ground, or to climb or to push through the crowd,we used the HumanIK setup, which was directlyintegrated by our programmers into the engine.The IK was essential or hands, eet, the horse’seet and more. It was great because the artists setup their animations, we agged them as needing IK,and the IK would automatically be interpretedin the engine. It allowed us to see spectacularanimation right o the bat. We didn’t have todevelop our own animation systems or manyo these complex actions,” Tory continued.HumanIK aorded the team immediate eedbackon whether a system was working or not. Thishelped tremendously with knowing where toplace objects in a scene and how to build the 3Dsets and structures, eliminating a lot o the trialand error o scene setup where all the animationsystems are built rom scratch. It also acilitatedgood collaboration between level designers andlevel artists, with the animators ensuring that themovements worked within the environments.Most importantly, HumanIK allowed or quickprototyping, which is what the team needed withsuch a big and new game concept.“We built 150 dierent bodies and many dierentheads—each body was built to stringent specicationsso that we could combine the heads and bodies inendless permutations, along with over 1650 dierenttextures or unique hair, clothing, accessories,physical characteristics and more. This enabledus to populate a rich or poor district and give thecharacters distinct traits that made them looklike they belonged in each environment.”This unique engine ensured that all the heads andbody types, modeled in 3ds Max, could be mixedand matched to work together. There was a lot o optimization done to make sure that all the characterswere perectly designed to be integrated seamlesslyinto the game engine. To urther create varietyamongst the crowds, there were various dierentsets o animations (i.e. movements or an old lady, atman, soldier and more) integrated into the engine toadd variety and lie to crowds quickly and easily.
Productivity Boosting Pipeline
With a team that grew to 150 over a productioncycle that lasted our years, optimizing theproduction pipeline was a major priority.“For games that use a lot o motion capture likeAssassin’s Creed, the pipeline o MotionBuilder to3ds Max is a really efcient one. We capture dataon our motion capture stage, tweak and clean upthat animation in MotionBuilder and bring it into3ds Max. We have been working with 3ds Max ormany years—people are very comortable withthe sotware, they know the pipeline and they relyheavily on Biped because it produces great qualityanimation. 3ds Max is perectly designed or gamedevelopment and helps us produce large quantitieso assets at a breakneck pace. And with this game,we had so much volume that having a pipeline thatwas exible and that our artists were comortablewith was essential,” said Tory.Standardizing on 3ds Max also provided an advantagewhen building such a large development team, asit was easy to source a trained and talented pool o animators well versed in the package.“Our Character and Animation Technical Directorstake advantage o the extensibility aorded by3ds Max via MAXScripting and can easily tailorthe pipeline to a speciic project need, urthermaximizing efciencies. It’s also really benecial thatwe have a direct link between 3ds Max and ourgame engine which allows us to get data rom thegame engine into 3ds Max and conversely get datarom 3ds Max into the game engine,” Tory continued.
Create, Animate, Integrate
The creative process at Ubisot starts out with aconversation between designers, artists andprogrammers to break down a system and gureout exactly what animations will be needed to helpthe story progress in a given sequence. At thispoint characters will have been modeled and riggedin 3ds Max and MotionBuilder. From there, theanimators might start capturing some video ootageto get idea o what they want things to look like.Once a good understanding has been establishedbetween the designers and the animators, theteams go to the motion capture studio and startrecording data. The data is tweaked and rened inMotionBuilder and brought into 3ds Max or cuttingout rames, inserting start and end poses, and breakingthe animation down into parts to create a systemthat works. From there, the process involves a lot o collaboration between the animators and programmersas sequences are brought into the game engine.
Automating with MAXScript
Assassin’s Creed eatures approximately 20 maincharacters and hundreds o secondary and crowdcharacters. Ater being modeled at very highresolutions, hero characters are reduced toapproximately , polygons with 3 MB o textures each, while crowd characters have about3500 polygons each with 1.5 MB o texturesattached. In order to generate high volumeso crowd characters, the Ubisot team createda custom engine builder using MAXScript, thescripting language within 3ds Max, to standardizethe necks and skulls o our crowd characters whichhelped to enable automated creation o multiplevariegated characters on the y in the game engine.“We created an engine builder using MAXScript thatenabled us to populate worlds with hundreds uponhundreds o characters with enough randomizationthat they all look dierent,” said Francois Levesque,Animation and Character TD or the game at Ubisot.
Image courtesy of Ubisoft.Image courtesy of Ubisoft