Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath – Dev Diary Pt 2.

In this Dev Diary we are going to take a closer look at the character pipeline and share what we are doing to bring them up to date.

Before beginning any actual 3D work on this project we first had to asses the current art assets supplied by Oddworld. Unfortunately this involved searching through gigabyte after gigabyte of very old data, most of which was in Maya 4.5 format, (we are currently on Maya 2011, Maya 4.5 was used back in 2005). This data consisted of the original XBox assets as well as some of the super high resolution CG models used for the pre-rendered cinematics, as well as lots of other unusable things.

Because the artwork for the original Stranger’s Wrath had been created in Maya 4.5 it had also been exported to the game engine from the same application, meaning the plug-ins would not work in the current version. So the first obstacle to overcome was to find a way to go back and work in an application which is now five years old, a lifetime in game development terms.

Luckily, after much head scratching we were able to remedy this allowing us to first create the models in Maya 2011, and then pull them into Maya 4.5 to set-up and export into the game.

With this part of the pipeline complete we then had to decide how to tackle the characters. When moving from 3,000 polygons to 20,000 you can’t just hit the “smooth” button and hope for the best. We had three options…

Option 1: Add more geometry to the existing models, smoothing out the shape in key areas while also updating the texture pages to add more detail.

This would be the quickest option, giving satisfactory results but would not bring the characters up to today’s standards.

Option 2: Start the model from scratch using the CG models as a base.

This is the preferred option as most game artwork is created this way, we already had a high resolution model pre-made for us to use which would give far superior surface detail in the form of normal maps. Unfortunately this was is more time consuming and could mean each character takes two weeks to complete.

Option 3: Create a new model, using the original and any existing concept art to guide us.

This option would be the “last resort” option as it could potentially take the most time, that being said for smaller characters like the critters it could work in our favour.

In a perfect world, with a more relaxed schedule and budget we would opt for options 2 or 3 to give us the best looking characters. One problem we also had to consider was that we didn’t have the CG data for all characters so we would need to choose an option on a per character basis rather than stick with one for the entire project.

Luckily for Stranger we did have a great CG model to use, so to create him we did the following –

  • First we sorted through the numerous versions of him in the Oddworld data until we found, and compiled the exact version we needed.
  • With this model ready we next converted the CG model into polygons. (Some of the models were originally created using NURBS which are unusable in a game engine). What this then gave us was a high resolution model which we could optimize, reducing it from 500k to the 20k mark we needed.
  • Once the main model was within the polygon budget it was then time to recreate the UV maps. We did this because either the existing UV`s were lost in translation, or they were broken during the reduction process.
  • Next it was time to create the texture pages, for this we could use existing textures initially and enhance them through the use of Ambient Occlusion, Normal and Specular maps.
  • When the main model was complete we then stripped him down and exported him into Maya 4.5 to be rigged, have the appropriate shaders attached and exported to the game engine.

Believe me, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds in the list above, there were other obstacles to overcome as we worked to get him in and running around.

With Stranger done we then decided to tackle the Critters, and first was the Fuzzle. Now, unlike Stranger we had no CG model to start with, and the original was such a low resolution model upgrading it directly wasn’t an option. For this guy we went with option 3 and started with a new build.

This not only gave us the opportunity to increase the polygon count but also update the overall look of this creature to look more like the original concept artwork.

You can see the work in progress, and final versions of this guy below…now we just need to get him into the game.

So who will we be working on next? You will just have to wait and see…

13 comments on “Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath – Dev Diary Pt 2.

  1. As someone who never owned an original Xbox, but has always wanted to play Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, I’d like to say that I really appreciate all of the hard work y’all are putting into this, just for us (and to get paid, but I’m going to pretend that it’s just for us).

  2. Incredible! These diaries keep getting me more and more excited about this project! I was absolutely tickled to hear Stranger’s Wrath was getting a remake, now that I’m actually seeing work done, I can barely sit still.

    Thank you, JAW. You guys are awesome!

  3. Oh, one other thing, is there any chance we will see a packaged version of this when it is released, perhaps part of a special Oddworld package? Digital distribution is great and I’m sure inexpensive compared to manufacturing costs, but I love my hard copies.

  4. At this time there are no plans to release the game via retail. But who knows what the future may bring.

  5. Keep them coming, gang. This re-make is looking great. I can’t thank you enough.

  6. I’ve played and had great fun playing all the Oddworld titles Abe’s Oddysee, Abe’s Exoddus, Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath. Such clever, inventive and original games, they rightly received much critical acclaim. I and thousands of other Oddworld fans were extremely disappointed that MS never made Strangers Wrath playable on the 360 but we thought it only a matter of time before a new Oddworld title would be written specifically for the 360, sadly this proved not to be the case. We clung to the hope that, like a long lost relative, something would turn up in the future and I bet there was much rejoicing when news broke that JAW we were working on a remake of Strangers Wrath. This rejoicing soon went flat when we learned that the remake was only being developed for the Playstation and I expect loyal Oddworld fans felt rather spurned. Our hopes and spirits were raised however when JAW confirmed they were working on other titles and platforms and explained the problems with Microsoft they had to overcome. The 2GB limit on XBLA seems to be a big problem. Why cant a 360 Strangers Wrath be put on a CD or DVD as already suggested ? I don’t accept the cost argument, newspapers give away DVD’s all the time so they must be cheap as chips to produce. Finally, the Developers Diary is a brilliant idea as it’s fascinating to learn what has to be done to give an old game a new lease of life, even if it is just for the Playstation at the moment. Thanks JAW.

  7. As do I, Pejota.

    Man, I’d love to see you guys do the same thing for Munch’s Oddysee, that game was awesome.

  8. Nice to see so many fans of Stranger’s Wrath still exist, hopefully you’ll get a bunch of new ones too. This rates as not only one of the best games of the last generaion but one of the best games ever made, full of wit and character, as playable as any of the Halo series and has a genuinely affecting story (Lorne Lanning always liked to take a stab at corporate greed through the Oddworld games). Thanks JAW for breathing life back into a franchise which should never have been allowed to diminish, I hope the millions of fans who missed out the first time round won’t make the same mistake again. I will personally shout about it from the rooftops come release day and anyone who owns a PS3 without a copy of Stranger’s Wrath I will want to know why!

  9. I love hearing about how old it all is. NURBS XD I’m so glad we have polys, Next you’ll be telling me it came in black and white. poor old maya!

    i love the new fuzzle model it still looks the same while having better form and features!
    I wish you could release these as a download but I’m guessing the legality of that’s an issue 🙁

    post more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.