The Beatles: Rock Band -- A New Revolution in Gaming
BD: How did you accomplish the appropriate likenesses and movement?
RL: We had a lot of issues with getting these guys to emote in the way that they did in life in the band. And that was a big deal to us. Everyone knows what these guys look like. I think that a lot of what they've done has a lot of immortality to it. These songs and these images and videos that people have come to love are going to last forever, and we didn't want people to think that this would be a piece of media that would be fleeting; we wanted to participate in the continuing evolution of The Beatles imagery. We wanted to make our own impression as well and add to this really amazing and diverse catalog of theirs, so we actually spread out over a couple of different art styles. There's the Cinematic, which has one art style that’s' related to the game but is not exactly the game style, and then we have the gameplay stuff, so we had to think through this multiple times. And we didn't take anything from existing media; we either invented it ourselves or revved it and put it through our filter.
BD: What pipeline did you use?
RL: ZBrush for doing rough 3D sketches, and the final work was done in 3ds Max, which is getting better and better every year, and ZBrush is about to release GoZ, which we're pretty excited about -- it's a one button back and forth between the two programs. We have Milo, which is our in-house rendering engine and is developing into a full level editor with 3ds Max. We use a lot of MotionBuilder as well for body animation and Mocap. And we have a suite of post processes that we use in Milo to alter the final image, and it allows us to do really crazy stuff like color correction and mirroring and kaleidoscopes and frame flicker.
BD: And what did you do that was new for the facial animation?
RL: For this particular project, we wanted a lot of careful detail in the faces and so we developed a new technique with some our animators and with Curious Pictures. They partner with us sometimes: they do Mocap and other little technical things for us. And they worked with us on a new face system, something we've never had before, just to get real subtlety in their faces and have some little quirks. Unlike Rock Band or any of our older games, we had people that are recognizable, not only visage that's familiar to viewers, but also the musculature and skeleton and everything that happens on a person's face. People know John's smile and Paul's eyebrows. There are little things that we had to nail and still do it stylistically and still make it very obvious. So we built a new tool, which seems crazy how many different tools we used to make the game. But at this point, we use what we can to get the job done. And with some of the more technical animators and programmers here and at Curious were interested in using Maya for this particular face rig, so we incorporated Maya for the first time ever in our workflow.
BD: And how did that work out?