What is your background? What is your role in Human Revolution and how did it come about?
Having originally planned to work in the film industry, I moved with regret to video games because of a lack of opportunities. That turned out to be a lucky break, actually! Since the arrival of next generation consoles like Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 the gaming industry has gotten very similar to film. Both use similar techniques with high poly modeling, sculpting and increasingly complex lighting.
I was in Australia, wanting to come back to Montreal when David Anfossi gave me the opportunity to join the Deus Ex team, and be part of the studio’s adventure. I then accepted leadership of the team to structure the different areas: main character/NPC production, pipeline, as well as working with the outsourcing team).
Looking at work you've done in the past, photorealism is something you've always taken a great deal of pride in. Are there any "secrets" you'd care to share on achieving that?
Yeah, I’ve always been fascinated by reproducing humans in CG in the most realistic way possible. What has now become rather common since the arrival of ZBrush and advanced rendering using subdivision surfaces was considered like a Holy Grail a few years ago. But even now I still love to make simple but accurate and elegant, realistic faces.
I was asked to spend a month on human faces for a tennis game. What sounded like it would be pretty boring at first was revealed to be another bit of good fortune! Sculpting faces en masse forces you to improve and analyze more.
What’s most important is to take time to analyze the base volumes. Get the shape right and understand the relationship between bones, muscles and flesh. I spend most of my time in this phase. Adding details is then much easier and faster. I always use the same skin pore alpha made by Rick Baker (monstermaker). I like to use the Spray stroke with very subtle intensity and different radius settings to add imperfection on the skin and simulate irregularities. I finish my model by randomly adding moles, marks and small scars.
Could you introduce us to your team? (Names, backgrounds, etc.)
Sure, the size of the team changed during the production to five people (including myself):
• Arman Akopian, who was a colleague at Ubisoft and is now specializing in concept art.
• Laura Gallagher, a talented artist fresh from school who rapidly evolved to work on a lot of the main characters and complex mechanical elements.
• Tony Yang, who collaborated with Arman in the past, worked on some main characters and NPCs.
• Steven Shmuely, who worked at Ubisoft on games like Prince of Persia. He’s now a character modeler on Thief.