For Resident Evil 4 Capcom Co. Ltd. put SOFTIMAGE|XSI at the core of its development pipeline to establish an efficient workflow, to manage huge volumes of data and to create seamlessly integrated visual sophistication from event scenes to game play.
Even if you think that you’re ready to be thrilled, terrified and amazed, Resident Evil 4 might still be too much for you. It’s one fast-paced, hair-raising, visually incredible game that’s sure to be on everyone’s list for 2005 and beyond. This is definitely not your big brother’s game.
Resident Evil 4 Uses SOFTIMAGE|XSI to Redefine Survival Horror
By Alexandra Pasian
On January 27th, 2005, Capcom Co. Ltd released the latest installment in their Resident Evil franchise and redefined the survival horror genre. With spellbinding visuals, three-dimensional game play and dynamic camera work, Resident Evil 4 will have you seeing and experiencing things that you’ve never seen or felt before. Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, a Designer at Capcom, talked to us about the major role that SOFTIMAGE|XSI played in the franchise’s new look and feel.
XSI AT THE CORE OF THE DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE
In the past, Capcom used both SOFTIMAGE|XSI and SOFTIMAGE|3D for the development of the Resident Evil franchise, including on Resident Evil for Game Cube. For Resident Evil 4, , however, the development environment was migrated to SOFTIMAGE|XSI exclusively for everything from character modeling to animation as well as to the outputting of scene data to actual equipment.
When asked why Capcom selected SOFTIMAGE|XSI as their main creation tool, Hirabayashi explains: “The most obvious advantage to XSI is the fact that it builds on our already substantial knowledge and experience with SOFTIMAGE|3D. In addition, we have developed a real trust in the product through the support that Avid Technology offers. And, ultimately, we know that you have to select high quality tools if you want to create high quality games.”
In order to achieve the quality that they wanted for Resident Evil 4, the team at Capcom first had to concentrate on their workflow. With more than ten times the amount of content of other installments in the series, the team had to be confident in their development pipeline. In the end, the content for the game was completed faster than usual because the developers at Capcom created an efficient workflow using SOFTIMAGE|XSI as the core of their pipeline.
With an environment that enables outputting to actual equipment, SOFTIMAGE|XSI helped to make Resident Evil 4 a reality. In their game development environment, Capcom also used the Animation Mixer in XSI to manage the volume of data, such as motion data and camera animation, that was necessary for game creation.
In order to export the scene data to the game, for example, the data that had to be outputted to the Animation Mixer and the character nodes needed to be selected in such a way that, after pressing a single button, the data could be played on the actual equipment.
Even though such operations normally require five to six steps, the developers were able to customize XSI so that, by coordinating the VBS and a proprietary tool, these operations were done in one step. This meant that the designers were able to play the scene in a split second without needing to pay attention to the program running behind XSI.
According to Hirabayashi: “The Animation Mixer in XSI is very intuitive, allowing the designers to easily understand the interface. And our developers appreciate the open and flexible environment. Because of all the advantages XSI has to offer, we were able to produce content faster and with better quality that surpassed even the director’s expectations.”
STREAMLINING VISUAL SOPHISTICATION
According to Hirabayashi: “There were big changes and big challenges on Resident Evil 4 as compared to previous installments. The toughest challenge involved creating all of the cinematic portions of the game as in-game cut scenes.” The team at Capcom used in-game cut scenes to create the cinematic content for the game so that the game portions and event portions would tie together seamlessly. By employing in-game cut scenes, the team was able to reduce the discrepancies in visual quality between game and cinematics, which, they felt, would allow players to concentrate on their game play. And they were absolutely right.
Resident Evil 4 has players on the run for their lives. It is wonderfully scary and offers some of the best graphics out there. What’s more, it boasts game play that is so intense that it prompted one reviewer to say: “You don’t own Resident Evil 4, it owns you.” This tension is due, in no small part, to the fact that the event scenes and game portions of Resident Evil 4 fit so well together visually.
To achieve this visual cohesion, the team at Capcom believed that they had to make sure that their in-game cut scenes had the same visual quality as a pre-rendered movie. In order to achieve the look they wanted, the team at Capcom turned to SOFTIMAGE|XSI.
MANAGING HUGE DATA VOLUME
Being able to control the volume of data was extremely important on this project. The team knew that they had to limit the number of polygons used in modeling but also knew that reducing the number of polygons—in order to add the right amount of texture data, for example—would result in a reduction of light. Achieving and keeping the right balance between quality and the data volume was quite a challenge. According to Hirabayashi, the team met this challenge using SOFTIMAGE|XSI.
“For the process of controlling the volume of data, we have to thank the powerful polygon modeling functionality in SOFTIMAGE|XSI that allowed us to quickly edit the model data. And, since XSI allowed us to make small edits to texture easily using such features as UV development, we were able to maintain the ideal quality for our cinematics and were also able to control the volume of data. This project would not have been possible without SOFTIMAGE|XSI.”