Sunday, 23 September 2007

Day262 Gaming, Cinema, Heavenly Sword & more

Gaming, Cinema and a Heavenly Sword
I have been looking for a little while now at the grey between computer game creation and what we see in digital cinema. Indeed, it is an area I would love to explore in terms of realtime visualisation. The idea that cinematics and underlying characterisation and narrative could bring greater levels of immersion would be a nice thing to explore. I could see that peoples understanding of spaces and emotional engagement would also rise by bringing these CG cousins together.

In the current 3D World (Issue 96), the cover article "A Slice of Heaven" by Jon Jordan 1 explores ideas that fit this thinking in a look at Heavenly Sword. The PS3 has perhaps failed to realise its potential thus far, but it was titles, titles, titles that made the PS2 what it was. So as the big title start to arrive on the PS3 the road ahead for the console could be the same.
The article runs through several parts of the production process for the game and feeds us stats like the 10mil pound budget, the 90mins of cutscenes, Nariko's face sports 3,000 verts, her hair trumps that with 4,500 and more. The article gets right into the process of building an epic scale game like this from concept sketchwork to mocap and combat animations.

It is perhaps that this game blends cut-scene sequences with an overt narrative and character driven game that put is so squarely in the grey area between games and movies. More than that there is the software and process that continue to blur the lines. Armed with Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox, Turtle and such the pipeline reads much more movie-like than many games. When you bring in Weta, cinematography, composers and acting talent it is a long way from Frogger.

Heavenly Sword itself (which has a lovely website btw)2 is a combat centric game built upon a story we move through. I will be interested to see how it compares with the now legendary HL2 which set such a high bar for any game. IGN's review by Chris Roper 3 rates it a 7.0, so nowhere in that league. It does look stunning, if only I had a PS3, I could check for myself :-)

Here are some of the illustrations done for the mixed media game. The concept work by Alessandro Taini really sets the tone and style that Ninja Theory then set about realising. (His site has other work, I particularly like his Frost Flower concept work 4)

[images from the Heavenly Sword site2 of Taini's illustrations]

To get the full feel of what this game will be like we need some video - the official trailer sets the tone nicely and this narrated clip shows off plenty more:

[youtube narrated intro to Heavenly Sword]


As soon as I wrote this word I chuckled to myself. Bimbo-ing when strung together makes a funny word.
Anyhow I began work on her today with the sketchbook again, exploring more detailed logics for her glasses, mouth and nose. It pretty quickly highlights that there is no right solution and that we will have to start with something and see how that renders up and animates out.
I started to block out the dress and worked on her breast a little. I wasnt sure if we would end up animating her breast moving (either during her walk in or other animation) so I have kept the sphere pretty separate at this point rather than integrated into the body mesh. This will give a different animated feel, but in keeping with the character I hope.

[Bimbo bits sketch and WIP of the Bimbo character again]


Keith Lango Tutes
I read through each of Keith Lango's Tutorials today 5. I will set about doing our homework empowered with all the wisdom held within. I liked his edits (way back in 2002, then again in 2006) as they not only refine the material, but add some nice reflective commentary. It is interesting to see that film animation has schedules of around 4-9 seconds of animation a week. This highlights the long production times required.
I liked the emphasis on working through the animation in stages, making sure the pose and timing are right before moving on to further details. The changes to his tute to a logic of more keyframes was interesting and his checklist powerful. There are a bucket-load of tips for us budding animators in there and revised info as he develops his processes.

  1. Jon Jordan, “A Slice of Heaven,” 3D World, no. 96 (September 2007): 40-46.
  2. “Heavenly Sword: Home,” (accessed September 23, 2007).
  3. Chris Roper, “IGN: Heavenly Sword Review,” August 24, 2007, (accessed September 23, 2007).
  4. Alessandro Taini, “ Alessandro Taini | concept artist,” (accessed September 23, 2007).
  5. Keith Lango, “keith lango animation,” (accessed September 19, 2007).

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