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NBA 2K10 Developer : Faces, Models and Animations

  POSTED September 15 |   VIEWS 11220

Lynell Jinks, Art Director for NBA 2K10 talking today about many of the cool graphical additions this year so you know what to look out for when you start playing your game in October. All you need to know  about Models, Faces and Animations in upcoming NBA 2K10!

Facial Animations
I want to first get into what makes our graphics more innovative than ever: Image Metrics. Before this year, we only used a maximum of 3 different blend shapes per head, which would limit the type of emotion you see on the players’ faces. The end result had the players looking more robotic than human when running around or even in doing simple actions such as blinking. Now, with the help of Image Metrics the facial animation goes beyond what we’ve ever been able to capture before. An actor is actually recorded with a camera connected to their face to capture how facial muscles work and better document a facial animation. Now, simple animations such as blinks are not so much just moving the eyelids, but rather the cheekbones, muscles, and so much more. We took it a step further and sent Image Metrics the actual NBA footage of the players with signature expressions and signature intros, so that way we actually have the facial animation to match the body animation. We are not limiting this to the players either. Coaches, assistant coaches, and others will have better facial models and animations to bring the most realistic looking characters to any sports game you’ve ever seen.
 
 
Of course, many of you are familiar with Image Metrics because of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto . They generated hundreds of animations for the dialog and narrative of the game. But taking that technology and adapting it to about 1000 different characters in the NBA was a bit of a challenge. It’s created a really sophisticated system to get our facial animations and builds in the most realistic way possible. Combining animation generated by their proprietary capture process and the advanced head rig, we were able to give the players the ability to emote. You’ll be able to see them breath heavily and search for an open position as they dribble back down the court. Occasionally, they’ll check the score or cheer on the crowd. That being said, everyone will be doing something with their face. Go into replay and you’ll see what I mean. On that note, you can look for more than a hundred guys with signature facial animations . Watch Vince Carter as he kisses the basket, Garnett pouting or screaming, or Yao disputing a foul. These are just a few examples of our signature animations. 
 
Player Models 
I want to share a couple things about player models this year. We have completely rewritten our skin shader -- the skin actually looks and behaves like skin, something we really struggled with in previous years. Once we saw the potential of this new skin shader, my Lead Character Artist Jon Gregory made it a huge priority to create new hi-res normal maps for each player and coach in the game. The amount of detail you can see in their faces is truly amazing, like the wrinkle on the back of Kobe’s neck, or the wrinkles on Greg Oden’s forehead read so much better now.
 
We got a ton of feedback about players being scaled inaccurately last year. Well, we made it a priority to have the players be better scaled to the court. You will notice that they seem more life-size compared to their surroundings and each other. This has improved the look of the gameplay, since now game reactions are more realistic.
 
 
Animations
Throughout the summer, we were hard at work on bringing in a ton of new animations and addressing areas of the game we had never looked at before. The result is an incredible number of new animations packed into the game. Let me give you an idea of what you should be looking out for.
 
Let’s start with the crowd. There is ten times the amount of animations previously allotted to the crowd, and it’s never been more reactive to what’s actually happening in the game. Often, in previous years, you would see a huge play happen and the crowd failing to react that strongly to the highlight or picking up several seconds after the action. That is no longer the case. You will see a highlight play illicit the proper reaction to a huge play right on queue. NBA crowds generally don’t sustain a constant frenzy, so our first fix was to tone down the natural state of the crowd from last year. There is a more standard regular buzz that will be met with huge responses when the situation calls for it. We had to get this right graphically to match up with our huge audio reactions per the recent Audio Insight. Just know that there will be more peaks and valleys with the crowd, and that no highlight play will go unnoticed.
 
You will also see a ton of new things on the sidelines and bench. As you have seen from some of the screens, players now will wear a variety of warm-ups before getting checked into the game. But there are also more than 200 new ambient bench player animations to check out . These include new celebrations, dejections, anticipations, and general observing animations as well as a set dedicated for the coach in a huddle. But that’s not all! You’ll see your team cheerleaders and mascot performing new animations as well. The cheerleaders will have a ton of new dance moves and team mascots will more accurately represent their real life counterpart. You will see a wide array of random animations as well. Want an example? One of your players can now run into the mop boy! These animations are all something to look out for while playing the game that just brings our presentation to another level.
 
 
 
Of course, most of the focus is on the thousands of new game play animations. Besides needing all of these packages for Draft Combine and My Player mode, we wanted to bring in the newest and most innovative gameplay packages around, including Isomotion, Defensive, Post Moves, etc. We have completely retooled our blocks, post moves, and post defense as the gameplay guys addressed a huge need here. (I’m sure they’ll have plenty to say about this in forthcoming Insights.) So we needed to provide an entirely brand new set of animations for these areas in the game and several hundred animations were dedicated to each of these areas alone.
 
We’ve added more Signature Animations as well. Pay attention to the star athletes as they shoot. Whether it is on the court or during free throws, their moves have been re-created down to the smallest detail.
 
And of course, you will see ton of new dunks, a few of which were performed by James “Flight” White, along with other NBA stars. Don’t expect your player to be doing many of them any time soon, (expect the Level 0 beginner dunk status, where you’ll barely be getting to the rim) you’ll have to work to become a master of the dunk.
 
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention signature celebrations. Of course we have a ton of new celebration animations, including the LeBron chalk toss. But I’ll let a future Insight get into those, I don’t want to give away everything!
 
Arenas/Uniforms
This was a major point of emphasis. The arenas, for the most part, all needed to be re-tooled to be more accurate. The biggest overarching difference you’ll notice is the improved stadium lighting and pre-game stadium introductions. The pre-game stadium look just has a greater realistic feel, with team colors, spotlights, team PA’s, etc.
 
We also put a huge emphasis into our uniform selection this year. We weeded out many of the less popular ones over the years and added a ton that you guys suggested (Cleveland in the late 70’s, etc.) We also wanted to add jerseys that are becoming popular during theme nights/weeks from the past couple years, such as Latin Nights and Green Week . You will be seeing El Heat and Los Bulls as selectable jerseys this year.
 
 
Accessories

Let’s get into some things I am sure you hardcore guys are going to be very interested about: tattoos and accessories. As you can see from the Draft Combine video and screens, there are a ton of new accessories. You will have the ability to colorize your shoes, including more brands than ever before. You can make sure your character has the most accurate and flashy kicks in the game. We have brought in a whole new batch of tattoos to bring the players up to date. Creating those digitally gets more unique every year, as the NBA guys keep outdoing each other. 

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