These articles originally appeared in The Adventurer, the official publication of LucasArts Entertainment Company. I have recopied them for those interested in the making of the game.
The Evolution of Lucasfilm Games:
THE ART DEPARTMENT
By Collette Michaud
Lucasfilm Games’ art department presently employs eight full-time artists and four to six independent contractors. Each artist contributes a unique array of skills, experience, and talent to the job. The credit for assembling our group of highly talented artists goes to Gary Winnick, who was my predecessor as Art Department Manager and is now a Project Leader. He helped in the design and implementation of our early adventure games like Maniac Mansion and Zack McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. His latest project is a Nintendo game called Defenders of Dynatron City. Thanks to Gary’s expert eye and great artistic sense, our group of artists is the absolute best in the business.
In the past, only a few artists were needed to create the artwork for a game. For our early adventure games, the artists were responsible for drawing backgrounds as well as animating characters and objects. Now that VGA has become the marketplace standard, and prices for machines with large hard drives have dropped, our games are larger and more complex than ever. This means we must create significantly more art for each new game. As a result, we use more artists per project, and we’ve divided each team into two groups: background specialists and animation specialists.
The background team on Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis used Electronic Arts’ graphics program Enhanced Deluxe Paint (DPaint) to draw scenes directly on the computer screen with a mouse, pixel by pixel. One of our biggest challenges when using DPaint is trying to make computer art look more spontaneous and organic. For Fate of Atlantis, lead artist Bill Eaken and his team used decorative textural patterns and translucent colors to soften backgrounds, so they’d appear more natural and less computer generated. Bill discovers new ways daily to trick DPaint into doing the impossible.
Bill worked closely with background artists Avril Harrison and James Dollar to create a tantalizing panorama of backgrounds that set the tone for the entire game, which consists of just over 95 screens. From the lush jungles of the Yucatan, to a dusty Algiers marketplace, to Atlantis’ fiery lava maze, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a visual treat for the eyes.
For Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, we tried a different approach to creating backgrounds. Instead of using DPaint, we used a scanner to import original, painted artwork into the computer. A scanner works a little like a copy machine, but instead of creating a paper copy, it creates computer images that matches the original drawing, painting, or photograph.
We tried scanning in artwork created with several different techniques, including gouache, acrylics, colored pencils, and colored markers. The technique we settled on for Monkey Island 2 involved drawing a scene with colored marker pens, overlaying it with layers of paint to accent and enhance, and finally using colored pencils to sharpen any soft edges. Using this method, a single background can take anywhere from a half a day to three days to complete. After a background is completed, it is scanned into a Mac II using Adobe Systems’ Photoshop, a program developed by a group of programmers from Industrial Light & Magic. With this software, we are able to manipulate and enhance the image, using various filters and adjustments, to create effects not easily achieved with traditional painting methods.
Steve Purcell and Peter Chan were the lead artists on Monkey Island 2. Sean Turner also helped with some of the backgrounds. Steve, who had been lead artist on the original Monkey Island game, assisted Peter and Sean in keeping the overall look of the two games consistent. Peter went on to create most of the background images for Monkey Island 2, and had developed a wonderful technique using the markers that takes advantage of the scanner’s color and texture sensitivities.
Hal Barwood, Fate of Atlantis’ designer and project leader, was not satisfied with past games where the characters were cartoony and moved with unreal stiffness. Hal presented us with a challenging animation task: to make the characters move in a truly realistic and natural way. This challenge led us to a process called “rotoscoping,” long used by moviemakers to achieve realistic animation. Rotoscoping involves feeding images from a videotape of live actors into a computer paint program, and drawing game characters directly onto the video images, using the real actors as references for animated movements.
We begin the process of rotoscoping by videotaping a person, preferably in bright sunlight, against a solid color background. We then connect the video camera to a Mac II and use a “framegrabber” utility to isolate a frame or sequence of frames on the computer screen. After selecting the frames we want for animation, we transport them into Photoshop. In this program, we mask out the background of each frame, and make any necessary adjustments to color or size. These frames become the cells in our animation. We transport them to IBM, where we use DPaint Animator to string the cells together in animation. When the motions look right, we reduce the videotaped image to the size character we need, and draw directly on top of each video cell. When an animation is finished, there’s usually no sign of digitization.
After animating the characters in DPaint Animator, we transport the artwork into a proprietary software program, where we fine-tune and choreograph the character’s movements. Then we simply hand over a disk containing the animations to the programmers, who wire them into the game.
Having a limited number of cells for each animation is perhaps the most frustrating obstacle for computer game animators to overcome. The more cells an animation has, the more smooth and realistic the movement will appear. However, we are constantly asked to animate complex sequences with economy in mind, because of disk storage limitations. If we were to animate everything up to the level of an animated feature film, our games wouldn’t fit on most hard drives.
Ironically, as technology advances, we find ourselves stepping outside the bounds of our computers and going back to traditional methods of creating art. Scanning and rotoscoping free us from the limitations of computer graphic software, allowing us to exercise our creativity with drawing, painting, and even moviemaking. Nevertheless, these new techniques have supplemented rather than replaced traditional computer graphics methods. Ultimately, the more tools we have available, the easier it is to create a look and feel uniquely suited to each game.
Just as scanning and rotoscoping have expanded our capabilities over the past year, the advent of CD-based games will greatly affect the way we approach doing artwork for games in the future. We will be called upon to create even more artwork and animation in equal or less time. We will need more art resources per project and better processes for getting the artwork completed on time with the best possible results.
For the time being, we will continue to experiment with the tools we have at hand and to explore new ones that make our jobs more efficient and enjoyable. The scanner has proved to be a key player in new horizons of style, creativity, and aesthetics, while also helping us to speed up production and reduce costs. We look forward to the time, not so far off, when we can animate with as many cells as we need and use as many colors in the background as we think necessary. The future is as bright and unpredictable as it was ten years ago, which makes working in the art department at a company like Lucasfilm Games one of the greatest jobs in the world. ESC
Collette is the Art Department Supervisor. She was Lead Animator on Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
An Interview with Hal Barwood
Hal brings 20 years of experience in the film industry to Lucasfilm Games. His feature film credits include The Sugarland Express, The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings and MacArthur, all of which he co-wrote; Corvette Summer and Dragonslayer, which he co-wrote and produced; and Warning Sign, which he co-wrote and directed. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is Hal’s first LucasArts computer game.
Why did you make the switch from the movie business to the computer game business?
I’ve been designing and playing games since I was a kid. But it’s only recently that the evolution of games—from paper to computers and from text to graphics—has made them exciting enough for me to consider professionally. It helps that LucasArts has the very best storytelling software available anywhere.
What are some of the similarities between making movies and making games?
Both of them involve story, both involve visual design, sound and music. You’re confronted with a lot of the same problems when you’re trying to put something together. In the beginning of this century, moviemakers were busy with their cameras, in the streets, figuring out a new language of visual expression. It’s served them well for 75 years or so, and we’re starting to adopt it and incorporate it into the stuff we do as well.
What are some of the differences?
There’s one principal difference. In a movie, you sit back and watch passively. In a computer game, you actively participate. The player uses his own personal volition to drive the story forward.
How will games become more like movies?
Movies underwent a revolution in the late 1920’s, when sounds replaced silent films. I think that we’re about to undergo the same revolution with sound. A lot of people who make computer games focus on their cinematic qualities, and they’ve developed unique visual styles. We’re about to start making games where the human voice becomes an intimate part of what we do. Talkies will emerge in the computer game business, and that’s what we have to look forward to.
How will Talkies affect the nature and the production of computer games?
It means that we’ll have to put up with actors and their skills, and the things they can bring to a game which add emotion. In order to support this, we’ll need more intense stories—and more intense visuals to go with the stories—because use of the human voice will add a dimension of reality and liveliness that we haven’t seen yet in the games we do.
Movies are usually considered mass market entertainment. Are computer games headed that way?
I think the little silver platter is the key. Here you have a medium which can store massive amounts of data and it can be played in your home entertainment system, more or less the way you now experience CDs for audio purposes, but instead it will be interactive computer games that run on them. I think that the machinery which used to drive high-end computer games will now be available in very inexpensive packages that take advantage of the new CD technology.
How has your experience in the motion picture industry helped you in the game industry?
I think of myself primarily as a writer, and it helps to know how to construct a story, to know how to tackle a big project and see it through to completion, to know how to manage and motivate creative people. In the stories that we do, drama takes the form of puzzles, and it helps to be able to look at puzzles from a dramatic point of view.
Will you talk a little about the decision to make Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis?
When Steve and George were starting to film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, they knew it was the last movie adventure of this intrepid hero they’d created. But a lot of fans wanted to see Jones continue in his career, and so did the members of the Lucasfilm Games group. Lucky me, I got invited to come in and take over a project that needed a project leader.
How did the Fate of Atlantis concept emerge?
When we were considering doing another adventure, we realized that Indy had already discovered the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, and we decided that whatever he tackled next had to have the same stature. Our eyes fell upon Atlantis because not only is it an ancient myth known by almost everyone all over the world, but it also has wonderful credentials, in that it was first mentioned by Plato a couple thousand years ago. In addition to that, in the early part of this century, the idea was taken over by spiritualists and mystics, who attributed to the Atlanteans this fantastic technology with airships flying 100 miles per hour, powered by vril and firestone. When we found this out, we thought to ourselves, “Does this sound as interesting as the Holy Grail? Yes it does.” And so we did it.
What was the involvement of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in your project?
George has established a criterion for Indiana Jones adventures, and it’s basically that he should only find things that actually existed—or at least could have existed. We kept that in mind when we picked Atlantis, because Atlantis does in fact have this wonderful history going back to Plato and the Egyptians. Even though it’s a myth, the myth is grounded in a wonderful collection of lore.
What do you think is the most unique feature of the game?
We tell our stories through puzzles, but there are different kinds of puzzles we can use. The game is designed to be player sensitive, tailoring the game experience to each player’s puzzle-solving style. Based on choices the player makes early in the game, they’re led down one of three distinct pathways. The pathways emphasize either dramatic social interaction, classical puzzle solving or action-oriented melodrama. This means that players can complete the game several times, each time enjoying a new experience. It’s really three games in one. ESC
LucasArts enters the world of full voice games. Two talkies to talk to you about this issue. The next stage in computer development is upon us, and it isn’t the 3DO machine. It is the talkie. In a similar vein, the movie industry went through a similar cycle and soon the norm will be the Talkie in the software industry. Following our first foray with Loom, full Talkie production is now with us as part of the normal development cycle. The next two Talkies from us will be Day of the Tentacle and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
In Day of the Tentacle you will learn the true meaning of life: Just why did the tentacle cross the road? With Chuck Jones and Warner Brothers cartoons as its inspiration, Day of the Tentacle features a cast of expressive, hilarious characters; exaggerated, colorful settings; full-screen wacky animations; and wall-to-wall loony sound effects integrated into an iMUSE soundtrack. You will alternate among three kids—Hoagie, a laid-back roadie for a heavy metal band; Laverne, a slightly crazed med student; and Bernard, a well-meaning computer geek—to save the world from Dr. Fred’s mutant tentacles. Though trapped in different times, the kids must cooperate to successfully complete their mission. Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, Weird son Ed and Dead Cousin Ted Edison, “the first cartoon family of interactive insanity”, are about to make history (figuratively and literally) in the hilarious sequel to Maniac Mansion—Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle. In this interactive cartoon adventure you will have to save the planet from Dr. Fred Edison’s mutated pet tentacles. The CD game will feature full-voice throughout, and the PC version will have a “talkie” introduction.
Meanwhile the man in the hat is back—and this time he’s talking! A toothy grin followed by the beguiling words, “Trust me,”—classic Indiana Jones. Those words were uttered to every one of Indy’s leading ladies—in the movies. Now Indy will be waxing eloquently in his first original interactive CD-ROM adventure, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. In the full-voice “talkie” version of the award-winning adventure, Indy and his cohort, Sophia Hapgood, are in a worldwide race to find and unlock the potent magic of Atlantis before the Third Reich unleashes the Lost City’s power for evil. The AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Actors) production features approximately 40 characters and 8000 lines. In addition to trying to find the right voice for Indy, there are characters in the game from all over the world—with their particular accents.
Take 8 oz. of plot, 4 oz. of dialogue, 12 egoes (hey, they’re actors, and good ones), a pinch of fiscal responsibility and 4 grated nerves. Mix well in a studio, beating until there are no lumps. Schmooze until just the right consistency and then serve hot. But really. There are two sides to a talkie production. The super mondo proprietary techno wizardry that we do with a couple cans and a piece of string, and second, the voice talent. Here, Tamlynn Barra will talk about both in hushed awe.
Adventurer: What is the first step in doing a talkie?
Tamlynn: Basically we first go through a text extraction from the code, then pass the dialogue through a filter to get all the lines sorted by character for each scene.
Adventurer: What’s the input of those dastardly project leaders?
Tamlynn: I meet with Project Leaders to get voice ideas, based on their “vision” for the characters. For example, in Dott, Tim and Dave had an idea for Bernard to be done by someone with a voice similar to Richard Sanders, the actor who played Les Nessmen of WKRP in Cincinatti. We got lucky and found him actually available.
Adventurer: So how many times has someone’s cousin Veronica been used?
Tamlynn: I decided early on to use only professional talent. I contact the voice talent, all AFTRA union people, and send them b&w inspirational sketches of each character, and game info. They do their best version of how they see each character onto an audition demo tape. We narrow those to the best ones.
Adventurer: Are you constricted by the fact that Hollywood is usually the focal point for vocal talent?
Tamlynn: Yes, I fly to LA for live auditions of known actors and audition new actors from demo tapes received where necessary as well. We go through organizational hell, scheduling studios, union dealings, etc., but it all works out in the end.
Adventurer: Do the actors have to play the game in order to understand the role?
Tamlynn: No, although we show and explain scenes to the actors. My assistant organizes scripts and helps find miscellaneous lines in scripts for contextual clues, brings up savegames for viewing. I direct the actors for vocal delivery, characterization, diction, vocal quality, etc. In production we record each character through all rooms, alphabetically, so as not to miss anything.
Adventurer: How long does this normally take?
Tamlynn: In the case of Atlantis, four weeks, and we record zillions of takes. I follow each take, cataloguing which ones to use in my master script. We record onto DAT tape and the engineer monitors recording quality and levels.
Adventurer: How much work is left to do once the voices have been recorded?
Tamlynn: Quite a bit. We record each DAT tape onto a computerized editing system, equalize, normalize, and cut each line according to the catalogued script. The lines are compiled into the tape and Voilŕ!
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis stars Doug Lee, as Indiana Jones; Jane Jacobs, as Sophia Hapgood; and Nick Jameson, who portrays multiple voices, including Dr. Charles Sternhart and his mimicking parrot. In Day of the Tentacle, Nick (Dr. Fred) and Jane (Laverne) are joined by the voice talent of Richard Sanders (Bernard) and Denny Delk (Hoagie).
Denny Delk: The president of the Northern California chapter of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Denny Delk describes himself as San Francisco’s quintessential voiceover talent and one of the finest swordsmen in all of France. As a founding member of the National Theater of the Estranged, Denny’s talent to play Hoagie in Day of the Tentacle should be self-evident. In addition, Denny’s voice talent has been used for Omar, the Fez master, the Beggar, and some assorted Germans in Fate of Atlantis.
Richard Sanders: A fixture on both WKRP in Cincinnati shows, Richard Sanders is an exceptional voice talent who appears on numerous radio commercials. In Day of the Tentacle, Project Leaders Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman made the mistake of saying their fantasy out loud: “Wouldn’t it be great if we got Richard Sanders to be Bernard?”, and quicker than you can say “purple tentacle,” Richard was on the board as the voice of Bernard.
Nick Jameson: A veteran talent of television, stage, stand-up comedy, singing, dialects, character voices and more (honest, this guy has done oodles of stuff); Jameson is a successful Hollywood voice talent known specifically for his dialects and character acting. Nick now turns his talent to Dr. Fred in Day of the Tentacle and, among others, a mad German scientist in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
Jane Jacobs: Jane specializes in animated character voices and is a trained vocalist. Jacobs has provided voiceovers in a number of commercials. In addition, she has appeared on such TV shows as TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes and The New Adam 12.