Co-Founder of EVR Studio Dong-Jun Min has told us about the studio, discussed their upcoming game Project TH, spoke about creating realistic environments and lifelike digital humans, and explained how they work with filmmakers.
Hello 80 Level, I’m Dong-Jun Min, the Director of Project TH and a Co-Founder of EVR Studio. I’ve been on the developing side for 24 years. I am currently in charge of Project TH and digital humans at EVR Studio.
When I was establishing EVR Studio, I was ready to build a team to develop a story-driven, single-player AAA game. So it was inevitable for me to work on state-of-the-art digital human technologies to meet the expectation of players around the globe. To achieve it, my team put a lot of time into developing technologies for conveying the raw, yet very complicated emotions of a real person into a digital form. Also, animation controlling systems were put onto our agenda to deliver the character's personalities, emotions, and minds to the players without any unintended loss. A procedural background asset-generating software solution we named CitiGen also needed to be developed to fill up our projects with Korean vibes in a more productive way.
To achieve the above and many other not mentioned goals, we have put tons of effort to be solidified as one team, a strong team of experienced and talented people from various industries such as game development, Hollywood VFX, filming, scenario, fashion, architecture, and more. And now, we have thrown ourselves into developing Project TH.
EVR Studio was founded in 2016 to create visually high-end VR games. Throughout the journey, we were able to secure our core technologies to expand the business. It required continuous R&D for the creation of hyper-realistic digital humans and generating a massive-scale virtual world. Based on those cores, EVR Studio is now actively performing in five different fields of business – AAA game development (Project TH), digital humans, Metaverse (Project V), XR, and VFX for films and visual arts.
In preparation for the current form shifting of the media and visual contents from the 2D display to the more experiential and interactive 3D, such as VR, AR, XR, and the naked-eye 3D, EVR Studio has built a team that can produce the real-time content with a wide range of format versatility. Project TH stands in the center of all productions of EVR Studio.
I profoundly believe that communication is the most important than anything else, especially for EVR Studio, as we are a group that consisted of experts from many different fields. I know from my experience that one bad misunderstanding between teammates could lead the whole team to nowhere but failure.
That is the primary reason why we have created a culture of open communication here at EVR Studio. We believe it is the best way to inspire one's performance and break stereotypes, especially when facing problems.
Project TH contains the storylines and vibes to depict Korean culture to its fullest, and I hope those elements to eventually be the tools to communicate with audiences around the globe. The most important thing here is the theme. Why are people in the world building anger and hatred toward each other? Are those negative feelings just made within oneself? Or implemented by someone else one doesn't even know?
As a Director of this project, I got inspired by these thoughts and wanted to visually portray this inherited, violent nature of an individual and their surrounding groups, this time by using the near future Korea as the setup.
Project TH will deliver the audiences a AAA game experience with real-time cinematics and fully packed TPS actions. These actions include infiltrations, closed combats, and ranged attacks with many carefully selected weapons, for the three main playable characters to perform with their distinctive action style.
The Game's Story
Here's the game's synopsis: "The future Korean peninsula is on the verge of unification. The whole atmosphere shakes in facing the upcoming historical inflection point of the century. A North Korean soldier, Ji Jeong Tae, becomes a participant in a military exchange program under the South-North Reunification Act and joins the South Korean Army.
An anti-governmental, armed terrorist called Byulmuban heavily reacts against the unification in their own way, also inciting the Korean citizens to actively protest again their leaders, through manipulated events. Mysterious war clouds slowly hang over the Korean peninsula and now it is time for Ji Jeong Tae to find the truth."
Project TH has three main playable characters, each with their scenario to play:
- Ji Jeong Tae: a former North Korean soldier, happens to come to South Korea as a symbol of unification. He fights against the terrorists under the Defense Security Support Command's (DSSC) order. After failing a mission, then demoted to be the manager of a Korean K-pop star group called Ordo.
- ID Ghost: a former South Korean military veteran who now walks a path of terrorism. After blowing up the Houses of Parliament of Korea, he becomes the nation's most wanted criminal and confronts the DSSC.
- Gavi: is a member of a K-pop girl group called Ordo, whose main purpose is to spread DSSC's political propaganda to the people of Korea. This job has granted her the right to live a fancy life.
Project TH is a third-person shooter action-adventure game. A player must think wisely to get away from the dangers or complete the missions by choosing the right actions for each challenging situation.
I and my team are trying to provide players with experience with a high level of tension when playing the game. Players might always have to keep their focus on the noise level and make good use of the light, shadow, and noise which can easily be altered by the player's decision. Players will have control over those surroundings, and this is often possible by using certain types of weapons.
As I mentioned, there will be three main characters for players to choose from, and each character has a distinctive play style. For example, you wouldn’t want to play a character with low physical/tactical ability to be actively involved in an all-out situation. In this case, finding objects to hide/cover yourself and trying to delude your enemies would be the right answer.
I am focusing on building the story's narrative to be unified in the end, starting with the three different points of view for each main character on the same event or situation. By this method, I hope the players will have an immersive, story-driven experience throughout the play.
Working on Characters
To create the characters, we use an in-house made 3D scanning machine called the Light Sphere, equipped with the reflectance capturing method, which can provide results more than 100x better than other commonly used methods in terms of fidelity and precision.
We have also established an integrated performance capture studio inside to handle the motion, voice, and expression of a digital human in a single production site. I would like to address that all the hardware and software are developed internally, exclusively by EVR Studio, and therefore safely protected by the patent law.
Recreating Seoul in 3D
The modern looks of the buildings in Seoul cannot be defined by a specific architecture or style. They are getting more and more versatile as the city grows. So, we have concluded that the conventional way of data creation is no longer time- and cost-effective.
A software solution called CitiGen developed by EVR Studio is designed to help the developers to create the related data in an extremely effective way. It enables the procedural creation of buildings in any architectural form and design in just a matter of minutes.
The Studio's Other Projects
Parasite VR is an immersive film that unravels the spaces and hidden metaphors of the original Parasite in a surreal visual representation. We focused especially on a transcending feeling of time and space without compromising the originality of Parasite. As the result, we won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Parasite VR has been exhibited around the world, starting from the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.
Poet’s Room VR
Poet's Room is an interactive VR film that portrays the life of Dong-Ju Yoon, one of the most respected poets in Korea. The film tells the story of his life and his particular work that was written at a major turning point in his life. We tried hard to convey his great mind in an immersive form, so the viewers can have a better understanding of his thoughts and feelings. Poet’s Room is nominated for the Immersive section at the 2022 Venice Film Festival.
3D and Gamedev Market in Korea
The gamedev market in Korea is heavily focused on online-based platforms, especially mobile. It takes nearly 60% of the whole development and production. On the other hand, the console gamedev market barely reaches 10%. I believe the developers of Korea are very skilled, and their ideas are bright, but it has always been a difficult challenge for them to have a chance to be involved in gamedev with a more diversified area, or platform, due to the current market situation that I addressed above.
However, I saw some changes in the market recently.
To make a console game project to be kicked in and to get sufficiently funded, it was a must to set the target audience to global. It could never be a domestic-targeted project when it comes to console game development, at least here in Korea. This was the biggest hurdle for the studios eager to start a project, even for the big ones, because console game development could be very pricy and risky with the given market situation.
Luckily, Korean cultural trends recently went viral around the globe, including K-pop and media content like Squid Game. And such a huge success brought confidence to the developers in Korea and made them think that there might be a chance in the game industry as well, and eventually, the confidence led them to the actual development. This trend can now be easily spotted among the major studios here in Korea.
Working with Filmmakers
Heo Sung Tae
Heo Sung Tae is an actor who does not fear any challenges. Motion-capture acting can be difficult work. In a current motion capture environment, it is challenging for the actor because the scenery is not present and needs to be imagined. It is very similar to the special effects production used in the VFX industry.
Experience is key to this shooting method, and Heo is a talented actor who can play his character in any situation. Moreover, since EVR Studio has a rich experience in performance capture, competent results are expected.
Kang Yun Sung
Project TH is under development with thorough preparation, shooting, and data capturing of the starring actors scheduled for the next year. As a cinematic director, Kang is paying tremendous effort and attention to understanding every little detail of the unique genre of video games. We hope to see the boundary between the movie and other interactive media merge through his works, and also hope Project TH to leave a good example of such convergence.