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Ubisoft/Raymanzone Interviews with the developers of Rayman 3

Rayman 3 Characters - Part I

Q: As far as the characters were concerned, what main principles emerged straight away?

From the very beginning, we set out to highlight the combats and the enemies in this project. So our aim was to create opponents capable of lots of movements and behavior patterns to support the combat system developed by the game designers.

The other major idea, from the outset, was to make the universe more lively, so the player could really get immersed in it. Now, it it's liveliness you want, then you need lots of living beings! So our ambition was to create a whole population of tiny creatures and secondary characters to fill out the Rayman world.

In short, right from the start we knew that we had to create tons of characters!

Q: At the start of the project, did you try to find a style for the characters that differed from the other Rayman episodes?


As it turned out, we preferred to deepen and enrich the style we'd always used in the Rayman games - a slightly absurd, cartoonish style.

We tried to create folk with characters you could identify immediately, then we worked up their graphic appearance and animations according to their characters!

If you want charismatic characters, the trick is to push their personalities to the maximum. In a game like Rayman, which is highly action-based, you've got very little time to flesh out a character and develop his or her psychological depth, unlike in an adventure game. If the player is to get attached to the characters, they have to have instant charisma which can be spotted straight away from their appearance, style and animations. So their features are pretty much "overdone", in the pure traditional cartoon style ...

Yes, we tried to stick as closely as possible to a cartoon style by working on all the characters' expressions and animations. The idea was to give them real attitude and make the player laugh at their exaggeration.

If you take the example of Globox, he's a jolly character with good-natured attitudes. Then, when he drinks, he starts stretching and distorting in every direction. He staggers and he even crawls along on the ground. By making his attitudes as zany as possible, we turn him into a really wacky fellow traveler.

Q: Let's go back to the enemies. Where did you get the idea for the Hoodlums?

We were looking for a fairly simple principle that would be easy to offer in a variety of forms for several characters, without repeating exactly the same thing.

The idea for the Hoodlums came from one of my sketches. It was a sort of Mexican holding a fat rifle and wearing a big sombrero and a kind of poncho covering his whole body. He was a blend of Darkman from Rayman 1 - a mysterious character rolled up in his cloak, for those who don't know him - and the hunter, also in Rayman 1. Then came the idea to make characters out of cloth. This was easy for the player to recognize, and very simple for us to vary. What's more, rendering the flexibility of different fabrics was a graphic challenge that was interesting to take up.

Once we'd found the basic principle, we worked on the basic psychologies to create a whole heap of characters. For example, using a slightly mannered and mysterious profile, we created "Hoodoo", an elongated sorcerer. For "Slapdash", we wanted to create a fat moron. So we made him a nice bright strawberry color and gave him a vacant look and a fairly oafish physique.

Rayman 3 Characters - Part II

Can we talk a little about Rayman, and how you created his new look?

The idea was to develop the character without tarnishing his "likeable hero" image. We wanted him to be genuinely different from the Rayman of Rayman 2, without losing any of his strength. We really wanted the player to think "Ah! A new Rayman!" the minute he sees the character.

So, to begin with, we moved off in radically different directions from the former Rayman, to see how we could change him. We tried giving him arms and legs, but that did nothing for him. I felt he'd lost his personality! He's a very round character, so we tried out a very angular version - too angular, in fact. Everyone thought he was a little too childish. So we gave turned him into a fighter, then suddenly he looked like a show-off and he wasn't likeable any more.

After many different attempts, at last we found the right path - with a helping hand from Michel and Alexandra Ancel, the creators of Rayman 1 and 2! We changed him without turning him completely upside down, simply by getting rid of anything that might appear tacky or square.

Rayman's kept the charismatic and likeably cocky side he had in Rayman 1, and the quick, jumping side he had in Rayman 2. To that mixture, we added a dash more fighting spirit!

In terms of movement, he's a very resourceful character. We exploited the game design to add new movements. Now, Rayman can shoot out both his fists either frontally or to the side. He can also roll in all directions - forward, backwards, sideways. And he can combine his movements: jumping and launching his fists, locking and rolling, and so on.

Lastly, we looked at everything that could give him real attitude. We knew that a lot of players found the character a touch too "nice". So we changed all his attributes to make them more dynamic. We swapped the scarf for a hood with two drawstrings in front. His hair was remodeled with a spiky cut to give him a mischievous look - less well-behaved - and that's where the tests we did with a more angular and mature Rayman came in useful. His shoes are a little more upmarket in design, too.

It should be pointed out that, if we could do all of this, it was thanks to the technological potential of the new-generation machines. Rayman's composed of precisely 2,206 polygons. With such a large number, we had no problem giving him all the details and accessories that go to make up his look.

In the end, what really took us both a long time was finishing off all those details. Just for his hair, it took more than three days' hard graft to see if it worked. Since he's the main character, he has a huge number of movements and he's present in all the engine cinematics. There were more than 200 animations to create just with him. So we had to be sure we could animate him with the modeling we'd opted for.

For example, we wanted to make him smile, so we had to model some teeth for him. In the same way, to pull certain facial expressions, we had to put a lot more surfaces on this part of his body, whereas most of the time we see him from behind. But that meant we could give him a whole stack of attitudes - astonishment, laughter, irony - in the waiting animations or the engine cinematics.

At the end of the day, we've now got a real character with a look that's a better match for the spirit we wanted to deliver in episode 3. Now he really behaves like a hero who doesn't take himself too seriously. And, visually, he's totally different from Rayman 2, thanks to his superpowers.

Since you mention the superpowers, did Michel Ancel also work with you on them?

Obviously, we put a few ideas to him, but most of the time the work was done on our side. As soon as we had a solid basis for Rayman in his normal condition, it became much easier to produce the variations. What's more, we were very quick to identify what we wanted.

We had one simple aim: the player should see powers that give you a feeling of strength, while maintaining a lightness of tone. We didn't want to create a fat brute, straight out of some punch-up game. Nor did we want ridiculous powers. So we started with two key elements: a different color of costume and a mechanical accessory for each power. Stanislas dreamed up the operating principles for the mechanical accessories, then I did a few sketches to make them more cartoon-like and exaggerate the concept. For example, a simple hook became a really cartoony "mantrap".

Let's talk about the other characters, apart from Rayman and the enemies. Who are they?

There are two other kinds of characters.

On the one hand, there are secondary characters who are really important in the game. That's the case with Globox, who follows Rayman nearly all the time, or Murfy, who accompanies Rayman through the first six levels. Here too we worked on giving them both a genuine cartoon personality and all the movements that the programmers needed. Take Globox. We animated him to get him across all the levels - he walks, he jumps, he runs. And he also has loads of reactions that are very specific to his personality: as soon as he sees an enemy, he panics and runs off to hide. When the player shoots a fist at him, his belly starts moving in all directions because of the black Lums.

On the other hand, there are what we call "environmentals". These are animals who live in the universe but who don't have proper roles as such. They're important because they create the player's sense of immersion, the feeling of moving through a living world. At the same time, they shouldn't distract the player from the action or make him believe he has to use them to get through the game. So we were obliged to do something very simple.

Can you give me an example of one of these "environmentals"?

At the start of the game, Rayman goes through a forest on a summer's night. The atmosphere is very restful and magical. In the clearings, we put turtles who potter around peacefully. We added a little kitsch detail: when two turtles are very close to each other, lots of little hearts appear. We even added a very simple interaction: if the player kicks a turtle, it goes soaring off into the air and lands up a few yards away.

In the end, how many creatures did you create and animate for Rayman 3?

If you include everyone, you end up with around sixty characters. That's quite a bestiary, isn't it?!

Source: Ubisoft/Raymanzone

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