Individuality in Game Development (Part 3)

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

Our Approach to Making Games

Kai: When it comes to making games, the first person who comes to mind is the director. After all, it’s their job to get the ball rolling; they have to come up with a game idea from scratch. The other staff, such as graphic designers like myself, have to try to see the vision in the Director’s head and make it a reality.

Shibata: I’ve been working under Kamiya ever since joining Platinum, but all his game ideas start out very vague, even in his own mind. I have to interpret this vague vision and do my best to give it a more concrete form. Since you’re facing a problem with no definite answer, this means a lot of trial and error, which can be a bit disconcerting for younger staff, who aren’t used to the old days of experimentation.

Kai: It’s not enough to just grit your teeth through that trial and error process; you have to enjoy it. After all, where’s the fun in just getting handed a plan and carrying it out word for word? Understand the overall theme of the project you’re working on, see how far you can push your boundaries, and have some fun with it. Of course, you can’t be the only one having fun, it also has to be an idea the player will like.

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Shibata: When I was working as a graphic designer, I would look at the design document I was given and see just how far I could deviate from it, adding my own style.

Kai: I think that when it comes to animation, nothing’s more important than the look and fluidity of movement. At the same time, however, I always try and give it that little extra touch of personality that will stick in the player’s mind.

Shibata: By the way, I feel like Kamiya is the kind of guy who can adapt to work well with anyone. Even if we were switched out and a whole new team was brought in to replace us, I feel like he’d sort everything out somehow. So the important thing for people who work here is to be able to cope with the trial and error process, and to keep up with Kamiya’s pace. When it comes to coping, Kai has known Kamiya for longer than I have; I can’t even fathom how he managed to withstand the pressure for so long. It’s a lot more exhausting than working with any other director, so I’m impressed that Kai managed to come this far.

Kai: We’re just patient. Most people, after having made a game with Kamiya, request to not be put on the same team as him for a while, haha. He’s relentless in his drive for quality. His famous line “I just thought of something…” will haunt my dreams for years to come.

Shibata: As you approach completion and the game starts to come together, the frequency of his ideas for little tweaks also goes up. In other words, if we don’t get the game to a near-complete state as soon as possible, we won’t have time to respond to Kamiya’s various requests.

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Individuality in Game Development (Part 2)

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

(Continues from Part 1.)

An Environment in which Games Thrive

Shibata: I feel that in the early days of the video game industry, graphic designers commanded very little status. Although the players might praise our work, within the company we were treated badly by the programmers. There were times it was hard to bear…

Kai: It wasn’t like that working on console games, but I remember working on an arcade game once and getting mistreated by one of the programmers. Back then you had these three main factions on the team: character designers, programmers, and game designers. Everybody stayed within their own territory, saying, “I’ve done my job, now this is up to you.”

ks1Shibata: I come from an arcade background, so I was under the impression that that’s just how things worked.

Kai: As someone who has seen both sides, I can say that console game teams were a lot less divided.

Shibata: That’s interesting to hear. I moved over to console games to work on Resident Evil 3, and was shocked by how different the work environment was. I thought maybe that atmosphere was unique to the Resident Evil team, but it sounds like it’s true of most console development.

Kai: I wasn’t a part of the RE3 team, so I can’t say for certain, but it sounds like when this team composed of people from both console and arcade backgrounds came together, they ended up adopting the console team’s “cross-border” approach. This is the approach we’ve inherited here at Platinum. However, it’s something we came to not through an explicit rule or policy, but rather because of the number of people on the team who felt that’s how it should be.

Shibata: Without a doubt, this approach leads to better games.

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Kai: Of course, there may be some people who prefer staying within their own little niche, but when you’re in a studio working with a group of other people, this rarely leads to the best results. PlatinumGames is made up of people who understand this.

Shibata: I’m thankful that we have producers who are committed to fostering the kind of environment that leads to the creation of great games.

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INDIVIDUALITY IN GAME DEVELOPMENT (PART 1)

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

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Individuality in Game Development

Hidetoshi Kai (Graphic Design/Animation) and Hiroshi Shibata (Game Design)

PlatinumGames is entering its 10th year, but some of our staff members have careers in the game industry that go back over two decades. Two such members are animator Hidetoshi Kai and game designer Shibata, who can trace their roots all the way back to the 4th Development Division at Capcom. These two veterans, who made the jump to Platinum together with director Hideki Kamiya and producer Atsushi Inaba, talk about their experience and thoughts on game development.

Skills gained through Trial and Error

Kai: The formative experience that led me to video games took place back in kindergarten. A little candy shop I went to had a couple of Pachinko and pinball machines that I loved to play with. My dad is a carpenter, and he would use nails and scraps of wood he found around the house to make little Pachinko boards. Even back then I loved thinking up games. My parents didn’t buy me many toys, so I got used to making them myself.

Shibata: My family moved to Tokyo around the time the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the Nintendo Enterainment System) came out, but we were very poor so I didn’t get a chance to play games much as a kid. In fact, I didn’t buy a Famicom until I started working at a game company. I was making do with nothing more than a TV, refrigerator, and rice cooker back then; I didn’t have the money to buy a lot of electrical appliances, let alone to buy any for recreational purposes.

Kai: I was a little late to the video game party, too. I didn’t even consider working at a game company until after I had entered a vocational school. There, I studied film and other visual media. I worked with cameras a lot, and I specifically studied animation as a form of expression.

Shibata: I studied animation at a vocational school, just like Kai. I wanted to make a living in animation, but it was just not a viable way to pay the bills. The first job I started out of school was in the printing industry, but the pay was bad, so my life of poverty continued… A friend of mine worked at a game company though, and he told me the money was good, so I decided to get into the game industry. In other words, I wasn’t trying to fulfill a romantic dream of making games, as much as I saw the game industry as a solution to my financial woes.

Kai: Yeah, I hear the animation industry can be pretty rough. We have a couple of people who decided to quit their jobs at an animation company in order to join us.

Shibata: Although, in a way, your current job actually still involves animation.

Kai: That’s right. I’m in charge of creating the animations that dictate how the characters move. I sometimes animate environments as well.

Shibata: My job is to think of ideas that make the game more interesting – I get to say whatever pops up in my head, haha. Officially, I’m responsible for writing up game proposals and design documents to coordinate the direction of the team with each section, but working under Kamiya means I often don’t prepare any documents. Why is that you ask? Because with Kamiya at the helm, the game changes so frequently that by the time you get everything on paper, the document will already be obsolete, haha.

Kai: Maybe so, but I still think you make more documents than most other people.

Shibata: I guess so, haha. Anyway, I originally entered this industry as a graphic designer just like you, Kai, and I remember that I used to have a lot of fun creating sprites using pixel graphics. This meant having to line up every little square of color that would be displayed on the player’s screen, but we could only use 16 colors back then, so I would spend hours obsessively trying to figure out how to line up all of the dots to create the image I wanted.

Kai: Yeah, it was a neat way to make graphics. I still feel like doing work like that sometimes, haha.

Shibata: It has a certain addictiveness different from regular drawing. Capcom’s pixel art from that era was incredible, but it had a strange quirk: although pixels are usually square, Capcom was unique in that they used vertically rectangular pixels. This meant that even rotating the sprite on its side required you to replace all the pixels. It was highly inefficient, but they still managed to put out many uniquely beautiful sprite-based games. I decided that, “If I’m going to be a sprite artist, it’s Capcom or nothing”, so I moved to the Kansai area where Capcom’s headquarters are located.

Kai: You came all the way to the Kansai area for sprites?!

Shibata: Oh yeah, it was great! Soon after I entered the company I was assigned to a team developing arcade games and I got to ram out rectangular sprites to my heart’s content.

Kai: I started out in Capcom’s console game department. In many cases, the pixels for console games were horizontally rectangular, so this made porting arcade games to consoles an absolute nightmare.

Shibata: But you know, thinking back to it now, I realize that when we first got into development, in the days when the images on screen contained nothing but the most rudimentary information, games ended up being extremely refined. There is a lot of fluff in modern games, so making games now ends up being a lot harder than the days of yore. There are so many more rules you have to learn nowadays.

Kai: Yeah, things are still tough, just in a different way now. How about you, though? How did you end up making the jump from a pixel-laying graphic designer to a game designer?

Shibata: Well, one thing I realized while working at Capcom was that beautiful graphics alone aren’t enough to sell a game. The art in Capcom’s games was among the best in the entire industry, but this never guaranteed that their titles would be successful. It became painfully clear to me that art isn’t the most important aspect of a game, so I decided to focus on thinking up original ideas.

Kai: Although I entered the company as a graphic designer, I actually wanted to make games more than I wanted to work on their graphic design. I always had my eyes open for opportunities to try different aspects of development. I’ve even done stuff like making up questions for quiz games and burning ROMs. Leaving behind the pixel painting lifestyle, I manipulate polygons now. Although the job title has remained the same, the knowledge and skills required have changed quite a bit.

Shibata: You can say that again. The stuff I learned about at vocational school was very different from what the game industry required, so I had to learn about things as I was making them. When 3D polygon models came onto the scene, it was an entirely new experience altogether. Capcom as a whole was slow to get onto the polygon bandwagon, and everyone working there was a beginner when it came to making 3D games. We couldn’t fight progress, however, so we just had to do our best to keep up.

Kai: The youngsters entering the company right out of college nowadays are better prepared than we were. Hardware back then was changing so hectically all the time that we had to just try out all kinds of different things and see what worked. As a result, though, I think we learned a lot about perseverance and determination.

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What It Takes To Make Games (Part 2)

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

(Continues from Part One.)

Creation through trial and error

Inoue: One of the games we worked on during our days at Capcom, Devil May Cry, began as a sequel to Resident Evil. The original design document I got included all kinds of acrobatic action. It was totally different from what people associate with the RE series. We figured that if that’s the style of game we were going for, it would make sense for the player character to be more active. We continued to adjust the animations to fit this style, and eventually the game had morphed into something else entirely.

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Yamaguchi: We stayed true to the director’s vision, and that’s how it turned out. In the end, the game was fun the way it was, and the company decided to release it as a new series. Quite a rare case in the game industry.

Inoue: That’s true. That may have been an exceptional case, but I find that when all the team members consider the direction they’ve been given and arrange all the parts of a game to the best of their ability, they end up creating something better than just going by the numbers. Of course, if you are told your idea just won’t work, you have to accept that too. In recent years motion capture technology has become predominant, increasing productivity and allowing us to experiment with all different types of animations.

Yamaguchi: I see what you mean. Technology like that gives a huge boost to efficiency, and it also lets us devote our resources to other areas. For example, even for a single animation, we start by creating a temporary animation and implementing it into the game at an early stage. That way, the team can take a look at it and discuss what works best in the game. Of course animation quality is important for its own sake, but at a company like ours, where we focus on how things move and feel within the actual game, this kind of testing is essential.

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Inoue: If the animation you spend a week working on ends up getting thrown out, the programmer has nothing to work with and can’t do his job. Even if it means just making a quick asset swap, a temp animation is better for the sake of efficiency. At the same time, when it comes to animations, the more the better. The player will be happier seeing a hundred animations than just ten, no matter how beautiful those ten are. Even if your action system is great, if that’s all you have the player will soon get bored.

Yamaguchi: When it comes to action games the questions you have to ask are “How does it feel to play?”, “How much variation is there?” Since this is something players will spent hours playing, it may seem obvious, but I think this attention to detail is something essential for anyone who hopes to make games.

Inoue: I start by asking “Do I enjoy this?” From there I ask the people around me, and eventually I’m convinced that “players are going to like this too.” Though frequently I end up making things that I enjoy personally, but I doubt would be much fun to anyone else! Before games are released there are user tests and all that, but at the end of the day these are just a subset of the players who will end up trying the game, so you can never say for certain if the results of testing are representative.

Yamaguchi: When creating a new game, some people aim to make it the new standard for that genre. For us, however, it’s more about just making a quality action game, one we can enjoy ourselves. Of course if it’s recognized as a quality title, that makes me happy as well.

Inoue: That way of thinking is thanks to the development environment we have here at PlatinumGames. As opposed to a vertical line of command with orders coming down from on high, it’s a flat organization centered around the director. You get instant feedback on everything you make, which helps get you closer to making something fun. The physical distance between people is important for this kind of process. If your group is too spread out, it becomes hard to achieve meaningful communication.

Yamaguchi: It would be nice if you could just have everyone sitting beside you at all times, though sadly that’s physically impossible.

Inoue: When you have to discuss something with someone from a different section, that distance becomes apparent. In order to overcome this, instead of using my phone or email, I get up and go over to the seat of the person I need to talk to, you know, make use of some of that non-verbal communication. Also, if I ever hear someone say my name I always respond, no matter how far away they’re standing. When someone says your name it means they’re talking about something you’re involved with, so I make sure I get involved in that conversation.

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Yamaguchi: There are no partitions between sections in PlatinumGames, so mini-meetings often pop up all over the place. A lot of progress is made while standing and chatting, or while watching someone play a demo at their desk. These talks start all of a sudden, so sometimes we realize too late that there is someone missing who really needs to be there.

Inoue: I’m aware that at other companies they have schedules that are absolute, and design documents laying out every stage of production; what we use are more like flexible indicators. This makes sense considering how much the original design seems to be missing by the time our games approach completion. If you are able to follow your original plan and reach the bar you set for yourself that’s fine from a work perspective, but unless you go through those heated discussions with other people on the team, I don’t think you’ll ever realize a game’s true potential.

Yamaguchi: After all, players couldn’t care less about your design documents. Without them it’s hard to make a strategy guide though, so the person in charge of that might get upset if I say that! Personally, though, I’d rather make something fun than something faithful to a document any day.

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What it Takes to Make Games

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

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Kazunori Inoue (Programmer) x Takaaki Yamaguchi(Graphic and Animation Designer)

The two components necessary to make games are often said to be technical ability and an engaging idea. But even with both these components in place, there is no guarantee the game you create will be interesting. Two of the men who have helped make PlatinumGames what it is today, veteran programmer Inoue and animation designer Yamaguchi speak about what it takes to make games and what they enjoy about creating.
Inoue: My first project working with Yamaguchi was “Devil May Cry.” I was a programmer and he was in charge of animation, same as today. I started studying programming when I entered a computer science college. Of course I played games as a kid, but it’s not like I dreamed of being a game creator since kindergarten or anything. I was lucky enough to get a job at Capcom after graduation and… here we are.

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Yamaguchi: Unlike Inoue, I was more the type that dreamed about working in the game industry from a young age. I played all kinds of games back in elementary school, but the ones that left the most lasting impression were the action games I played on the Mega Drive (TL note: SEGA Genesis in North America.) When in middle school my older brother, who was a bit of a rebel, went against the flow and bought a SEGA Mega Drive. Thanks to him I would retreat to a Mega Drive cave every day after school. It was a bit of a niche piece of hardware back then, but it had its share of great action titles. Right around the time I was graduating university 3D computer graphics started becoming popular, so I decided to go to a specialty college to learn about the field.

Inoue: I was always under the impression that I was going to take over our family’s gardening store, until one day my brother told me that he was going to inherit it… I had to find something else to do with my life and I ended up in programming college. I entered Capcom after that, but it took me 6 or 7 years to become a programmer worthy of working on major titles.

Yamaguchi: Luckily I was able to enter Capcom after getting my graduation project approved. At the time, it seemed to me that the game companies in Tokyo were all making the same kind of games over and over. I didn’t want to work on any half-hearted projects; unless a game has some unique aspect to it, I really can’t see its value. With that in mind, a company that was making the type of games I was interested in was Capcom.

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Inoue: I had aspirations to enter Capcom as well, but fate had it that even after joining the company, there was a period I just wasn’t given any work. It was tough. Unable to be of any use to anyone, in the beginning I spent my days kind of lost. Back then there was no such thing as a college specialized in game design, and no one really taught you the practical skills you need on the job either.

Yamaguchi: I was also shocked by how little of what I learned at school was any use on the development floor. It was a real challenge learning everything I needed to know. That’s one thing about this job that will never change. There will always be hardware upgrades and new techniques developed to force you to stay on your toes.

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Inoue: Very true. If you get shifted to a different project, the approach to design and tools being used may be entirely different. It takes tons of research and studying to make sure you are able to capture the right feel of the game. That’s one aspect of game development that calls for more than just honing your programming skills.

Yamaguchi: As game development has aged and grown, the jobs designated by the term programmer have broadened, and now demand more specialization. A system designer is doing a totally different job than someone in charge of character behavior, who in turn is doing something different from someone doing environment scripting. Each job comes with its own set of required knowledge and experience.

Inoue: My job focuses on character and stage scripting, but outside that specialization, I wouldn`t be surprised if even a new recruit knew more than me. The graduates from modern specialty colleges possess a lot of technical knowledge. There are some people who are even able to get right into real development work as soon as they enter the company.

Yamaguchi: Of course, whether they are able to put together an interesting game is another story. They might be able to put together a program to make some pretty pictures move around the screen, but designing a single enemy may be a challenge. As a character and stage design specialist, I’m sure Inoue is acutely aware of this. At a company like PlatinumGames, that puts huge emphasis on the creativity of its games, programmers like him are indispensible.

Inoue: You could say that working at PlatinumGames requires a little something extra; perhaps the ability to have your work be consistent with everyone else piecing together the game’s look and aesthetic.

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Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2, Community, PlatinumGames

As you may be aware, the Blu-Ray & DVD of the Bayonetta: Bloody Fate anime were recently released in Japan, so we think it’s about  time we gave you a bit more info on the movie, which was released in Japanese theaters last year.

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is a movie adaptation of the first game in the series, created by anime studio Gonzo (http://www.gonzo.co.jp/index.html, Japanese only), known for popular works such as Hellsing, and Rosario + Vampire, as well as for contributing animated cutscenes to various video games such as Super Street Fighter IV, the Lunar series, and the Blazblue series. That’s an impressive résumé!

It also features an all-star cast of voice actors:
Atsuko Tanaka as Bayonetta
Mie Sonozaki as Jeanne
Daisuke Namikawa as Luka
Miyuki Sawashiro as Cereza
Tesshô Genda as Rodin
Wataru Takagi as Enzo
and the inimitable Norio Wakamoto as Balder

We won’t spoil the plot for you (although you’re probably already familiar with most of it), but we do have some other nice background information to share.

Last year, shortly after the movie was released in theaters, a special talk show took place in Osaka, organized by the “Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” staff: Mr. Fuminori Kizaki (director), Mr. Mitsutaka Hirota (script), and Mr. Yuji Naito. Our very own Yusuke Hashimoto (producer on Bayonetta/director on Bayonetta 2, and helped created the draft for the movie) attended as well!

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From left to right: Mr. Hirota, Mr. Hashimoto, Mr. Kizaki (the director), and Mr. Naito

The talk show touched on some of the trouble experienced during the development of the scenario: apparently Mr. Hirota had cried out “Maybe I could do the whole thing as a 3-parter, but you want me to do it all in 86 minutes!?” before exploding in a rain of haloes.

However, it wasn’t all bad: the show also covered some behind-the-scenes topics of the Tokyo International Film Festival in October last year, where the movie was first shown to the public, as well as some anecdotes on Bayonetta’s bathing scene (!), which was decided on “instantly and unanimously” at the first meeting between the movie staff and the staff of the original game.

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After that, it was time for some questions from the audience.

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Of course the crowd was dying to know more about the shocking climax scene, but there was also a healthy amount of interest in the cast of high-profile voice actors, and the BGM used for the movie. Everyone got to ask about their favorite scenes as well, so question time just flew by, and before you could say “Phantasmaraneae,” it was already time for the giveaway!

Character designer Ms. Yokoyama and character planner/supervisor Ms. Shimazaki kindly provided a couple of beautiful signed illustrations, and there was even a surprise present in the form of a framed illustration signed by our very own producer Yusuke Hashimoto and director Hideki Kamiya!

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Excitement filled the air!

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The illustration donated by Mari Shimazaki.

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The illustration donated by Ai Yokoyama.

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And the framed picture signed by Hashimoto and Kamiya

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We’re sure it found a great home somewhere.

For more information (in Japanese) and loads of downloadable goodies, please check the site below:

[Bayonetta: Bloody Fate] Official HP:
http://www.bayonetta-movie.com/

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Reacting to Blade Mode

METAL GEAR RISING

Filed: Games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PGTV

Hey everybody, my name is Hirokazu Takeuchi, and I’m in charge of character animation in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I’m starting to worry that this katana I’ve been swinging around at my desk every day during development is going to cut somebody.

Gameplay in MGR centers on a concept other games haven’t touched; the freedom to cut any part of an enemy. From an animation standpoint, it took considerable trial and error to get this to work.

This blog is about some of those animations; in particular, what happens when an enemy is chopped up via Blade Mode, and how they react to that.

Up until now, most games that had dismemberment systems only allowed things to be cut in a predetermined fashion. Slicing the enemy in two, for example, would usually mean simply creating one animation of the upper body separating from the lower half.

We, however, have given the player freedom. We don’t know where they’re going to cut. They could choose to cut off a leg or an arm… they could cut horizontally, vertically, diagonally…

At the starting stages of development, there were different ways we tried to express this endless amount of possible reactions through procedural animations. Heads would fly or just plop off without relying on any canned animations.

Ultimately, though, these programmed reactions just couldn’t cross the threshold to become something we thought fully conveyed the intensity of the action, so we decided to undertake the slow, daunting task of creating animations for every thinkable dismemberment possibility.

We’d cut the enemy one way, add an animation, cut from a different angle, add another animation, repeating this process until the end of development, until we eventually were satisfied with the array of reactions we were able to get from each enemy.

These are only a fraction of the different reactions you will see in the game:

We tried creating as many animations per character as possible in order to give you the most satisfying gameplay experience we could, so cut from any direction you can think of and you will see scores of different reactions from each enemy character.

So start thinking about all the different angles you want to try out while waiting for the release!

Until then!

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Putting a Face to Vanquish

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PGTV, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hi all, I’m Vanquish facial animator, Masanori Takashima.

It’s been a month since the game was released, huh?
I suppose that those of you who have become captive to the exhilaration of traversing (gliding) across the battlefield are taking a crack at God Hard mode or possibly going after all the achievements/trophies. For those of you who haven’t played the game, I hope you make Vanquish a part of your holiday treats. We will be waiting for you on the adrenaline filled battlefield.

Anyways, that intro got a bit long in the tooth, so I’ll get to the topic at hand – facial animation in Vanquish.

Let me start by explaining the nuts and bolts of facial animation. I was in charge of making sure that the character model’s face could show expression by setting up a facial controller and then animating the face. It is a very specialized, almost geeky field; however, I am incredibly passionate about the challenge it provides.

When people try to understand other people, they rely on their appearance, the tone of their voice, their behavior, and their expressions. Amongst those, the face is incredibly important because it transmits expressions as visual signals. These signals show the depth of one’s humanness, from changes in feelings, to thoughts, personality, and even sometimes lies. Furthermore, humans are able to detect slight changes in expressions and guess at their subject’s feelings. It is truly a wonderful ability, and all the gamers have this trait, so to make sure that they understand each character’s individual expressions, you need to have the right animations, as well as an easy-to-use, robust facial controller. It’s a job that takes perseverance, perseverance, and then some more perseverance, but the minute you see life breathed into a character, it is addicting!

So here you go, recruits… Vanquish!

To make the player feel as if the characters in Vanquish are real, living human beings, we wanted to have a more realistic touch to the facial animations. Instead of trying to fill things with idiosyncratic animations, we decided to go with an approach that separated things into rough animation categories. Our plan was to come to grips with the general framework of all of the characters over the course of the game, then give them out of the ordinary expressions (or perhaps their true colors) at key moments, providing a hint as to where they were heading. Put simply, we wanted the characters to hit the beats in the story and turn things on their heads.

For instance, Sam is usually a cool, smoldering character, with a cigarette casually in one hand; however, when Burns doesn’t just forsake his troops, he smiles. On the other hand, his look of bitterness at seeing men left behind, or the shock when something emerges from a certain character’s chest, were all points where we wanted to lock down the ebb and flow of his character arc and give him a bit more human emotion.

Burns is normally a powerful, rough and tumble guy, and when he talks we wanted to make sure he reinforces the image of a tough as nails drill sergeant type at all times. Yet, his fiercely sheepish face when Sam jokingly welcomes him back from the dead, or the change in the look of his eyes when talking with Sam or seeing the battlefield, are interwoven with his desire to suppress his varied emotions from coming to the surface.

Elena calmly and indifferently explains the state of the battle during the game, and we wanted her to seem like the elite, convincing support role that she fills. She works to hold in her emotions, and is careful to make sure that to the best of her abilities she didn’t end up seeming sexy. However, there are places where her true colors shine through.

She gets irritated when Sam rants, and she can’t hold back when the danger continues on for too long. When Elena is verbally dressed down by Burns, all she can muster is a “Sorry,” but you can see in her face that she doesn’t really think she was wrong. Another one of the things we did for Elena, at my request, was giving her an animation during a scene where she runs her hands through her hair even though she is hard at work in her support role. I was looking for a place where a career girl would make sure that her hair looked good while she was working. At least that was my justification for it. And when I found the scene, it fit perfectly.

Even if you are playing through the game again, skipping the cutscenes, or if you’ve taken a step back after completing Vanquish once, I would love it if you took this opportunity to step back into the world of Vanquish once again. Until next time.

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The Feel of the Game

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hello everyone. I’m Takaaki Yamaguchi and I was the animator for the enemies in Vanquish. I’d like to give you an inside look on my work on the game.

Have you all given the demo a try? If you haven’t, definitely give it a shot. It might take you a little bit to get used to the controls in the game, but I think screenshots and video don’t do the sense of speed and exhilaration in the game justice.

Of course, this is because we followed the direction of Mikami-san from the beginning of production…

We started by knowing rejecting what had become the calm, expected elements of shooters:

“Remember the map, find a good spot, hide, then move.”

“If you get discovered, move to another hiding spot”

“Fire before you are fired upon.”

Instead, we went with something only aggressive words could describe:

“No running away! Move forward!”

“I don’t want people crawling along or hiding under cover!”

“You’ll dodge bullets with a ‘woosh’!”

With that direction in mind, I went about creating the enemy animations and it dawned on me that I wasn’t really creating shooter animations as much as I was creating action game animations.

By the way, animating something for a game is not just about simply making something look cool when it moves. When working on a player character, you have to make sure that there is a direct response to user controls so that things feel good, but with enemies, you need to build in instants where the player knows that they are about to be attacked. If you’d like to know more about this, Eijiro, lead animator on Bayonetta, wrote about Enemy Animations on the Bayonetta blog. Check out his post here: http://platinumgames.com/2009/05/17/rooting-for-the-enemy/

These hints are incredibly important to an action game. For instance, in the Vanquish demo, you face off against the giant Argus robot. The Argus has many different kinds of attacks; we made “warning animations” not just for the melee attacks, but for all of the firearm attacks the robot can execute, as well.

At first, you will probably be completely absorbed in the fight, but after fighting the Argus a few times, you should be better able to determine what attack is coming next from these warnings. By the way, there are even attacks that can hit you behind cover. If you think about it, that is pretty much against established shooter convention, but if you pay close attention to your foe and get the timing right, you can dodge these attacks. Once that attack is over, that is your opening to repay the favor. You could say that this is the ebb-and-flow of an action game. Pulling this off with grace becomes very addictive, and you’ll soon be completely absorbed in the action.

So that’s Vanquish. Personally, I love action games, and the animations I created for Vanquish are something that I can truly be proud of. You can pick your difficulty level in the game, so I hope that lots of different people play the game. Furthermore, it would be great if even those of you who think you aren’t good at action games take what I’ve written here into account and give the game a try. You might find that you end up loving what you experience.

Finally, this doesn’t really have anything to do with my blog, but our character modeler, Yoshifumi Hattori, mentioned a robot dog in his post on the blog here: http://platinumgames.com/2010/08/05/the-augmented-reaction-suit-system/

Well, I went digging and found some of the animation we created for the robot terrier.

This reminds me of when we had a robot-dog-missile attack in the game…

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On Boss and Summon Animations

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Community, Games, PlatinumGames

(Originally posted on the Japanese Bayo-blog on December 25, 2009, but withheld due to spoilers.)

Hello, I am an animator here at PlatinumGames. You can call me Nakajo. It seems early, but it is already Christmas, huh? The office building that houses PlatinumGames has an enormous Christmas tree that really sparkles and shines, attracting huge crowds of revelers even on the weekends. This is the third tree that has welcomed the Bayonetta project, but this year things have calmed down, so I was able to look at the tree in a new light. (Don’t ask what it was like before this year…)

About My Role on Bayonetta
I jointed Team Little Angels primarily as an enemy animation designer. The senior animators on the team have already gone over much of the animation here on the blog; however, I thought I would talk a little bit about one of the Cardinal Virtues, Temperantia, and the Infernal Demon summon that finishes off the boss.
(I thought the animators’ blogs were finished up with Uchi’s blog… But I got called in to write one… I’m writing this now half-crying because I just couldn’t figure out what to include…)

When animating the Temperantia fight, I worked making sure to absolutely avoid destroying the sense of scale, all the while paying attention to the sense the heft and speed the fight had. With something as big as Temperantia, getting a sense of heft and scale requires the attack motions to get bigger and bigger, so I had to go through numerous… numerous… numerous… revisions to make sure the attacks didn’t come from off-screen. (If you are attacked from off-screen, you can’t see the locus of the blow, making it impossible to dodge, right?)

Since the main part of Temperantia is SO big during that fight, the boss actually ends up being the stage, and we included various gameplay devices to this end. Some new big of gameplay would be put into the game and then go through numerous… numerous… numerous… revisions. (Again!!)

With the Infernal Demon summons, they would start by deciding Bayonetta’s summoning pose. Uchi-san also posted about the motion capture process in a previous blog, but I would patch things up using some of the stored motion capture data.

However, there is a limit as to how far you can use this data, and having things like “win poses” overlap with each other wouldn’t be good, so it was always a bit of a difficult situation when we’d begin to argue over poses:
“Hey, I’m using that pose already.”
“Really? I’ll look for something else…”

Once Bayonetta’s pose was locked down, I then moved on to how the Infernal Demon and Temperantia would interact. In Temperantia’s case, he is met by the six-armed demon Hekatoncheir. It was consulting with Kamiya-san, who wanted to make sure that this thing was powerful, that we decided to increase his number of arms from two to six. (Huh? He only used to have two… But six is three times as powerful! And three times as much work!! *cries*) During production, I got a really weird sweat and two or three times I thought that my soul might literally escape out of my mouth; however, I was able to finish the product.

Bayonetta is a game that holds many things and memories; however, having users play it and enjoy it would make me happy.

That’s all for now!

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