Interested in making Indie games?

Register for a Meet the Experts webinar with Digital-Tutors today!
  • 1/3
You are here: Homepage /  inHouse /  Behind the Screenz / Panzar Studio: Forged by Chaos
Panzar Studio: Forged by Chaos
 
 
Posted: Aug 21, 2008
Published by: the area
Homepage: Visit the page
Software: Autodesk 3ds Max
Social Media:
Bookmark and Share
 671x655
The Area:
Salutations, Panzar Studio! A warm welcome to the AREA. The first time I saw your work was back in 2004. Magnificent warriors, heavily armored and detailed in medieval and hellish styles. And now -- four years later, you have announced an upcoming title "Forged by Chaos", a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) to be powered by the same awesome engine that powered Crysis: Crytek's CryEngine2. Huge congratulations to you on this exciting news!
First things first -- who makes up the Panzar Studio team and what is each person's responsibility in the studio?
Vladimir:
Panzar Studio is a small company with a highly skilled, knowledgeable staff of 20. Of the full staff, there is a core team of five – Aleksandr, Dmitriy, Aleksey, Anna and myself. The principle governing our work is to produce the highest standard of quality with the latest technology.

I would characterize our small studio as a team of competent specialists, who complete their work in a professional manner.

Each team member accurately knows their tasks and deadlines. We trust in their skill and this creates the spirit of a united team of professionals.
The Area:
Where is your office situated?
Vladimir:
Our office is in the heart of Moscow, Russia.
 660x1000
The Area:
How did Panzar Studio start?
Vladimir:
I suppose, the starting point was in art. Engravings, paintings, exhibitions… Then – commercial illustrations, comics, Internet, and finally, in 2003 – with modern 3D technologies.
 1412x996
The Area:
Panzar is the result of a merger with the studio AriOrH. Prior to the union that created Panzar Studio, what type of work was each studio independently involved in?
Aleksandr & Dmitriy:
In 1998, the office settled in Saint Petersburg. Many of the specialists working at the time had graduated from the Leningrad Academy of Art, and the Novosibirsk Academy of Architecture.

Two years later, in search of new technology, the office and employees moved to Moscow, where they are now located.

Moscow is a large city with a completely unique rhythm and energy, which inspires new ideas, new people and outlook in the studio’s work. During this period, Panzar worked on illustrations and comics. This was -- and still is -- labor intensive work, which is directly dependent on the skill level of the artist.
(Aleksandr)

AriOrH studio was created in 2001, through the financial support of 1C Company, one of the largest independent Russian software developers and publishers. The basic activity of the studio was the creation of introductory trailers for computer game companies. In addition to the trailers, we completed various additional orders in the area of graphics for computer games. The two leading specialists and founders of the AriOrH studio conducted several different courses in computer graphics in the RealTime School (http://realtime.ru/). The courses in architecture, the creation of characters and their animation attracted professionals from different spheres of business.
(Dmitriy)
 1389x1800
The Area:
What are the definitions of the names Panzar and AriOrH?
Aleksandr & Dmitriy:
Within the framework of the gaming project, the name can be interpreted as PAN – master or host, whilst ZAR means war or warrior. A loose interpretation would be ‘THE GOD OF WAR’. Earlier, the name drew its ancestry from the word panzer – meaning armour or tank. Clearly even in distant 1998, we already knew that we would armour our warriors.
(Aleksandr)

With regards to the name of the studio, AriOrH was the alias of one of the founders and has no specific meaning.
(Dmitriy)
 1252x1600
The Area:
Where did the idea come that the two studios should merge?
Aleksandr & Aleksey:
During a 3ds Max course, I became acquainted with the guys from AriOrH studio. I immediately knew that we would work together. They were so completely in agreement with our vision that all we needed were the funds and a focus. These were key to the new technologies that we had to master.
(Aleksandr)

At the time, we searched for creative inspiration and realized that our knowledge was only one of the keys to great possibilities. We believed Panzar Studio to be the second key, and the idea of unifying the studios became obvious to all.
(Aleksey)
 1098x1700
The Area:
Before the announcement of the game "Forged by Chaos", you already had a substantial collection of "Warriors of Chaos", dating back from at least 2004. Were you planning on making “Forged by Chaos” since that time? If not, why choose the “Chaos” theme?
Aleksandr:
There were various objective reasons for the creation of the CHAOS warriors, our first joint project together. By then, I had already been studying fantasy style literature and illustration for a long time, due to my work on comics. The boys from AriOrH taught complex animation and modelling of characters.

At that time no one, not even film studios, had dared to work on complex attributes mounted on 3D characters; the technology was hardly ready for it. At the time, 3D characters on screen were confined to supermen in tights. The creation of such images threw down a specific professional challenge to existing technologies. We considered many utilities and instruments in our search for non-standard solutions.
 912x1000

I personally think that the choice of the CHAOS theme becomes clearer when looked at in this light: We had the tools, the ideas, and creativity ready to use and the work had momentum. That’s not to say that the models of the warriors from 2004 have been directly reflected in “Forged by Chaos”. However, the models are the start along a difficult path, and we can return to these original images as a point of reference during the planning stage of the game.



We had not planned the creation of “Forged by Chaos” in 2004. Immediately after completing several models that gave us an understanding of the level of modern technologies, everyone in the studio was invited to work on another interesting project. During this time, we were able to realize all the complicated concepts in gaming technology. Unfortunately, however, the design resulted in completely private images and the results of this work have remained under seal. It seemed to me that the level of graphics we could achieve with this work were genuinely revolutionary and promising. Now we were forced to catch up on the three years we had spent on this job. Although we had obtained experience, nothing else had changed.

 1268x922
The Area:
Actually, can you tell us a bit about the concept of Chaos and the Chaos universe? Is this the same Chaos universe that exists in Warhammer? If so, is that where you referenced the characters and their designs from?
Aleksandr:
I would like to start the answer to this question not with the concept of CHAOS, but with the FANTASY concept and its sources.

It is doubtless that this overall concept and style has its basis in the history of the cultural development of different races and people, and the architecture, art, literature, living conditions, war and peace, attributes and design of weapons and armour of the Middle Ages.

The CHAOS concept has been used in the literature of Fantasy as a kind of stamp of hostility, of “otherness”, with a destructive origin and as the source of all things magical and unknown. Graphically, it is expressed by the external manifestation and stereotypes of mysterious expanses, gods, demons, wizards, wonders and inexplicable phenomena.
 609x1000

Let’s look at Wikipedia's description of CHAOS:

Chaos (derived from the Ancient Greek Χάος, Chaos) typically refers to unpredictability, and is the antithesis of cosmos. The word χάος did not mean "disorder" in classical-period ancient Greece. It meant "the primal emptiness, space".



According to Hesiod's “Theogony” (the origin of the gods), Chaos was the nothingness out of which the first objects of existence appeared, and the deity Tartarus was the third force to manifest in the yawning void of Chaos.

Personally, I understand CHAOS differently. It is the source of all life, like an endless variation of all manifestations, as the mental origin of all things material or ephemeral. Chaos is like a magnetic medium; on the one hand a mass of individual uncoordinated elements and on the other, an idea or will that forces these particles into different structures.



I would illustrate this idea through the eyes of an artist. When approaching work, I place a clean sheet of paper in front of myself. I consider this to be similar to the conditions of CHAOS; in it any version of an image may arise, which then starts to develop into other technologies and media. I seize upon some impulse or mood. At this stage the image is still indistinct and undefined; it may transform significantly. I then add the basic points onto the clean sheet of the future drawing and gradually the image materializes, becomes more detailed, finds its character and reaches the moment -- when suddenly -- it comes alive even though it will not have a direct relationship to the final drawing. Immediately afterwards, I stop drawing and abandon it because no further editions are required. I’ve drawn for several decades and my skill as a graphic artist has grown, but this never changes the fact that the drawings don’t only depend on my skill for their completion; at some stage they start to live a life that is no longer dependent on me. In the subsequent cycles, using computer technology, (modeling, texture mapping, animation) the sketch starts to lose its potential for its earlier form of life but, on the other hand, each iteration then adds its colour, making it all the more alive once again.

 1200x1719

I think that this is, in many cases, what singles out the work of our studio.

In regards to the concept of CHAOS in our games, it often utilizes the widespread clichés of the FANTASY industry in order to be completely understandable. However, it has its own peculiarities and differences.

In general, the outline of the concept is as follows: Chaos, which is the start and source of everything, creates Life. Life develops Reason (mind/intelligence/thought). And Reason leads to the materialization of Gods. Gods evolve and, in order to avoid subsequent transformations, destroy Life and become the mental storehouse of Reason – the soul in the world of CHAOS. They create the likeness of a destroyed World, which submits to their laws. In this world, Souls serve Gods; they’re united with them.



Soon enough, we will publish a visual description of the CHAOS world in the “Locations” section of the website. For now I can say that the CHAOS world in general consists of its capital city – NAGRA. NAGRA is a dream city, or even perhaps a ghost-city that consists of the real and surreal. And racial plans are distorted by CHAOS.



Race divisions in a game are pretty common for a fantasy theme – ELVES, DWARVES, ORCS and HUMANS. There are also game class divides along with the worshiping of CHAOS gods – MAGE, TANK, HEALER, and SPECIALIST.

 912x1040

With regards to the universe of WARHAMMER, I think there will be enough desire to develop such an interesting gaming world --without us. The game, in the final account, will have little in common with the games of WARHAMMER.



I don’t think anyone holds a “droit de seigneur” on such a global, cultural phenomenon as FANTASY, especially for the concept of CHAOS.

The Area:
What software apps do you use for the production of your game?
Dmitriy:
We’ve moved from using a large quantity of various software applications, and scaled down to using every purchased product to its 100% potential. Our core apps are 3ds Max, Adobe Photoshop CS3, Right Hemisphere Deep UV. If we experience a lack of functionality in them – we create additional applications and tools ourselves. In this manner, we build instruments which provide important functionality that serves to significantly speed up our work.
 1186x802
The Area:
How long have you been using 3ds Max for your production and what was the decision for choosing it?
Dmitriy:
We started using 3D Studio Max software in the first versions, when it was the product of Kinetix. Over the years, we have worked together with 3ds Max through all its innovations and changes of leadership. A few years ago, a great stir was created in Russia due to specialists working with the Maya software package, with many saying that it was precisely the flexibility of the working process with Maya software that made it so unique. We were always convinced that with the correct approach to Max, it would be possible to construct a very flexible working process using standard methods. For example, the entire “Warriors of Chaos” project was created without the application of additional modules and knowledge of MXS. Several people from Discreet (at the time) could not believe WHAT we did with the aid of their software. Today, the difference between these two packages is of no importance to us; the role of the specialist is. To us, Max is an instrument or, if you like, a portal for the direct transfer of our ideas into reality. When we cross over to the realization of new tasks, all the working processes at the level of Max proceed very simply and easily! Of course we dream that one day a new 3ds Max will absorb things better than Mudbox and Zbrush has done, and that Reactor will stop searching around for objects :-).
The Area:
Do you have any proprietary custom tools that were developed while creating assets for the game? If yes, can you share with us what they help to do?
Dmitriy:
We have now developed a fair number of utilities that help us in our work. Our basic goal when creating tools is to relieve the specialist from mechanical work as much as possible, in order to be able to fully concentrate on the final result. For example, “Inventory Helper” – an instrument developed with the aim of speeding up the creation of different versions of equipment and to remove stages of work from the working process, such as the creation of logic for clothing characters after modeling. As a result, the modeler, with the help of a simple interface, is able to set all clothing logic – which article belongs to which slot, what other article may the character be dressed in, what other article should he take – even during the modeling stage—are examples of what it can do.. Afterwards, the information obtained is stored in a file. Then animators, texture mappers and programmers all use this tool to relieve their work on the characters. In recent years, we have developed a very satisfactory set-up system for characters in standard Max tools. For animators, there are quite specialized tools that can rapidly filter animation keys, pick out or conceal different types and groups of objects, copy and insert poses and store or load animations. Considering that we use skeletons developed in-house, all these functions are very important. As a result, given the simplest logic specialists, it is sufficiently easy to make complex structures and tools suitable for their type of work in Max.
The Area:
Your game characters are very heavy on geometry and have complex armor. Are you implementing the standard game workflow of low-poly+normal maps? In the animation clips accompanying this interview, the mesh and cloth deformations are so nicely simulated and look like hi-res poly geometry.
Aleksey:
Actually, we use standard equipment, for modern technology, to create characters. The models are polygons, since it is necessary to reveal the image at a geometrical level in accordance with the sketch, and because technical limitations require this when working with the game engine. The rest is the skill and work of the sculptors.

Now I would like to talk more about the technical difficulties of creating dynamic characters who are able to change their appearance, armour and weapons. It is a truly technically difficult moment.

First, this is due to the high number of different components in each character. Second, the difficulty of docking these elements together (each element of armour suits any version of the warrior). Third, the clothing work uses different geometry for each of the characters. There is in addition a great quantity of work on textures (normal maps, diffuse colour, specular level).

However the success of the game's mechanism justifies these difficulties.
The Area:
How do you expect to deal with the high amount of information per character in the game?
Dmitriy:
We’ve put our utmost effort into optimizing our work process. This includes plans, descriptions of technology and technological processes applied to simple logic and excluding repeated action. All this helps our small team cope with such a large quantity of information. In many cases, Max’s control system is of help. In the future, we would like to master the Vault information exchange and control systems.
The Area:
Should we be expect to see the same phenomenal quality of detail and realism in "Forged by Chaos" that was experienced in “Crysis” – which also used the CryEngine2 game engine?
Anna:
CryEngine2 is a powerful and modern instrument. In competent hands it allows one to achieve high quality and detailed graphics. However, in our project realism doesn’t count. We’ve created a fantastical, mythical world in which REALISM, in the general understanding of the term, is not quite what we are looking for. On the other hand, we are interested in stylization, fantastical images, interesting colours, and picturesque images used in the gaming environment. The player should perceive new images and emotions when he/she becomes absorbed into such an atmosphere. We keep boring, grey, dusty reality out of our project.

In regards to the technical and planning solutions of the gaming environment, it is possible to detail the following aspects: It is a living, flowing space, and is zoned with leitmotifs and accents (via the three professional architects working in the studio). This functional zoning of the environment is required for gameplay. The texture of the environment is developed with complicated shaders. Finally, beautiful artistic effects of particles and light are applied.
 1000x1000
The Area:
Can you give us a short synopsis of the game?
Dmitriy:
“Forged by Chaos” is a multiplayer game with a third person perspective designed for 32 players. You guide your character in the same way as one would in a standard ‘Slasher’ game. The game design is intended for group tactics and contains different types of scenarios; “Siege”, “VIP”, “One against the Darkness” and so on. We will talk about this in more detail when developing the game. The game will employ an RPG element – developing characters. Your character may change its external appearance, upgrade military equipment and weapons depending on your fighting experience. The main difference between “Forged by Chaos” from other fantasy projects is the high level of interaction; the dynamics of the game are typical for FPS multiplayer games, so the gamer wins a fight not only by using the capabilities of the character but also the personal experience of the player. Thus our game can be divided into three formats – Arcade, RPG and FPS multiplayer. The game takes the best from each of the genres. You have the ease of mastery of the gameplay and interface, you have the potential to strive for progress and secure the success of your character and finally we want to make the game a highly dynamic battle, in which you will want to win. Plus we will do what we do best of all – create a highly visual level of character development.
The Area:
I understand that it is early on, but surely you've brought some of your warriors into the game engine for test. Could you describe to us the workflow from 3ds Max to CryEngine's Sandbox2 Editor?
Dmitriy:
At the moment everyone is busy on the process of introducing our characters into the future game. As you may be aware, it is still too early to comment but we expect the inserted objects and characters to be excellent! Our newly developed skeletons work in CryEngine and deformations perform without alterations. The process itself is quite standard – sketches, modeling, texture mapping and set-up, export and animation. After everything has been built, the working process becomes all the more simple, just as described.

With regards to editing, Sandbox2 is without competition. It is very easy to create worlds of any visual formulation and scale in it, with any set of gaming rules. One can apply an intuitive approach when working with CryEngine2. If you have experience in working with computer graphics, you can achieve many things yourself without documentation. I think that on the whole, CRYTEK was astonished with what we have squeezed out of its engine :-).
 2000x2500
The Area:
What sort of challenges have you encountered thus far and are there any challenges that you foresee?
Dmitriy:
So far we haven’t experienced any particular difficulties. However we do expect to meet with complications on all sides, although nothing we won’t be able to solve.
The Area:
Which platforms will the game be available for - PC, Xbox, PS3, etc.?
Panzar Studio:
The game will be PC-exclusive.
 1186x600
 1000x750
The Area:
How do you think "Forged by Chaos" will compare to other MMOs -- will it be something similar to "World of Warcraft"?
Panzar Studio:
Actually, there is nothing to compare. “Forged by Chaos” will be a completely different game in a different genre. The only common point with “World of Warcraft” is the fantasy theme itself.
The Area:
When can we expect to see the game out in the market?
Panzar Studio:
We are planning open beta-testing of the game within 2 years from now – in the middle of 2010.

We are looking forward to the future release of your game and we want to thank you for your time, and wish you success in the launch of "Forged by Chaos". Do Svidania, Panzar Studio!

Comments
My Comment:
Notify me of follow-up comments?
Newest users comments View All 16 Comments
Posted by Docku on Aug 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM
Even the chars without texture are very impressive......
Posted by plodej on Jul 21, 2009 at 11:24 PM
Modeling and concept design is amazing, bu texturing on the main model is just...weak:(
Posted by bruce noelker on Feb 02, 2009 at 05:02 AM
ummm, that girl in the photo# azali_00.jpg .... is she seeing anyone? great job on all this stuff. tanx for sharing.
Posted by multimediaterry on Oct 03, 2008 at 08:20 PM
wow, well i am new in the world of 3D. I hope i can have the time and courage to catch up with you guys out there. Because from this thing i have seen you guys do, it tells me that i have a long way to go the world of modeling and texturing at large. Thanks so much for sharing what you have with us. Keep it up and God Bless you all.
Posted by KelbyRuiz on Sep 30, 2008 at 07:47 PM
wow I was blown away by the animation, but the modeling is just if not more impressive than anything I seen so far on the net. I mean there are games out there that create compelling pieces of art, but this has to be in the top 10.

Great job you guys, hope to work with you guys someday.