We had the privilege of chatting with one of the CG industry’s leading studios for art sourcing, concept design and game development: Streamline Studios. They’ve amassed an impressive list of AAA game titles, some of which you’ve most definitely played in 2016! Co-founder Renier Banninga was kind enough to give us some inside knowledge as to how the studio operates and how they use ZBrush to help bring their creations to the public.

Streamline Studios at work

Thanks for joining us, Renier! Tells us a bit about yourself and Streamline.

My name is Renier Banninga and I am one of the original founders of Streamline Studios. I am a Studio Art Director that focuses on the technical research of various production approaches and visual effects on the games that we’re working on. In short, I make sure things are as beautiful as possible before and after we blow them up!

Streamline Studios is a global game development studio with a team of over 200 talents from around the world. We have offices based in Tokyo, Frankfurt, Las Vegas and Kuala Lumpur. We work together with some of the world’s leading entertainment IP for a host of services for AAA game development.

What are your most recent projects being worked on?

The most recent game to launch has been Street Fighter V and now we’re currently in the process of working on Final Fantasy XV with Square Enix. Other project titles include Armored Warfare, Killer Instinct, Bioshock Infinite & Pillars of Eternity.

Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V

How is the company organized, what is it like working at Streamline?

Like any large global game development corporation, we divide our people into teams based on the project requirement. Each team has its own lead who report to the various directors of each department.

What makes our setup a little different from other companies would be our focus on the Streamline corporate culture. Our team is constantly encouraged to push for self-improvement and creative thinking on a daily basis. Every project is an opportunity for us to try new things and apply prior innovations on future projects. We don’t lock folks down into a single discipline. We encourage them to try new things during projects if they show the knack and interest to expand their craft.

For example, a concept artist dabbling in 3D can transition to programming and developing tools and plugins. Ultimately, this just helps them expand as creative individuals with the added benefit of bringing new perspectives from other fields in production. As long as you show commitment to your craft with an ability to learn and teach others, you’ll fit right in.

Streamline Studios
Streamline Studios
Streamline Studios

Where does ZBrush fit in with your process?

We think a simpler answer would be when don’t we use ZBrush! But in all seriousness, we use the tool in almost every part of the production. Some folks in the concept team use it as a basis for quickly testing designs and or enhancing final images. The 3D environment team uses it heavily whenever nature assets or post-apocalyptic destruction is required. Basic things like rocks, mountainous terrain, lush vegetation or mushrooms growing in a cave. Tasty things like food pickups in games like a half-eaten sandwich or burger in an abandoned diner.

Our character team uses it for every little detail of the sculpting process. We use it to test out hairstyles, cloth drapery or simply to do large variation changes for body types. This is useful for projects that require a multitude of unique NPC characters. We’ve used it on historical restoration projects in the past when working with point cloud data.

Why was ZBrush chosen, how does it affect your workflow?

We chose it for its flexible and speedy response as a brush sculpting tool. It’s a nice standalone focused piece of software that extends our pipeline and has the ability to handle stupid amounts of complex mesh data. GoZ was a great addition in recent years with how it hooks directly into so many other art tools. Ultimately it has affected every layer of art production at the studio and the entire industry.

Final Fantasy XV

What are some key features you find most useful?

Dynamesh was and still is a game changer for us when it comes to fluid content creation. I use it as a primer when introducing new artists and students to the 3D process because of how quickly you can get up and running with testing your ideas. We use it extensively when blocking out designs for both characters, machines and nature assets. It’s especially useful when working on very volumetric objects with tons of layers and interconnected layering.

Trim Dynamic is the rock / damage brush and unsung hero for all destroyed prop assets. Fantastic for a million and one uses. We use it for broken concrete, monster scales, cast iron metal details and particularly sturdy looking machinery to just name a few.

Alpha brushes for free detail and consistent style across assets. These work great for tech modeling, rivets and bevels, techy indents or scales and wrinkle details across a set of monsters from a particular race of creatures. So the team can develop a look and boil it down into easily reusable brushes that add that extra level of detail.

Mesh extract with panel loops for extracting armour panels and or cloth when creating outfits from Base bodies. Simply cleaning up that lovely messy thumbnail sculpt you did during lunchtime. Poly reduction tools and unwrapping also finds a spot of usefulness with ZBrush. It’s handy to quickly unwrap models and to reduce them down to more manageable sizes inside 3DS Max.

GoZ has been used plenty of times to do a quick re-symmetry on a model or to quickly adjust it with more intuitive sculpting tools among a list of other handy uses.

Streamline Studios

What types of career opportunities are there at Streamline? What should an ideal 3D artist bring to the table?

We’re looking for people to join Streamline who have a passion for art, an interest in how things really work and an attitude of constant improvement. What an artist needs to have is a keen eye for details and appreciation for how things are put together and work functionally.

For the character team, an almost medical level or anatomy knowledge is required if you want to create amazing characters and creatures. Our environment team is always on the lookout for folks with a passion for capturing the essence or reality to make it realistic or stylized. Oh, and if you like to blow stuff up in a digital sense we’re always on the lookout for more VFX artists.

Streamline Studios
Streamline Studios

What can we expect to see from Streamline in the future?

Crazier levels of detail and unbelievable reality. My team is constantly improving and finding new ways of pushing themselves. We’ve been heavily focused on expanding our character team with the goal to create high detailed believable characters and creatures in real-time. Keep an eye out for us because we’ll be sharing a lot more updates in the future.

Renier Banninga

Streamline Studios