Effecting Bayonetta

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Community, Games, PlatinumGames

Hello everyone around the world. I’m Kudo, an effects designer here at PlatinumGames.

My main job here is adding special effects to Bayonetta.

I’ve been in the games industry for quite a while now, and I’m a right old man now because of it; however, when you feel you are surrounded by games every day as you work, it’s a kind of fun that it seems nothing can change. (However… There are the rare instances when you feel like, “I’ve had enough of this!”)

Now that E3 is over and more people than ever are paying attention to the Bayo Blog, I am really nervous to be writing my post here. I hope you are all with me on this.

So now that I’ve introduced myself and told you that I work on effects, it leads to an important question many of you may have:

“What are effects anyways?”

When I introduce myself to people outside the industry, I explain by keeping things simple, saying, “I add the fire and smoke, etc. inside a game.” However, it doesn’t seem like very many people “get it.”

I figure it has to be my explanation has to be what is throwing people off, but not being able to express this is actually somewhat upsetting. (After all, it is a really fun job.)

Which is why I’ve capture some simple movies for you all.

This is what you normally see when you are playing Bayonetta.

Now this is what happens when I turn off all the effects in the game.

Everything that went missing in the second video is the responsibility of an effects designer to create.

Bayonetta’s weapons, the impact of the hits, the enemy attacks, the smoke flowing out in the background, etc… When you have effects on, I think you can see that things seem more exhilarating, enemy attacks are easier to understand, and the atmosphere is played up more, amongst other things.

I can’t really explain in too much detail without venturing into spoilers, but in the scenes we feel fit to call Climax Action the effects change pretty substantially.

Like other creative sections making the game, when making effects I consult and make decisions on various things with our director, Hideki Kamiya.

Below is a conversation regarding how to illustrate damage on Bayonetta:

Kamiya-san: Hey Kudo, when Bayonetta gets damaged…

Kudo: Yeah.

Kamiya-san: …We should do something special with that.

Kudo: Yeah, we should.

Kamiya-san: Maybe something like Okami’s hit effects, where flower petals flew off.

Kudo: Yep! That’s a great idea. So Bayonetta would use…

Kamiya-san: A rose, of course.

Kudo: OK. But it’s damage, right? So isn’t there supposed to be blood?

Kamiya-san: If it isn’t pretty, then it isn’t Bayonetta!! Even the blood that flows out of her body can be turned into a rose with magic!!

Kudo: Whoa!!

Kamiya-san: She just goes, “Wuhhh!!” (He’s imitating Bayonetta’s damage voice.)

Kudo: …

Kamiya-san: You know… “Wuhhh!!” (He’s really getting into it here.)

What resulted from this conversation is the hit effect below:

This is pretty much representative of how we went about making Bayonetta’s effects.

So what did you think about this introduction to special effects? I’d be really happy it gave you even just a slightly better understanding of my work.

And if you are really interested, maybe you can try doing this work one day! You can apply here! (Note: Fluent Japanese is required.)

Once you all get on your hands on Bayonetta, it might be fun to give it a play while trying to imagine what is and isn’t a special effect…

Until next time!!

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64 Comments Add Your Own

Marink Posted on July 7, 2009 at 5:55 am

Awesome. lol

You are great at what you do.

And I loved the effect in Okami.

You guys are are awesome.

Ken Posted on July 7, 2009 at 6:23 am

LOL Those first 2 videos don't leave room for doubt. I especially like the way the game transitions in and out from the "Witch Time".

Pheonix03 Posted on July 7, 2009 at 7:55 am

It's always great to know how much passion you are all putting into the game!! I look forward to seeing all of the amazing effects in the game, especially during the Vestibule.

Phillip Posted on July 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

It's sad people don't really get what you do :( because even though they're just visual flourishes, effects are really what make this game look like… well… this game! Your work is another big puzzle piece in deciding the atmosphere of Bayonetta, and it's great to see the detail going into this as well.

J_FER_SALAZAR Posted on July 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

So many details, I love the way you do your job.

Thanks for the info Kudo-san, especially the conversation with Kamiya-san, that was very illustrative. :)

SonicTHP Posted on July 7, 2009 at 11:47 am

Looks amazing. I noticed some of the effects when I played it as well. Like the butterflies as bullets, which look amazing. It is the details like those which set the game apart from others and show the true passion of the development team for the game and experience they are creating.

Humberto Posted on July 7, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I was just learning s[ecial effects on Maya at school, so I know how hard your job can be, then again, you provably have an easier time at it than I, since you've been at it longer than me. It's a shame I can't apply for a job since my Japanese is barely what you would call bassic. Just the same, keep up the good work and don't let the fact that a lot of people outside of the industry don't know how important your job is, we know better.

60Hertz Posted on July 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Another great post… good to see what an organic process you guys have…

effects help give that tactile feel to a game, its very important in action games!

good work!

FAUNA Posted on July 7, 2009 at 2:56 pm

The overall visual stimuli in this game is superb!

RVR- 42 Posted on July 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Woo! Awesome, awesome! It's so cool getting o see blog post from so many differen people working on the game. Thanks for letting us in on this, Kudo-San. I honestly, don't think I would be interested in Bayo at all, if the effects weren't as great as they are. You and your special effects team have done an outstanding job in this game. Seriously…keep it up!

Rizhall Posted on July 7, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Wow, takign away the special effects make it look so much plainer. But with the special effects, it looks absolutely stunning. You did a wonderful job!

A small suggestion I might have is, I think it would look a little better if the rose was smaller, but had a but more presence… like, it comes out as a rose, and then it turns into liquid blood after separating from her body, to represent the disconnection from Bayonetta herself, and the blood eventually fades away into nothing.

Just a small suggestion.

I especially love how you make the feathers stay in place in the air during the witch time! That was just beautiful, to watch them all fall at once after it was all over. Subtle effects like that really turn me on, no homo.

Domikaze Posted on July 7, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Amazing. I cannot wait to see it in person!

Anonymous Posted on July 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm

wow i love the effect it add extra to the game like more stuff make it more bad ass cant wait to buy this in my hands is soo awsume i could change it when i want to if i add more details or not.l!!!!!!!!!!

Edsabre Posted on July 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Another very interesting blog! I had no idea the effects accounted for so much, the game just wouldn't be the same without them. Keep on doing what you're doing and I can't wait until I can get my hands on it!

Wuhhh!!

Reeves Posted on July 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Thank you for posting this great article and the videos! I think you did an awesome job explaining what you do (I also laughed out of my chair after I read your "Wuhhh!" story).

My only remark is that it would have been great to have the exact same scripted gameplay on both videos – then you could have shown them side by side in one video.

That small point aside, you delivered on what you want to accomplish – an awesome illustration of the incredible ability for special effect artists to impact the feel and atmosphere of the game.

Well done.

Orlando Barrowes Posted on July 8, 2009 at 1:02 am

I can actually relate quite a lot.

I'm the lead effects designer for ChAIR (Epic Games – making Shadow Complex). That's funny how similar the conversations are. I recently designed the foam weapon for Shadow Complex which took a lot to get what we all agreed was right. We wanted to be able to shoot a "high tech foam that would harden and immobilize the target." You'll have to check out the game this summer and see what I came up with. :)

Sometimes people don't know exactly what they want ("It's a leveling-up effect… what would that look like?). But that's often when it's the most fun. I like having the freedom to surprise people.

Nice comparison vids. I enjoyed your post.

Booom! Posted on July 8, 2009 at 1:47 am

"When I introduce myself to people outside the industry, I explain by keeping things simple, saying, “I add the fire and smoke, etc. inside a game.” However, it doesn’t seem like very many people “get it.”"

So familiar… I have not found a better way to explain it yet.

The next question often is whether it is hard to "program" them, hehe…

Booom! Posted on July 8, 2009 at 3:26 am

@Kreepykrawlly
I think you are confused with movie work, game particle effects are real-time, not compositing work.
(There is a slight “compositing-ish” part to it due to sorting/draw order but that is it)

@Col0red
It is partially shader work Z-Feathering or “Soft particles”, distortion effects and blend modes for example are handled on the shader side of the effect.
The particles itself are mostly created with proprietary software (or 3rd party software like Fork).
The particle part is basically things like direction, speed, rotation, friction, scale etcetera…

Maya has its own particle system but you have to mess around alot with expressions to get even the most basic functions you would find in any proprietary tool as a standard. You probably should be able to get a copy of Fork or Particle Illusion if you want to mess around with “game” particle systems.

I am a bit of a fanatic (doing game particles for 10 years now) so you will have to excuse me for answering. ;)

Col0red Posted on July 8, 2009 at 3:34 am

Very interesting article. I'v got a question though. How do you do this stuff?

Do you program it with languages like HLSL or do you design this with 3D modellers like Maya?

Thanks in advance and have nice day. ;)

KREEPYKRAWLLY Posted on July 8, 2009 at 5:07 am

You must have alot of patience. You have to check the game frame by frame and you have to take alot of things into consideration (e.g. the smoke flowing out in the background). I am very impressed

VinZ Posted on July 8, 2009 at 5:21 am

Guys, you're simply AWESOME.

I'm really looking forward to play Bayonetta this Winter and I hope you'll come out with other great projects in the future!

P.S. Okami 4 life!

DancingRobot Posted on July 8, 2009 at 10:10 am

Mr. Kudo's job is very important. But at times I feel like some developers waste too much time on making very overly elaborate effects and seem to miss out on what makes a game fun. I don't think this really applies to the Platinum Game development team. But still, I hate to see good games go to waste because they spent too much time on making the effects. Alone in the Dark, Legendary, Fracture, etc. Those games have amazing effects, but its like the development team forgot to put the time in to the actual gameplay.

I don't think my critique of those game effects will apply to Bayonetta, if only because everything Kamiya touches turns to gold.

Also those effects are very stunning. Really the comparison videos are like night and day. Every little effect helps sell the impact of the hits. Keep up the good work.

George Brayner Posted on July 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

Looks really nice! And the way you see how the effects complements the "feeling" of the character!

Demno Posted on July 8, 2009 at 2:39 pm

This site will from now on be my main way of explaining to people what I do. Great explanation, great post!

COL0RED Posted on July 9, 2009 at 2:17 am

@Booom!

Thanks a lot for your answer! But I don't get, how the work with particles is done here. If you use tools like Fork or Particle Illusion, are the effects done by programmers or graphic artists? I mean, do you program the particle effects in C++ first and then use Fork in addition, or do you create the whole stuff with Fork only?

Sorry for my newbie-questions, but I'm really interested in these things and the only thing I know is a little bit of XNA.

Booom! Posted on July 9, 2009 at 2:47 am

Basically the "particle editor" is a tool to create the particle effect. Fork and Particle Illusion are particle editors. The "language" in which the particle effect is described basically depends on the format the programmers come up with.

It creates a plain text file with info like rotation speed over time, color over time etcetera.

You can basically create these files directly in notepad if you want, (if you know the names of the variables and the structure). But it can quickly become quite complex.

Like creating a cube by hand in a Maya Ascii file, it is possible but I very much doubt you would like it. ;)

So the quick answer – mostly the particle editing is done by the more technical minded artist.

The particle editor "language" and inner workings on the target platform are set up by the programmer(s).

COL0RED Posted on July 9, 2009 at 3:05 am

So, the workflow could be:

Create/Design an effect in a particle editor. This editor creates a file with certain information in any language, like C++, C#, whatever. And then you use the created code-file in your project and code when this effect should be drawn?

Booom! Posted on July 9, 2009 at 7:46 am

If it only would be that simple.

You need an actual graphics engine that is capable of handling transparency and camera facing sprites at the very least. Then comes the particle engine part, which basically interprets the particle data created by the artist and spawns, sorts, draws and updates the particle systems.

There is currently no particle editor that outputs C, the particle editor purely outputs data that is recognized and handled by the particle engine.

thenewculture Posted on July 9, 2009 at 10:09 am

Fantastic. Just a thought, what training did you get after high school? I'm curious on good places to go to break into the gaming industry, although I'd probably be on the programming side of the fence, as I've mostly played around with coding and I don't quite trust myself artistically :P

COL0RED Posted on July 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

So besides the particle editor part, you have to develope a graphics and particle engine in your programming language (guess mostly C++) which understands the output data of the specific particle editor. Say, I want my XNA game to use particle effectes made with Particle Illusion. Do I have to adapt my particle engine to this editor?

Let me know when I'm getting on your nerves with all these questions. ;)

advice? Posted on July 10, 2009 at 9:36 am

Any of the experienced effects artists/designers have any books or reference they recommend to someone looking to get more experience and ideas for creating really nice game effects? Obviously experience, practice, and just looking at gorgeous games and trying to figure out how to get the same look helps, but does anyone have any other advice?

Booom! Posted on July 10, 2009 at 10:04 am

@Thenewculture

I started around 12 years ago, there really was no specific training so I am afraid I cannot help you out on that one. I just happened to be good at Photoshop at the time, it was natural progression from there on. Breaking into the industry is a lot harder nowadays. If you got the talent you will get in.

It is important to have a good showreel – try to also show that you can work effectively, creating games is not just about making cool stuff, it is about learning to work with limitations and getting the most out of it.

@Col0red

Honestly I do not know whether Particle Illusion exports data that is usable, it was an example of a typicle particle editor. Fork most likely does (I only have experience with proprietary software).

The most work is the actual graphics engine and after that the particle engine.

And since I am not a programmer I cannot help you out alot I fear. You are ambitious for sure. ;)

Col0red Posted on July 11, 2009 at 1:33 am

@Booom!

Okay, thanks. Although you are not programmer, you did help me a lot. ;)

It's nice to hear from someone who made it into the industry.

Well, I think I will just play around a bit with particle illusion and XNA. :)

twenty1 Posted on July 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

another great blog from one of my fave developers….LETS GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

vincent. Posted on September 11, 2009 at 9:35 am

Bayonetta seems to be a very fluid, smooth, "great to look at" game…it also just makes want to grab the controller and delve into the awesome gameplay that this game has to offer! I love the hair effects when the heels materialize, and when her moves involve shooting while executing them. It's a bummer that this game has to be realesed next year…but it's definitely worth the wait.

fxcontactlenses Posted on January 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Absolutely amazing! The beauty is in the special effects details & artistic animation which set this game apart from the others.

The development team has really hit a home-run with this one.

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