User Focus - 1/04
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 1 (Jan 2004)

User Focus - 1/04

Deus Ex: Invisible War is a 3D role-playing game in which the player adopts the persona of an elite anti-terrorist agent. In addition to real-world environments—Seattle, Cairo, Germany, Antarctica, and a secret locale—the game incorporates roughly 60 unique character models, hundreds of skin combinations, and a variety of bots and creatures. "One of the biggest challenges was simply the scope of the game," explains Jim Magill, an architectural artist on the game who worked on weapon models, animations, and various game objects. "In a game this deep and long, a huge amount of content must be generated. Luckily, our artists were familiar with 3ds max and were provided powerful plug-ins. We were able to crank out an enormous amount of high-quality art assets on an efficient schedule."
Deus Ex: Invisible War boasts more than 60 character models, including Silas Archer (right).

Ion Storm employed 3ds max to build high-poly meshes, which were textured directly in the 3D modeling program, as well as game objects, weapons, character models, and animation. "Almost everything seen in Deus Ex: Invisible War was generated in 3ds max," says Magill, "including mesh detail, characters, weapons, game objects, and HUD elements."

Given the wealth of elements created in 3ds max, it was critical that the software integrate with the company's proprietary game engine, enabling Ion Storm to export content directly to the game. "Many of our proprietary internal technologies were seamlessly integrated into 3ds max via its plug-in system, providing us great control over the content and a quick testing process," Magill notes. "We're all extremely proud of the game. The bottom line is that we simply have a great time playing it, and that's what matters in the end."

Commissioned to create a TV commercial for Lugz shoes, director Arman Matin and his team at RhinoFX were faced with the challenge of developing a CGI style and concept that not only appealed to the urban, hip-hop culture, but also presented the product in a photorealistic vein. Inspired by comic book artists Steve Niles, Ashley Wood, and others, Matin settled on a hyper-realistic, yet painterly spot.

"Our approach was to use CGI to create a dark graphic novel feel," explains Matin. "New York City provided the perfect source for architectural reference, textures, and in-spiration. Dramatic angles, strong directional lighting, and deep shadows help to create the feeling." While dense atmospherics and gleaming highlights elicited a dark, wet look, brush strokes applied to color-treated textures and several layers of painted backgrounds added an illustrative quality. "All these seemingly simple processes accumulate to form the final effect."
Creating ShadowFlex, a superhero version of Funkmaster Flex, required numerous iterations in Maya.

Following the creation of a rough storyboard, style frames to establish the look and feel, and literally hundreds of sketches, Matin and his team of 12 artists explored composition, timing, and action in previsualization. "By the time the previz evolved into the final animation, we had completed the layout and texturing for all 27 shots," Matin says. Whereas the architecture was modeled and the cars were accessorized in Alias Systems' Maya, the Lugz shoes were laser scanned and remodeled by hand. Armed with NT- and Linux-based workstations and more than 150 render processors, RhinoFX relied on Maya as its primary 3D package and Adobe Systems' After Effects for compositing. "After a cut lock, we rendered all the CG layers—fog, mist, dust, smoke, cars, background cityscapes, lens flare, volumetrics, shadows, sparks, and other atmospherics. After two weeks of rendering and compositing, we used Discreet's inferno for final color correction and to deliver the spot."