Our EA SPORTS titles like FIFA, Madden and NHL are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in sports games. In this EA SPORTS Series, we’ll look at different ways those teams elevate the quality of these games. Dive into the Premier League managers in FIFA 17 with Stefan Klippenstein, Modeler, EA SPORTS FIFA Development.
FIFA 17 includes some authentic Premier League managers for the first time in franchise history.
And it took a blend of art and science for the dev team.
High-definition images were first used as reference material.
“From the resulting photos we use software to automatically generate a very precise digital double of the manager’s face,” says Stefan Klippenstein, Modeler, EA SPORTS FIFA Development. An artist then uses those shapes and images as a visual reference for creating the game art in approximately 5-7 days with as much as half of that time devoted to hair.
The team used a more traditional method when schedules didn’t permit a sit down with the Premier League manager, pulling in all the available photographs to use as sculpting and color reference.
“Artists will often graft in details from other scanned managers to promote a consistency between the results of both methods,” says Klippenstein.
No matter the method, Frostbite unlocks the ability to better replicate Premier League managers in FIFA 17.
“Frostbite uses a realistic lighting model and gives artists greater control over the way materials like skin and hair appear in the game,” says Klippenstein. “Along with the expanded opportunity to control material properties comes a greater need to define standards and process to promote cohesion between characters and the environments they live in.”
That means more life-like rendering of the managers in the game world. From end to end, there are several phases that the team works through to replicate each manager.
First up is a capture session in the scan rig, followed by color calibration and generation of the head scan.
“The Scan Rig is kind of like a portable synchronized photo booth,” says Klippenstein. Photos are taken simultaneously from multiple angles to capture the subject at an instant in time. The photos are then color corrected to account for minor color variations in the Scan Rig’s lights and cameras to ensure that the colors in game are as accurate as possible to life. A very detailed head shape is computed automatically by comparing all of the photographs to each other. The team refers to the automatically generated shape as a head scan.
Because the head scan is so highly detailed, artists must simplify the geometry into a more basic shape to ensure playable frame rates in game. To do this, the team uses a program which procedurally “shrink wraps” a simplified game resolution geometry to the head scan. This simplified geometry is referred to as the game mesh. This is the shape that will eventually represent the manager’s head in the game.
After making some manual refinements to the game mesh, the artist will project the photo reference onto the game mesh, and the resulting textures are stitched together.
The mesh is then subdivided into a much higher resolution geometry to allow the small details like wrinkles, bumps and pores to be sculpted back into the surface. This detail will be represented in game by a normal map which is basically a texture that bends the light on the surface of the game mesh so that it appears more detailed than it really is.
Once the head is completed, hair geometry and hair textures are meticulously created by hand in Maya and Photoshop while referencing the photos from the capture session. The manager is assigned a suitable body type, suit, eye color and skin tone from the in-game database.
Lastly, the team customizes the scale of the manager’s body proportions, neck length and head shape by manipulating the in-game skeleton which is responsible for transferring proportions and motions to the manager’s face and body in the game.
FIFA 17 powered by Frostbite makes all this realism possible. “Frostbite brought improved skin and hair shader fidelity that looks better all round in a variety of lighting conditions,” says Klippenstein.
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