Game Development

Crafting an Authentic Washington D.C. for The Division 2

What does it take to craft an authentic Washington D.C.? In this article, Benedikt Podlesnigg, Art Director on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, talks about what went into recreating the city, how they carefully built on The Division’s legacy, and how one of their research trips led to a barbeque with Special Forces.

Christmas lights, car plates, and stickers on traffic-signs: when crafting authentic worlds in games, it’s important to have a good eye for the small details. One person who knows the importance of the fine details is Massive’s Benedikt Podlesnigg, who works as an Art Director on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

In his and his team’s quest to bring Washington D.C. to life in the sequel to The Division, they embarked on a number of research trips to the capital to not only see it with their own eyes, but also feel it.

“Going on these research trips gives you a really nice view of what it’s like ‘behind the scenes’ that is impossible to get otherwise,” Benedikt explains. “It’s one thing watching movies or looking at images – mostly they give you a nice view of the pretty facades, but if you see it from another angle, it can be completely different.”

One of the trips Benedikt and the team made was during Christmas time. In the The Division, Christmas decorations play a big part of both the setting and the narrative, and to build on the legacy of the first game, it was vital to recreate the remnants of Christmas in Washington D.C..

Christmas trees and car plates

“We were actually surprised to see so few decorations up! The Christmas tree at the National Mall and in the city center were of course huge, and there were some Christmas markets – but these are things you only see when you go there in person. One thing I realized after this visit is that it would have been so easy to go overboard with the Christmas decorations in the game. Instead, I let all these real life impressions carry over to my imagination, and I can then draw on what it really looks like and shape it into our own world of The Division 2,” says Benedikt.

Another neat detail that was added to the game as a result one of these trips involves car plates. As Benedikt and his team met with people who work in Washington D.C., they found that a majority of the people in the city commute by car from nearby states.

“When you play the game, you will notice that the plates on the cars originates from many different cities and states outside of Washington D.C., which is a direct result of us being there and seeing it with our own eyes. It’s a really nice feature that helps create the authenticity we are after.”

In case of emergency on THE 4th of July

But it wasn’t only the pure visual aspects of the city that played key parts in crafting Washington D.C.; Benedikt and his team also researched the city’s security measures in case of emergency. Not only did they meet with the capital’s emergency services to understand what they would do in a case of emergency, but they also visited D.C. during one of the most heavily guarded holidays in the U.S.

“Being in Washington during 4th of July gave us great insights to security in the city. The sheer size of the celebration leads to many closed off areas, and we thought it good to research these areas as they would probably also be closed off during an event such as the one in The Division,” explains Benedikt. “We also visited the Pentagon … but I can’t talk about that,” he adds laughing.

What Benedikt could tell us about the visit to the Pentagon was that at the end of the day, he and his team were invited to a cabin outside the city where some members of the Special Forces were hosting a barbeque.

“They were really nice and relaxed, and we had a great time with them. And that’s all I’ll say about that!”

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