Late summer 2007, Gearbox Software came to an agreement with 2K Games to publish their latest release: Borderlands™. Gearbox Software has developed revolutionary new technology to create Borderlands’ incredible layers of game play depth. "Borderlands represents an important evolutionary leap in game design and technology,” said Christoph Hartmann, President of 2K. As an example of the new technology, Gearbox points out to the incredible life-like character animations which are created with Xsens MVN, the inertial motion capture suit of Xsens.
With the Xsens MVN system, our new studio is the entire Earth. It's Magic!
Gearbox is always trying to find the next great tool to craft their games. Traditional optical motion capture solutions have technical restraints, so Gearbox had to make a choice: building a new indoor studio or doing research on next generation motion-capture techniques. Gearbox: "We were thinking about building a new indoor studio with more height, but realized even if we got up to 120 feet in length, width and height, we still couldn't get a tank or something in there easily. After some research we came across this new inertial motion capture technique, which was doing some really revolutionary stuff with motion capture. After meeting with them several times, we knew their MVN system was the right fit for our needs."
In Game Informer Magazine, issue September 2007, Gearbox explains their choice for MVN instead of traditional optical systems to 'Mocap'. Members of Game Informer can read the article online.
"It's Magic! The suit sends the body's motion data wirelessly to a computer. There is a proprietary piece of software that interprets the suit's data and helps get human motion correct. Traditional optical systems use cameras, which can see little grey balls that you secure all over the actors body. You're limited by the size of the area between the camera and have lots of trouble doing multiple actors at the same time or working with props which can prevent the camera from seeing the balls at times making you lose data. Besides having zero occlusion issues and the ability to have many actors creating animation data at the same time, what's truly amazing about the MVN system is how portable it is. We can literally capture mocap data anywhere in the world.
MVN versus traditional motion-capture equipment
"What MVN allows us that couldn't be accomplished with previous motion capture equipment? Going outside! Traditionally, optical mocap has been confined to indoor studios where people pretend to do real life things, but don't actually do them. For example, you can't fire a real weapon or bring a real tank into an optical motion capture studio. You have to fake it. With the MVN system, we can go to the tank and climb all over it and inside it. We can climb into sewers through a manhole and capture that. We can run up walls or slide down a fire pole. We can do anything. You can't do any of that with our old optical system. If we wanted to, we can have someone thrown from the roof of our 13 story building and capture that. We'd need to get a big airbag, though ' or another mocap actor."
Next to the technical opportunities and differences between optical and inertial system, there is also a large gap between the conjugated costs involved with the use of the systems. When using an optical system you need at least twelve cameras to have a practical setup with quality data. Such a setup is four times more expensive than an intertial system. And besides the purchase costs, an optical system also demands a large room which has to be dedicated as a mocap studio. With inertial systems you can Mo Cap anywhere you like. Gearbox: "Well, being an early adopter of any technology usually isn't good for your wallet, but we think that the quality we gain is worth the investment. Our existing optical motion capture system is eating up nearly 60' x 60' of valuable studios space that we can now use for other things. With the MVN system, our new studio is the entire Earth."
Release date: June 2009
About Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software, an independent video game development studio located in Dallas, TX, is respected industry-wide for their ability to create award winning, blockbuster interactive entertainment. The company has established itself as an industry leader, developing games for many of the industry's top franchises including Half-Life: Opposing Force, Half-Life: Blueshift, Half-Life PlayStation®2, Halo: Combat Evolved, Aliens and Tony Hawk. Gearbox Software’s first original brand, Brothers in Arms, was launched in 2005 and has become one of the highest rated and best selling franchises in the genre. The company is currently developing multiple original titles for next generation video game consoles and Windows Vista™. Additional information regarding Gearbox Software can be found at www.gearboxsoftware.com.