From the Vault: Lost Art of The Lost

by IG.Chris on September 15 2010

22 comments

After System Shock 2, Irrational Games began developing The Lost, a third-person action-horror game inspired by the depictions of Hell in Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. The game had a troubled production history and never made it to completion.

Mauricio Tejerina–one of Irrational’s earliest employees, and now an artist on BioShock Infinite–was an environmental artist on The Lost. He dug up his nearly decade-old portfolio of entirely hand-drawn level and character concepts to be scanned in and annotated.

As in Dante’s Inferno, the final level of The Lost’s Hell was a vast lake of ice, overseen by mythological giants. Mauricio sketched the level’s layout by hand.

“The whole thing was basically the Antarctic,” he says. “I still remember working on it and seeing it in the game. Everything was all white. The ‘Titanic’ part of the level had a huge ship frozen halfway under the water. The entire thing was encased in ice.”

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The giant guardians themselves were concepted by Gareth Hinds, one of Irrational’s artists at the time. “As soon as you would get close to the giants, they would come alive and try to grab you,” Mauricio recalls. “The dynamic was great–you were walking through this humongous ice cavern, and you’d see this massive thing eight times your size. The visual was impressive, but they got cut from the level. There were technical concerns.”

The 3D technology of 2001 wasn’t quite up to the task of bringing the design to life. “We were trying to do something amazing, which we always try to do here,” Mauricio says, “but we were pushing it too far for that time.”

This internal design email shines a light onto actual team interaction during the game’s development. The guidelines range from the incredibly specific (“Hole for door is 216 x 128″) to the open-ended (“Any other cool shit you can dream up”). Mauricio, whose work on cables and ducts for System Shock 2 earned him the reputation of “the pipe guy,” printed the email out and began preliminary studies right on the page. That included some basic measurement calculations.

“I used to have to do math,” he now muses.

Although his primary role was creating levels and terrain, Mauricio was also given the opportunity to work on some of the game’s enemy characters, including the cyborg-turret-guy “Doughboy.” The experience was a key moment in his Irrational career.

“When you go to art school, you’re drawing and painting all the time,” he explains. “When I came here, I was in a junior position, so I didn’t have complete freedom to just go invent stuff–there are people with so much more experience. The fact that I was able to go work on these characters was so exciting.

“It’s something every kid wants to do, if they’ve ever wanted to make video games. I get up every day, and my brain starts thinking about what I’m going to be working on.

“Well, not every day is like that,” he says.

This page of concepts for a money-related pickup serves as a visual explanation of the design and refinement process. Although two elements–the skull and gem motifs–persisted in all incarnations of the object, they became increasingly integrated as they were reduced down to their most iconic forms.

“You can see how I used to think,” Mauricio says. After a moment, he adds, “Maybe I still think the same way.”

Avatar Image Posted this September 15 2010 11:00 am, under From the Vault,
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  • Rye0077r | September 15, 2010 11:47 am

    Very cool!

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  • shodanfreeman | September 15, 2010 11:50 am

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    Now you’re just teasing us. What’s next? Gameplay videos of Deep Cover? :P

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  • vben | September 15, 2010 11:51 am

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    Very nice indeed. I’ve always wondered about this game. I’d love to see a proper video of it being played sometime.

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  • sidshuman | September 15, 2010 12:00 pm

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    Beautiful, Chris. Happy you delved deeper into The Lost — I was always particularly curious about details for this game. It was released in India, right? I’d love to get my hands on that…

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  • muskellounger | September 15, 2010 12:47 pm

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    Such a shame. Not too many good horror games these days. I love the vault!

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  • benporter | September 15, 2010 12:58 pm

    I bet this would have been much better than Dante’s Inferno. That game was a stinker.

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  • NomarDll769 | September 15, 2010 1:39 pm

    It’s amazing to see how game developers were limited by technology. Today, there are still limitations, but not nearly as many as there were back in the day.

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  • lucasrizoli | September 15, 2010 1:43 pm

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    I can imagine Chris biting his tongue when someone first brought up “The Divine Comedy”—and (EA Presents) “Dante’s Inferno”.

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  • mastigias | September 15, 2010 2:37 pm

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    Nice arts!
    Left 4 Dead, Dante’s Inferno –> they were your ideas originally?!
    Shit happens… :(

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  • tinyghosts666 | September 15, 2010 3:07 pm

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    love seeing prelim sketches and inter office memos! thanks for sharing this type of creative development with us!

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  • rybow73 | September 16, 2010 2:40 am

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    If I was able to, I’d definitely want to play it. It looks and sounds amazing!

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  • crowejohn20 | September 17, 2010 6:57 am

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    Ha Ha – Love the working out on the first drawing.

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  • pdarkness | September 17, 2010 8:44 pm

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    Always cool to see the colored pencil scratches and smudge marks that evolve into future iconic characters.

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  • September 21, 2010 11:03 am

    [...] RPG-elements into a Dante-esque world. Irrational have been rooting through their files generally, and released some of the concept art and design notes, which are fine to stare at/read. As picked out by Chris Remo, I especially like the contrast [...]

    See Original Post at [www.rockpapershotgun.com]

  • lungsoftheocean | September 23, 2010 12:08 pm

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    This is priceless. I’m really excited to see what else gets released from the vault!

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  • September 26, 2010 9:43 pm

    Irrational Games: All Your History – Bioshock 2, SWAT 4, Division 9, 2K Boston, 2K Australia S02E07…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)

    See Original Post at [www.tweesap.com]

  • carlosspcywenr | October 6, 2010 9:56 pm

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    This game looks pretty interesting. I wonder what the goal of the game was? Also, how similar is it to the Dante’s Inferno game that is out now? Did they have similar ideas?

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  • jendon | October 6, 2010 11:16 pm

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    Wow, those are awesome; I can only imagine getting surprised by one of those giants. If I had ever played that, the first time it would have happened to me I would have freaked the heck out. Sweet design, though! Also, the bottom-most skull on that last page looks wicked.

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  • Bill Lyons | October 13, 2010 9:28 am

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    Those are great! I love seeing the design process. Very inspiring!

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  • senyadraquille | April 17, 2011 3:57 am

    sounds epicly awsomeazable

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