If on this occasion you were following California’s fire season last year, you probably remember those few wild days when San Francisco residents woke up to a haunting red, yellow sky full of ashes. The images were enough to make you think briefly that the San Francisco Bay Area had somehow been teleported to the surface of Mars.
While the rest of us were amazed, a Sledgehammer Games lighting artist pointed a camera at the sky, capturing this rare sight before it cleared.
Associate art director Sandy Lin-Chiang told the story at a recent Call of Duty: Vanguard press conference. “It was so daunting, but our senior lighter Cecil Powell decided he was just going to capture the sky,” he said.
The photos Powell took of the mustard red sky of San Francisco would eventually become the skybox for a campaign mission to Vanguard. “I looked at the result and said,‘ This is Stalingrad, ’” Lin-Chiang said. A Stalingrad bombed out, to be exact. I had some brief views of the digital sky of Stalingrad in a video presentation and I was definitely able to see the yellowish resemblance to the California Forest Fires 2020 which burned more than 4 million acres of land and killed 33 people.
It’s a great detail, if not sad, but do you really need to capture a blazing sky to make a compelling replica in a video game? Probably not, but Lin-Chiang said it's a standard practice for Sledgehammer. "We always capture our skies. We have this equipment to capture the panoramic view."
I’ve never thought much about creating skyboxes in video games, but it makes sense that most (if not all?) Start with a real picture of a sky somewhere. Now I wonder how many studios go outside and point a camera at the sky and how many only use existing images from other places.
At least I don't have any of these questions when it comes to the Vanguard campaign. When I get to this mission in Stalingrad, I think I'll stop for a minute to look at the sky and think, "Hey, this is California."
Speaking of the Vanguard campaign, I also saw a good chunk of the game from a first mission. See our preview for more information.