You’re walking down the cement streets littered with stalls and their fruity umbrellas. There are boxes and cardboard everywhere against the fading paint and puddled sidewalks. An old Spanish-style building, dodgy ATM machines, and dilapidated buildings stand proud near a humongous church, which seems to be the center of the plaza. You can’t help but admire the hazardous power lines that obstruct your view of the blue sky as you gaze at the speeding LRT on the other side of the city.
A perfect and beautiful rendition of Manila, if I may say, and it is created by a Filipino digital artist.
Joshua Llorente broke the gaming community this week as he unveiled his newest passion project, an Overwatch-inspired Manila Map made from Unreal Engine 4. It’s a breathtaking tribute to the gritty and colorful streets of Manila, bursting with character and grime and culture.
If you haven’t yet, watch the walkthrough of the Manila map below or download the demo from shuallorente.com/store.
The Manila map speaks for itself, fusing the grimy Manila streets with the playful art style of the Overwatch world. There are iconic local brands that decorate the plaza (there are six brand cameos in the Manila map; see if you can spot them all!), amazing textures and layers on the buildings, dramatic lighting along narrow side streets, and a futuristic vibe that comes from the Overwatch touch.
Speed talks to master artist Joshua himself, to find out the inspiration behind the Manila map.
The birth of a gamer and an artist
“I’m really a big fan of Overwatch,” says Joshua. “I started playing it way back 2016 and it was the first PC game I bought online. And the moment I played it, I quickly fell in love with the unique art style of the game.”
But his love for Overwatch did not just stop at the countless hours of matchmaking and comp grinding. “Since I really love playing video games since I was a kid, especially city building and Sims games, I started learning and creating game maps out of curiosity,” shares Joshua. With a trusty PC and his passion for the game, Joshua taught himself how to use 3D apps like 3DS Max and Maya. Without formal 3D education, he would rely on free online resources and YouTube tutorials to study 3D modelling. One of his very first single model was a gun asset in 2016.
When he learned more about modelling techniques, he then started doing smaller environmental scenes.
Just a year into his exploration of 3D environments, Joshua released an expansive Cairo map that captures the mixture of Islamic and ancient Egyptian architecture with a modern twist. His map set Reddit on fire that it caught the attention of Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan, who said, “Amazing work! We’ll be in touch.”
“Being noticed by Jeff Kaplan I think is one of the highlights of my career as an artist and as a fan of Overwatch!” he gushes. “It helped me gain more confidence in myself and toward my work, and eventually it has given me more exposure in the field of 3D Environment Design. Also I’m able to get in touch with the senior environment artists of Overwatch, and I’m really glad and thankful that they liked my work.”
I mean, who wouldn’t, right? The Cairo map was the first of Joshua’s maps, which was followed shortly by a Busan map. In fact, his Busan map was released right before Overwatch released their official Busan map. Come on, he’s practically thinking on the same wavelengths as the Overwatch makers! Someone hire this guy already!
The making of the Manila map
When Joshua was working on the Cairo map, he was then completing his thesis for his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. Thanks to the PR that he received from the whole hullaballoo, he started getting freelance projects from all over the world. His clients were mostly from abroad, and his earnings from those gigs help him supporting himself and his family.
But as they say, burnout is real. And in fear of getting sick of doing what he loves to do, Joshua decided to take a break—and so, the Manila map was born.
“I’ve been recently busy with freelance work and it made me exhausted. I felt my creativity slowly fading, that’s why I decided to take a break and start doing personal projects again on my own. I decided to create Overwatch-inspired maps again since it feels more like playing a game to me. I don’t have to follow rules or design concepts; I just have to use my own imagination. I found that that helps me to further improve and grow as an artist—and I think that’s the best part of it,” says Joshua.
If only our burnout breaks are as productive as he!
He mainly used the Quiapo church and the surrounding Plaza Miranda as the inspiration for the Manila map since he felt it was an amalgamation of everything Pinoy. So for two months, whenever he had time on his hands, he would work on the Manila map from the ground up. Like the Cairo map, all the textures and models used in the map are made from scratch by him. It’s a labor of love for the city that cultivated his talent and raised him in its arms.
Filipino talent going global
More and more Filipinos are taking the spotlight recently for creating amazing games that we’d love to be able to play someday, proving that we Filipinos have what it takes to join the burgeoning global gaming industry.
On the subject of Filipino talent going global, Joshua says, “I know a lot of talented Filipino artists and developers, and I can say that their skills can produce world class games. I’ve been able to work on Secret 6 Game Studio in Ortigas as an intern and I’m really amazed with the artworks they produce. But I think we locals should support it first here in our own country, because we often prioritize and patronize other countries’ culture before our own. I just hope that the local game industry here can have more exposure and support,” says Joshua.
Amen to that, Joshua. Amen, indeed.
Just a couple of years into his craft, and he is already making great things. We’re setting our eyes on this young man, Joshua Llorente. Make us proud!