"It was a very good rock."
- Scotty Brown, lead environmental artist on Mass Effect: Andromeda, speaking to Glixel about a rock that seemingly popped up in both Andromeda and Electronic Arts' 2015 game Star Wars Battlefront.
Five years after the release of Mass Effect 3, BioWare this month launched a new Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Much has been made of the game's narrative and characters, especially in its opening hours (to the point of inspiring a game animators' roundtable on the topic of how difficult it can be to believably animate characters), but the details of its development have remained hazy.
Last week, Glixel published a feature that seeks to dispel some of that haze by speaking to some of the game's dev team about how it was made. It's worth reading if you want a bit of interesting insight into BioWare's production process -- along with a funny aside about how seemingly identical rocks wound up in both Andromeda and Electronic Arts' 2015 game Star Wars Battlefront.
According to Glixel's reporting, BioWare dispatched folks to places like Hawaii, Utah, and Iceland to capture (via photogrammetric techniques) minute details of real-world environments that could be used to create authentic-feeling alien worlds.
"You think of a rock as just a rock," Andromeda senior environmental artist Scotty Brown told Glixel. "But there might be little tiny pebbles embedded within the cracks of the rock, or different kinds of grass of different colors. A lot of artists here have learned that those subtle details you don't think about are actually very important."
The folks at Battlefront developer EA DICE also used photogrammetry teams (pictured) in places like Iceland to capture real-world environments in order to better model alien planets -- some EA DICE devs talked about this at length at GDC 2016 -- so Glixel's report that some BioWare devs were alarmed to recognize one of their rocks in Battlefront seems totally plausible.
"It was a very good rock," Brown added.
For more details about Andromeda's development, as well as some interesting reflections on the public response to the ending of Mass Effect 3, check out the full Glixel feature.