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How did you go about turning the super high resolution detailing that you were getting out of ZBrush into something that wouldn't make the Xbox puke?

Jaemus Wurzbach – Lead Character Artist:
Well we made the artwork to serve different purposes. We knew when we were making the work that we would not be able to have it look as good on the Xbox as it did in ZBrush. We make our promotional assets using 2k texture maps and then down-res those for in game which used a combination of a 1024 and two 512’s. Often times that meant rethinking some of the designs; a very ornate clasp might look great in ZBrush and on the promotional artwork but look bad in the in-game version. In cases like that we would go all the way back to our detail meshes and simplify things to keep them consistent. We also would have to go into our lower res textures and clean things up a bit, particularly with our specular maps.

Speaking of platforms, do the Xbox and PC versions use the same assets across the board, or does the PC version have extra elements such as higher resolution textures? What were the main challenges developing for both platforms?

Jaemus Wurzbach – Lead Character Artist:
The PC and Xbox both use the exact same assets, however PC's can potentially utilize higher resolution textures that the Xbox can. When we put our textures in game we import them at the 1024 level, however we need to set them into LoD (Level of Detail) groups which scale their sizes down to be used in game. For a character we basically use a color diffuse map at a 1024 LoD and a Normal and Specular map at a 512 LoD -- we do this for performance issues. If you had a nice PC though you could load the textures in at full res. There weren’t too many issues developing for the two different platforms. They are similar enough that they don’t make too many headaches. Making assets on the Xbox does have a few very minor extra steps, but nothing notable that we ran into.

How many texture maps did a model like Grunt or Mordin end up using in-game? That includes any color, bump, normal maps, etc.

Jaemus Wurzbach – Lead Character Artist:
We break our characters into different chunks. The vast majority -- especially the aliens -- are made up of two chunks: a head and a body. We do this because our game has such a huge focus on conversations. We need to get as much resolution as possible in the faces because our designers love to do extreme close-ups. If we make creatures that are never intended to be in conversations, like the Collectors, then we keep them to one chunk. We try to keep each chunk to around three textures. We have a color diffuse, a normal map and a specular stack. We break the specular stack into 4 sections: the R,G,B and Alpha channels and then slot 4 grayscale images into that. Typically these maps might include a specular map, a specular power map, an emissive map, and various masks we might need to control special parameters we create in our shaders. So a character like Grunt or Mordin would run about 6 textures each; 3 for the head and 3 for the body.

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