All the trailers we’ve seen for Ascendant Studios’ ‘first film’ since its announcement at The Game Awards 2022 They have left us impressed with their display of lights and colors in the middle of the action. The visual effects of Immortals of Aveum are one of the biggest draws to this game and we recently had the chance to speak with Joe Hall, its head of FX, about his work on this title and the comparisons it has had with call of duty.
But first of all we recommend you take a look at one of its trailers again so that you know what we are talking about.
The following interview was originally conducted in English and has been edited for clarity.
GamerFocus: First of all, we want to hear more about your experience in the gaming industry. What games has he worked on before becoming a special effects director for Immortals of Aveum?
Joe Hall: I have worked on quite a few. When I was at Sledgehammer Games I worked on call of duty. That’s where I met Bret.
That makes sense because there are many comparisons between Immortals of Aveum with the games call of duty. It is described as “CoD with magic instead of bullets and dragons instead of helicopters. Do you agree with that?
That was how it started, but it has grown ever since. There’s more to the game and its world that takes it away from that comparison and makes it Immortals of Aveum, on what we want to do with this new property. I think it already stands on its own as something new and fresh.
Obviously there is familiarity from his subject. call of duty it’s about being in the middle of the trenches and this one is about an eternal war that we want to get out of. There are definitely similarities, but I think the way the game is presented and its own gameplay have progressed from that. The same cannot be done when you are casting magic spells. History is doing something very different.
But those similarities seem to be more integrated into the game. As we understand the color of the Seals defines “the type of weapon” they are. For example, Red is for attacking at short ranges and Green is for magical bursts. In essence, the Reds are shotguns, the Greens are machine guns…
It comes from there. There are many more spells and you will know them from the beginning. To continue the comparison, let’s say that a campaEsports Extrasin call of duty It lasts 6 hours maximum, but our game is 25 hours. It has skill trees, you can upgrade spells and do a lot more. They will be surprised.
But was there any inspiration from real weapons when creating the spell effects in Immortals of Aveum?
Yes because we wanted to keep one foot in the real. But the truth is that we were not inspired by a shotgun. The references come more from popular culture, things that we liked and inspired. At the end of the day it was more important “what the spell is doing”.
It can definitely be compared to the shotgun because of its short range, but the talent tree allows it to be given more qualities. I can’t say much about what it does, but when you play it you’ll realize there’s a lot you can do thanks to the talent tree to play the way you want.
We have heard that there will be around 25 spells in Immortals of Aveum. That seems to be a lot for a game of this type. What do you do to make so many kinds of magic feel different from a special effects perspective?
That is what this job is about. Unreal Engine 5 gives us capabilities that we didn’t have in previous versions of the engine to “elevate” the different spells. First we base ourselves on what the ‘lore’ of magic is. For example, Red Magic is chaos magic. With it we use angular shapes and the idea that it brings destruction—not like a nuclear weapon, but like radiated energy—and we look for something like that for each spell, which one is stronger. But then we have to take into account the talent tree that allows him to modify his effects and we have to look again at what he’s doing.
What he said made us curious. Are there magical nukes in the game?
No! There is no! (laughs). But there are big moments and big explosions.
Now that you mention lore, I wanted to ask what makes this game different from all those other fantasy worlds in video games, movies and TV. A common criticism leveled at them is that they end up looking too similar to each other.
To begin, we bring color back to fantasy. There is a lot of “grey identity” in those worlds and in this one our players will see things in reds, blues and greens that they will associate with chaos, power and life. What makes it really different is the type of immersion. For example in call of duty we have some realism. Here we are looking for a balance between that kind of realism and fantasy that “immerses” players in their world.
In addition, it is a very fluid game in terms of combat. It’s different in many ways and that’s what makes it Immortals of Aveum.
In the trailers of the game you see a lot of effects and explosions. As you know, one of the hot topics in the gaming community is the performance of video games and so many light and particle effects can greatly affect that. Did you feel a lot of pressure to reduce these effects and try to maintain at least 60 fps?
This is a new ‘IP’ where we use new technologies – plus we have the whole spectrum of consoles and PC to think about and keep at 60 fps – and the jump from Unreal Engine 4 to 5 as the engine gives us new ways of achieving what that we wanted without affecting performance. Our #1 goal is to push the game to the max by achieving that speed while maintaining visual fidelity.
At the moment, special effects teams in the world of cinema are going through a difficult time. There is a lot of talk about absurd deadlines and bad pay, which is why there have even been attempts to unionize. We know that in the video game industry it is different. Special effects teams are often part of the studio and not separate companies. Have you been affected by that pressure for results anyway and how did you handle it?
I can’t speak for other studies, but I can speak for Ascendant e Immortals of Aveum. Our game-ready process always had the team in mind. We had a great time working on this project.
Finally, what’s one thing about the game that you’re proud of but isn’t necessarily something that gets promoted a lot? Something you want to highlight but isn’t necessarily mentioned on the back of the box.
The fight. Our main job was in combat. It was what drew me the most to the game and how it progressed the way we used it to engage players and immerse them in the story. I want everyone to play them, get to know their world, and see all that it has to offer.
Immortals of Aveum It will be released for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on Tuesday, August 22, 2023.