Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 11 (November 2003)


By Courtney E. Howard

In 1984, the world was introduced to a new foe, a futuristic threat to life as we know it. Arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger's most notorious role—aside perhaps from that as the newly elected governor of California—the Terminator steps out of this summer's blockbuster hit, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and into a console game from Atari.

The Terminators in T3:.Rise of the Machines include the T-900 (left) and the T-X, an ultimate killing machine capable of morphing its endoskeleton into various weapons.

Warner Bros. Pictures' Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, released this past summer as the third installment in the renown Terminator film series, continues the epic battle to save John Connor and the Resistance from the mechanical SkyNet army and a new foe, the T-X. An ultimate cyborg killing machine with no known weaknesses, the T-X was devised and sent back in time by SkyNet, the highly de-veloped network of machines bent on destroying Connor and all of mankind.

A true man killer and central villain in both the game and the film, the T-X not only bears the guise of a beautiful, six-foot, Scandinavian woman, but also is more advanced than the T-1000, the enemy in T2: Judgment Day. It has liquid metal skin, like the T-1000, and an endoskeleton that can morph into different weapons, including a flamethrower, a canon that emits an energy blast, and a power drill. In addition to having special weapons, the T-X is capable of some interesting maneuvers, including leg splits and 360-degree reversals of her arms and legs. In the end, Connor is saved but the inevitable happens: Armageddon. A nuclear blast occurs, all the cities are destroyed, and the Tech-Com Resistance is formed, which is likely to become the basis of Terminator 4.

As in the film, the game story line follows CyberDyne Systems' Model T-101, the original Terminator portrayed by Schwarzenegger, as it is reprogrammed in the future and transported to the present day. Its mission: to protect John Connor and those destined to become future generals and lieutenants in the Resistance. In the first few of the game's 22 levels, the Terminator is being reprogrammed and must work its way through several battlefields, thwarting T-900s and other opposing forces in an attempt to reach the time displacement chamber. Whereas the first third of the game takes place in the future, the remainder is set in the present day, as is the case with the film. Once in the present, the game follows the film to its conclusion, wrapping original gameplay action around the story line.

Although a CG version of the original Terminator has appeared in two other game titles, this new release marks the first time Schwarzenegger's actual voice and likeness have appeared in a home video game. Going a step further, the game employs the voices and likenesses of other stars in the film. To handle such a momentous project, Atari commissioned Black Ops Entertainment, a game development house with experience producing titles based on major motion pictures, including Jurassic Park and the Bond titles Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.

As the developer and main production house for the game, which runs on Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox, Black Ops crafted the 3D graphic environments, computer graphics, and animation for the project, as well as integrated com-missioned content to produce the entire package. The company's goal was to mimic the flavor of the film. All the art created for the game, like the story line, falls into one of two worlds: the present-day world that corresponds with the movie and the future world affected by the nuclear holocaust and from which the Terminator hails.

Images courtesy of Atari produced by Black Ops Entertainment and Attitude Studios.

Terminator 3, the newest title from Atari, is the first game to include Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice and likeness.

"For the present day, we had storyboards and blueprints from the movie sets and we mimicked them 100 percent," says José Villeta, vice president of Black Ops Entertainment and game director on Terminator 3. At the same time, Black Ops needed to create the future world from scratch. "We thought 'What would L.A. be like after a nuclear blast?' So we made downtown L.A. and just blasted away. We took the Valley and we just blasted away. We took Hollywood and then we blasted away. We blew apart Hollywood Boulevard, including the entrance to Mann's Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, the Highland Mall, the historic buildings, Ripley's, and more. And we're the first to create SkyNet, which we based on the Terminator mythology."

Fashioning the future was no easy task. Black Ops' tool of choice was Discreet's 3ds max, with which the artists created all the animation and 3D art. "The key thing about the game overall, which took us a lot of time to do, is the sheer level of destruction in the future world," says Villeta. "It's hard to make computer graphic objects and then destroy them." According to Villeta, the game boasts more than $1 million in computer graphics, including roughly 15 minutes of top-of-the-line CG cinematics made especially for the game by Attitude Studios in France.

To create Schwarzenegger's likeness, Black Ops integrated physical 3D data gleaned from a cyberscan of the star. Cinergi, a production company in Santa Monica, California, provided the scan data and images from the film, assets that Black Ops retouched and remade for the game. Armed with the scan data and stills provided, Black Ops created its Terminator model using Paraform and 3ds max with Right Hemisphere's Deep Paint 3D for texturing. For the voice-over, Atari ventured to Schwarzenegger's house, where he recited lines for the game during two recording sessions. Whether talking to himself or responding to dialogue, Schwarzenegger's voice can be heard throughout the game.

Terminator 3, a first-person action game, enables players to assume the role of Schwarzenegger as the original Terminator, complete with his physical likeness and voice. Players have the option of working for good, as a Tech-Com fighter battling for survival and the protection of Connor, or for evil, as a SkyNet Terminator programmed to eradicate the human Resistance and destroy Tech-Com leaders. Whatever the adopted persona, players strive to annihilate foes, whether human or machine.

The game features a total of 22 levels or worlds, six of which involve hand-to-hand fighting. The remaining 16 are first-person shooter levels. "Our game has two core gameplay mechanics," explains Villeta. "One is a classical first-person shooter. We also have hand-to-hand combat in more of a virtual fighter style, in which you see the two characters from a third-person point of view. It includes long-range attacks, primarily throwing boxes and other items, and close-combat attacks, such as punches and grabs and throws."

Inspired by the film, having seen it three times while producing the game, Villeta worked to mimic its street-fighting-style of combat. "You can do different punches, cross punches, and a kick, but it's not kung fu. And you won't see fantasy, such as off-the-wall moves seen in The Matrix," he says. "It's more of a brute-force approach: two machines going right after each other." Opting not to use the actual fight scenes from the film, Black Ops developed a new set of moves having the same general feel.

Using 3ds max and other software tools to manipulate scan data supplied by Cinergi, Black Ops Entertainment constructed realistic 3D models of the film characters, including John Connor, portrayed by actor Nick Stahl.

To ensure that each game character's style of fighting remained true to the film, Black Ops enlisted the professional services of House of Moves (HOM) Motion Capture Studios and Smashcut.

Villeta describes the motion capture that HOM orchestrated for the game as "intense," given the large physical size of the performers, the special wire rigs and specially designed harnesses used, and the various wire-assisted and acrobatic movements required. "Because Schwarzenegger is roughly 280 pounds, some of the performers were big," he mentions. "It involved some very heavyweight lifting and throwing people around."

The work performed at HOM fell into two categories: hand-to-hand combat viewed from a third-person POV and first-person shooter with enemy reactions. For the third-person portions, Scott Workman, one of Schwarzenegger's stunt doubles, performed the part of the T-101. A Smashcut performer working on the project, stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski—the stunt double for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix films—played the part of the T-X. Explains Villeta, "We did not use a female performer; we used a male, but he was thinner and more in-line with the T-X's physical reaction."

For duplicating what the T-900 machines would look like walking around with guns and fighting, the companies turned to Tanoai Reed, a Hollywood stuntman who has doubled for The Rock in The Scorpion King and The Rundown. "When you go up against enemies and shoot them with your gun, you see the different reactions to those hits," explains Villeta. To capture these sorts of moves— when a T-900 is shot or electrocuted in the first-person levels, for example—HOM relied on Reed. "They are truly one-to-one reactions,".Villeta adds. "We capture the hits and the reactions simultaneously, and play them back in the game synchronized."

Black Ops employs first-person gameplay mechanics in a majority of the 22 game levels, for which Tanoai Reed and members of the Smashcut Action Team performed the enemy reactions.

"Initially, there was some concern about finding someone who could do some of the movements," admits Jarrod Phillips, HOM's senior vice president of business development and executive producer. "When Black Ops started describing the specific moves, I immediately thought of Reed." Despite his superhero build, at 6 foot 3 inches and 245 pounds, Reed is agile and athletic. The judo state champion for Hawaii admits, "Few stuntmen in Hollywood who are my size and who fit that Terminator frame can move like I can. I'm a pretty big guy, but I can do flips and twists."

Black Ops presented HOM and the performers with a comprehensive set of the movements required for the shoot. "They had a long list of specific moves: turn your head to the right, shoot to the right, head to the left," recalls Reed. "It was just move after move and position after body position, but it was fun. I had to march like a robot, holding one or two guns. I did a lot of stuff with guns—shooting, squatting, rolling, running—and a lot of reactions to hits." Using a mini-trampoline, Reed performed twists, flips with a twist or a half-twist, and other acrobatics. He also reacted to bullet hits and being slammed to the ground or against a wall, as well as acted like a machine about to short-circuit.

HOM captured the motion using a Vicon V-8 with 24 cameras. After going through the entire shoot, HOM put the best shots onto its server and enabled Black Ops to view the images in 3ds max online with HOM's DivaView software. In DivaView, Black Ops selected portions of the shots, created an order, and set priorities as to which shots should be shipped first.

"Sometimes there's a little bit of noise or jitter in some of the markers, and markers can get occluded or covered up, so we use Diva software to clean up the motion," says Phillips. "Our mocap guys use Diva to replace missing markers and reduce the noise without losing any of the original performance." Once completed, HOM provided Black Ops with the cleaned, edited marker data as TRC files (a global translation-al format), which Black Ops resolved to skeletons in 3ds max with Kaydara's MotionBuilder and ProMotion, from now-defunct Lambsoft. Black Ops employed Paraform software to resurface the scanned data and create 3D models.

Villeta, who worked on the project for more than a year, is extremely satisfied with the end result, despite having missed his initial deadline. "We originally wanted the game to be shipped at the same time as the movie," he says. "But if we had ship-ped it July 2, it would not have had the same level of quality." At press time, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was scheduled to be released for Sony's PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox on November 11.

The performers rely on a mini-trampoline, wire rigs, and special harnesses during the one-day mocap shoot at House of Moves.

Nearing the end of the production cycle, Black Ops had roughly 60 people working on the game, fine-tuning various aspects of it. Villeta relied not only on a large team, but also on the many tools in the Black Ops pipeline, including its own proprietary engine for production, in addition to authoring software, such as Adobe Systems' Photoshop for art creation and Adobe After Effects for compositing and effects. All the editing was performed using a combination of in-sync's Speed Razor and Adobe Premiere software on a Matrox editing system. "We used encoders to put Dolby Digital and DTS (Digital Theater System) tracks in the game," mentions Villeta. "Only a few games have done that successfully. And we are the first to put DTS movies on video games.

"On the video side, the game has a DVD style; it feels like you are buying a DVD movie," says Villeta. In fact, he refers to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines as a DVD-plus. Among the assets offered on the DVD-ROM are movie clips with surround-sound audio tracks, two classic Atari games, and production shots for viewing on screen. Players also can unlock exclusive movie scenes originally shot for the film but never used. "You have not only the best shots from the movie," Villeta concludes, "but also the game to play through."

Courtney E. Howard is a senior technical editor at Computer Graphics World.


Adobe Systems
House of Moves
Right Hemisphere
Vicon Motion Systems