Here are the ingredients to a successful GDC panel: visually entertaining slides, more than one trailer, halfway-decent public speaker, a game that's actually coming out in the near future. And Tim Schafer.
"The Brutal Art of Brutal Legend" nailed all five – or at least four if for some reason the game gets pushed back from its Fall 2009 release. It definitely says something about the panel that the crowd broke into applause more than four times. Tough that may be more due to the Heavy Metal album cover in their slide show that featured a penis-tongued demon.
The inspiration for the art in Brutal Legend comes from a mix of Heavy Metal album covers and Frank Frazetta's artwork. So what you get is a lot of color contrasting, strong silhouettes, tits and massive amounts of Metal-quality hair.
But beyond that, developer Double Fine had to actually work to mesh all the elements of inspiration into a real video game. This was sort of a challenge, as Brutal Legend takes place in a massive sandbox world. You've got separate factions of Metal that all need their own distinct art style — Goth, S&M, Devil Nuns, etc. — and a big world with changing weather patterns and a dynamic daytime-nighttime cycle.
More than half of what you see on screen in any game is sky, Double Fine Art Director Lee Petty pointed out. Yet very few companies actually treat the sky as the canvas it ought to be.
I won't bore you with technical speak (again, that is) — but I will say, specular comparisons never looked half as cool when done as before and after pictures of a leather jacket. And nothing I've seen on the weather channel quite adds up to the time-lapse video Art Director Lee Petty demoed during the panel: a tranquil orange evening sky turned into a swirling cyclone of purple with long streaks of lighting, then it became a clear blue daytime dotted with fluffy white clouds before melting into a pitch-black night lit up by a meteor shower.
Oh yeah, the sky is Metal.
The rest of what went on at the panel is a hodge-podge of technical jargon about specular lighting and height maps, plus a bunch of stuff Double Fine "isn't ready to talk about" (such as the "rad" multiplayer). But, my boss tells me he'll have more next week when an embargo expires, so stay tuned.