THQ Nordic is a world-renowned games studio, international publisher and developer known for its large roster of triple-A titles. With games such as, Destroy All Humans, Darksiders, and Biomutant under its belt, the studio’s long history has established a global fan-base across multiple genres.
While not originally a THQ project, Gothic (2001) was a cult-hit and revered as an ambitious fantasy-role playing series in terms of its complexity and graphics for the time. 19 years on, the series remains close to the heart of many gaming enthusiasts. THQ’s Barcelona studio is working on a re-imagining of the series, attempting to produce a graphically modern experience that holds true to the original game-play. We spoke with Daniel Candil, Art Director at THQ Nordic Barcelona, about the studio’s implementation of inertial motion capture to help produce realistic character animation and cinematics.
The first installment of Gothic carries an esteemed status amongst the game’s community. THQ Nordic wanted to ensure that the modernization of the game is rooted firmly in the player- community's ideals and has launched a short prototype showing off the new animations for feedback.
“For the past two years, I’ve been working on the remake of Gothic—we released a teaser two months ago on YouTube demonstrating the work for next-gen consoles” explained Daniel.
“We wanted to find out what the community thought we were doing right and wrong so we can tweak and change things. We want to create this game with the community guiding our approach.”
Motion capture has been an integral part of the studio’s workflow since production began and after much consideration, THQ Nordic opted for Xsens MVN Animate as their mo-cap solution.
“We felt that we needed a mo-cap solution to fit our artistic workflow. Instead of using a motion capture studio with camera-based systems, we wanted something flexible, that’s when we decided to trial Xsens. The experience since has been great—we were one of the first people at THQ Nordic to have this kind of suite” said Daniel.
Real-life role play
Being a fantasy role-playing game containing lots of combat and monster hunting, believable movements are a pivotal part of the Gothic experience—players are looking to get immersed in the action. Mocap provides THQ Nordic with an opportunity to build character animations with real fighting. The versatility of Xsens technology means THQ can record motion data in any environment without any occlusions. Whether it’s a duel to the death between warriors or a close call on a cliff edge, actors can get stuck into the Gothic universe.
“The ability to record anywhere is one of the greatest things about using this technology. In other games, you have to create a motion capture base and bring the actors there. It’s a complicated experience that requires booking long time slots to ensure all the data is recorded. With Xsens, we can go straight to the actors in the theatre and record directly. We can equip actors with swords and shields and record real fighting.”
“We even went to a climbing wall and recorded an actress suspended from wires and stuntmen falling—sometimes from as high as 7 meters. We were worried about the suit at first but in the end, we were more worried about the guy!” Described Daniel.
When the team returned to the studio, the animators got to try their fair share of the action too:
“We have actors and stuntmen for producing dangerous movements. But for any tweaks in motion data, we have our own animators put on the suits and we record it in our studio. This sped up the production a lot. For us, it’s been an incredible approach to acquiring motion data” said Daniel.
Producing realistic character animations, fast
The ability to record without the restriction of a motion capture volume means THQ Nordic can be creative when acquiring data for character animation. Movement is an integral part of the character’s in-game presentation, directly effecting the way players navigate the game’s environments. As such, the faster the movements can be put in-game, the sooner refinements can be made.
“The movement is important to the life of the character and it has to be designed accurately. This suit allows us to iterate faster—we can take different approaches when recording and in a matter of two days, things are implemented in the game.”
“We can record in the morning, and in the afternoon, the animations are done, so we can instantly start deciding on the prototype animation for how the character should move. It’s a really great tool” said Daniel.
Xsens technology has provided THQ Nordic with a vast body of realistic motion data to sculpt the Gothic universe, transforming an old school best-seller into a game that meets modern releases head-to-head. The upcoming release of Gothic is causing a steady rise in anticipation among the fanbase, and Daniel, along with the THQ Nordic team, can’t wait to enter full production.