Creating The 3D Environment For Doctor Who: The Edge of Time

  1. How We Worked on BBC Studios’ Well Known IP — Doctor Who.
  2. Full Integration with the Brand’s Identity.
  3. Pre-Production and Pipeline set-up.
  4. Project Milestones.
  5. Involving an External Talent to an IP-related project.

How We Worked on BBC Studios’ Well Known IP — Doctor Who

When it comes to creating a video game based on a world-known franchise with a 56-year history, it’s clear that gamers’ expectations are high. The unique details of the story, the art style, the atmosphere, and other components, so important to the army of fans, need to be precisely preserved. In an era of hit video games wherein the creative energy of the teams, efforts, and budgets for projects are constantly rising, graphics are ever-improving and have become an increasingly important selling point.

Room 8 Studio art team was happy to participate in creating the fully-interactive Doctor Who VR game ‘The Edge Of Time,’ which was released in late 2019. In this article, we will reveal the details of the 3D environment art production process and some principles of working with global IPs. 

Published by PlayStack and developed by Maze Theory, Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time adventure game transports fans into a globally-beloved world of aliens, mystery, and wonder, letting them embark on a brand-new and fully-interactive adventure inspired by the show’s 55-year history and starring the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker.

Full Integration With the Brand’s Identity

Dealing with a known IP in game development is a potentially successful but complex idea. It’s more than just a reproduction of the movie’s content in a video game. It’s also a lot of research into the brand’s DNA and the unique phenomenon of a particular IP. 

Thanks to our partners in Maze Theory via BBC Studios, we got tons of photos and other art materials that we could use as references in the 3D environment design. It is also worth noting that our team had a certain level of independence in making creative decisions. A strict framework didn’t limit us, and the partner primarily relied on our industry and professional expertise. So it was quite a rare situation at work with known IPs and an excellent chance for the team to prove their creative skills. 

Being a popular franchise, Doctor Who has an army of devoted fans whose expectations are high. 3D environment assets we create had to not only fully comply with the specifications but have precisely the same function as in the real scenery and props for the TV show.

In addition to professional expertise, both sides are huge admirers of Doctor Who exceptional style and concept, which is a tremendous bonus in work.

Pre-Production and Pipeline Set-Up

The planning phase was another great thing about creating 3D environment art for the Doctor Who project. After we agreed and completed all legal and procedural steps with our partners, the art division could start and plan the composition of a dedicated art team. We scheduled the team to ramp up from several senior artists at the start to a team of more than 20 members with different skill-sets within a couple of months. We also meticulously set up our 3D environment creation pipeline to ensure a smooth and seamless delivery process.

It is worth mentioning that while working on this projeсt we implemented some changes into the process, which helped us be more concentrated on the creative part and exclude some routine. First, we added the principle of the conveyor, where each group of artists inside the dedicated team did a particular area of work—starting from the block out stage, we singled out recurring moments in the process.

Roman Grishaev
Lead 3D AAA Environment and Props Artist at Room 8 Studio

The team also improved an art pipeline by using an automated asset checker. So the internal reviews in 3D environment modeling became even more accurate when the lead artist expertly checked the final asset only after the automated check was completed. It saves time, eliminates possible risks, and helps with in-engine integration since an automatic script can check small but essential integration details that a person may miss.

In working on such large-scale projects, communication is crucial. The fine-tuned process of internal communication and feedback from the client is a huge thing. We are incredibly grateful to our partners at Maze Theory for regular meetings with live discussions and constructive feedback at each stage of a project.

Project Milestones

It’s an excellent opportunity for any external art team to create the 3D environment art for several game levels. We did environmental art for four out of five game levels in the Doctor Who project. Surely, large-scale projects always mean a high level of responsibility and technically challenging tasks. But adding IP to the process also means extra attention to information security. We want all partners to feel safe and secure in a situation when an external team is working with their intellectual property. For that, we signed a strict NDA with every artist working on the project and passed big publishers’ and developers’ security checks.

In this project, we defined such levels of the game as project milestones:

  • TARDIS. The fictional time machine called a TARDIS, as well as the entire 3D environment of the level, is practically the first thing a player sees. Here, the details of the particular TARDIS model and its realism with respect to what was shown in the series was very important. The creative decisions which were implemented here set the general atmosphere of the whole game and introduced the player to the world of Doctor Who.
  • STARSHIP. The 3D environment of the second level represents the internal environment of the spacecraft. The details and full compliance with the art style of the series are also important here. Given the fact that the game is based on the VR experience, it is also important to convey to the player the feeling that all parts of the objects in the game environment have exactly the same functionality as intended by the plot.
  • SKARO. PLANET OF THE DALEKS. Since this part doesn’t show much in the series, our creative mindset was needed. We thought up the architecture of objects and build 3D environment striving to create a really interesting atmosphere for the player while keeping with the source material the general mood and style of other levels.

Usually, IP-related games are promising projects that attract a lot of attention from the gamers and the external art teams who want to take part in the creation. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right partner to work on your IP to guarantee success. 

Based on our experience working on Doctor Who: The Edge of Time, the Room 8 Studio art team has worked in collaboration with dozens of popular franchises, including Control, The Walking Dead, Call of Duty, and others, and has formulated these basic principles of work: 

  • full integration with the brand’s DNA; 
  • highly secure processes for work with intellectual property;
  • big scaling opportunities plus possibility to cherry-pick specialists whose expertise fits the requirements of the project; 
  • art production pipeline that is based on the industry’s best practices;
  • strong internal QA (several levels of assessment, including automated);
  • diverse creative experience for outstanding decisions.

This article uncovered the details of creating a stylized 3D environment for the Doctor Who: The Edge of Time VR game and the principles that underlie Room 8 Studio’s work with global IPs. Creating a 3D environment is a significant component that affects the entire project’s success, especially when we speak about games based on famous IP. So, game publishers and developers should wisely choose when involving external artists in their projects. The right external team will skillfully execute the tasks and bring their industry expertise and ability to create the 3D models and props that 100% match the mood and style of the particular IP.

Drop us a line if you’d like to discuss how we can leverage our strong expertise in 3D environment art to create your next great title.

Have a project in mind? Let’s create the game of your dreams together!

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    Elena Natsvlishvili
    Head of production
    Vadim Krayevoy