The next entry in 1UP.com's blog concerning the making of Birth by Sleep. This time we hear from Art Director Takeshi Fujimoto. Enjoy--
KH Destiny, 1UP
Takeshi Fujimoto said:Hi everyone, my name is Takeshi Fujimoto, and I am the Art Director for KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep.
For Disney worlds such as Castle of Dreams (Cinderella) and Dwarf Woodlands (Snow White), we based a lot of the map designs on the film. Basically we watched the DVDs over and over and recreated the worlds in 3-D as accurately as possible.
For the details we couldn’t quite get from the films, we contacted Disney for help. For example, there were no scenes showing the backside of the giant ship Durgon from Lilo & Stitch, so we had to ask Disney for materials that provided a full view.
In Castle of Dreams, there’s a section where the player shrinks to the size of a mouse and explores Cinderella’s home by traveling through the mouse holes. Even Disney didn’t have materials for the “behind-the-wall” environments, so we did a lot of research on Rococo architecture from the 1750’s and created the map from scratch.
We had a lot of research materials from the previous games on hand, so we didn’t have to do any scouting. But during early development (summer of ’07), there was a Disney Art gallery that all of us went to see! We saw so many exceptional pieces that got us motivated, such as artwork hand drawn by Ivan Earl (Art Director for Sleeping Beauty). The art portfolio we bought there became a great reference for the designs.
It was hard to determine how much data we could use during early development, since the game engine wasn’t running optimally yet.
The first environment we worked on was Sleeping Beauty’s castle , which is covered by a hedge of thorns. In its earlier renditions, the number of polygons we implemented on the map ended up exceeding the processing limit. What makes KINGDOM HEARTS so fun is all the fast-paced action and fighting multiple enemies at once, so it wouldn’t be any fun if things started to lag after two enemies showed up, would it?
To save data space on the maps, we toned down the thorns, removed some polygons from the back of the castle, and decreased the amount of textures we used. In order to compress the data and optimize the graphics, we went through a lot of trial and error with data tests, but by the time we were six months into development the programmers had fine-tuned the graphic engine to the point where the game could run smoothly even with higher poly-count maps. We were then able to add all the detail we wanted back into the game. And because we were able to create larger maps, we could incorporate much more volume into areas like the Rumble Racing course maps, making for a very satisfying racing experience.
Of course, the amount of data we could utilize on a PSP is significantly less than that on the PS2. Things like trying to realize the Disney characters in as much detail as possible, or figuring out how much resolution to maintain on characters’ faces, were challenges we faced throughout the development process. Lowering the resolution makes the images blurry, so for the areas we regretfully had to cut on the resolution, we adjusted the colors and contrast to make the visuals pop.
It was not easy to recreate the softer lines Disney characters are known for with the limitation on polygon count. We were definitely cautious about where to splurge on the polygons!
There were challenges and difficulties along the way, but I’m very proud of the final look and feel of the world and characters.
KH Destiny, 1UP