April 19, 2007 - "What's a horny pirate's worst nightmare? A sunken chest with no booty!"
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! I'd like to thank Piratejokes.net for the opening gag. Remember, for all your Pirate Joke needs, visit Piratejokes.net. Or don't. It's a bit Geocities circa 95 to be honest.
Okay, bit of a false start there. Opened with a joke. Didn't really pan out. Bear with me though because before too long we'll be smoothly sailing the seas of journalistic excellence, on course for incisive analogies and penetrating analysis. Ah, who an I kidding? At World's End isn't a game that's going to change the world; it's a title that sets out to let players romp through the world of Pirates of the Caribbean - to interactively experience the events of the second and third films and beyond, and to that end it's shaping up quite nicely. Developer Eurocom is making two separate versions of the game - one designed specifically for next-gen systems, coming on PS3 and Xbox 360, and one for 'current gen', coming on Wii, PS2, PSP and PC.
We were recently able to spend some time with the latest build of the game on Xbox 360, and have a chat with the Producer overseeing the games, Jeff Blattner. One of the points he was keen to make is just how authentic a Pirates experience this title will be. The team at Eurocom has had incredible access to the film set and assets, from the script, storyboards and sketches through to DVDs of the dailies and feedback from the actors. ILM even gave the team extensive sets of 3D models and model sheets. In fact, the models of the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl in the game are both based directly on the ILM models. This gave the team a number of important perspectives from which to craft the game. According to them, the storyboards "give a good overview for your design, for where you're going to be able to fit your moments", whereas "the dailies are useful for recreation of your environments and sets. The dailies are definitely not as useful as the storyboards because you don't get any idea of what the story is from the dailies, but you do get to see what things are eventually going to look like. Prior to their digital enhancements anyway."
This level of access - along with some nifty technology - was also important in capturing the look of the character models. As Jeff told us; "Eurocom, our developer, has a proprietary facial scanning technology that's portable, so we actually got to go down to the Caribbean during filming and sit with the main actors and a number of the cast members to get their facial scans. It doesn't take long but it creates a detailed geometrical map and reference for you, and then also detailed photographs of their makeup for the texture artists and the character animators to recreate." That's not the end of the story either. "All of the characters themselves are reviewed by the actors and feedback is given to make sure that we get the details exactly right."
Of course, a detailed character model is one thing, but for a character like Jack Sparrow, where so much of his personality is conveyed physically, animation is just as important. Enter Eurocom's mo-cap studio. "Eurocom also has their own in-house motion capture studio right in their building, so we did days and days of motion capture with the actors to capture the movements and nail the movements." Interestingly, the motion capture actor that portrays Jack Sparrow, Johnny Paton, actually makes his living doing portraying the perpetually drunken sailor. Really.