Thanks for sharing and detailed production breakdown
i thought there wouldnt be anything better than akeytsu for creating easy animations. im happy if i am proven wrong.
Keith, I just wanted to stop by and say: Thank you.
It’s great to see new cool VR-project being presented with the launch of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Today we talk with Frima Studio – the creators of the amazing Fated game. It’s a unique tale, with masterful storytelling and great use of VR-possibilities. The developers shared some details of the production, including the usage of UE4.
Frima Studio is a Quebec-based company with close to 400 employees. Most of our business comes from work-for-hire games, animation movies and concept art. We also create original intellectual properties like FATED. We have release many original games in the past, including Chariot, Nun Attack and Zombie Tycoon.
We knew we wanted to create an experience that put story-telling and emotions in the forefront. VR is a very unique medium in which you can cast yourself as a character and experience his or her story as if it were your own.
We also wanted to see if it was possible to create emotional bonds with virtual characters and induce complex emotions like compassion, love and sadness.
The universe itself is strongly inspired by Norse mythology. Books like The Prose Edda were a great source of inspiration for FATED.
We explored many directions during pre-production, but the cartoony art style proved to be the right choice for both performance and the ability to connect emotionally with our characters. Hyper-realistic characters in virtual reality are often creepy and a lot harder to connect with.
We knew that acting was going to be of the utmost importance for the game, and that there would be a lot of it. So we came up with a pipeline that combines motion capture, facial capture, and traditional animation.
Having a stylized art style, we had the opportunity to create environments that are heavily inspired by Northern wilderness, but that also have their own unique flavor. Our minimalistic and colorful approach helped us performance-wise, so we were able to add dynamic lightings/shadows and more visual FX. We are very happy with the results. Screenshots don’t always do the game justice; once you’re in VR, I think it’s just gorgeous.
Using Unreal Engine 4
We’ve worked with Unreal on different projects before, and we knew from the start that Epic was fully committed to virtual reality. Over the course of FATED’s development, they made awesome VR-specific updates that helped us with performance and development in general. I would definitely choose UE4 again. On our developer blog, we made several posts to help other developers interested in producing a VR title using Unreal.
Some challenges are specific to the platform, while others are specific to the genre. First, we had to understand this new medium; its limitations and possibilities. Performance is something we had to keep in mind throughout the entire production. There are way too many projects out there with great content but poor performance. You don’t want to start cutting things out at the end of the project to make it run at 90 FPS.
However, most of our challenges came from the fact that we were trying to tell a story in 360 degrees. Having no control over the camera is a big challenge; you need to find ways to attract the players’ attention so that they can follow the narrative and see what you want them to see. There are several ways in which to achieve this, such as triggering events only when the player is looking, or using slow-motion to give the player enough time to look around and see what’s going on.
We also greatly underestimated the amount of time we would have to put in audio. Everything in VR needs to be spatialized and placed in the environment. You can’t have a bird singing in stereo; you have to place each sounds separately, or it will break the sense of presence.
When developing for VR, you need to approach it like the new medium it is rather than a new platform. A lot of textbook tricks don’t work anymore, and there is a bunch of new stuff to learn. It’s challenging but oh so exciting to be part of the birth of virtual reality.