall.” Modern weapons very rarely have any industry swaying breakthroughs because firearms rely solely on two things: materials and propellants. These two “rules” guide our thought process in developing guns. Materials can improve as fast as science can progress. Rifles are built, milled, and even printed using lightweight and stronger materials, but overall their working parts stay the same. Projectile based weapons rely on combustion for propellant. We’ve seen the evolution from black powder, cordite, and to smokeless powder. Ultimately propellant is caused by controlling an explosion and harnessing its raw power to force a metal slug into the air and into the skull of an unsuspecting Pilot. With these two rules in place, we can further elaborate on them creatively since Titanfall is a gritty sci-fi shooter with giant robots falling from space. Weapon materials can bear the weight and stress of an outer world firefight in high gravity and be as light as polyethylene. Propellants can be ignited with an electronic primer either directly or through a signal transmitted from the weapon to tell the ammunition to “go boom now”. We have the freedom to incorporate fire controlling CPUs that prevent weapon jams and malfunctions and ammo counter displays can read off ammo capacity and barrel temperature. It’s also important to incorporate ejecting shells from weapons because it just feels good to let a weapon rip at full auto and see the caps fly. Even when a weapon is energy based, we will try and figure out a legitimate and practical scientific explanation of why you shouldn’t point it at anything with its business end. All this is considered as we design weapons for the Titanfall universe, to keep things looking legit and recognizable.
For the G2A4’s concept, we played with different types of things to make this weapon noticeable as a battle rifle. First we’ll work on the silhouette of the weapon in Photoshop and make sure it is recognizable as a battle rifle. It doesn’t just stop at the silhouette as code, animation, audio, and FX play a major role in the overall “feel” of the weapon. A side profile of the weapon is sketched and we look at the the different iterations to see what works and what doesn’t. The profiles are then narrowed down and more detail is flushed out. Once we have a good idea of what those details are, we block out the 3D model in Maya. We’ll often get together with the Game Design and Animation leads to figure out behaviors and gameplay mechanics at this point. Over time details are added and the texture gets iterated in Photoshop based on our lighting and technical capabilities. After we wrap up the 3D model and texture, it gets sent off to our Animation and Rigging department.
The Modelshop works very closely with Animation and Rigging. Cheng Lor, our Senior Technical Animator, will rig our weapons and let us know if any geo is clipping or if a detail is in the right or wrong place for attachments or animations. Once the geo is rigged to our system of bones, the model is sent over to Mark Grigsby and Paul Messerly and their team of all star weapon animators. Animation will bring the gun to life with unique reloads and give weight and feel to the action of the weapon. Once the animation department breathes life into the weapon, they hand it off to our Visual Effects team led by Robert “Robot” Gaines. “FX” will add muzzle flashes, smoke, and shell ejects, basically everything cool needed to make the weapon feel like a gun that can do some major damage. Then the weapon is handed off to Erik Kraber (yes we named a big ass sniper rifle after him) and his stellar audio team. Audio will make the weapon sound like a high powered battle rifle, intent on obliterating grunts and enemy Pilots. They will also add reload sounds, chambering, holstering, and everything they need to add sonically to bring the weapon to life. From Audio, our Design department will tweak and fine tune the weapons damage, recoil, sway speed, Aim Down Sight (ADS) zoom, and multiple other factors to balance the weapon in-game. This is a very subtle and intricate process, for all weapons need to fit well in their role.
Since most of the work was done to the G2A4 in Titanfall 1 we wanted to bring it back in Titanfall 2 as the G2A5. The weapon was given an additional concept art pass and rebuilt to fit the needs of our new PBR (Physical Based Rendering) engine. Mostly the weapon was given furniture upgrades and its profile beefed up to make it look heavier and more aggressive. We also improved the ADS reticle “Iron Dot” sight, along with some gameplay settings improvements to better handle the chaotic world of Titanfall 2. Overall an asset such as the G2A5 will take anywhere between four to five weeks from concept to hand off to rigging.
The weapon will be tweaked and finely polished from the moment it gets into the game, through our alpha milestone, beta test, and then further iterated on until we go gold and make hard copies of the game. Everyone here at Respawn is obsessed with polish and delivering a finely tuned game. It’s absolute magic to see some of these assets come online as we have some world class game developers making sure fans get the best experience possible. In an FPS usually the weapon you’re using will be your own personal connection to the game. Through good times and bad, your reliable in-game digital weapon will always be there for you when you need it most. It’s like love, but weaponized, and in digital form. As much love as you have for your favorite weapons in Titanfall 2, just know that there was just as much love going into creating these weapons from talented developers, all so you can shoot your friends on some weird planet in the Outer Colonial Frontier.
– Lead 3D Artist, Ryan Lastimosa