The Dark Side of Game Development
By: Kudo Tsunoda
Executive Producer, EA Canada
Hey! My name is Kudo Tsunoda, and I am the executive producer on EA Sports' Fight Night 2004.
Some days, the glamorous life of a celebrity video game developer is not all it's cracked up to be. I mean, sure, when you are working on great games like Fight Night 2004, most of your life consists of nonstop parties, press events, and flying around on your private jet to make personal appearances. But you know what? We game developers have our tough days too, and sometimes we have to work really long hours to make you the best quality games. Let me give you an example of how bad it can be.
In its never-ending quest to bring boxing realism to today's gamers, Fight Night 2004 delivers more than just authentic boxing gameplay. It also delivers the most realistic boxing ring girls to its in-game cinematics--both before fights and between rounds. Ring girls perform a critical role during a fight by letting you know what round is coming up as well as providing between-round entertainment.
The ring girls chosen for Fight Night 2004 were put through an extensive screening process to ensure that only the best in the world made it in to the game. Due to the importance of the ring-girl feature, I took a very hands-on approach to its implementation.
We scheduled more than 80 girls to come in to meet and talk with us. Each girl had 30 minutes to impress us with her ring girl moves, her dancing, and her knowledge of boxing. That's about 40 hours of having to talk to ring girls and models and watching them carry round cards around a room.
Due to my busy personal appearance schedule, we had to meet with all 84 girls in just three days. For each day, our schedule was basically the same. Our ring girl review team was up at 7:00am, and it was on location to meet the girls by 8:00am. From 8:00am until 10:00pm each day, we did nothing but meet and talk to the girls. That's 14 hours straight of hard work--without even a break for lunch. After a short dinner break, our team would sit down for a couple of hours to review photos, video, and notes on each girl. We would then rank the girls we had seen that day based on a wide variety of criteria. Often, we were up until 2:00am or 3:00am painstakingly reviewing photos of poses and dance videos on each girl. Each team member would then go home, crash for a few hours, and return the next morning to do it all over again.
Exhausting and painstakingly difficult work.
After three days of hell, we selected our final ring girls and moved on to capturing the necessary references for bringing their likenesses to life within the game. When putting a ring girl in Fight Night 2004, there were three main areas of focus: her body (model), her skin and outfits (textures), and the way her body moved in the game (animation). Each of these areas needed to be carefully documented by photos and videos before the creative process could begin.
For each girl's skin and outfits, we took close-up, high detail photographs of each part of her body--head to toe--in all her different outfits. Each curve and angle of her body was well documented to ensure the accurate representation of her real-life look in the game. We also took photos of each girl's favorite poses so we could include movements in the final product that looked natural and emphasized each girl's features.
From there, all the girls took part in a full body scan. This kick-ass equipment scanned the entire ring girl's body and then spit out a high detail model that looked just like the real girl. Again, while it is not the easiest process to have girls coming in to the office wearing different bikinis and getting their bodies scanned, our team felt it was worth the extra work to bring the highest level of realism to our game.
The last step of this arduous process was getting the animations for each girl's body movements captured in our motion capture studio. Each ring girl in the game has different moves as she walks around the ring or as she dances during prefight ring entrances. All the ring-girl animations are motion-captured, which means that each subtle move of their bodies really comes across during gameplay. There weren't many funnier moments on this project than watching a bunch of game development guys trying to give direction to professional ring girls on how they should walk or dance. Seeing developers demonstrate how to do a sexier walk or how to rotate hips in a more-tantalizing manner was a bit more than any person should have to endure on his or her job.
So you see, the life of a video game developer is not all just fame, fortune, and nonstop partying. We have to work hard--ridiculously hard sometimes--to bring you, the gamer, a product that exceeds the standards you have become accustomed to. No level of detail is too great if it means improving the quality of the games you want to play.
While it seemed like hell at the time, the countless hours spent meeting girls, deciding which girls to work with, photographing them, getting their bodies scanned, and then directing them through long days of walking and dancing for mo-cap animation was worth it in the end. You will really enjoy the look and movements of our ring girls in Fight Night 2004. There is a certain pride that comes from producing such a high quality game...even if it means having to give up playing a good game at home to go to work to meet girls in bikinis.
The game is Fight Night 2004 for the PS2 and the Xbox. We hope you have as much fun playing it as we did making it. Check it out!