PB Concept Bottom

March 29th, 2010 | Design and Illustration, Featured | Vincent | 6 Comments

I wanted to wait till the The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom had been out a while before dropping my own postmortem style “making of” post. There is a good (occasionally updated) blog post over at IGN about the full story of the making of the game that you should check out. I think my part in the story is coming up next. But for your enjoyment this post will be about the concept phase of the title’s production,and show some selected concept art to boot.

I will put another Post together about the making of title cards in the near future, where we will all be flying Rocket Ship cars. (If you have talked to me in person over the last year you have heard this next paragraph so feel free to jump ahead.)

Short Story: I began working on the game officially in October 2008.  As a precursor to this I had been doing illustrations to aid the game whenever I could.  A print design here; a T-shirt design there.   All the while bending the ear of Matt Korba and Paul Bellezza any chance I could( telling them my ideas for how to progress the game forward to the next level , visually speaking.)    After months of pestering and working for free, they got their deal with 2K worked out, and the stars aligned in my favor.   So in August ‘08 they asked me to come on board as their concept artist and illustrator ( a role which grew much larger than all three of us imagined at the time but that is for a later post).

I should also note that: All images contained are property of 2K Play and as such copyright 2002-2009 Take-Two interactive Software inc.

Step One:  PB gets a makeover.

The original game was built in flash and as such was heavy on vector art, with some 3d models sprinkled in.   Because of the new platform we transferred almost no art assets from the original to the new game.  We wanted to start fresh and make the game we always knew Winterbottom could be.  With this intent in mind our first task was redesigning the little pie thief.

We first started by  looking at the style differences between the way I drew him and the way he looked in game.  The Winterbottom character design was spectacular in theory; fat little body, big protruding  head and nose, gigantic hat, crazy mustache.  The design is versatile as long as those elements are represented ( this is true for characters like Mario, or Mickey Mouse… you can draw them in a variety of styles as long as the core design ques are there.)  Korba had hit on such a strong design early on, that our job was to improve it without loosing the charm.

PB Student Bottomhe used to have high heels and no ears, but volume, volume, volume!

When I came on the scene and started drawing him I didn’t stick to what the student model was, but what the design could be.   It honestly took me a while to get my own version of him down, but what I was essentially trying to do early on was refine his shapes and build him a stronger silhouette.

PB Illustrated Bottom – All the elements are still there but I illustrated them differently with more focus for how they read as shapes

The biggest difference between the then 2D and 3D versions were the way the noses were shaped. In my drawings it was more of a triangle slopping down, but the game’s version had it protruding out like a rectangular platform( which wasn’t just a design choice since you can use his head as a platform.)

To work out how to combine  both versions; I started trying to paint him based off my 2D designs.  This gave me a sense of how the flat 2D shapes could translate to volume. It also helped show me what worked and didn’t about the way I drew him versus the student model.

PB Scary Bottom – I tried giving him more texture and “realism” by adding shading and folds under the eyes and terrifying, terrifying cheek bones.

After much drawing I settled on a direction. I drew this ortho for the 3D artists, but we felt although it had more polish, it lost that character the original had.

After this Korba went in and edited the drawing in Photoshop to reintroduce the long blocky wedge head( which I went in and polished up again in the drawing below).  This helped me wrap my brain around his face which had been a struggle,   everything in me was trying to rain the length of it it in to make things unified.  But the charm of the original was the disproportionate nature of his body.  After this my drawing style changed to accommodate this face and we had a direction for the 3D artists to follow( this model I would even refine in the way i drew him, good by triangle nose).

The model would get refined beyond this image but the below image was a test in post processing the PB model in Photoshop ( Like we did with the environments, but that process is detailed in the future a few paragraphs away).

Step Two: Environments

From the get go we had the challenge of making the world look like it had depth and clarity using only black and white.  In a game this is difficult since color helps denote distance and interactive elements,  and we only wanted tinted colors used at key points.    So our gray-scale had to be really solid for the game interactive assets to shine.

Here are a few quick tone studies in how to show mood and distance using gray-scale.

One of the things we wanted to capture with the game was that look of a set built on a sound-stage (the way they used to make movies in the silent film era).  We wanted certain things to look solid, where as  others would be clearly flat paintings with painted depth and shading.   The best example of this is George Milles “Trip to the moon”

Flat backdrop painting, Foreground pieces with “3D” elements.

More madness

Another inspiration was “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. They would build sets but paint in extra shadows to increase the drama of the composition.

See right there to the right!

Crazy rooftops from Caligari.  The buildings force the composition, their forms twist and lean to it’s mighty whim.

We tried a number of things, but toyed mainly with combining 3D assets with 2D “painted” pieces in Photoshop.

In some early tests, I started painting a full flat background using animation vinyl on watercolor paper.   But the endeavor took too long and wasn’t editable enough for video game production.

This next series shows the evolution of how we would treat just about all of our game backgrounds.  The 3D artists had started putting together assets for buildings and the like, including the clock tower I designed( more on that later).   So we set up a scene in Maya and exported out the objects on three layers.   I then compiled these 3D chunks in Photoshop and painted in all the light, mist and shadowing.   The game runs in 2D, but by using 3D assets as our base for background assets we could make the visuals have greater depth and character.  By treating these assets as 2D post renderwe had more control over the shadows and lights we could paint in ( which is a trick we learned from German Expressionist films like “Dr. Caligri”).

In a nut shell this is the process used to make the game levels, however Matt Clausen the 3D Art Director on the game would go on to refine this process beyond my wildest expectations.

This next setting was epic, and it had to be as originally it was going to be the first meeting place for PBW and the Chronoberry pie. Originally that moment was supposed to take place in a dreary abandoned bakery.  The pie steam would lead you there and I had drawn out this sweet looking furnace.   Although the scene wasn’t ultimately used the spirit of it is there in the tutorial level.

More building assets – 3D models processed in Photoshop

The house of PB Winterbottom

Exterior of the abandon bakery which became the burning bakery.

An assortment of objects

Clocktower concepts.

We wanted the clock tower to be really unique as it would iconically be the most important building in the city, given the game’s time mechanic.   The main inspiration for it’s design were cuckoo clocks, since those things are so damn funny looking.

That’s all for now, I leave you  with a look inside the clock tower,


About The Author


I am an artist living in Los Angeles, California and currently working on Illustration, Graphic Design and Visual Development projects for The Odd Gentlemen and Midnight Oil Creative.

User Responses

6 Responses and Counting...

  • Sean


    r there boobs in this game y or n

  • N. That’s all you got Famous?

  • Your work on the art is really what made the game for me. (The puzzles were secondary.) Keep being awesome.

  • Vincé, thanks for sharing this! It’s great to see the process you went through, I think the game turned out really well and enjoyed it immensely. There were a few puzzles that made me cuss our ties, but I eventually figured out how to progress and regretted insulting your name. Seeing some of the speed runs posted to Youtube is insane. It must go beyond what you guys had anticipated.

    Great job, I’m looking forward to the next game!

  • Dude, where’d that avatar for me come from and why can’t I change it?

  • I had that trouble too! It comes from here apparently http://en.gravatar.com/ I had to change mine too. Thanks for the kind words buddy.