Meet the team: Ubisoft Chengdu
We thought it was at last time to present you the team behind the hundreds of graphical assets specifically produced for MMX. You might have noticed the MMX graphics are re-used from former Might & Magic games, but we also had to develop hundreds of new 2D graphics like character concepts, game icons, artifacts, hireling portraits and condition portraits.
The team below (picture) are those responsible for creating this new content. Allow me to introduce them to you! Ubisoft Chengdu is a young, dynamic development studio that, in addition to having its own projects, is actively focused on collaborative projects with other Ubisoft studios. As MMX is actually their 4th Might & Magic title in 5 years, Ubisoft Chengdu has developed an expertise on the art direction of the franchise (Ashan universe), which is really valuable for MMX.
So now that you know the team’s background, let’s check them out!
I’m glad to give you the interview of the Chengdu art team that worked on MMX:
- 2D artists: Yu Mao Zhou and Lv Teng
- 3D artists: Li Wen Yang and Zhang Huan
- UI artists: Long Xing Yu and Zhong Ying
1. Which MMX concept artwork are you most proud of?
- [YMZ] If I had to choose, I’m happy with the results of the male Dwarf portraits. It’s one of my drawings where I think I got the feeling of a Dwarf.
- [LT] My favorite portrait from MMXL has to definitely be the Female Human. It’s because I really like beautiful girls. *Silence. Team Laughs*
2. Did you have the time to play MMX yet? Do you play classic pen & paper RPG games?
- [YMZ] Don’t be upset, but I only played the game when we had early builds. Usually in my free time, I draw. I used to play Pen & Paper RPG games when I was younger, but it’s not my favorite kind of game as I prefer to see pretty pictures and not just use words to imagine a scene. Honestly, I also suck at these kinds of games.
- [LT] Yes I played it, I’m happy to see my art in the game and especially when I Google Might & Magic X. *Laughs* I’ve played a lot of classic Chinese tabletop games when I was younger. Now that I’m older I have less free time, unfortunately to play table top games we need a lot of friends with the same schedule. This makes it hard to co-ordinate the game nights.
3. Can you explain briefly your work process? How did you reach the end results?
- [YMZ] We would receive a detailed IP document from Julien. (MMXL IP guru.) From there I’d spend time to research and create many black and white sketches inside Photoshop. After receiving feedback from the IP team, a drawing usually gets chosen and I would start from the rough sketches to paint in all the details. For Might & Magic X I used textures to help polish up skin pores and hair follicles. If I may add one more thing, in my opinion spending the time to create many ideas and sketches is the most crucial part of a drawing.
- [LT] My workflow is similar to Yu Mao Zhou. Personally I feel, finding the right personality in a character’s face is very important. It was a bit stressful, I didn’t have much time, as we could only use 2 days to draw a complete head portrait from start to finish.
- [Both] Very, but there is definitely room to keep improving.
4. What are your thoughts on the end results? Are you satisfied with the realization?
- [Both] Very, but there is definitely room to keep improving.
1. In MMX we decided to reuse 3D models from previous Might & Magic games. It’s hard to tell what is old from what is new. Can you share several examples of what you did?
- [LWY] Sure, one example I can give is one of the big bosses of the game that was very fun to work on. Its in-game model required minimal change as it was already of high quality from Heroes VI. I did small changes such as tweaking proportions or adding more edge loops and such. The majority of the workload came from the textures. I had to take special care in this as it needed to look impressive to serve as a major boss. A lot of work went into the smaller details such as adding fire SFX, painting diffuse textures and adding magical attributes. Since the camera angle is much closer in Might & Magic X than in Heroes VI, higher details were needed in the textures. I re-sculpted the entire 3d model inside Zbrush to achieve this.
- [ZH] I worked on Rakshasa. I had to do quite a bit of touch-up for this creature, as the original model came from Heroes V. The way they made the model back then was quite old-school. In order to match the more recent Rakshasa designs, I updated the base mesh and fixed the UV’s. I then created new textures for the entire creature. Originally I thought the work was going to be simple, but it ended up being almost more than I bargained for.
2. Can you shed a bit of light on your process when making the 3D models?
- [LWY][ZH] It would vary, depending on the creatures. Usually our tasks would involve gathering various models from past M&M games, altering\adding physical features in 3dsmax, up-res these assets to create the mid-level models and then take those into Zbrush for sculpting. After we were happy with the results we’d take the original model and transfer the normal map onto its UV’s. All the while following the brief’s IP requirements.
3. Do you have a fun story to share? Something to share with our readers?
- [LWY] *Laughs* It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was so focused on my work that I sculpted, unwrapped and textured a treasure box using the pipeline for a character. I lost 2 days of work and had to come in on the weekend to fix my mistake. It was a hard lesson learned for sure.
4. Were there any favorite references that helped you, when working on MMX?
- [LWY\ZH] We are big movie and videogame fans. Besides looking at past Heroes games, we referenced Game of Thrones for some of our work. We’re greatly inspired by the mood and sense of grit in that show. We tried to put that same feeling into our characters. In particular for the Dwarven (Fortress) characters, we drew motivation from The Hobbit and past M&M concept art found from Heroes V, for example. Photos and Skyrim were key, when working on environment assets. In particular when we worked on the skybox.
1. UI corresponds to User Interface, but in your opinion what is it? And what did you create for MMX?
- [LXY\ ZY] For us, UI is the interface that directly allows the player and computer to interact. It’s kind of like the middle person between two worlds. In our opinion, without UI the player would have a more difficult time playing the game. So we’re happy to be in such a position of power *laughs*
- [LXY] I was in charge of making the inventory, character UI and main menu. I was also involved with making the HUD, item icons, and ability icons which were directly tied in from HVI.
- [ZY] I helped Long Xing Yu with the above. I also made the tab backgrounds, many weapon\armor icons and the sfx artwork that shows up when spells hit the player.
2. Can you describe to us how you were involved in making the UI for MMX?
- [LXY\ZY] Like the other teams, we would receive briefings and excel documents from Julien and Limbic. Working back and forth between the teams, we’d give them various samples and revisions. We needed to be extra cautious in terms of IP, as we had strict guidelines that needed to be respected. The spells and their elements are important in the Might & Magic universe, so the art had to closely adhere to these rules.
3. What were your main sources of inspiration when making the UI for MMX?
- [LXY\ZY] A large influence was definitely HVI, it was important for us to keep the consistency across both games. We also looked at the original M&M games to find inspiration. Especially the onscreen spell effects, such as the elemental damage effects found in Might and Magic Clouds of Xeen. A little unknown fact is that the spell book was originally created for Might & Magic Raiders and then updated for Might & Magic X.
What’s your motto?
- [Team] Be patient, be positive, have fun and the devil’s ALWAYS in the details…so be careful. *Team laughs*
We had a lot of fun working on Might & Magic X, everyone was amazing to work with and it was a great experience. Thank you for the chance and wish we can work together in the future! Buy the game!
– Team Chengdu M&M