Monday, October 11, 2010

Class in Session: Our Modeling Process

Hey everyone,

I have seen numerous posts throughout the world wide web questioning our motives for choosing specific WWE Superstars and Legends for our SvR franchise. I wanted to take a moment to break down exactly what we do, so that all of us are clear on our process. It's cool if you don't like our process, but understand it as fact please -- because it is the truth.

Firstly, like all things, our superstar list comes down to budget and timing. At the beginning of pre-production, we have a list (based on the features we want to do), of guys we want to have in our game. In development, there is creative and project management. Creative handles exactly that, the creative (that's me). Project Management handles the timing and budget for our game (that's not me). Where was I? Oh yeah, once we have a list of superstars we want in game (which is usually like everyone), we submit it to our Project Management team so that they can scope it. What that means is that they take our list, and then breakdown how much each superstar would cost (in real money) to model. Once that is done, they get back to us with a high-level estimate of how much it will cost to create each model, and how much time it will take.

We then take a look at those estimates, and of course we're way over scope (time and money), so we have to make cuts. There's not back and forth here, we make an annual title, and our numbers (budget and time) have to be met. So, in order to cut we're told that we can have (for example) 105 models in the game. Here's the thing though, alternate attires, referees, WWE Security, Non playable characters (Stephanie, Tiffany, etc.) and WWE Legends all count as models. Every alternate attire we have, counts as one model each. For instance, if Cena were to start wearing a NEXUS shirt, and we were able to do it in time, that would be an entirely new model, not just switching out his shirt. Is it an ideal process? No -- and we're working on solutions to fix this.

"But I can change stuff in Superstar Threads, it should be easy for you"

When you change things in Superstar Threads, you're just adding layers on TOP of existing layers (hence the name layers). These assets that we build the models with are "baked in," and are given the same lighting treatment that we give the skin on our models. Tricky, eh? :)

Now, concerning WWE Legends. The WWE has a Legends roster that includes a list of superstars that we're allowed to use at no extra cost. A lot of the guys are on it, but there are a certain amount (and you can probably guess which ones) that aren't -- therefore we have to go out and sign them. This is like any other licensed sports game as well. How did NBA 2K11 get all of those legends in? They had the legends license, and guys who didn't fall under it, they had to sign. Sounds great if you have the money, but in some cases -- in some years, we just don't.

We redid our models this year for SvR '11. EVERY model. Just because you've seen a model in a previous game, and it looks like the same model, it doesn't mean that is is the same. When we change the lighting, we have to change the model, when we upgrade visually (like we did this year), we have to change the model. Some were saying we used Jake Roberts from our LoWM game, but that isn't true. We created his model (it may look the same, but the work was still done). Work is work, guys -- and it CAN replicate previous work. We have muscle flexing in the game, that is a HUGE modeling task, and required all of our models to get redone as well. Not blowing smoke guys, just saying facts here.

I hope this was a little bit of an education for you guys. I always like to teach you guys about our development process, so thanks for being so interested!

17 comments:

  1. SO, when every SvR fan spend 10 dollars/euro/pounds, we can get more superstars because THQ has more money in their budget?

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  2. This is a great, informative article. I think it's easy for gamers to develop misconceptions. For example, I used to hold a long-standing belief that because hardware is better today, developers could deliver more content, longer games, deeper games, etc. if they stuck to 2D graphics, since there wouldn't have to be any mo-cap, voice work, 3D modeling, etc. But it was later explained to me by several different developers that LABOR x TIME is the most expensive part of development ultimately, and having to hand-draw pixel art is a very time consuming process. So in many if not all cases, 2D pixel-art based games of great length could end up being more expensive to develop than 3D games with SEEMINGLY higher production values. That really turned my misconception on its head (which is always a good thing, imo.)

    Hopefully what you've posted here will do the same for a lot of people.

    As a side note, and this isn't really about misconceptions, but about creating accurate expectations and information for customers in general, I do have a suggestion which may or may not be feasible. I know you aren't in PR or marketing, so this isn't really your gig, but you do seem interested in helping us get what it is that we want to see most into the hands and minds of the right people. Well, I've been thinking about this staggered information reveal process, and it occurred to me that while a good idea in theory, it might backfire sometimes.

    For example, we didn't learn about Match Creator or the online component of the game until very recently compared to some of the other core features. While I understand the reasoning for that, it also means that we can't comment on or make suggestions/requests with respect to those features for next year's game in as timely a manner as we were able to about things like Divas, mini-trons, etc. So you could end up with an artificially interpreted sense of urgency or importance for certain aspects of the game when designing next year's iteration, because of how much later we found out about certain aspects of the game. Am I making any sense? Lol.

    Just a thought. For all I know there might still be plenty of time for all of that stuff to reach the right ears and minds, regardless. Just thought I'd throw it out there.

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  3. Thanks for posting this. I'm always very interested in the behind the scenes process of making the game.

    You mentioned that alt attires and such are a completely separate model and I think you mentioned before that entrance attires are too. To me this just sounds kinda silly and I hope you can fix it for next year because it sounds like this is a big reason why we only get a few entrance and alt attires every year, instead of every character getting them. It also seems to be holding back Superstar Threads as the reason we can't edit entrance attire, and possibly why we can't edit the actual clothes rather than just changing colours so I would really love for this to be fixed so that entrance attire and alt attire isn't a separate model but instead treated like actual real life clothes, as a layer added on top of the model. And then maybe everyone who has entrance attire can have it in the game, and maybe it would let each character have multiple attires. To me that would be awesome

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  4. The NBA 2K Team must have a fortune for their budget since they have to model EVERY team uniform for EVERY player in case we trade them in-game. Oh wait -- their jerseys aren't "baked in" and the models in 2K11 are better than the SD models!?! Wha-aat? Hire those coders to come over to the THQ offices and teach the team a thing or two. Those guys know what they're doing!

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  5. Thanks but my questions are:
    1. Why not cut back on all the NP chars and put more superstars in? Or just make the NP chars playable since their models cost money any way?
    2. Who pick the legends? Why not be more Fan/customer friendly and let US vote on which legends we want in? You have tons of legends that were in past games that we want back...LOD, Rude, Perfect, Vader, etc. I'm just saying before you decide what legends to be in 2012...Give us the list and let us vote!
    3. This is 2010...It is way over due to have 5 on 5 and not able to have 6 women tag team matches.
    4. thq is making more money with DLC I'm sure if someone did the math...the more DLC you have for example charge $1 per Legend...you still make a profit. How much do each superstar/Legend cost? If 100,000 people buy the legend I'm sure you have a nice little profit from that.
    BTW you are doing a great job!!! We all just want the best SVR ever!
    BTW why was LOW import not an option for SVR2011...models again?

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  6. This was an excellent writeup man, the best blog post you've written, I knew about the modeling process but having you break down how the relationship with PM and Modelers works really helps me to not only understand svr but the issues every game developer probably goes through

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  7. Nice post. Regarding how each attire is a complete model, yeah I agree that's probably not ideal. Maybe an idea would be to make a model (ie like HHH with just white trunks). Then model all types of different clothing as objects that can be worn. So that way players can switch out what a Superstar wears.

    This makes sense in my mind. And I'm not a developer so this could sound completely unreasonable. And I'm sure changing to a system like this would eat up lots of time and budget. But just an idea.

    Bob

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  8. @ Ben very good points about the game

    Marcus I like these articles and would like THQ to continue looking at better way to improve technology and making us the fans happy. SvR 11 has a great roster and next year I expect it to be great.

    With Legends I would like to see a LOWM2 in the works I hope. But we all want to see guys like The Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon, Diesel, and so many more added to our games. I hope WWE can sign these guys to some legend deals soon for us to be able to use them.

    I know THQ listens to the fans I bet they are working on things we have asked for every day Create-An-Arena has to be in the works for the next game title. Also I expect to see a Online Franchise Mode (Create-A-League/ Brand), Create-A-Title, and adding things like Match Creator Online. Just keep looking at what the fans want and keep delivering.

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  9. I'm curious why alt attire is a different model. Why is it different from CAWs? You can put various different shirts and such of them with no problem. Not that I know anything about making games.

    But if you could adjust it so attires were a different 'layer' somehow on top of the normal model that would make it easier. Not that I particularly care about alt or entrance attires that much...

    What I'm curious about is how long does it take to make a model?

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  10. Hopefully, one day Superstar Threads allows us to switch out faces, pads, logos, facial hair, etc. Then we'll be back to where we were 10 years ago with the AKI games, lol.

    For the record, whoever made that Barrett CAW on RAW needs to be waterboarded...

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  11. AWESOME! WCW Arena confirmed!!!
    (I know, off topic)

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  12. Great post Marcus. I'm really loving the level of THQ Glasnost these days. This article was really informative. I always wondered what the relationship between yourselves and the WWE is like and how that translates into making the game so thanks for shedding some light on the process. I hope you will be able to reveal more of the creative/production process in future articles.

    Thanks again.

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  13. It seems like most of the budget went into the graphical aspect of the game from your blog article.

    Was the whole muscle flexing tech + lighting + texture etc, mandatory for this year's game? Or was this entirely a design decision?

    I can see why you went with muscle flexing. So 2012 will focus on gameplay. Weight classes, reversal styles, wrestling styles. Something that actually counts towards the actual ring performance.

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  14. Marcus, how about an article on the SOUND process, because honestly, this year's title sucks in that department. Those monotone crowds have got to go! It's just one long mumble droning on and on. And what's with the sound effects in match related to the ladders and other objects? That scraping gets repetitious and I have no idea who thought recording an airplane taking off wouldn't feel out of place in a wrestling ring. If you make one contribution to the team this year, get them to fix this. It's embarassing!

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  15. Notice to all comment and post subscribers: Blog discontinued and site abandoned. Sorry to be so frosty, but no more updates. PR policy, not mine.

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  16. Thats a real shame. I really enjoyed reading the articles. THQ shame on you! This is supposed to be an open debate not a closed discussion. I would have thought a blog like this would be good for PR but hey obviously the powers that be seem to think otherwise.
    This is a step backwards for fan involvement.

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  17. He´ll be back here and in all the forums the next year to try and sell us the 2012 version of the game.

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