Friday Flashback #417


When OverWorks, a division of Sega, decided to update the classic 80’s game Shinobi, they turned to SOFTIMAGE|XSI to help them deal with a massive volume of data efficiently in a short period of time.

In the tradition of the great ninja warrior, things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Ninjas, for example, were masters of espionage as well as lethal combat. So it is not surprising that Japan’s OverWorks, a division of Sega, decided to update Shinobi, the classic 80’s game, to reflect the more complicated nature of ninja culture. Okay, maybe that isn’t exactly true. Maybe it was really about giving a kick-ass game more kick-ass. Turning up the kick-ass, however, is no easy task; it requires a lot of work and volumes of data. To help with this massive undertaking OverWorks switched to SOFTIMAGE|XSI.

Takeshi Matsuura, a CG Director at OverWorks explains that, “with the amount of work to be done in a specific amount of time, we knew we had to work efficiently. And, to get the job done, we adopted SOFTIMAGE|XSI.”


Although the history of Sega’s Shinobi is not quite as long as the real Shinobi Ninja, which dates back about eight centuries, this Shinobi does have a rich and deep past. The Shinobi series was one of Sega’s pillars in the late ’80s when the company began making its move into the home console market. The series showed off Sega’s ability to take advantage of its own hardware–both in the arcades and on its home consoles–through three memorable games.

Two decades ago, when Shinobi was experienced in 2-D, the main combat element was throwing the shuriken, which is a small knife or star. These days, things are a lot more complicated. Bringing the Shinobi world into three dimensions means that both attacking and defending happens on all sides. This, in turn, means that the focus of the game is now face-to-face rather than ranged attacks. Not incidentally, this also means that you can work up some serious kicking and sword brandishing combinations.

The Game

In the newly released Shinobi, players take on the roll of Hotsuma, the leader of the Oboro Clan. The Clan members have all been slaughtered by the evil sorcerer Hiruko who has also destroyed the city of Tokyo for good measure. And as if this weren’t enough, Hiruko has raised the Oboro Clan from the dead and is now using them for his sinister plan. So in order to lay his slain clansmen to rest, Hotsuma must destroy them. To accomplish this, Hotsuma wields the Akujiki Sword, a sword that feeds on the evil souls it destroys, or failing that, will feed on the soul of the one who carries it. This means that players must constantly seek out and destroy their enemies. This design feature encourages speed and destruction, which ultimately satisfies all those gruesome urges that take us to video games in the first place.

Updating the Game

To bring Shinobi into 3-D, OverWorks used the characters setups done in SOFTIMAGE|3D and imported them into SOFTIMAGE|XSI. “We knew it would be difficult to convert the data in the time we had,” Matsuura explains, “so we used SOFTIMAGE|XSI for the independent scenes since we had already completed the character setup in SOFTIMAGE|3D.”

SOFTIMAGE|XSI was used for background, modeling, lighting and rendering on this project. When asked what makes SOFTIMAGE|XSI such a powerful tool overall, Matsuura is quick to reply with an extensive list: “Character rigging, motion modification and editing, as well as rendering, to name a few.” Further, Matsuura points out that it is the combinations of tools that make SOFTIMAGE|XSI so complete. For example, the combination of the Schematic View and the Explorer helps significantly with data management as “any data that was difficult to manage in the Schematic View could be easily managed in the Explorer,” explains Matsuura.

And, if you want to see more of just what the talented developers at OverWorks can do with the right tools, check out the cinematic at the beginning of Shinobi. That’s all done with SOFTIMAGE|XSI too.

To The Future

What’s ahead for OverWorks? Well Masahiro Kumono, the Chief director on Shinobi, says that it is SOFTIMAGE|XSI. “In the future, we will not make games without SOFTIMAGE|XSI. We are confident that SOFTIMAGE|XSI will continue to improve, particularly in the areas of material setting and motion editing functionality. We will once again use SOFTIMAGE|XSI for the CG rendering as well as the real-time game.”

As for the developers at OverWorks, they are looking forward to really getting into all the functionality that SOFTIMAGE|XSI has to offer. For his part, Matsuura singles out Net View and Synoptic View, in particular, as “Net View will make file management easier and Synoptic View, with its intuitive graphical interface, will help when we are dealing with large workgroups.”

As for Shinobi… will Hotsuma avenge his fallen clansmen? Will he save Tokyo from further destruction? Or will the Akujiki Sword take his soul? Well, that is up to you, isn’t it? You can be sure it will be fast paced and thrilling if OverWorks and SOFTIMAGE|XSI have anything to say about it. And they do.

Friday Flashback #415

SOFTIMAGE|3D Software CD for IRIX and Windows NT

<!– Softimage|3D and XSI – Complete Sets for Sale on eBay Postby nekonoko » Sun Jan 27, 2008 9:21 pm All the media in my set is labeled “For IRIX and Windows NT”; I have XSI 1.5 and Soft3D (six CDs total). –>

Friday Flashback #375

Microsoft Softimage to Be Acquired by Avid Technology

REDMOND, Wash., June 15, 1998 — Microsoft Corp. today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell Softimage Inc., its wholly owned subsidiary based in Montreal, to Avid Technology Inc., a Massachusetts-based provider of digital video, film and audio solutions. As a result, Microsoft will own a minority stake in Avid and plans to continue its joint initiatives in digital television, interactive content development and other visual media technologies with Avid.

“For the last four years, Softimage has been an innovative leader in the digital media space and will continue this tradition of excellence as a part of Avid,”
said Craig Mundie, senior vice president, consumer platforms division, Microsoft.
“Microsoft will continue to be part of this success as an investor and strategic ally of Avid.”

Softimage has made major strides in providing state-of-the-art production tools for games development, films and commercials that have received numerous awards, including all seven films nominated for the Special Effects category at the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony as well as blockbuster games like Broderbund’s Riven, Sega’s Virtua Fighter series and Nintendo’s Mario64. Since its acquisition by Microsoft, Softimage has added more than 100 employees in Montreal, mainly graphics artists and developers, reaching approximately 300 today. During this time, Softimage also helped pioneer the adoption of the Microsoft® Windows NT® operating system in the professional media creation industry and established Digital Studio, a state-of-the-art high-end integrated environment and tool set for digital media creation.

“Over the past three years, Softimage has driven major breakthroughs in the industry,”
said Moshe Lichtman, president of Softimage.

“We were the first to ship the highest performance3-D animation and video production products on the Windows NT platform. We have built and introduced a revolutionary nonlinear production paradigm base on our Digital Studio architecture. At the same time, we have grown our installed base from fewer than 1,500 users to over 21,000 and our customer base from fewer than 700 to over 6,000. Joining the Avid team will enable us to dramatically accelerate our joint vision of an integrated production environment and to continue pushing the envelope on behalf of our clients and partners in the digital media space.”

Avid, the industry-leading provider of digital content creation tools for professional film, video and audio post-production, has a user base of more than 40,000 editors and artists. Avid’s digital media expertise is well positioned to build on Softimage’s revolutionary digital nonlinear production architecture and its powerful SOFTIMAGE® |DS and SOFTIMAGE|3D product lines.

“This deal is a win-win for all involved,”
Mundie noted.
“Avid gains the benefit of rapid expansion into the 3-D market, a video production solution that ideally complements its current offerings and a stronger alliance with Microsoft. Softimage joins the team of a proven industry leader that will help the company continue to grow and be a force in the digital media space. Microsoft gains a strategic ally for continued development on Windows NT and our digital media initiatives.”

Softimage and its employees will remain in Montreal and other Softimage locations around the world. The parties expect to close the acquisition during the latter part of July 1998, subject to receiving clearance under applicable U.S. and Canadian laws and other customary closing conditions.

Founded in 1986, Softimage develops software for media-rich applications, including video, film, interactive games and CD-ROM applications. Products include SOFTIMAGE|DS (video production), SOFTIMAGE|3D (high-end animation), SOFTIMAGE|EDDIE (compositing) and Toonz (2-D cell animation). The company was acquired in 1994 by Microsoft. Additional information about Softimage and Microsoft can be found via the Internet at ( and respectively.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Softimage is a registered trademark of Softimage Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.