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  • 12/18/08 02:20 PM
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    Case Study: Resistance 2 Graphics Tools and Pipeline

    Visual Arts

    Myopic Rhino


    In 2006, Insomniac Games delivered an impressive release for Playstation 3 consoles. Resistance: Fall of Man successfully transported players to a grim apocalyptic environment. Set in Europe in 1951, players battled alien beasts known as Chimera in a survival effort. The first-person shooter garnered a number of awards and sold more than 2.7 million copies worldwide.

    Recently, Insomniac Games released a sequel named Resistance 2. The new version expands upon the previous version and allows players to roam the wastelands once again. This new version is set in the United States. Single player mode lets you play as Sergeant Nathan Hale, who is not only battling the aliens, but he is also infected with a virus that threatens to turn him into a Chimera.

    Along with the stand-alone single player mode, Resistance 2 also offers an 8-player online cooperative mode that lets a team of players work together to fight the aliens. There is also a 60-player online competitive multiplayer mode that you can access.

    First impressions of the game's graphics are outstanding. The artists at Insomniac have out-done themselves with a ghastly array of alien beasts created using Maya. Using normal maps and other cutting-edge techniques, the visuals help drive the story home. Equal to the visual imagery are the articulated motions of the various characters made possible by MotionBuilder.

    The Tools

    The Autodesk people put me in touch with the artist team at Insomniac and I was able to learn about how they used the Autodesk tools to create this incredible environment and its other-worldly inhabitants.

    I spoke in-depth with Samuel Sharit, senior character artist, at Insomniac Games about and how the Autodesk tools fit into their unique pipeline. Samuel was responsible for creating many of the creatures found in Resistance 2 including the 300 ft. tall Leviathan beasts.

    The Insomniac artistic team used Autodesk's Maya coupled with MotionBuilder to bring these creatures to life. Altogether the team has roughly 50 Maya seats which are spread out between the artistic and programming teams.

    The team also uses a proprietary game engine that was also used to create other hits such as the first Resistance game and the popular Ratchet and Clank games.

    When production of Resistance 2 started, the entire team was using Maya 8.5, but halfway through the production cycle, the team was upgraded to Maya 2008. I asked Samuel about the affect of upgrading software midway through production and he said the transition didn't cause any delays or issues. Of the new features in Maya 2008, Samuel remarked that the ability to preview using the Active Smooth mode was a huge time-saver.

    Resistance 2 is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. Developed by Insomniac Games. (C)2008 Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.

    The Pipeline

    Insomniac Games uses an original art pipeline for getting assets into the game. The big picture of the pipeline is that the artist moves models to a technical artist and then on to the animator.

    The artist team at Insomniac altered its pipeline flow for Resistance 2. The first step of the process was to rough and form the models. During this step, the modelers quickly created rough geometry with a rough rig. The goal of these roughs was to create something quick without any details. The roughs only needed to show the most basic shape of the character. These rough models were then handed over to the gameplay group who used the model to test out the game engine. The results were then used to create the game's AI.

    The roughs typically involved about a half a day of modeling time per character. Using these quick techniques, Samuel was able to complete most of the roughs used in the game in about a month.

    After a valid gameplay test, the working model dimensions were passed back to the artists who would start the final pass. Most final pass models would be complete with models and textures in about 3 weeks per character. Some creatures, such as the large Leviathan, took around 6 weeks. There were 6 character artists working simultaneously on the project.

    Because of the advanced next-generation consoles, the team didn't need to prepare a separate set of assets for creating the game cinematics. All cut scenes were created using game assets, but high and low-res models of each character were created in order to produce normal maps.

    All the modeling was completed using Maya, which worked extremely well with their pipeline. Samuel was actually a Max user, but found it more convenient to use Maya with their pipeline. It took him about 2 months to become comfortable with Maya.

    Textures and normal maps were created using ZBrush and Photoshop was used for final touch-up work and for any texture tweaking that was required.

    Resistance 2 is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. Developed by Insomniac Games. (C)2008 Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.

    The animation team used a mixture of motion capture and hand keying. The animator's used motion capture for most of the human action, but most of the facial animations are hand-keyed. The Hybrid and Grim alien's actions were also motion captured, but the Spinners and most of the bosses were hand-keyed. Insomniac used two different motion capture studios including Sony San Diego and the House of Moves. The team found that the experience at Sony San Diego was more personable.

    The animation team found that using MotionBuilder was a huge time-saver. "By switching to MotionBuilder, the technical artists were able to work with multiple rigs at once," said Samuel. This enabled technical artists to verify the model's motions in real-time instead of one at a time.

    Of all the characters, the humans posed some of the greatest challenges. In particular, the lip-synching took some time to get right. It was accomplished using a bone-based system along with some blend shapes.


    Overall, the game graphics speak for themselves. With skill and the right tools, the results are outstanding. The Insomniac artistic team has effectively integrated Maya and MotionBuilder into their production pipeline enabling them to quickly and efficiently produce the needed assets.

    Resistance 2 is out now and available for Playstation 3 consoles. You can learn more about Autodesk's suite of tools at www.autodesk.com and about Insomniac Games at www.insomniacgames.com.

    Kelly L. Murdock is the president of Tulip Multimedia, a design firm specializing in 3d graphics. He's written extensively on 3d graphics including books on 3ds max, Maya, LightWave and Poser.

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