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Bringing Psychonauts To Life

Harper Jay Harper

Psychonauts 2 offered a chance re-explore Double Fine's first (and maybe the strangest) world. Nearly twenty years later, technology had marched on far beyond anything used to make the original game. This presented a unique challenge and opportunity for the artists bringing that world into the modern day. While there's plenty of chances to play it weird and go off the beaten path, Psychonauts 2 also posed a question: how can you keep the look of a game from decades past? Figuring out how to keep Raz and other characters as close to what fans remembered meant some creative use of tools and plenty of special technique that capture the feel of the original.

Thankfully Lead Character Artist David Russel and Character Artist Zahra Amirabadi broke it down in their presentation at this year's Game Developer Conference: "Psychonauts 2: Bringing Classic Characters Into The Modern Era."

It's an extremely in-depth talk with a look back at the methods used in the original game (plenty of which were rough and tumble processes) and intense breakdown of how it was done for the sequel. I'm not gonna sit here and pretend I'm an animator which means I ain't gonna try to write a fancy summary of every dang thing. I'm not a doctor; I just play one on TV. Luckily, I don't need to give you the rundown because David's recollections of the original game's development are spot and Zahra doesn't simply talk about how Psychonauts 2 worked: she gives an entire live example using Adobe Substance 3D Painter.

In the video above, you can watch exactly how Psychonauts intern Lizzie was created from the initial concept art and material reference for her clothing all the way through Zahra's hands-on painting. Of course, there's some details that every animator can use (make sure you name all your dang layers so that folks know what the gosh you were doing!) and plenty of unique trick that were specifically used to keep ensure our new characters looked right at home next to fan favorites. If you want all the deets on how it was done, watch the presentation and sink into a world of old memories, tutorials, and some snappy Q&A!

Associated games

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