ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

It Takes More Than Blood And Gore

by Jacquie Kubin

From the portals of the PC to the Playstation 2 console, games designed for the mature audience are more than blood, guts and gore. Adult gamers are looking for sophisticated entertainment that requires more than a quick trigger finger. The result is that studios are working to create full-length, fully interactive cinematic movies that draw the player into a gaming scenario.

The guns and skin-tight clothing are just the hook, the underlying story is what keeps people playing. © Edios Interactive.

"The games are becoming more complex, in that, before it was about having a visually captivating game with the blood, gore and slashing," says Richard Gray, a.k.a. Levelord, level designer for Ritual Entertainment. "Now it is also about game play and heavily imbedded story lines. Almost like being in a movie where you are participating as much as watching."

Ritual Entertainment is part of the Gathering of Developers, a Texas-based consortium of computer and video game developers that also includes 3D Realms, Edge of Reality, Epic Games, PopTop Software and Terminal Reality.

Ritual's Hyper-Immersion
Ritual Entertainment has experience in creating hyper-immersive computer games and the team has worked on some of the industry's most successful adult titles such as Duke Nukem 3D, Terminal Velocity, Links LSand Rise of the Triad.

Their current project is Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2,which stands for Federal Assigned Kinetic Kill Zone, an action game based on the popular Heavy Metal (www.heavey-metal.net) property developed by Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) that has gone from sci-fi comic magazine to movie to video game.

Can a video game lure in the Heavy Metalfilms' adult following? © Trixter Films.

Richard Gray has earned his nickname Levelord for his expertise in building the game infrastructure, or the levels, that the animated character moves through. Level designing is similar to blue-printing a house or building using a CAD-CAM program. Levelord places the staircase that needs to be climbed, the rock that needs to be pushed or the cannon that needs to be shot into the game play, throwing obstacles, puzzles and rewards, such as additional life force or weapon power, throughout the game.

"I go in with a wire frame software system and place the levels and the various elements that go onto those levels, building the square rooms that the animated characters move through," he says. "It is almost like being an eight-year-old kid who is creating this play scenario in an order designed to keep the game play on the razor edge between dying and finding new health and ammunition."

The answer to the question of which comes first in today's games -- the animations or the levels -- is neither. The game concept and/or script are first decided usually by a game's publisher or financial sponsor, who then hires a group like Ritual Entertainment to create the game.

Many of the designs from the movie carry over directly into the game. © Trixter Films.

Kevin Eastman turned to Ritual Entertainment to create the Heavy Metal game. The game's lead character, as in the movie, is Julie Strain, a buxom, brunette vixen capable of mortally wounding a man, or many men. Graphic and comic artist Joel Thomas (Evil Ernie, Prime, Ultraverse Annual) created many of the original visual concepts for the Heavy Metalfranchise.

"The inspiration for my lead character animations are Julie Strain and her attitudes about what she represents -- a back street protector character -- tell me a lot about how she would move as a female with a warrior's gait," says lead animator Darrin Hart. "I also look at other games, looking for unique styles that I might be able to borrow from. Finally, as an animator my job is to be an actor and breathe life into the character, giving them expressions and body movements that exhibit if they are happy, hurt, scared."

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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