Outsource Art Direction

Outsourcing, the holy grail or waste of time, that is the question sometimes asked.  Outsourcing can be a great if not essential part of art production as long as you have the right expectations and create a thorough outsource pipeline.

Outsourcing will use a significant amount of internal resources if you are doing it right and want to get the required results, you cannot expect to throw a task over the outsource hedge and expect final polished results in.

Here is an example of how I approached outsourcing to help produce an ‘environment key’ for Duke Nukem Begins using UE3.  The first thing you have to do is get a detailed brief describing the asset, what it is, how it should look, concept art, what the technical requirements are for the final asset, I also like to provide extensive reference materials, file names, a blocked in mesh of the basic proportions and a style guide, all wrapped up into a nice package to handoff.

Here’s a gallery of the style guide I included in the outsource package.

Here is the basic brief that I also included in the package.


The Tower of Pisa has been picked up by the Octobrain Alien menace using telekinesis, or some such shenanigans, and deposited into the Sandbox on the Saudi/Yemen border.  The monument will have suffered mainly superficial damage as inflicted by a small earthquake, some large cracks, plaster fallen away, pillars cracked and broken.  The ‘chunk’ below the monument is obviously made from the ground below the monument and should be comprised of different levels of materials, dirt, rock, concrete, mud, and should be suitably rough as parts would drop off during transportation.  The ‘chunk’ should also have significant infrastructure in it, sewer pipes, manholes, tunnels, water and electricity pipes, all randomly damaged and sticking out at jaunty angles.

The reference files are as follows;

Pisa.psd, contains many layers of Pisa reference, which should cover everything needed to make the tower.

Earthquake.psd, contains reference images of earthquake damage ranging from the mild to extreme, we are visually near the mild end of the spectrum.  The images include building and ground damage.

Pipes.psd, contains reference images of various pipes, tunnels, utilities and ground cross sections that could be found in the ‘chunk’.

Sinkhole.psd, contains reference for the ground composition and forms that apply to the ‘chunk’.

TowerPisaBlock.max, is a very rough block model of the tower and chunk, I used it to generate the concept piece and to play with the scale and form.


System Units and Display Units set to cm, Centimeters.

Use ‘Real World’ measurements.

The Tower of Pisa is;

55.86m (5586cm) High

15.48m (1548cm) Diameter at Base

Asset Budget Guidelines;

20,000-30,000 Triangles.

5-10 Materials.

4096 source and 2048 runtime texture sizes.

Diffuse, Alpha, Specular, Normal, textures.

2 UV sets, 1 for textures and 1 for rendered light maps.

Max file name;


Static Mesh name;





Texture names;





Material names;




After sending the detailed outsource package the art comes back and you stick it in the game?  No it doesn’t, working with outsourcing companies requires substantial feedback to ensure the assets are clean and game ready.  Here’s a gallery showing some of the feedback I had to give them.

And just for fun here is the final result, this level was a test level to try to nail down the look and feel for one of the locations in Duke Nukem Begins.

An in game environment key used to establish the look and feel.