Quick Gameplay Thoughts: Feb 26
Item Choice Deep Dive.
Hey there, tacticians! The TFT team is excited to share with you what went on behind the scenes during the making of arenas for Fates: Festival of Beasts. From concept to execution, set 4.5 pushed the boundaries of what we can accomplish in TFT arenas. And of course, with that ambition came some unique challenges for environment artists, composers, and VFX artists alike. With the results, we hope to have opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for how you all experience a game of TFT. Keep on reading for the full story!
Let’s get into it! Here’s Gino to introduce you to the concepts for 4.5 arenas.
Going into set 4.5, we knew we wanted to celebrate the Lunar New Year with players. To do that, we had to make it a fun experience while remaining true to the traditions of the celebration. For a while we played with some traditional explorations of the theme, but we wouldn’t be TFT if we didn’t push it further. We took original arena concepts for a throne room and river village and dialed those up to 11. The throne room became a Chinese-inspired club (with our own adorable DJ), and the river village became a rooftop parade celebration, complete with hologram projections. The team was hyped about the idea; we knew this was the direction we wanted to go.
Our next challenge was to convey all of our grand ideas while still accommodating TFT’s gameplay needs. The club needed to feel like a club on both PC and mobile, and the same went for the rooftop parade. This meant that any visual elements needed to be visible and interactive on all platforms without getting in the way of anything important, like items.
We also had to be very thoughtful with our use of cultural art and symbols. Communication and collaboration became our strongest assets at this point. Shoutout to all of my “cultural consultants,” coworkers who were familiar with the Lunar New Year tradition, who gave very valuable feedback about what would resonate with all of youplayers. Thanks to multiple rounds of feedback and iteration, as well as the beautiful execution by our environment artists, VFX artists, SFX artists, and animators, we ended up with two great boards that I am excited to see released into the world!
I hope you enjoy what we’ve made for set 4.5, and with that I’ll hand things off to Jeremy on environment art!
Thanks, Gino! As usual, the environment artists were given beautiful art from the concept team to work with, and our first challenge was to bring those images to life in a 3D space. This included creating our first indoor arena, Club 2! With the previous success of our skyboxes and vistas, we were faced with the unique challenge of creating that same parallax in an indoor environment. We decided that by adding large windows to the Club, we could showcase a vast city in the distance, complete with a fireworks celebration. Beyond that, we added a sweet DJ Ox and concert stage and we were starting to really hit the vibe of Lunar New Year. For that iconic TFT twist of fun, we added little human touches like tables of food, disco balls, and confetti cannons.
For the Lunar City Arena, we wanted to create a futuristic facade on top of an ancient town. We also knew we needed water around the rooftop for floating boats that would emanate holograms. To achieve this, we worked with tech art to create a water shader and used a couple of simple textures to act as reflections.
As a final fun fact: this mid-set is also the first time we’ve introduced foreground elements to our arenas! In Club 2, we created a balcony overlooking the dance floor, and for Lunar City we created some futuristic pagoda-style buildings.
And now, I’ll pass it off to Isaac on VFX!
Thanks, Jeremy! For Fates we tried our hand at adding interactivity and reactivity into our arenas, like you’ve seen on the Kanmei, Akana, and Festival boards. But for this mid-set, we pushed that exploration even further. We wanted to include more clickable interactions with even bigger effects. We also wanted these interactive pieces to feel like more essential parts of the board. So, we pushed our tech in completely new ways. You can see this from DJ Ox in the club to the holograms in the city, which was one of the hardest challenges we took on. We had to create something that actually feels like a hologram—one that would celebrate with you ingame, at that. We worked closely with our concept artist to create the great flipbooks you see now. Using Mult textures (multiplying an alpha from one texture to another to the diffuse texture) and jittering around some additive versions of those flipbooks, we finally got the look we wanted.
Let’s hear it from Jason over on music!
Thanks, Isaac! When we set out to write music for the new arenas, we had to figure out how to incorporate new tracks into the music you already hear throughout a game of TFT. Our usual TFT music consists of six music tracks, four musical transitions, and a handful of unique melodies to create a sense of progression throughout early gameplay. Sound designer Alison Ho and I worked together to simplify the TFT music system to allow for arena-specific tracks.
The Club 2 music had to feel like TFT’s stylistic departure from the Lunar Revel theme that still felt true to Lunar Revel. When building out this song, I referenced some of the melodic content from our Lunar Revel 2019 campaign to make it feel more familiar to players who really enjoyed the thematic. To keep it recognizable, I used traditional Chinese instruments to cue listeners into the Lunar Revel styles, and then processed them to fit with a modern EDM aesthetic appropriate for a nightclub. It was important that this music felt connected to the carousel and other arenas players might encounter in TFT, so we wrote the music in A minor for more seamless transitions.
We also wanted to include something fun and special for long-time TFT players. We’ve had some awesome TFT campaigns in the past that used an electronic music style similar to the Club 2 theme, so we thought it would be fun to incorporate some of those elements into the gameplay music. We managed to get the “DUDUDUNGA” song stems so we could add the vocals into our win stingers on this arena.
Finally, here’s Alison with everything you need to know about SFX.
Thanks, Jason! Going into the SFX production for the Club 2 and Lunar City arenas, we were lucky to have a lot of concept art and mood boards to inform our work. After talking with the team’s Art Director, Marcus, we knew that we wanted these arenas to feel festive and celebratory like a traditional Lunar New Year celebration, but with a futuristic twist to capture the Lunar Revel thematic.
To achieve this, we used more traditional Chinese instrumentation (erhu, guzheng, metallic gongs) mixed with some newer elements (hologram digital effects, airhorns) as well as some crowd sound effects. In Club 2, this manifested mainly through the music, while Lunar City required a more ambiance-based approach:
Although the Club 2 arena is so heavily focused on music, the composer Jason and I still wanted the arena to feel like an experience if the player decided to turn the club music off. For example, if the player decides to mute the music in the client, there’s a very muffled ambient version of the music that plays to hint at the party that’s still going on.
We also created a stinger at the win or loss of a round, to let the music shine through for a moment whether the player had muted the music or not. This meant that whatever SFX played at the end of a round had to sound cohesive with whatever the player was hearing before. We played around with the key to make sure whatever off-set we created blended perfectly.
Like Jason, we just had to sneak a bit of the Dududunga vocals into the SFX for the arena! I played around with various processing, pitch, and reversing to “remix” the vocals. You can hear the remix when you win streak, as well as a sadder version when you lose a round.
DJ Ox was a particularly fun character to sound design for. DJ Ox jams along to the music and reacts to the player’s wins and losses, so I took some real bull and cow sounds and auto-tuned them for the character.
Finally, there was the Lunar City arena. As mentioned above, our goal was to add a futuristic feel to a traditional celebration. In addition to the hologram boats and holographic shop signs, we added some hover cars and traffic to sprinkle the environment with some futuristic tech.
The win and loss states, on the other hand, are focused more on the crowds and the live parade sounds. Pulling all these elements together, we wanted to bring the Lunar New Year celebrations to life during every battle.
And that’s the scoop on TFT arenas! Thanks for coming behind the scenes of Festival of Beasts and celebrating the Lunar New Year with us. We hope you enjoy playing set 4.5, and check out our Season Start video for more on the Festival of Beasts!