An interesting sample of a domestic head game company transforming to industrialization.
After doing 20 years of the game, participated in 13 research and development projects section 3A (for example, multi-generational, “Far Cry”), and Liao Ubisoft senior art director Junhao decision to join the US-J3-day workshop.
Part of the works developed by Liao Junhao
This decision was sudden: Last year at CGDC, Liao Junhao met a former colleague who had worked as a producer at Ubisoft. The former colleague said that he was in charge of “Reverse War” at J3. After chatting a few more words, he found that he had many friends in major overseas factories and joined Tianmei as if he were making dumplings.
So the former colleague introduced to Liao Junhao, the general manager of Tianmei J3 studio Yao Yuan (Leo). After some exchanges, Liao Junhao felt that the boss who had worked for EA and also worked on the “Call of Duty Mobile Games” had a good understanding of everything. “. Under the circumstances, he finally joined J3 in December last year and was responsible for the art design, art direction, IP creation and overall visual quality control of two new projects.
Liao Junhao, Art Director of Tianmei J3 Studio
Mr. Grape has discussed the industrialization process of the game industry many times. Almost everyone believes that only by integrating the R&D processes of top Chinese and Western companies and learning from each other can we build a more complete R&D system. So to some extent, Liao Junhao’s experience in J3 is also an aspect of the transformation of domestic head game companies to industrialization. What does he understand about this? Will he be dissatisfied?
The following is a collated interview content:
01 Ubisoft industrialization and industrialization Techcomp
Mr. Grape: Every time we talk about industrialization, everyone says that Ubisoft’s industrialization is particularly strong. In the last interview, Leo (Yao Yuan, general manager of Tianmei J3) also mentioned Ubisoft to us several times. So where is it strong?
Liao Junhao: Actually, after the open world became popular, we would say that Ubisoft’s industrialization is very strong.
At the design level, Ubisoft has an Editorial Team. They will help all studios formulate the direction, and then form a Pattern (pattern) applied to all games to quickly advance the gameplay that has been demonstrated. Many people will complain that Ubisoft’s open world gameplay is very repetitive. But it turns out that as long as your content is rich enough, it won’t be too bad. This is the industrialization of design.
At the production level, everyone will also have a relatively standardized workflow for the open world. For example, in the early stage, how do I collect the style and reverse my world based on Google Map; what tools and techniques should be used when generating resources; and how should I divide the work in the production stage.
Ubisoft now has dozens of Studios (studios), such masterpieces as “Far Cry” and “Assassin’s Creed” are Co-dev (joint development) by 5-6 Studios, and each Studio has its own Features. For example, Reflections in the United Kingdom is particularly good at making cars, and they are not only making models, but also a complete vehicle system; Kiev’s guns are the best; Shanghai is particularly good at making DLC content and animals.
“Far Cry 6”
Grapeman: But how do so many studios ensure the consistency of the design language? What is the cooperation process like?
Liao Junhao: Lead Studio will output a Mandate (power of attorney), such as “I want to do a Mars theme DLC”, and then give a Bible (Bible).
Bible is the definition of artistic style, narrative style, or game style. You can have Story bible, Art bible, Narrative bible… It is a very high-level manual, and all Studios must produce content according to the style it guides. Under the Bible of Lead Studio, each Studio will have its own more detailed Bible. For example, the art must clearly explain the Pillar (design pillar) of the game, and describe what the characters, environment, weapons, UI, etc. should look like.
Grape King: So the essence of Ubisoft’s industrialization is to revolve around several different Patterns, jointly developed by many studios, and continuously produce New Year’s goods.
Liao Junhao: You can say so, of course this is just my personal understanding.
Grapeman: What do you think is the difference between the industrialization of other 3A game companies and Ubisoft?
Liao Junhao: I don’t have much experience, but I guess that everyone uses the same method to achieve industrialization, except that some forms will be changed according to different contents. For example, Ubisoft’s industrialization is better at making the open world, while the industrialization of Naughty Dog is better at making narrative animation content.
Mr. Grape: From the results, what is the biggest difference between industrialized projects and non-industrialized projects?
Liao Junhao: Production efficiency and production cycle. Large factories that have achieved industrialization will also have some projects with a long period, but their reason is certainly not production, but may have problems in gameplay, concepts, and narratives. For non-industrial companies, their projects are easy to delay.
“Far Cry: New Dawn”
Grapeman: Many people say that to evaluate a company’s industrialization ability, just look at the number of developers for a project. Do you agree with this standard?
Liao Junhao: That’s true. So many 3A games are after you go to have a meal. When you come back, you may find that the list of staff has not been broadcasted… But this is just industrialization, not modernization.
Industrialization is like a workshop. You have many operators with different assembly lines, and each operator has his own field of expertise. If the operator makes a mistake, I can quickly find someone to fill his position, because we have a very complete knowledge base.
But in the future, we should pursue modernization and let fewer people do more through the application of various tools. For example, Massive Studio, where Ubisoft is developing “Avatar”, their Snowdrop engine does a good job of low-level rendering and customization.
Mr. Grape: Many companies in the industry now want to do industrialization. What advice do you have for them?
Liao Junhao: I think the premise of industrialization is huge content output demand, which is more suitable for large projects of large companies. If your team has only 100 people, there is no need to do the same thing as a team of hundreds or thousands of people.
Mr. Grape: What do you think the industrialization of Tianmei J3 has achieved now?
Liao Junhao: According to my observations over the past six months, J3 is at the forefront of Tencent ‘s industrialization process. This is reflected in two aspects: one is J3’s technical middle station and TA middle station, they have reserves and can apply industrialized technology and tools; the other is to develop students’ awareness of industrialization and PCG (programmed generation) production and application .
In addition, I think one of the most important advantages comes from Leo’s emphasis on industrialized production. In this regard, the unified thinking of top-down is particularly important.
However, although we also have some open world projects, they have not yet entered the mass production stage, so they cannot really prove their industrialization capabilities.
Grapeman: How would you help the team improve its industrialization capabilities?
Liao Junhao: In the two projects I have brought, I am promoting a standardized design process and industrialized production tools made by the big world. At the same time, I also worked with you to develop a modular production method and optimize and upgrade each production pipeline.
In addition, my main thing now is output, but most of the students may not be able to fully understand these concepts. I also need more “setters”.
For example, a 3A project requires many subdivided positions, such as lighting director, animation director and so on. In addition, characters, weapons, textures…all these areas can have AD. But many positions will be called AAD (Assistant Art Director). Ubisoft also has a position called Presentation Director, which is responsible for the design of all external interfaces of the game, including UI, UX and even the game website. These positions must be filled slowly.
“Far Cry 5”
Mr. Grape: Want to recruit so many directors? It sounds really expensive…
Liao Junhao: Not expensive, we are J3! Leo is very outgoing in this aspect, and basically he will promote anyone I want.
Of course, recruitment can only solve short-term problems, and we still have to go through a long period of pain. Fortunately, Tianmei’s students are very capable of landing. I believe that after experiencing some projects in 2-3 years, although we still cannot make 3A stand-alone games, we can establish a mature production pipeline.
Mr. Grape: But can Tianmei adapt and understand this process?
Liao Junhao: Still need to run in. For example, Ubisoft will use LoQ-Level of Quality to measure the completion of all content. L0 may be a concept, or just a document; L1 is a prototype that can be played, but does not require additional display content; L2 has to go through polishing; and L3-L5 has to go through a lot of Extra Polish (additional polishing), these contents In fact, it is dispensable.
For example, for art, L0 may be a conceptual image; L1 needs a very rough color scheme; L2 also needs correct styling; L3 needs to add textures; L4 needs to have all the details… Under this set of standards, whether it is The boss or the R&D team can have a very clear concept of completion.
But currently in J3, this set of standards is not yet ideal. Because LoQ needs someone to check and accept, if the students who check and accept do not understand or disagree with this set of standards, and encounter complex cooperation content, then the effect will be problematic. Sometimes the team may also push something to L3 prematurely, while ignoring the process from L0 to L2. The result was pretty good at first glance, but it was not up to standard at a closer look.
So in order to make LoQ adapt to J3, I might make it more simplified and find a way to run inside us. For example, first only develop 2 stages. In short, during this running-in process, the team will give me feedback, and I will make adjustments based on the feedback.
02High -concept design: How to make a design that others can copy?
Mr. Grape: What is the process from L0 to L3?
Liao Junhao: We call it high-concept design. For example, we will give some keywords, some key images, and then push the foundation (foundation).
For example, one of the keywords is something that makes you feel dirty or disgusting, and the other is something that makes you feel very beautiful and very cold, like a pile of cigarette butts and an ipod. This is our keyword or key image. What does it represent? It is AC (Assassin’s Creed), and this is the birth of its concept. After this, everyone will continue to brainstorm and imagine the corresponding environment, characters and stories.
There are also some tricks. For example, when thinking about Pillar, we will require it to be Inviting, that is, something that is very attractive to you and makes you feel that you want to see and play. The second is that it has to be contrasted. The world with contrast is the most real. If any place in the world is clean, then everyone will not think it is clean.
Grapeman: Is the open world a category that particularly requires high-concept design?
Liao Junhao: That’s right. I also designed some topography before, and I regretted why I didn’t study geography well back then, because it requires you to have a certain understanding of geology and landforms.
Why is there a snow mountain here? Why is there a plain under the mountain? Why is there a sea? What should the vegetation on them look like? How to mutate a tree? To ensure the reality of the game world, you have to learn from the real world first, and then make artistic creations. And the more detailed the preliminary refinement is, the more convenient your subsequent production will be.
After designing the terrain, you have to do more detailed regional planning on it. How should industry, agriculture, and commerce be distributed? How should the economic system be established? At this time, AD may not be able to figure it out, so we need a World Director (World Director), he will help the game to form a theoretical framework, so that everyone can design according to this theory. Like a World Director I worked with before, he studied geography.
“Far Cry 4”
In the future, one day we will make a complete world, or even a larger open universe. The design density will be further increased, and by then only one World Director may not be enough.
Mr. Grape: In the stage of high-concept design, how to coordinate the relationship between worldview, narrative and art team?
Liao Junhao: Generally speaking, mature industrialized games will have a special NB position called Creative Director. He is responsible for bringing it all together. Most of the domestic teams are producers doing this-but if a person is in charge of people and creation, once you are inconsistent with his creative concept, he can kill you. This is very unreasonable.
CD will be responsible for proposing the initial concept, and then AD (art director), ND (content director), Audio Director (sound effect director), Gameplay Director (gameplay director) will work around his concept. These people may have worked together for more than ten years, so they will soon find a common language. But the experience of the domestic team may be uneven, so you need to get together.
Mr. Grape: What is the process like?
Liao Junhao: First of all, we must continue to iterate and verify this concept, and propose a work order that tells who the player is playing, where to go and do things, what references, what kind of art and content are, and let Head Office (Head Office) Willing to pay for it, this process will take at least half a year. Then enter the kick off (kick off) stage and take things to the Editorial Team for review.
In this process, your conceptual design should be verified through prototypes, FPP (First Playalbe Prototype), vertical slicing and other results to ensure that your concept can be implemented. When you can prove yourself, you can have more money and staffing and enter the mass production stage.
“Far Cry: New Dawn”
Grapeman: Is this process suitable for Tianmei?
Liao Junhao: It should be more appropriate. Before, many teams in China didn’t pay much attention to high-concept design. Generally, everyone had a gameplay first, and then thought of ways to pack it more roundly. But only after going through the process of high-concept design, the characters and the game world can truly resonate with players and give everyone a sense of substitution and immersion.
Let’s put it this way, on the basis of determining Pillar, as long as everyone works hard, our art can achieve 70 points. From 70 points to 80 points, you look at the performance of the environmental narrative; from 80 points to 90 points, you look at the depiction of details , so that everything can withstand scrutiny and even influence each other. But now we are still failing, so we must first promote the concept of high-concept design.
Mr. Grape: How would you make everyone pay more attention to all this?
Liao Junhao: For example, I will put more emphasis on the role of Bible, and then tell everyone that whether it is the original concept painting or the model scene, everything must have its design principle. You have to explain your own design philosophy and tell me your creative process, not just “appreciation of masterpieces.”
I hope that all art positions have the ability to do design. Nowadays, some students who do 2D also understand 3D. They will find a lot of 3D resources to put together an original painting, because it is very fast and there will be more details. But this process will be more suitable for later Paint Over (highly completed drawings). The early concept should focus on the composition and the overall emotional atmosphere, so as not to stifle the process of creating scene modeling students again, and it is also more conducive to the early concept to express more emotions.
Grapeman: What do you think is truly outstanding design?
Liao Junhao: Have your own unique visual language, and then make something that others will never forget. Let others see a similar design, and you will be said to have plagiarized your things.
Grape Lord: What could this standard be?
Liao Junhao: There is a “rabbit verification method” at Ubisoft: Put the characteristics of a character on the model of Crazy Rabbit, and then see if others can recognize him. If you can recognize it, it means that your character is indeed very individual. So many times we will also require the design to have its own branding (brand), it is a bit like a trademark, once you see it, the player will have a sense of substitution.
03 Why choose Tencent: I want to see the “Three-Body” of the game industry
Grape Lord: Leo said before that in one or two years, overseas and domestic manufacturers may launch Game as Service mobile games with single-player narrative experience, multiplayer gameplay, and 3A quality. A few hundred people have been doing it for 3 or 4 years. kind. Who do you think will have a better chance?
Liao Junhao: I think it’s quite difficult , but the domestic advantage may be greater.
If it wants to pursue industrialization, within 3-5 years, perhaps Tencent can quickly make relatively high-quality things with its team, technology, and tools. However, if overseas manufacturers want to learn operating skills, it may not be so easy to make money in the domestic market, because everyone’s consumption concepts are completely different, and we have already occupied a large market. So you see, I also chose Tencent.
Mr. Grape: People like you are willing to come back from foreign companies and join Tencent. Do you think this will be a big trend?
Liao Junhao: That’s right. I have many Chinese colleagues from Toronto and Montreal. They are not even Chinese, but they are also willing to travel far and wide to return to China and choose to join Tencent. I guess you will interview more such people in the future.
Grapeman: What is the reason? Is it because of money? I heard that the package can be several times worse?
Liao Junhao: It ‘s so straightforward… This is definitely one reason, but another reason is that everyone has a dream: want to make a 100% Made in China product that can be internationally recognized.
Grapeman: Why do you think Tencent wants to do such a project now?
Liao Junhao: We also talked about this two days ago. First, this is feelings. Just like movies and music, in any field of art, we all hope to achieve an international success, just like “Three Body” is the first time that Chinese science fiction has achieved such a big international success. Success, I think it is particularly NB; second, after a certain amount of material wealth has been accumulated, in addition to making money, you will also want to pursue higher-level things.
Liao Junhao is responsible for the development of the project
Mr. Grape: What kind of projects are you responsible for at J3 now?
Liao Junhao: I am currently in charge of the development of two new projects, and their styles are quite different. This is not only a challenge, but also the fun of my work.
One is a sci-fi style open world PVE shooting mobile game, which is adapted from a well-known IP with 130 million players. We plan to create an apocalyptic spectacle full of mystery and futuristic sense.
The other is also based on a very well-known IP, but it is a realistic military work. It will have an immersive open world element, and it is a cross-platform multiple shooting game that pursues long-term development.
Both of these are projects developed based on the UE4 engine, and both have entered the stage of Production. And also welcomes more pursuit of AAA quality, hot love travel drama students to join.
Liao Junhao is responsible for the development of the project
Mr. Grape: How do you feel about Tianmei or Tencent in the past six months?
Liao Junhao: Let’s talk about Tencent first. Tencent’s reimbursement, training…all things can be done on the App. This is really NB, it can be said to be another field of industrialization.
There is also office software. I used to rely heavily on Email, but at Tencent, I have never sent an email to anyone. Everyone used corporate WeChat to communicate in real time. Once I had more than 7,000 work conversations a week. It also has a “read” function, which is too evil! You can’t pretend to miss the email. Once you can’t read it back, it’s not quite right…
As for J3, my deepest impression is that the upper management of the studio has their own understanding of all parts of the game from content to operation, and they also have an international vision.
At the same time, I have always been amazed by the efficient landing ability of the students in the project team and their enthusiasm for learning. Of course I am also learning, such as Lacy, closed loop…These words are all new to me.
J3’s hidden experts in various subdivisions also surprised me. In my daily work, I often see everyone gather around and actively discuss work or work-related tools and techniques. This kind of enthusiasm makes me very nostalgic. It reminds me of the golden age when Ubisoft made “Split Cell 4”.
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