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Production Blog Entry for October 09th, 2006 PostMon Oct 09, 2006 5:28 pm OfflineSite Admin
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Thu May 20, 2004 7:52 am2362The Internet
Jeff Gulan, Technical Director
"World of Peacecraft"

Sure, "Here's one of those time machine hypotheticals again," I know, I know. But supposing you could demonstrate for Da Vinci or Rodin the latest 3D modeling, texturing, animating (wait, 4D?), and rendering technology. That is, if they could get past the shock of the computer...or the time machine. We just wrapped 10 days-in-a-row to kick off production on the second half of the Big Ten-Oh! South Park Season X. The degree of our triumphs is equal to that of our struggles, and this episode, dear viewers, is nothing short of decadent. This week, witness the mutant-love-spawn of interactive entertainment uber-star, Blizzard Entertainment, and yours truly, the South Park team.

I don't believe television and video-game production-pipelines have been combined in this way, so it's been a real treat having the opportunity to be part of what appears, so far, to be a beautiful collaboration. I tried to resist actually playing the game, but the time came for me to work on some backgrounds. This is one particular where the combination finds some difficulty. Scenes called for custom setup and animation of Blizzard's character rigs, but Warcraft's environment is real-time rendered. There aren't individual "scenes" set up for individual areas because there aren't individual areas. The work-around:
  • Use the game's virtual camera and built-in screen capture utility to photograph a full 360 degrees (at multiple tilts).
  • Assemble the images into a panorama.
  • Map the image onto the concave surface of a sphere for use as a background.

It sounded simple enough, though it seemed to me a strange process. A co-worker logged me in and showed me to the Elwynn Forest, but I was soon killed. The first obstacle was not knowing a thing about the game. It's a difficult spot in which to be: needing to train myself in a video game in order to get my work done. So, I got myself a copy and dove into the World of Warcraft. Wow. How many servers are there? Two continents?! How many regions, character levels, classes, items...whew! The game is absolutely huge and finely detailed. I found myself seeing this message a bunch: You Gain Stealth. Well, what's a CG artist to do in such a game but go invisible and take a texture sight-seeing tour? The economy of the polygons and texture maps is impressive. Animation and economy go hand in hand. The restrictions of the equipment and the amount of data and users forces game designers to keep their models simple. It's amazing what they do with small bitmaps and low-poly models. But I digress...

Now that my character was stealthy and wouldn't alert any beasts, I figured I was ready to return to the forest and take more pictures. Fantastic! A nice clear spot, pretty trees, the stream running by...capture, rotate, capture, rotate. As if this virtual- cinematography-photo-shoot wasn't Shakespearean enough, some part of the programming decided I hadn't had a large enough dose of irony. It rained.

Since I began learning about computer graphics and storytelling, I've gotten the impression that 3D animated entertainment is the most complex style of production around today. I could be wrong, but from the model to the texture, to the rig and animation, and the lighting and rendering, I can't think of another production style which requires more personnel. On top of that, the medium moves so quickly that employees require constant training to keep consistent and learn the newest updates to the technology. I wonder if it requires more people to send astronauts to the moon or to make a film like The Incredibles. How would Da Vinci or Rodin react to sculpture across time? Animation is four-dimensional. They'd certainly be impressed by the level of detail, the lighting, the amount of adjustable features and variables...

It's been no walk in the park, but this episode is sure to turn some heads. There's probably significant overlap in Blizzard and South Park's respective audiences, but there are sure to be some WoW fans excited about the show, and fans of the show excited about WoW. I can't wait to see the final result of a unique combination of storytelling mediums. Unprecedented. Decadent. Yeah.

sins cheerily,
jeffV2.0 <---Has friends still playing Diablo II.

P.S. Being Dungeon Master is as much fun as Designated Driver.
PostTue Oct 10, 2006 6:00 pm
Feckin hell - youse guys really do have to, erm, totally engage (!) in order to fully enter into a meaningful universal intercourse, with all its connotations, to understand a global submission of the orgy and bacchanal carnage that is (possibly, as I have read) involved in online gaming and in particular World of Warcraft…!

Congratulations – and I hope this indulgence of sensual and interactive communication continues.

hehehehehe :)

I hope you get paid, or compensated, for any misunderstood eventualities or justifiable consequences that these ‘episodes’ incur. Cos you really, really should.

Now I know what the condoms were for.

(Please see last week’s Production Blog above re: condoms)

P.S. Yup, I am a smart arse biatch!
PostThu Oct 12, 2006 3:30 pm Offline
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Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:28 pm1
haha being DM does suck.
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