The Thing II (2003)

In March 2003 Computer Artworks Ltd shipped "The Thing" for PS2, Xbox and PC, published by Vivendi-Universal. The game was received with critical acclaim and sold over 1.4 Million units.
I was promoted to Lead Artist for "The Thing II" having led the environment work on the first game. This was back in the days before Art Directors and as Art Lead I had full artistic control over the project and also a fair amount of say in the game design overall, particularly in areas or level design and creature behavior.
The second game was planed to continue from where the first ended just like the first game did with the film. The idea was to improve on the first game in several ways including non scripted infection (Dynamic infection) and NPC interaction. Graphically I wanted to add real time transformation to replace the crude "burstouts" from the first title and also improved environment scale with the help of a portal system and asynchronous streaming from disk.
I also wanted to revise the art style of the creatures, going back to the film by giving the creatures more unique features rather than being non-descript lumps of animated meat.

Thing 2 Defining image

Working on such a high profile title had its benefits. The project budget was healthy and we had some fine talent on the team.

I was lucky enough to be able to hire two of the finest concept artists i have ever worked with. Jim Murray formerly of 2000AD and
Paul Catling who since went on to work in movies on Tomb Raider and Harry Potter as a concept artist.
We set about re-vamping the art style from the first game trying to give it a more graphic novel look that would really help to convey the action and drama in the title.

To make a comparison. If "The Thing 1" was Scott's "Alien" then "Thing 2" was Cameron's "Aliens". The action would be taken to another level. With the game being more of an action horror title than survival horror. With the added tension of truly interactive NPCs that had a unique opinion of you (the player) and the other NPCs based on your/their actions.

As Lead Artist i created a number of test models, rigs, animations during pre-production to show our code team and publisher what my vision was for the game. This pre-production planning then went on to become a vertical slice demo that was completed in March 2003. The project was going seemingly well although we were massively under resourced.

The game that never was.......

At the same time that we started the project, an overly ambitious Computer Artworks underwent massive expansion.
We grew from a 1 team studio of 30+ to a 5 team, multi studio company of over 120 in just a year. Feeding the machine that the company had become brought massive resource issues for the teams.
It also put massive stresses on the companies finances and we frequently endured pay delays and headcount freezes in the final months.

FInally in October 2004 it was announced very suddenly that the company was insolvent and would go into liquidation. We had completed exactly a year of development on the game and had invested a huge amount of personal time and effort.

Image left: This fantastic image that i commissioned was created by Jim Murray. We needed something to represent dynamic infection and NPC to NPC trust/fear mechanics, something to inspire the execs at Vivendi.

I think Jim pretty much summed up these mechanics as best you can in an image.

Art Style

The art style for "Thing 2" was going to build on the foundations we laid with the first title but this time with a stronger graphic look and that would need to be maintained with a solid style guide. The information below is taken from the style guide I created in the early stages of the project.
Unfortunately due to the sudden closure of the studio, I wasn't able to back up the vertical slice demo or get any video or screen shots.

In order to get a more gritty and yet graphic style, I banned the use of photo textures. We had used then in the odd area on the first game and they never really settled in. All textures needed to be painted by hand with reference taken from the concept artwork. Photos could be used as reference and/or painted over but not untouched in the game.

The big difference between the first game and the second was the creature designs. In the first game they were really animated lumps of meat which I felt wasn't true to the original film which really showed each infected character very differently. The guy who's head sprouted legs and ran away, the guy who's body split in two and became a giant mouth ....I think most people can remember at least one design from the film and we wanted to create that uniqueness to the designs for the game.


Scuttlers were the cannon fodder in the game. They did not morph from NPCs and were spawned from corpses, vents, dark corners etc
Easily dispatched and were not a source of infection and so you didn't need fire to kill them off completely.

Rogue scuttler: This beast has similar attributes to an athletic scuttler found in The Thing 1. It is quick paced and can leap up to 5 meters at a time from a running start. What sets this creature apart from its predecessor is its ability to scale walls and ceilings. The rogue scuttler can either climb up a wall or leap to it from the ground. From this vantage point it can run along the wall, climb up it and switch to the ceiling or perform an ambitious leap to get to the ceiling. It can attack from all three vantage points by leaping at its opponent using its sharp frontal spikes as penetrative weapons.

Torso Scuttler:
This creature takes the form of the top half of a dead human. It drags itself across the floor in a handicapped fashion leaving a trail of shiny slime behind it as its torn hips expel gasses and stomach lining.
Its battered head hangs off the neck in a failed struggle to hold itself together to see where it’s going. The torso-drag is the slowest moving enemy and at first sight appears too weak and disabled to do any sort of damage to anyone. If the victim gets too close to this opponent it will come to life and raise its head quickly showering its target with acidic vomit.

Dog Scuttler: When an infected dog bursts out it sheds skin and fur from its face and body to reveal a set of sharp ribs protruding from its back.
The dog attacks in a similar fashion to its host, biting its victims if they get too close, rushing its target and leaping at their arms, legs and chest.
To attack the beast flips around to face 180 degrees from its intended target, arches it’s back and releases a flak of sharp ribs. When each rib hits a dead zone, whether it be concrete or skin it penetrates with incredible force.

DragJaw: This scuttler will often be found gnawing on a corpse and when startled will become a nasty adversary. Scuttlers work in packs and will often try to distract the player while others from the pack approach from the sides. These vicious creatures are ravenous, yet strategic and fearless.
Its head bursts out into a large jaw shape lined with sharp teeth. It attacks from the ground, biting at the legs of its victim or leaps at their head and upper body to clamp its jaws into them.
This monster will drag screaming NPCs away into some dark corner where they are devoured.


Burstouts are the result of an infected NPC who would transform realtime once infected into one of the creatures below. Which creature they became would be scripted but the time and location would be largely up to chance.
The NPC characters all had duplicate body models that housed the extra geometry and bones of the creature they would become. The creatures geometry was scaled down inside the NPC body and then animated out during the transformation animation.

Clinger Beast: Once the upper body of its host has split open. The clinger beast uses its sticky tentacles as a grappling device, this creature shoots to the ceiling after bursting out leaving its lower body behind in a heap of blood and guts on the floor beneath it.
The primary attack requires its victim to join the beast on the ceiling. The range of the creature is any target directly below them within a 4 meter radius and victims can be sucked in using either its outstretched limbs or the lengths of intestines that hang from its ripped torso.
Once the victim is caught they are lifted off the ground and dragged towards the sharp teeth built into the tear in the upper body of the beast.

Bio beast: A decaying distortion of its original host. It is formed from bacteria and other hybrids within the human body and can attack in a variety of different ways.
Its primary attack is a projectile vomit as it expels toxic liquid from its main orifice. If contact is made with the face it will blind and cause damage to its victim.
After reaching its second stage of evolution the bio beast gains new attack methods. When performing a projectile vomit the highly potent slime causes involuntary vomiting within a given radius of its target as well as damaging and blinding anyone it hits.

The human beast: resembles its human form with a few abnormalities and distortions. It has a slightly contorted face, sunken eyes and a dislocated jaw. It is only distinguishable when facing the player and could visually pass for a member of your team when his back is to you..
The true power of the human beast is its ability to continue to function like a human being. It can operate machinery and use all human weaponry it finds whilst still retaining the enhancements of a thing beast. It has tough armour, moves at 150% the speed of a human and has the accuracy of a human soldier.
The Human beast will learn the ability to become a mobile spawner, capable of shooting out rogue scuttlers. When it performs this spawning action the human beast places its hands on the edges of its rib cage and pulls them apart to release a scuttler.

Sonic beast: is an extremely tough opponent. When exploding to life from its human host it tears through the upper back creating a new upper body and mouth. The hosts legs and arms become the four legs. The hosts head is left screaming and spraying deadly acid.
When encountered, this creature bends forward slightly and expels a deafening scream, sending shock waves out from the center of its radius. This will be represented visually and audibly. Leaving the player and his NPCs deaf with only the sound of their own breathing and heart beat.
With everyone paralysed, the beast is free to move in on its victims using a combination of devastating melee attacks.


Video: Burst out example that i created in the early stages of the project. Notice how
the model transition is masked by the violent motion of the character slamming to his knees....did you notice a texture swap?

Video: Clinger beast animation sample created around a year later.
The model quality is much higher and features masked specular maps which
at the time were pretty rare on PS2.


These creatures are usually end of level bosses and are the biggest creature you would encounter in the game. They are large and powerful and can take up an entire room or even be part of the room integrated into the architecture and have multiple stages being able to expand and/or take on new behaviors.
They can have tortured humans imbedded in them, slashing with tentacles, biting, picking the game characters up and ripping them to bits, projectile weapons and fluids.
However they are not very mobile and most of the time confined to the room that you encounter them in.



The locations in "Thing 2" were admittedly far fetched. As the first game was set in the ant-arctic we didn't have that much to play with and so we invented an arctic oil drilling town that was illegally extracting oil. This meant that we could have a whole host of unsavory characters and conspiracies without having to get too unbelievable.


The service tunnels are left over from the construction of the Enco refinery and gas pipeline. They would once have been bustling with engineers working shifts and living in the bunk rooms that stem off the main tunnel.
As the player enters the service tunnel they will notice immediately that the structure has been badly damaged. The lower walkway is partly inaccessible and the best route to take is the raised catwalk.
The tunnels will eventually lead the player to the refinery town. The tunnels also serve as a good environment in which to teach basic player controls and combat.


The settlement is a very isolated place mostly constructed of makeshift porta- cabins. Sharp rocks and ice from the coastline jet out into the huge expanse of the Arctic Ocean. The refinery can just make out in the distance.
Man-made jetties that stretch out into the steel grey sea complete with oil and gas derricks that are pumping great plumes of fire and smoke into the air.
The Town is rundown. It is designed purely to be functional with no though paid to architecture or aesthetics.
The town is inhabited and as a result there will be a lot of mechanical movement from the refinery as well and smoke and light emitting from the cabins.


Freezing water gently washes against the icy edge of the refinery as steam pours from the vents and pipes. The team work their way through the exterior of the facility, looking for remnants of activity.
Shooting the pipes cause burning steam to flow from the pierced points in the structures, slowing the attack of the beasts. After some time the beasts make a strategic decision to abandon their attack and they retreat into the distance. The refinery is comprised of several levels plus the exterior
space. The oil rig workers have been either infected or slaughtered. This level would feature key shock and gore sites.


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