Burly warriors, snarling undead beasts, blasts of destructive magic and massive fantasy battles are all staples of the venerable Elder Scrolls game franchise. Blur Studio's buzz-building cinematic teaser for the popular gaming series' upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) debut, The Elder Scrolls Online, weaves these familiar elements together with stunning prowess while making masterful use of MARI in its VFX pipeline.
Blur's involvement in creating one whopper of a compelling promo trailer for the fan-favorite series' transition to the online gaming realm is no fluke. Recent blockbuster movie credits that include title sequence for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and several VFX sequences in Avatar and The Amazing Spider-Man round out an impressive film resume, but the studio is equally notable for its trailer and cinematic work for triple-A video games like BioShock Infinite, Halo 4, Batman: Arkham City, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Resident Evil: Raccoon City.
The diversity of content and collaboration afforded by working on video games makes them particularly appealing projects to tackle, explains Dave Wilson, Blur Studio TESO Project Director. "One month you could be working on hard hitting sci-fi like The Old Republic, the next you're working on immersive fantasy like the Elder Scrolls, and that's not even mentioning the more stylised body of work we do too," he says.
Having worked with Bethesda Softworks in the past, Blur was tapped by the reputable game developer in early 2012 to create an epic teaser for its next big project: The Elder Scrolls Online. “It was an amazing opportunity for us,” says Executive Producer Al Shier, “not to mention the sheer number of Elder Scrolls fans we have in the studio.”
Blur eagerly dove right in.
"We wanted to make an impactful piece that was truly memorable," says Wilson, who adds they had a lot of story to squeeze into just under six minutes. "From the outset we knew once we got moving it was going to be non-stop action." Set amidst a raging war, the intense trailer showcases three groups of heavily-armed warriors battling towards a common cause. Each alliance's vignette plays to its strengths and abilities before culminating in a final standoff, and the absorbing conflict keeps up a pulse-pounding pace throughout most of it's duration.
The team aimed to make the piece as photo-realistic as possible, and this presented a prime opportunity to let Blur's artists stretch their wings with MARI and bring The Foundry into the virtual fray.
As the modeler who worked on the Wood Elf warriors for the Elder Scrolls cinematic trailer, Ku says MARI's slerp and spline warper tools were among other key features that proved really helpful when working on the character. They made creating tribal paint streaks on the character's body and bone helmet a breeze, for example.
"The way I did these was I found images of paint strokes and made black and white masks from them," says Ku. "I would then project them on the character and slerp them into exactly the position and shape I wanted. I then used this layer (channel) as a mask for the paint color, as part of the bump map, and as part of my reflection/gloss map."