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Game Developer Magazine's 15th Annual Front Line Awards 2012

January 18, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

Art

modo 601
Luxology
luxology.com/modo/

3D artists in game development often need to use several different software packages to create assets for a modern console game. A video game artist has to adapt to a pipeline of tools and applications that have different user interfaces, workflows, and file formats. As a result, today's game artists are asked to create next-generation art using last-generation tools that are more like a collection of separate ideas rather than a complementary ecosystem. With the release of modo 601, Luxology has created a compelling modeling and rendering tool that seamlessly incorporates easy-to-use character rigging, texturing, and shaders -- which is strangely unique among 3D software packages.

I first encountered modo while looking for ways to improve the quality and speed of character production on Golden Axe in 2007 -- I picked it up to edit the UVs on my character models more easily than I could with comparable applications at that time. I gradually found myself using modo more often for other tasks, such as modeling and texture rendering and cleanup, as many of the tools were the same ones I had used to edit UVs.

Fast-forward to spring 2012 with the rather timely launch of modo 601. With its implementation of Non-Photoreal Rendering (NPR) shaders and character rigging tools, I am able to realize the promise of creating an entire game character from beginning to end, starting from concept art, to real-time content, to a polished high-resolution model and renders that fully represent what I had imagined when I started on a character idea or design.

Typically, a game character requires two models: a real-time mesh, and a more detailed version of the same character that is used as a source for texture maps to be applied to the in-game model. The high-resolution model is often generated in external sculpting applications, and is mostly used only for texture or re-topology reference -- if someone needs a detailed model for a rendered FMV or printed promotional images, the artist will either make a new model or just make do by rendering in-game assets and touching them up in Photoshop. The end result looks different (sometimes dramatically so) from the actual in-game character.

For Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, our goal was to make the in-game assets faithfully represent the original signature style of the classic Sly Cooper characters, while at the same time updating their look for a modern console game. With modo, I was able to create both the in-game and high-res models within a single scene by using its sculpting tools to convert the low-res model to a highly detailed Sub-D model. Since I used modo for the high-res model, I could apply the same textures created for the in-game model, quickly add a skeleton, and then use the PoseTool to position the characters into various poses that show off their personality or provide compositional narrative.

The last step was to render using a combination of cel shaders, material presets, and textures to get a rendered, slightly stylized, painterly look that matches to the overall style of the game. Since I had been reusing the same high-res models used to create the in-game geometry, the rendered images accurately and consistently represent the game characters and their subtle style and form.

Thanks to modo 601's new shader and posing tools, we were able to rapidly provide high-quality images to Sony for their marketing efforts; indeed even our quick lighting and pose tests were sometimes mistaken as final art from time to time.

John Hayes is a senior character artist at Sanzaru Games.

Audio

Avid Pro Tools
Avid Technology
avid.com/US/products/family/pro-tools

When it comes to digital audio, Pro Tools is considered the standard digital audio workstation (DAW). While Pro Tools was a must-have in every major recording studio around the world by the mid-1990s, it took a little longer to find acceptance among game studios due to its high price tag. But these days just about every publisher I'm aware of uses Pro Tools, as well as just about every major game-centric audio studio.

The main edge Pro Tools has over just about every one of its competitors is reliability. When you are faced with linking Pro Tools to your game engine to process hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue in a complex chain of integration, you can't afford to lose data during a recording session or an export.

For example, I have used Pro Tools in conjunction with both commercial (Gallery Software) and proprietary voiceover software that will automatically trim voice recordings, perform a spectrum analysis, and based on scripting, correctly process and name VO takes. Many DAWs tend to stumble, crash, and hang the system from time to time. If your Pro Tools system is set up properly from the get-go, the chances of it crashing are almost zero -- and when you're recording expensive star voice talent, rock-solid performance is a must.

When it comes to dealing with recording a hundred orchestral players and foley sound sessions, where so many people are working that your hourly rate starts going through the roof, you need a DAW that doesn't let you down. Whether recording down the road or at Abbey Road most likely you'll find a Pro Tools system connected that the engineers "just don't have to worry about." Unless you are recording in the field with a Sound Devices or Nagra system, Pro Tools will be there.

In addition, Pro Tools has made an effort to be reachable to the PC user as well as the budget studio, so if you're looking for something in the same family as the huge studios, opt for Pro Tools Express or Pro Tools SE with an Mbox interface. When you decide your wallet and your needs require the top end, it's a simple matter to upgrade to Pro Tools|HD.

Another thing Pro Tools has going for it are its RTAS and AAX plug-ins, which are widely regarded as the highest quality in the business from amp simulation to compression. There are also a great deal of virtual instruments available.

I'm waiting for the day Pro Tools will directly connect with game hardware and software to create one pipeline from asset creation to integration. Hopefully, that day isn't too far away.

Alexander Brandon is the president of Funky Rustic, an audio outsourcing group, and vice president of the Game Audio Network Guild.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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I have been trying for a couple of years to get my Brother to switch to Blender for 3d art and animation. Unfortunately, I have no real experience with it and can't help him make the switch. He is comfortable with 3DSMax and claims the UI in Blender is too hard to use. I need someone to train him to use Blender so that we can make the official switch.

Asa Taylor
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After initially learning Max and then Maya, I've fallen in love with Blender thanks to the CGCookie training. Tons of free stuff.

Peter Huang
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I know what you mean. Coming from a 3dsmax background, the UI of blender can be a bit intimidating.

Ryan Creighton
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Blender's UI can be a "bit intimidating" like flapping your arms to to fly can be a "bit challenging".

Such Ch
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I can see his point about the UI in Blender, but it's like that for many other advanced tools too, no? Blender is a real winner though, with all that stuff from CGCookie and BlenderGuru, anyone with patience can become a pro. I love it.

Gregory Guertin-Jr
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Great article as always guys

Joe E
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Glad to see Unity recognized up there.
I remember falling instantly in love with it back in 2007 when I first found it by chance (the editor was still Mac only, so not very popular yet). Since then, I've never looked elsewhere. That was after years of dealing with clunky, buggy, slow and/or generally painful low cost solutions (3DGameStudio, Torque, C4, etc). Truly a breath of fresh air in that space, and combined with the trend in the business to seek lower-cost general purpose solutions (as opposed to cutting edge in-house engines), made up for explosive growth, and well deserved at that.
And obviously each version has gotten incrementally better and added more features, but the core foundations remain the same, which speaks to great software architecture from the get-go (as you guys have acknowledged with the nod to Joachim Ante in a previous article).


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