Oct 19, 2011

Eidos-Montreal Revives "Deus Ex" Franchise With Autodesk Game Technology

Eidos-Montreal, a Square Enix company, used some of the latest game development technology from Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), to develop the critically acclaimed “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” video game. Autodesk Scaleform middleware helped the developer build immersive user interfaces (UIs) — from interactive world objects and the hero’s Augmented Reality bioengineered enhancement, to basic menus and heads-up displays (HUDs). Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk MotionBuilder software were used to create and populate the game’s large futuristic world.

Augmenting Reality With Autodesk Scaleform

Eidos-Montreal used Augmented Reality — one of lead character Adam Jensen’s mechanical enhancements — as a central source of game feedback to the player. Created with Scaleform, this important UI provides Adam with information about his surroundings, including which objects he can interact with and how they can be used. The team also applied UIs created with Scaleform to many of the game’s interactive world objects. For example, players can interact with computers in the game. What appears on-screen is a Flash movie, rendered into a texture and then applied to the object.

“From the early days of development, we had very high requirements for the game’s UIs,” explained Julien Bouvrais, director of technology at Eidos-Montreal. “With a cyberpunk setting and Adam’s Augmented Reality, user interfaces were a key element to nail from the get-go. We investigated a few middleware solutions and found that Scaleform was the best choice for us.”

“Over the course of the game’s development, we produced and tested many different versions of the UIs,” continued Bouvrais. “One of the great advantages of using Scaleform is that users with Adobe Flash experience will feel very comfortable with the middleware. Using ActionScript in Scaleform allowed for very fast prototyping and helped us deliver the high-quality UIs that shipped in the game.”

Setting the Stage With Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max

The tremendous scope of the futuristic world in “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” includes thousands of characters. The number of models required to create and populate such a world made productivity a key concern for Eidos-Montreal, so the studio chose to equip its team with the latest releases of both 3ds Max and Maya software.

“Our strategy is to have great artists working with great tools to obtain the highest possible level of productivity,” explained Frederic Chappart, technical art director at Eidos-Montreal. “Having a selection of Autodesk software to choose from gave our artists the flexibility to use the right tool for the job. The latest releases of the applications gave them access to the full potential of the software.”

“Autodesk FBX asset exchange technology provided a faster and more convenient way to transfer models between Maya and 3ds Max,” explained Laura Gallagher, character modeler at Eidos-Montreal. “This enabled us to move back and forth between packages, using the tools we preferred in each application. With well over a thousand characters to create, that flexibility was invaluable.”

Animating the Conversation With Autodesk MotionBuilder

Eidos-Montreal felt it was important to remain true to the original title’s four pillars of game-play mechanics: hacking, stealth, combat and social. The social game mechanic offers complicated conversation trees — created with Scaleform middleware — when talking with nonplayer characters (NPCs). Players are offered dialogue options when responding to an NPC. Each response may cause the NPC to react in a different way. Eidos artists needed an easy and effective method of creating conversations with multiple outcomes.

“When it came to our conversation mechanics, MotionBuilder was the tool for the task,” said Francine Mangin, senior animator at Eidos-Montreal. “MotionBuilder enables users to more easily work with different takes and poses, which is necessary for a conversation system that is designed around multiple outcomes.” MotionBuilder software was also used for motion capture cleanup and retargeting.