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Maya Drives Development on Gran Turismo 3

By DMN Staff Writer
GT3With sales in Japan having exceeded 1,000,000 in its first two days on the market, GT3 is possibly the most anticipated game in PS2 history. For Polyphony Digital, GT3 has been a game of firsts: it was their first title for the PS2 and their first game developed start-to-finish in Alias|Wavefront's Maya 3D animation and effects software. It took a team of 30 animators and 20 programmers and planners just under two years to complete the project. Writing for Japan's GW magazine CG Programmer at Polyphony Digital, Takahito Tejima, elaborates on the making of GT3.

Maya and Mel

Says Tejima: "For GT3 we decided to develop an entirely new pipeline, in part to accommodate Sony's new PS2 system, and this meant completely revamping our authoring environment. Several different tools were considered and compared and in the end we chose to use Maya for both the cinematics and realtime rendered content. Maya's basic functions were, without a doubt, fully up to the task of content creation; however, we also used its scripting language, MEL and the Maya API to enable smooth exchanges between programmers and animators. This capability was probably the main factor influencing our adoption of Maya. Creating interactive content requires the exchange of various kinds of added information and the efficiency of this exchange is of the utmost importance."

"MEL is extremely powerful, allowing you to expand Maya's functionality. For example, something like a curve selection tool would normally require a programmer to write, but with MEL, it's just a few lines of script. For this project, five Maya programming specialists worked on creating several hundred plug-in tools, large and small. The Maya API and MEL were crucial to the success of this large-scale, co-operative effort.

"Maya is not simply a computer graphics tool, it serves as a platform for building data. In GT3, besides polygonal models, nearly all the visual data with the exception of textures, was authored with Maya-from the replay camera to the composition of menus. By using a single tool from beginning to end to complete the project, problems that might have arisen from moving data between different packages were avoided-a huge advantage for us.

"The main hurdle in creating the cars was the large number of operations required (each car required a wide range of model variations) and the difficulty in determining the PS2's peak performance capabilities, for example adjusting model and texture allowances. The polygon drawing capacity ranged so greatly per scene that it was nearly impossible to predict. Of course it would have been very easy to establish a minimum level, but that would not have let us use 100% of the hardware's capabilities. Throughout development we worked to find the best way to get the most vivid imagery possible in realtime.

"We desired to achieve the same level of visual excellence with the course that we had with the cars. This required many layers of drawing and increasingly higher polygon counts. Once the general course layout was determined and the curves laid out, the road surface was put down with Birail and other tools. Bumps and corners were filled in while running the program. Next, background elements such as buildings and guardrails were added. Data settings were made for each material to enable programmers to discriminate road surfaces, dirt, curbs, walls, etc.

"Real time computer graphics are now able to produce amazing images due to advances in both hardware and software. I believe our project made full use of the technological potential that is currently available. We have full confidence in the performance of GT3 not only as a driving simulation, but also in regard to the overall visual experience it creates. Our attention to detail and resolve to go with only the best tools has paid off in all aspects of the game."

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Related Keywords:Gran Turismo 3, Alias|Wavefront, Maya

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