For the majority of the last three years at Studio Gobo, we've been working on the Disney Infinity franchise alongside Avalanche Software in the US. We were brought on quite late in the day to take care of the Pirates of the Caribbean playset for the first cycle of the product and more recently completed the Guardians of the Galaxy playset for Infinity 2.0.
For the Pirates playset I acted as Lead Technical Artist, covering a very broad range of responsibility. From tools and pipeline design and development for some of the major game features such as the player ship and ship customization and rendering technologies built for the Ocean, to rigging, animation and environmental visual effects.
As this was our first time working with Avalanche, we had to spend a large chunk of time getting up to speed with their internal development tools. A big part of this relied on me educating the team at Gobo on how to use Maya.
For Infinity 2.0 and the Guardians of the Galaxy, I stepped into a pseudo lead level artist role, as well as assuming my technical art responsibilities. There were a number of major new systems and workflows brought online during the course of development from the central tech team at Avalanche, and I was part of a small group at Gobo tasked with getting to grips with all of them and rolling it out to our internal team. I also helped guide the overall structure and environmental design for the playset as a whole.
Over the course of both of the projects, I completed a large amount of pre-vis work covering both gameplay as well as visuals.
The following video shows a very early piece I did to show how we could use the Kraken from the Pirates lore to take down ships. It used four instances of a very simple spline-IK based tentacle rig that could bend, stretch and twist to replicate a physical tentacle. This is captured in-engine.
The next 2 videos show some boat handling concepts. I wanted to demonstrate how the boat would look and handle offset from the center of the screen. The intention here was not to obscure the player view. We later went with a view over the shoulder of the player from the ships wheel to make the player feel less separated from the boat. The first video shows how the camera would move in relation to the boat turning, the second shows how the camera would track targets and keep them focused to the player while also keeping the player ship visible.
The following videos show pre-vis for ship versus Kraken combat. I wanted to demonstrate a system whereby the Kraken would reveal itself prior to its attacks and give the player opportunities to evade or defend. The first 2 videos show a successful evade followed by a fail.
In the last video here, I was playing around with the idea of having the Kraken be able to ram the player ship and remain underwater. This essentially becomes a reaction game where the player has a brief window of opportunity to steer the ship off-course.
For the Pirates of the Caribbean playset, we had a toy delivery system that would bring items purchased by the player to key locations in the world, including the deck of the player ship. For the land based delivery system, we went through a number of proposals including delivery by balloon and low-tech wooden sub-marine. The premise was to design a system that would have minimal to no impact on the surrounding environment. We ultimately ended up going with a delivery boat in the end to better suit the franchise although this was not the least impactful solution. I did all the delivery animations in the final shipping game, but the following 2 videos show pre-vis for the other candidates (the balloon concept was ultimately used in the Lone Ranger playset)
For the Guardians of the Gallaxy playset, we initially had extensive plans to integrate turrets into the environment as traps for the player to overcome or avoid. The 2 following videos demonstrate a simple munitions based turret as well as more of a puzzle type turret where the player would have to time and jump over the laser beams.
I enjoy animating, as well as rigging, and for the Pirates playset I got to do a few ambient world creatures besides other things. One of my favorites, as simple as it was, is a little crab that would scuttle away from the player, or dig down and hide in the sand. This was a very simple segmented model and rig with the resulting animation baked out onto nulls to avoid having to skin the model at run-time - an attempt to keep the cost of these things as low as possible.
I also did some R & D with one of the programmers at Gobo, Daniel Zimmerman. I modeled, rigged and animated this Omni-Droid from the Incredibles playset for him to use on a new animation system being developed internally for future projects.