Journal Club: Leyendecker – Discussion

Today is the day we discuss the paper referenced in this blog post.  For the sake of convenience, I’ll link it directly:

  • Jason Mitchell, Moby Francke and Dhabih Eng, “Illustrative Rendering in Team Fortress 2,” International Symposium on Non-Photorealistic Animation and Rendering, 2007. Paper Movie Slides

I’ll lead off the discussion by telling why this paper made such a huge impression on me and why I wanted to share it.

I think this covers all the signatures of Half-Life.

All the signatures of Half-Life in one shot.

I wound up getting Team Fortress 2, about 3 weeks before it went free-to-play, when I picked up the Valve complete pack.  I’m one of these people who was incredibly late to the Valve party.  I had borrowed a friends copy of the original Half-Life to play on my troubled Gateway brand Pentium 90.  The loading time was so astronomical that I was barely able to play.  Since then, I had snagged a copy of Portal for free, 5 years after the fact. I finally decided to bite the bullet when Portal 2 hit.  My immediate favorite of the group was Team Fortress 2.

I loved everything about it: the fast paced gameplay, the distinct classes, achievement-based weapon unlocks, the economy, and the nostalgia for the original Quake mod.  Since Quake pushed my Pentium 90 to the limit as it didn’t have a graphics card, I wound up playing so many different mods for the original game – Threewave CTF, Future vs. Fantasy, Balance, Team Fortress (also MegaTF), and various Zeus/Reaper bots. As I was playing over a 33.6 Kbps modem when I could, anything played against real people resulted in my getting lag killed over and over and over.

tf2silo (1)But enough nostalgia.  The first thing that struck me about this article, is the sheer density of information presented in such a small package.  The distinct silhouettes and character design of each of the 9 player classes was such an elegant and simple method of rapidly imparting a variety of information to the viewer: Class, weapon loadout, and directionality within a few tenths of a second.  Secondly, the distinct color palette allows the near instant identification of map location, whether the enemy is friend or foe, and further reinforcement of weapon due to the gradient. This series of design decisions showed me that by making smart choices, you can impart a great deal of information to your players non-verbally, allowing them to make better decisions more quickly, creating a better game.

I never understood the different types of lighting and shading in games and how they effected the appearance of the images. By breaking down their equations into separate terms, this paper let me begin to understand things like rim and ambient lighting or what exactly albedo is. It also showed gives a pretty good “real-world” example of how Phong shading interpolates a jagged surface into a smooth one and also led to a faster implementation of the shader could yield better performance.  The most distinctive demonstration was the inclusion of Gooch shading which gives the renders their technical illustration style.

Example of Gooch shading

Example of Gooch shading

J.C. Leyendecker inspired that sort of technical illustrative style as well as the trends in the color palette and honestly I had never heard of him before Team Fortress 2.  Considering the number of traditionally American images he created. The Dagger of Amon Ra actually copied his art style 15 years before Team Fortress 2, it didn’t quite take off until 2007 and from watching Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight videos, I know Leyendecker inspired some of the art decisions behind their game prototype Black Lake.  Introducing me to his art, gave me the chance to appreciate art in a new way, helping me see how artists can inspire a unique aesthetic and how that sort of style can be produced through some clever work with a computer.

So that’s a sampling of what this article pulled out of my brain: Some nostalgia, communicating information to players, lighting and shaders, Leyendecker and computer art.  But that’s enough of my yakking, I’d love to hear what you all have to say.  Even if this article really didn’t strike a chord with you, you can always comment below and suggest a paper for next week.  When one’s selected I’ll update it below as well as in comments.

Next week’s paper is: Edmund McMillen’s Indie Game Design Do-s and Don’t-s: A Manifesto (

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Posted in Games
One comment on “Journal Club: Leyendecker – Discussion
  1. John says:

    I know I picked a more inaccessible article for the first one in the series. But I wanted to be honest with my audience and if I asked that question – this is the one article I’ve read that I would want everyone else to read.

    That being said, for the second week I’m putting forward Edmund McMillen’s Indie Game Design Do-s and Don’t-s: A Manifesto (

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