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What makes FF games look so good?


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#1 AntiSocialPanda   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 03:46 AM

Sorry if I posted this in the wrong area.

 

So my question is: What makes FF games so visually astounding?

 

Is it the game engine? Is there some secret animation technique that makes in-game graphics 1000% better?

I've been scouring the internet for so long and I havent found an answer.

Well... I guess what I really wanna know is: What factor determines a games graphic quality?

 

So for example -- hypothetically of course -- if I woke up one morning and decided to make a character or game with graphics like this:

 

 

How would I go about programming a game to look like that?

Please and Thank You.



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#2 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18738

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 03:56 AM

Firstly, high quality artwork.  The best engine in the world won't make bad artwork look fantastic, so you need a good model with good textures.

 

You can learn to create high quality artwork through practice, practice, practice!  Create many models, get feedback on what could be improved, and always try to do your best work.  Eventually your assets will be good quality.

 

 

Secondly, the rendering techniques used to display the model do have a very significant impact.  Proper lighting and the appropriate use of techniques like bump mapping can make a big difference to the final appearance of your art assets in game.

 

You can either learn to implement these techniques, or you can use an engine (or libraries) that already provide those features.

 

 

Obviously this is a very high level and non-detailed look at it, but hopefully that gives you the basic idea; I'm sure others can chime in and provide more details! smile.png



#3 Shane C   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1281

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 03:58 AM

Final Fantasy games don't skimp on art. They seem to have experienced artists to squeeze out every polygon, texture resolution, and lighting possible. Whereas with indies like us, we tend to focus on performance, framerate, and making our game run on a lot of different systems, at the cost of not making our game look like Crysis or Final Fantasy. We also don't have the staff.

#4 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 04:07 AM

I was going to write longer but JB covered a lot of that ground.

 

Anyway the point is there are people who simply have the eye for visuals. They can process and analyze what they see and how it affects their emotions to extent that is well beyond the normal people that might know what looks good and what bad but couldn't tell why or how to fix it. If you want to make a visually appealing game you will need to have these skills or hire someone who does and listen to him. :)

 

Square Enix has an entire army of artists designing their content, look and feel. They have another armies implementing and striving for that design through textures, shaders, models, animation, sound etc. What makes a game look good? Ridiculous amount of man hours from some of the most skillful people in the field not excluding artists and graphic designers.

 

It could be argued that with latest titles they have shifted their weight too much towards the look and have forgotten about the importance of gameplay. FFXIII was very linear and one-dimensional gameplay-wise with low replay value. The title "Final Fantasy" has lost some of its shine in my eyes because of this trend, but I'll give them another chance with the series eventually.



#5 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18738

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 06:09 AM


Anyway the point is there are people who simply have the eye for visuals. They can process and analyze what they see and how it affects their emotions to extent that is well beyond the normal people that might know what looks good and what bad but couldn't tell why or how to fix it.

It's worth noting that whilst some people do seem to have a natural aptitude for the visual arts -- or sometimes just a specific area such as 3d modelling, sprite art, or whatever -- almost anyone can learn these things as long as they're willing to put in the time and effort to do so.  It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at any specific task; you have to be willing to put in the effort, spend time learning, and to produce a lot of bad art along the way to making better quality work.

 

 

It's also worth noting that you can have a very attractive game with much simpler art. smile.png



#6 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 3079

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 06:44 PM

Hello. In that specific video, I think what looks so good is the use of state-of-the-art shaders.
Like JBAdams discussed, artwork is half the reason why something looks good, the other half being how you display it.
But still, if you have something that doesn't look good, applying realistic lighting and surface properties to it can make it look better.
 
Evidence of this fact can be seen below, where the same scene (meaning, the same artwork) is displayed with different shader techniques. So in these cases, it's not really the artwork that matters but rather how you interpret and process the information that the artwork is bringing to the scene.
 

radiositycompare.jpg    Manual_Part_XII_RR04.jpg

 

101194_4.jpg    GI_Photometric_Large.jpg

 

cryengine2gihd.jpg

 
This subject is the focus of the Graphics Programming and Theory forum here in GameDev, so it should be useful to you.
It's also worth considering that shaders are art assets themselves; They are separate from the engine.


Edited by Kryzon, 11 October 2013 - 06:48 PM.


#7 AntiSocialPanda   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 10:46 PM

Oh man, you guys have been Immensely helpful. Thank you. As I said, I've been scouring the web for weeks to no avail. Its nice to finally have an answer, and one that I can understand, a bit lol. Now it seems rather impossible for one person to actually make an accurate Final Fantasy-ish character.  Thanks again ^_^



#8 Shane C   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1281

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 08:34 AM

Oh man, you guys have been Immensely helpful. Thank you. As I said, I've been scouring the web for weeks to no avail. Its nice to finally have an answer, and one that I can understand, a bit lol. Now it seems rather impossible for one person to actually make an accurate Final Fantasy-ish character. Thanks again ^_^

You might be able to come close to Final Fantasy art with several good artists. Although I'm not sure whether you can match the scale of a modern Final Fantasy game. You probably can make a Final Fantasy character with only one person, but don't expect to make it quite as fast as your average art asset.

Still, the software side of making games is improving all the time. I was told that if software never improved, that the number of people needed to make a modern game would be so great, that games would not be a profitable medium. So some day, maybe we will be able to make games like this Final Fantasy game. Something to think about.

#9 AntiSocialPanda   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 05:59 PM

 

Oh man, you guys have been Immensely helpful. Thank you. As I said, I've been scouring the web for weeks to no avail. Its nice to finally have an answer, and one that I can understand, a bit lol. Now it seems rather impossible for one person to actually make an accurate Final Fantasy-ish character. Thanks again happy.png

You might be able to come close to Final Fantasy art with several good artists. Although I'm not sure whether you can match the scale of a modern Final Fantasy game. You probably can make a Final Fantasy character with only one person, but don't expect to make it quite as fast as your average art asset.

Still, the software side of making games is improving all the time. I was told that if software never improved, that the number of people needed to make a modern game would be so great, that games would not be a profitable medium. So some day, maybe we will be able to make games like this Final Fantasy game. Something to think about.

 

So if a single person were to attempt this how long do you think it would take? Making a FF quality character from scratch? Provided they have years upon years of experience.


Edited by AntiSocialPanda, 12 October 2013 - 06:00 PM.


#10 kburkhart84   Members   -  Reputation: 1661

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 08:52 PM

I think just a character, normalmaps, animation etc... could be done in a few days.  Of course, this assumes you have years of experience(which you said) and that you are working with software you already know well, and that you work full days, like 8 hours or more each day.  Also, this could be even longer if there are more animations than I'm guessing would be needed for this game.

 

But, this wouldn't include more textures, rather only just the one.

 

Lastly, remember that a single character like this is likely the least of your worries if you were to make a modern Final Fantasy game.  Any good RPG needs tons of environment variety, tons of different enemies, a good story, and most likely many nice videos to go with it.  This is on top of the engine programming, etc...  This is why a single person doesn't do this kind of project easily.  Even if you went with a simple 2d RPG, and even if you used RPGMaker to do it, if you make several hours of gameplay(and you care about quality) it will still likely take months for a single person, simply because even with simple sprited 2d art, there is simply too much of it to finish quickly.

 

EDIT***

 

I forgot to mention, I myself DO NOT have those years of experience, though I know my way around Blender and can handle making any model I need.  Someone else may know better than me just how long art assets like those take to make, but I don't think I'm that far off, though it depends on the software knowledge and experience of the individual.

 

I myself think if someone gave me concept art, I "might" be able to do such a model in a week, animations and all, working 8 hours a day.  I would have to give myself more time because I don't do all that much modeling, and don't have the practice other artists would.


Edited by kburkhart84, 12 October 2013 - 08:55 PM.




#11 Shane C   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1281

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 09:11 PM

So if a single person were to attempt this how long do you think it would take? Making a FF quality character from scratch? Provided they have years upon years of experience.


Probably 1-2 weeks. I agree with kburk though - if you make the character look great, you will probably also want to make the rest of the graphics look this good. And somewhere between all the levels and art assets needed, you realize the large amount of work that needs done. Then you have other things to worry about besides graphics, like making your game as complex as Final Fantasy. The character might take 1-2 weeks, but your entire game could take 3-5+ years :).

#12 AntiSocialPanda   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 10:59 PM

 

So if a single person were to attempt this how long do you think it would take? Making a FF quality character from scratch? Provided they have years upon years of experience.


Probably 1-2 weeks. I agree with kburk though - if you make the character look great, you will probably also want to make the rest of the graphics look this good. And somewhere between all the levels and art assets needed, you realize the large amount of work that needs done. Then you have other things to worry about besides graphics, like making your game as complex as Final Fantasy. The character might take 1-2 weeks, but your entire game could take 3-5+ years smile.png.

 

Seriously?! Thats it?! 2, even 3 weeks, even a month is incredibly south of how long I thought it would take. I start school next semester for comp sci so I'm taking baby steps to learn programming. Like a lot of people I really wanna make a game but like many more people I have no where near the skillset required. So I was hoping to hire a few skilled artist to help. I recently inherited a bit of money you see and I was hoping to put it towards this project. Thank you again Shane, you've been helpful beyond words ^_^



#13 kburkhart84   Members   -  Reputation: 1661

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 11:47 PM

Yeah, a week or 2, but just for that one character, and no environment to put him/her in yet.

 

How much money are you talking about?  A character like that will likely cost anywhere from $250 to $2000, but I can't give exact numbers because I don't really know, though that amount sounds pretty close to me.  And I'm estimating a price like this for just the one character, forget the rest of the art, etc...





#14 AntiSocialPanda   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 11:55 PM

Yeah, a week or 2, but just for that one character, and no environment to put him/her in yet.

 

How much money are you talking about?  A character like that will likely cost anywhere from $250 to $2000, but I can't give exact numbers because I don't really know, though that amount sounds pretty close to me.  And I'm estimating a price like this for just the one character, forget the rest of the art, etc...

Omg thats awesome!! I never realized it would be so cheap xD lol. I just looked it up and I saw prices around $250-$1000/SECOND!! Thats absurd. Who gets payed on a per second basis? I dont need a lot really. I just plan to have 2 playable characters vs 1 enemy in a room. I have a budget of about 100K.



#15 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 30432

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Posted 13 October 2013 - 12:29 AM

At a big company, I'd guess youd be paying a decent character artist around $38/hr. A month / 4 weeks for a character would be realistic, which is about $6k.
If you're hiring on a short-term basis, you'll generally have to pay higher rates than a full-time job would pay.

Look around for job advertisements to see what kind of salaries are being offered for game artists, then divide by work days per year and hours per day to get an hourly rate... Then add a decent percentage on to make up for full time benefits..

There's two ways you can hire contractors -- either paying an hourly wage and directing their work. Or, definin the final work you want to receive in detail, and then negotiating a total price that you'll pay for that result (regardless of time).


As for the topic, highly skilled artists is just half the solution. Final fantasy also has a lot of very skilled graphics programmers powering them.

#16 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 07:17 AM

 So if a single person were to attempt this how long do you think it would take? Making a FF quality character from scratch? Provided they have years upon years of experience.

 

First let's establish the models and environment seen in FF non-gameplay trailers/cutscenes (pre-rendered CGI) are almost entirely totally different models from what's being used in the actual game that is rendered real time. They are much higher polycount and texture resolution models involving complex modelling/animation such as facial rigging and baked physics simulation (cloth, hair, etc).

 

 

 

 I think just a character, normalmaps, animation etc... could be done in a few days.

 

Probably 1-2 weeks.

 

 

I personally find the hours mentioned here way off if we are talking AAA quality models and animations. I don't want to repeat myself over what kind of credit list Square Enix has for single character and I don't want to question the expertise of some other people that made the evaluations.

 

I don't work for Square Enix and I don't know what kind of schedule they have but the actual character design process probably lasts for months before anybody starts modeling anything.

 

In a large game project such as FF "making" a character model with animations is process that last through the game development process. New animations / tweaking are needed almost on daily basis as cutscenes and game features are developed and the models need to play perfectly together in so many instances.

 

Omg thats awesome!! I never realized it would be so cheap xD lol. I just looked it up and I saw prices around $250-$1000/SECOND!! Thats absurd. Who gets payed on a per second basis?

 

 

Without citing the source it's hard to tell if you have misinterpreted something, but it is common for animators to charge per animation length. These rates aren't so absurd if we consider mastering one second of animation can take tens of hours of work especially if we're talking about animating an entire scene instead of one character.

 

If you are considering investing big bucks to get results comparable to FF / AAA titles you should probably do careful background work so you don't place your funds ill online. My advice:

- Make accurate plans on exactly what you need to get accurate time estimates from everyone you need to hire. "FF quality character" needs much further specifications such as detailed concept art, info on polycount / possible LOD, texture maps, texture resolution, rigging description, list of needed animations with descriptions... I could further expand on the details of each of these so ask if there's something you're interested. I've often needed to discuss the needs of client when agreeing on a price of an asset I'm making.

 

- Don't overlook the importance of actually designing the characters, reserve time and money for graphic design as well

 

- Good asset creation results require good coordination, which requires expertise on overall game development If you don't have it hire someone who does

 

- Throw away all these evaluations on what quality takes how long because only thing that counts are the offers and portfolios you are able to get from the professionals


Edited by ShadowFlar3, 15 October 2013 - 07:20 AM.


#17 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6122

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 10:08 AM

Yeah, a week or 2, but just for that one character, and no environment to put him/her in yet.

 

How much money are you talking about?  A character like that will likely cost anywhere from $250 to $2000, but I can't give exact numbers because I don't really know, though that amount sounds pretty close to me.  And I'm estimating a price like this for just the one character, forget the rest of the art, etc...

 

i wouldn't expect to get 40-80 hours worth of work for $250 tbh, normal freelancer/outsourcing rates where i live sit at around $50-$300 / hour depending on their skill level and the size of the contract. (Small contracts tend to cost alot more per hour)

 

For larger projects you're best off hiring a full time artist or outsourcing it to a company in a low-cost country.


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#18 Shane C   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1281

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 02:47 PM

You can get freelance artists for $20/hour. Some pretty good ones too, because a lot of people need money to pay the bills. However, for a Final Fantasy character, you will probably need to find someone really good and works in the game industry and pay them like $40/hour. The number of hours is kind of up to them, I guess, but I estimate you will probably need 50 hours work, which equals $2000 at $40/hour. There might be ways of cutting corners, but quality might suffer.

Source: I have some experience with the whole freelancing thing. Just not to this magnitude, I can only make estimates at this point.

#19 kburkhart84   Members   -  Reputation: 1661

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 05:14 PM

I agree that I underballed the amount some, though there are bound to be some artists that are willing to work for that cheap.  The final quality may be quite questionable, but you may come upon a gem student working cheaply, mostly interested in a portfolio.  So $250 may happen, but yes, it is much more likely to be higher, like $2000 or more.  I still don't have a source though, as I don't work in the field.





#20 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 30432

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 05:58 PM

Omg thats awesome!! I never realized it would be so cheap xD lol. I just looked it up and I saw prices around $250-$1000/SECOND!! Thats absurd. Who gets payed on a per second basis?

 
Without citing the source it's hard to tell if you have misinterpreted something, but it is common for animators to charge per animation length. These rates aren't so absurd if we consider mastering one second of animation can take tens of hours of work especially if we're talking about animating an entire scene instead of one character.
That's a good point - I once worked on a 45 second in-game cutscene, and if you add up the wages for everyone who worked on it, it's about $100000 total, which is over $2k per second of cutscene.




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