My name is Phil, I am 30 years old and I from Germany. As long as I can remember, I have always used Computers, since DOS. (of course the main reason was to play video games.) I don’t remember when was the first time I tried to change something in a game, but I remember that I was young and I was hooked even though I failed at many modding projects.
I decided to study 3D modelling for about 1.5 years. Eventually I started working on our game – Photonic Distress after meeting my colleague Irakli Gagnidze on the UE4 Marketplace. We checked YouTube videos and we saw a Character Creator (CC) video. As tired as we were, we decided to risk it and we bought Character Creator and iClone 7. It took us a while to get the results we wanted, but finally our game was filled with CC Characters!
“I was not happy with the final character results of Mixamo Fuse because the faces weren’t unique enough. Then we discovered Character Creator.” – Philipp Reichling
Q: Hello Philipp, and welcome to the Reallusion feature stories. Please tell us about your studio Grip420 and your recent projects.
Hello Reallusion, glad to be in the feature stories. My name is Philipp Reichling from Hamburg Germany and together with my partner Irakli Gagnidze from Tbilisi, Georgia, we founded our studio Grip420. We met each other on the Unreal 4 Marketplace. I bought an Aerodynamics simulation framework from him and we started to chat. After a short amount of time, we figured out we both work together really well. So we decided to start our own small project. After a week we started our first project together – Irakli came up with an game idea. This game idea turned out to be Photonic Distress.
We worked together on this project for 2 years. Meanwhile we enlisted the help of our friends, who supported us out a lot. Daniel Rettig, made awesome models and textures after learning those skills from me, and Jannik “Toteki” Meyer who created the awesome soundtrack and some of the ingame sounds. Of course there where more people around us, who helped us directly and indirectly. Friends who tested for us, parents, partners and friends who supported.
Q: You mentioned that during your game development you discovered Character Creator. What convinced you to use this tool in your game?
Well, we needed to create a modern hospital setting for our game ending. We wanted to have a variation of characters in this scene, but the team was too small to custom-make all for them. Plus, we always wanted to have ourselves and friends in the game, which would make it even harder.
“Character Creator + CrazyTalk 8 were the perfect solution to get great results in less than 2-3 hours for each person as the workflow, unique features and the time saving is not available from any other toolset right now!” – Philipp Reichling
Q: Can you talk a little about the process that your studio uses for creating characters, how you animate them, and then incorporate them into the game?
Sure. We first created the 3D model heads of our all our friends with CrazyTalk 8, by using the two photos profile feature. This allowed use to precisely define facial contours while providing additional texture placements on the face.
Then we imported the synthesized 3D heads into Character Creator in order to attach them to the the universal 3D character bases found inside. Since CrazyTalk 8 and Character Creator are both from Reallusion, then compatibility was easy and direct. The fact that I alone was available to work on the characters, forced us to use as much help as possible with external tools. Depending on a desired character and features, the starting point may be different for some studios.
After we create the avatar in Character Creator, we used Mixamo Animation Databank and the Skinweights tool. Then we copied the skinweights onto Unreal standard rig inside Maya, if needed.
If we need to adjust animations, we use animations layers in Maya. We have just 2 skeletons for characters inside Unreal Engine 4. The standard UE4 skeleton and the Reallusion complex rig for facial animations. That allows us to keep the performance high, in case a Character does not need to talk.
Q: Beside Character Creator, iClone and CrazyTalk; what other software do you use?
Apart from the Reallusion software, here is a list of all the tools we use for our game development: Unreal Engine 4, Maya Full, Maya LT, Fuse Character Creator, Make Human, Photoshop CC, Substance Designer, SpeedTree, MagixVideoDeluxe, Fraps and AbeltonLive.
Q: As a successful game developer with games on Steam, what would be your advice to other upcoming game developers out there?
This is a tough one, mostly because it depends on the person’s current situation. The parameters are different for a person with a favorable technical background and abundant spare time when compared against another one – who has to balance a limited proficiency, free time, financial resources and a full-time job. If I had to boil down it to a series of small advices, it would be these:
Wishes and dreams get shattered, there will be a time when you stare down the reality and it’s ugly. Persevere, shrug off the despair and keep pushing.
Don’t expect to know everything, it‘s 6-7 years after I initially started learning and I still learn something new every day. Keep looking for more knowledge.
No game will be successful only because of its graphics, or only because of it gameplay. You need it to hit the right marks in all departments: graphics, logic/gameplay, fun factor.
Start small: there are people attempting open world survival games as their first ones. Its hard to make your dream game with all of its amazing features and quality. Bigger studios and teams have tried and failed. Make you first game small but polished and fun. Grow from there.
It is hard to look at all the stuff you still have to do for your game. At times it is overwhelming. Set smaller goals and work to complete them. Once you complete them, celebrate them! Eventually you’ll realize there is not much left. Then switch to polishing what you have.
Test, test, test! Enlist your friends. Bounce ideas off them. Get feedback. Photonic Distress changed a lot thanks to our friends and their feedback.
As early as possible define partnership rules and bind them legally. It helps to have a clear understanding of responsibilities and decreases chances of internal conflicts.
Social life is important: don’t overcommit to working on the game. Give yourself a chance to miss and crave an ability to sit down and work on the game. Meeting friends and family and socializing with them sometimes helps get spontaneous ideas or feedback or even inspire a technical solution you’ve been needing.
- Language and communication skills: you’ll find yourself communicating a lot, whether its with other developers, wider community, testers or (hopefully) your customers. English is usually the default language, and communication skills are essential.
Don’t forget to visit our game on Steam!
To see more of Grip420’s work, please visit: