Episode 4 – Production (Dev Diary: A Giant Mistake)
For the fourth part of this developer’s diary on our virtual reality experience A Giant Mistake, we want to focus on production. This crucial role is taken by Dominique Peyronnet, our VR producer, and she managed to reconcile artistic vision and technical issues. She gave us some interesting insights on the project:
“With VR, you’ll always be challenged in finding something that actually works. The narrative and the story are trying, but the technical side is also very demanding. There’s a limit on what you can do in VR if you want to keep your frame rate steady. We are working on another project where the ambition is to manage ultra-realistic characters and scenery; if you want to reach the highest visuals, at some point you’re going to need a supercomputer. Otherwise, your frame rate is going to suffer.
We started A Giant Mistake with a semi-realistic approach but we moved on to something that feels more like the inside of a cartoon movie. We also wanted to offer something original, something crisp. Most of these experiences are done in flat, low-polygon shapes, and we wished to get away from that. We went for something that felt hand-painted. Designing this kind of art direction is not simple!
Despite the small production team on A Giant Mistake, the way we do things is complex: we do multiple things at once because we are on a tight schedule. Gabriel experiments with Unity while the giant’s 3D model is being made, the animation is being designed, and the art is being done. However, the main challenge is not getting this done in this parallel fashion. The main constraint would be getting the project done on schedule.
To achieve such a feat, we start with the most complex scene. We’ve done a lot of trials on micro-scenes, with a different art direction. This phase of testing led us to the art direction we have now. There are two hurdles: the first is scale, and the second one, the detail granularity. It’s different when you are up in the sky, on the ground, when you look at the horizon… That made the most difficult scene the mountains scene. So everyone is working on this one: Daniel with the colors, the proper chaining of the scenes, the storyboard, I work on the 3D render – which is way different from what Daniel gives me – and Gael is giving us a hand. He has found a particle system that allows for a hand-painted finish but we have ended up at 15 frames per second. Given the schedule, decisions have to be taken quickly.
We couldn’t develop every tool, and have tested extensively what could be done. We have a sea of clouds in this scene, and we were using a particle system from Unity itself, but it looked too soft, and we couldn’t texture it. So we went for an old school method, with alpha sprite with painted clouds. We also have to test how we model the background while still being quality-efficient and time-efficient.”
A Giant Mistake is 100 % produced by the studio. Learn more about it here.