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Creating Hoyle Casino with Poser: a Game Developer Interview

Posted by Kayla Cytron-Thaler on Nov 6, 2014 2:45:44 AM

In celebration of Poser’s 20th anniversary, we’re bringing back some historic case studies that are still timely and applicable today. These great snapshots show how Poser solved problems and still is doing so. This was one of the best-selling casino games of all time. With an easy-to-use user interface, entertaining character interaction and 14 authentic Vegas games.

866-175x280Hoyle's Casino

From Will Barker: One of the most popular features of Hoyle Casino, as well as Hoyle Card Games and Hoyle Board Games are the computer opponents. With their robust and entertaining antics, the Hoyle characters help the Hoyle line of games stand out from the rest of the casual gaming market. The characters are one of the main selling points of the titles, giving consumers a reason to buy Casino instead of simply playing blackjack for free online, or downloading shareware games.

In 2000, Hoyle Casino brought animated opponents into the 3D world for the first time. I suggested Poser for this process, but the team decided to try Maya. That year, it took three artists eight months to make eight animated characters using Maya. While the artists did an amazing job of building the characters from scratch in that time, the producer was unhappy with the time and money required for the process. Three copies of Maya and the training time required to use it effectively chewed up much of the art resources for the project. In hindsight, Maya was clearly overkill given the needs of the game and the Hoyle artists found themselves wondering if there was a better solution.

Near the end of the Hoyle Casino development cycle, it was clear that the artists wouldn't have time to create the additional 20 shadow* characters needed to complete the character art for Hoyle Casino. Shadow characters blink, but don’t speak or have complex animations like the Hoyle characters do. I had been using Poser for a couple of years, and felt it was quite capable of quickly creating high-quality shadow characters. The producer asked me to make as many as I could with Poser before the art deadline, which loomed three weeks away.

“I made the first two characters in less than 24 hours. The development team was impressed at how quickly I created them and amazed by the fact that they looked as good, and in most cases better than the Hoyle characters which had taken months to build with Maya. On deadline, I had created 24 shadow characters using Poser. Suddenly, the Hoyle development team had a change of heart and they saw that it was clearly a viable tool for the art staff.

The more art I created, the more the art director and producer were impressed with Poser and what it could do for our product line. They could see a clear progression in art quality using Poser. I was tasked with creating 10 new characters for Hoyle Casino using Poser in only four months. This included designing, rendering, animating, lip-syncing, animation syncing, and completing post-production for all 10 characters. The pressure was on; four months to do this work alone, which had taken three artists eight months to do using Maya. One character that was being updated from Maya to Poser wore a hat and jewelry that we wanted to keep from her old version. I saved those models out of Maya, and had no problems importing them into the Poser scene files.To make the 10 characters, I used Poser, along with third party models, props and textures. I used Photoshop to create some textures, but primarily as a way to prepare the rendered files from Poser before their final stop in After Effects. Adobe After Effects was a critical tool for bringing all the renders from Poser together to make the final files. I adjusted colors, fixed problems, added shadows, and set up the animations for the characters entirely in After Effects.

Once I had all the characters designed, I created the necessary mouth movements, smiles, and eye blinks needed to lip-sync the 8,500 lines of character dialog in the game. There were also dozens of animations for each character including: yawning, face-scratching, making a funny face, and looking around. I used a combination of off-the-shelf and proprietary software, as well as hand-syncing, to sync the animations and dialog. All files where created on a G4 Power Macintosh with 448 megabytes of RAM, although some files were rendered on an older G3 Power Macintosh so I could use the G4 for the post-production creation of the final files. In the end, I didn’t make all of the animations for the characters I wanted to, because I simply ran out of time. The benefits of Poser enabled me to out-produce our Maya-based process by a wide margin, and it has redefined our approach to Hoyle character creation across our product line.

Will Barker

Topics: Poser

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