The Character team delivered 72 characters for the game. That number includes the main characters variations, the FDI (enemies), the civilians and the morality characters.
The team was composed of Joseph Botardo, Ed Hardison IV and me.
One thing that I really pushed for was to have Salem and Rios in civil mode in the very first map. I wanted the player to see these guys without their armor to focus more on their human side.
Like in most production cycles, we had to redo some of the characters but the number was very small. I think in total, we remade 4 or 5 characters. For the rest of them, it was mostly improving what we already had.
We do mostly folds, scratches, hair and muscles. Our pipeline allow us to "collect" all the detail info we put on our high-res models, but we focus mainly on big details, the ones that will be seen once they are baked in a low-res normal map. We do 50% of our detailing inside ZBrush and 50% is done on the low-res textures inside Photoshop.
Majority of the detailing we do is in ZBrush. By creating details like scratches, pores or hair, we can then take that information into our textures and help enhance them so that they read better in game. Although some details are lost, the more details that are added to begin with, then better the results tend to be once they are in game.
I use it mainly for clothing and organic objects... so folds, wrinkles, muscles etc. I still like doing a lot of the more solid objects in Max. But definitely when it's clothing or bodyparts and faces, it's pretty much all ZBrush.
Cross platform development is a challenge because the different consoles do different things well. These days, I don't think it's as big a deal as it was in the PS2 / Xbox / Gamecube generation. The platforms aren't radically different on the art side, apart from needing to optimize for memory specifically for each system. Also some graphic effects are more expensive between the two consoles, so you need to re-engineer them or optimize them differently.
For the Character team on the art creation side, ZBrush 3.1 has been a big help. As far as for the game itself, it was more about improving the lighting, the render, the shaders etc...
Absolutely, we use it all the time. I always do my details on Layers and play with the intensity after to get exactly what I want. If we need to try different types of scars on a face, different hairstyles, different muscle definition, scratches on metals etc., layers are great for this.
It definitely came in handy when I did Rios' face. There were so many iterations and so much back and forth that I had to use layers. His face evolved so much over the process, and I wanted to keep all of them and try different combinations.
I use Layers all the time on my models. Layers are like a free pass to do whatever I want on a model. If I'm not sure where I'm going with some details, I put them on a new layer. This way if I don't like them, I can just delete the layer and start over. It's a great way to speed up the workflow. You don't have to worry about if you're going to have to undo a ton of work. They are also great for clothing. When I do clothing, I tend to separate the seams and folds onto separate layers. This way, if I need to change up the clothing for another character, all I need to do is turn off the old folds and create some new ones on another layer.