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modo Steals Hearts of 'Sly Cooper' Game Makers

Sanzaru Games uses modo's Pixar Sub-D sculpting, character creation and 3D painting tools to design console-quality characters for "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time."

Press Release from Luxology:


Assuming control over a cherished franchise carries a certain kind of tension for a game studio. Not only are they expected to live up to previous versions, but they also have to forge new territory for their own. Sanzaru Games has been able to do both on their recent production of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time by entrusting their detailed character designs to Luxology’s modo, an all-in-one 3D modeling, rendering, and sculpting package that delivered the PS3-ready look gamers expect and the versatility their artists required.

“Characters have a tendency to evolve over the life of a project,” said John Hayes, Senior Character Artist at Sanzura Games. “modo is made for these shifts. Everything you need is in one space, so you can mold working game assets when you know what you want, and then quickly visualize new ideas if you change your mind. I doubt it would have been as easy if I was using another 3D program.”

Shooting for a unique update on a classic formula proved easier than expected thanks to modo’s integrated Pixar Sub-D modeling capabilities. Used by Hayes to refine primary characters like Sly, Rioichi and Carmelita Fox, the Subdivision Surface modeling in modo allowed him to smooth, sculpt and hone the details that would become distinguishing marks for his subjects. After modeling, each character’s look and visual traits were embellished further through 3D painting.

“With modo's built-in 3D painting tools, I was able to create seamless texture maps fast,” noted Hayes. “When those were combined with a set of rendered AO and normal maps, I was easily able to realize the level of detail a modern game console character requires. All the tools I needed were built in, which saved me a lot of time and effort.”

When characters weren’t being constructed, they were being easily placed into position thanks to modo 601’s new Pose Tool. No longer bound to external or self-made animation rigs, Hayes was able to quickly realize pose positions with point-and-click inverse kinematics controls. The positioning process became even faster when they discovered they could turn a skeleton and its corresponding geometry into an actor that supported saved poses. This influx of new character manipulation tools in modo 601 enabled the team to amass a greater variety of gorgeously rendered characters, reducing the time it took to get to an approved asset.

Sanzaru discovered another point of efficiency when they began navigating between their in-game assets and marketing materials. Instead of having to make another set of high-res models for marketing, the team could re-use the geometries used to generate normal and diffuse texture maps by employing a combination of modo’s Sub-D, texture baking, and rendering tools. This reduced the need for the extensive 2D paint-over that commonly happens when lower-res game assists need to become high-res marketing images that accurately reflect the character in-game.

“Something is going right when your test images are mistaken for finals and the renders are blowing people away,” added Hayes. “I’d like to claim all the credit, but most of it belongs to modo.”

“Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” is due out Fall 2012, exclusively on Sony PS3 and Vita. It has also already been nominated for nearly a dozen high-profile awards.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.