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Star Wars

Hunters Teaser

The upcoming Star Wars: Hunters game for Nintendo Switch full promo wasn’t going to be ready for Nintendo Direct. Hammer Creative reached out to us with an initial creative plan appropriate and realistic for the expedited timeline. 

Being huge Star Wars nuts, we had a different idea.

Entertainment | 3D | Animation | Simulations | Design | Color Correction

Inventing the backstory of a Hutt Arena

Director: Bobby Hougham
Creative Director: Eric Edwards
Design: Vince Diga, Ryan Davies
Modelling: Ryan Davies, Andrew Butterworth
Character Animation: Andrew Butterworth
Environment: Ryan Davies, Vince Diga, Andrew Butterworth
Lighting: Ryan Davies
Simulation: Marcus Kulik
Compositing: Ryan Davies, Ben Strickland
Additional VFX: Ben Strickland, Eric Edwards
Color correction: Ryan Davies, Eric Edwards
Producer: Steiner Kierce
Executive Creative Directors: Bobby Hougham, Sevrin Daniels
Executive Producer: Andrew Kobliska

Agency: Hammer Creative
Client: Zynga
Client: Nintendo
Client: Lucas Films Games

Director: Bobby Hougham
Creative Director: Eric Edwards
Design: Vince Diga, Ryan Davies
Modelling: Ryan Davies, Andrew Butterworth
Character Animation: Andrew Butterworth
Environment: Ryan Davies, Vince Diga, Andrew Butterworth
Lighting: Ryan Davies
Simulation: Marcus Kulik
Compositing: Ryan Davies, Ben Strickland
Additional VFX: Ben Strickland, Eric Edwards
Color correction: Ryan Davies, Eric Edwards
Producer: Steiner Kierce
Executive Creative Directors: Bobby Hougham, Sevrin Daniels
Executive Producer: Andrew Kobliska

Agency: Hammer Creative
Client: Zynga
Client: Nintendo
Client: Lucas Films Games

The Process

From developing the backstory to writing the promo to creating the environment, there are a surprising number of steps.

This game is basically team shooter arena game set in the Star Wars universe. The original creative was centered around a poster on the outside of the arena driving the viewer into the arena. Hammer saw the limited timeline and developed creative that was appropriate. After talking with the creative team we saw opportunities and ways we could collaborate to create something much bigger.

Once we had the new scope approved, we dug in and created a backstory for the environment. This subsequently informed every aspect of our process. From what it should look like to how someone in this space would experience it, the backstory provided our foundation. Every project will have changes introduced by clients and agency throughout the process. By crafting a story founded on that backstory for this scene we were able to roll with changes as needed. All while staying true to the game and the world of our teaser.

Floor plan for the Hunters set reversed

Story & Setting

Our set is a sort of “green room” or waiting area for the fighters before their turn in the arena. Once called, they proceed down the hall to the staging area, where exterior doors open to the arena. Our backstory was that this arena was once long ago a training facility for fighters. As such, it was an upscale school or university of sorts. It would have been built similar to other academic structures.

We decided the hall would be a Hall of Champions. Initially designed to showcase the great fighters from that school. But the years of neglect after the Hutt cartel assumed control took its toll, and it lost its luster. Of course, turning it into a seedy and disreputable facility for gambling purposes probably didn’t help either.

Age would show its effects, values change. Instead of showing irrelevant champions, maybe the holoprojectors instead act as a viewer. They simply provide a view of the battle currently underway. Maintenance and repairs needed to feel very slapdash. The cartel has stored random bits and pieces in various corners.

And of course, there would be vandalism and graffiti everywhere.

Reference

Our creative process always includes the all-important research phase, and references always play an essential role. The Star Wars Universe has loads of material generated to delve into. Click on the images below to see how they inspired us.

While we were developing the environment, we cracked into the holograms’ look and feel. The look of something as pervasive in the Star Wars universe as hologram technology turned out to be surprisingly subjective.

Just about every era and story in the Star Wars universe depicted different styles of holograms. Some had color, whereas others were all blue, some had vertical scan lines, and others were horizontal. The amount of distortion and types of distortions are all over the place as well. So we relied on our back story to inform the era. Relative disrepair and purpose of the projections fell into place, guiding us through our treatment process.

Below are some reference images we used to help guide us while developing this much-beloved aspect of the universe.

The Design Process

Our design process started with burying ourselves in the Star Wars Universe. The research under our belt made developing textures, graffiti, and aurebesh ornamentation fit the setting realistically. After our research phase, we got into the process of designing the spaces.

The immersion into the universe helped us imagine how the tunnel and elements would be used or treated. Developing the relative age, history, and use of the building informed the process of bringing it to life.

Environment Design

Imagining this as an actual setting and knowing how the set worked helped guide our dressing process. Leading our hand in determining how much damage would have happened in the various rooms.

For example, many competitive warriors (hunters) hanging out together could be volatile. Our waiting area is a pressure cooker that would probably lead to aggression and flareups. So, we added blaster marks and lightsaber burns in the walls and doors.

Whereas the hallway was just a transit space, no one would spend any significant time there. So the graffiti is limited, and we placed minimal blaster fire marks or lightsaber burns in that space.

Hologram Development

While part of the team was busy cranking away on the details around the environment’s look and feel, another part of the team worked on applying their research to create a look and feel for the holograms.

We started with a basic look and then experimented with various types of distortion and disruption. The look needed to reflect how our projectors, without maintenance, may behave years after the Hutt cartel took over.

There is a whole lot of ground shaking with the various explosions and weaponry in use outside. We needed to think about what effect would have on our projectors.

Star Wars technology is known to be significantly less fragile than real-world Terran technology. However, we assumed that years of sand and dust being blown into the circuitry and blasting the lenses couldn’t be a good thing. So we included additional “character” to the build.

Variant v7                                                  Variant v12b

Character development

“The character animation process is the part of the process where you have the most fun,” says director Bobby Hougham. “It allows you to stand up and act goofy, get into character and imagine yourself as that person or beast for a moment as they move through your story.”

It all starts with the director waving arms around, acting out all the character’s motions for the animation team.

Rieve: Blocked v4                                            Rieve: Betweens v11

Blocking to In-betweens

Once we decided on the action for the character, the animation team started blocking the movement. Blocking involves setting poses at specific keyframes. When looking at blocked animation, the director looks at the action’s timing and the gestures themselves. Details get added in later, so it still feels stiff and clunky during this phase.

The next step is to build the in-betweens, which smooths the motion out, making it begin to feel like an animation you would recognize. This phase is where we look at the moves evaluating their behavior with proper weight and physics. Or if this were a cartoon, it would be more about the animation style, the bounciness of movement, etc.

After In-betweens more started, you will start to see secondary animations. These are things like hair and clothing movements, breathing cycles, supporting facial animations, and more.

The left example shows the blocking stage, and the right example is the beginning of the in-betweens phase. Not only is the smoothing underway, but secondary animations have also started. There is a very early breathing cycle, and Rieve’s sash has some initial physics/simulation applied.

Simulations

Building a fictional reality

This hallway is supposed to exist right next to the battle arena; it would be the spawn point in gaming terms. As the battle was already in play, we wanted to have the camera shake from impacts and explosions happening on the other side of the wall. Considering the environment is dusty from years of neglect and use and being set on a dusty, Tatooine-like world, we figured there would be an accumulation of dust in the rafters that would fall when the building shakes.

We accomplished the dust and wind through complex particle simulations. Not only does the artist need to define air density and movement as well as the amount of dust and start points but the very nature of the dust particles themselves. Does it behave like talcum powder, flour, or more like sand? How light or heavy is the particle?

Once we plugged in all the parameters, the computer works for hours and hours, calculating every particle. Each particle’s location throughout the whole sequence, affected by physics laws and our variables, makes for a load of calculations.

Even though it’s a fictional world for a video game, we constructed everything in our teaser with a sense of realism.

Adding wind and fabric

Sand and dust have a few different things happening. When the door opens, all the sand piled up against it outside shakes loose. Bobby also wanted to simulate the air pressure shift when a cool cave opens to a desert-hot environment.

As such, we needed to develop multiple simulation systems to work together in this scene. We have dust and debris falling from the door. Sand and dust are simulating a reaction to the air pressure changes. Along with the dust simulations, we developed various fabric simulations blowing objects in response to the air movement.

Wind movement experimentation was critical, increasing force and directions to hit the right balance. We ran simulations blowing the wind in, out, as well as various combinations of the two. The intensity affected the quantity of debris carried in and how much it obscured the camera.

Ultimately we landed on a quick rush of wind escaping when the door first opens and then a push into the tunnel.

add Lighting and air density, and mix to a frothy completion

Suspended particulate and a dense matrix

Bobby wanted something to reflect all the fines that are being blown into the tunnel every time that giant door is opened. We ended up creating something that would probably be unsafe to breathe in real life. But then again a lack of safety standards is right in line with the Star Wars mythos.

To achieve this look it was a combination of many passes used in combination. Depth of Field, Volumetric lighting, and fog passes along with standard lighting passes composited with various effects provided the tools to achieve our desired balance. Something we discovered was just about when you felt like you needed to grab an N95 mask while watching the renders.

Projector lights, glows as well as treating the character animations to look like holograms happened in this compositing stage.

What amazing color you have!

One of the final challenges was to nail the look of the exterior. We went back and forth on how that should look based on time of day and a few other factors. In the end we took a shot of Luke on Tatooine at sunset as our guide. Here are several different options we explored.

Reference used for color development for the exterior of the Star Wars: Hunters teaser
sunset coloration on tatooine

Attention to Details

Graphic Embellishments

We created a bunch of graphic elements to be used in a variety of ways. From directional signage to messaging on the Heroes Arch to Ralph McQuarrie-inspired graphic decoration. Our graphic embellishments were put into use whether by way of aged and distressed paint or holoprojection signage. Each helped add that extra little touch to help bring Star Wars: Hunters to life.

Star Wars Wall Elements

Graffiti and Props

The attention and scrutiny the considerable rabid fan base was sure to apply to this video, we knew we would need to make sure all our “i’s were dotted and “t’s” were crossed before airtime. There were over 1.2 million views within the first hour and that number has only grown in the days since. The fan base Star Wars: Hunters has already cultivated, not to mention Nintendo’s sizable following was hungry for details. And even on a short teaser video they were surely going to dig into every aspect and wring out as much information as possible.

As such, every piece of graffiti or vandalism as well as any intentional signage and messaging needed to be accounted for, as well as all the props found in our set. So we provided an accounting for everything and ultimately had to make revisions to the graffiti elements to bring them in line with canon.

graffiti and prop usage

At the time we kept thinking that this must be a bit of an overkill on safety, but we should have known better. A similar phenomenon happens any time we work on a property with a vibrant fan base. As it turns out, within hours of release we found discussions about every aspect of the video. We found fan videos like these that were posted up, digging into setting, location and every other bit of minutia. 

FEATURED WORDS

JOIN THE FIGHT IN STAR WARS: HUNTERS, A NEW GAME FROM LUCASFILM AND ZYNGA

February 17, 2021 in StarWars.com

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Earlier this year, Lucasfilm Games announced a new open-world Star Wars video game was in the works, and fans couldn’t be more thrilled about the prospect of exploring a galaxy far, far away.

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February 18, 2021 in This Week in Star Wars

This week in Star Wars, the bounty hunters enter the game with Marvel’s upcoming War of the Bounty Hunters, we get ready for battle with Star Wars: Hunters, and crack open…

Everything you need to know about Zynga’s Star Wars: Hunters

February 20, 2021 in INVERSE

STAR WARS IS AN ENDLESS CONFLICT. Bounty Hunters, Rebels, and Imperials are always fighting over who gets to control the galaxy far, far away. Now you can take part in the skirmishing…

The whole team at TNB consists of a bunch of creative and production maniacs, and I mean that it the best possible way! They are relentless with the amount of care and attention that goes into every detail of what they do. 

 

Scott Hayman

Executive Producer/COO
Hammer Creative

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