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Ready at Dawn
For the past 12 years, the designers, writers, and developers of Ready At Dawn have pushed the boundaries of video gaming as far as they can go across platforms and devices. The team creates rich, immersive games that leave players in awe and other companies scrambling to catch up. Now, the company is poised to tackle the ultimate gaming challenge: virtual reality.
Peek behind the scenes
Ready At Dawn was founded by a team of passionate game makers, led by Ru Weerasuriya, co-founder, chief creative officer and president. Their goal: to set a new course in the evolution of video games.
Ready At Dawn develops new games by drawing on the inspirations of its employees. One or two people might have an idea about a gameplay mechanic, a story or a world they’d like to create.
Once an idea starts to jell, it’s assigned to a 5-to-10-person project “pod” of artists, engineers, developers, and writers. Using their diverse talents and perspectives, the pod members develop proofs of concepts, evangelize the project, and pitch it as “what’s next” for the company.
To bring ideas to life, the team built a number of proprietary development tools for visual effects, 2D and 3D modeling, and scripting on top of Maya, to create a common game-making platform that all of its artists, designers, and developers use. Integrating the team’s workflow with Maya promotes fluid collaboration, and gives the company the flexibility to switch genres, create games on multiple gaming platforms, and jump to new platforms.
The team created several games for the PlayStation Portable, breaking new ground by delivering console-quality gameplay on a handheld device. From there, the company decided to take on an even greater challenge: developing its first original title, The Order: 1886, for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) console.
How do you
create a game that feels “real”?
Many video games set up their story with cinematics, short films or prerendered scenes that players watch before they engage in the actual game.
But the transition between the movie-like quality of the cinematics and the more stylized graphics of gameplay can be jarring. With The Order: 1886, the Ready At Dawn team wanted to create a more seamless, immersive experience, one that would feel like you were “playing a movie.”
To dissolve these barriers and render every aspect of the game in high fidelity—in real time—the team needed to push the PS4 game console to its limits. Team members also pushed themselves to master advanced motion capture, cutting-edge character animation techniques, and complex soft-body physics software.
Set in an alternate-history London, The Order: 1886 is based on Weerasuriya’s original short stories. To showcase their industrial-era vision in all its grimy, dusty glory, Ready At Dawn team members built a suite of camera lenses, lighting effects, shader systems, and post-production tools. Their goal was to create the look and feel of movies and TV, instead of the sterile, artificially perfect environment of typical video games. Materials like textiles were modeled from actual fabrics to capture the feel of the cloth and the way light hits every fiber.
The Order follows a legendary order of knights battling for centuries against supernatural enemies, while struggling to maintain their humanity.
Getting players to connect emotionally with the game’s heroes was a challenge for the Ready At Dawn artists: It was all about the details.
Actors, models, and even fellow Ready At Dawn employees took part in extensive motion- and facial-capture sessions that were used to create the details to make characters come alive. Advanced rendering tools helped the team accurately portray eye movement, and hair and skin textures.
“Face rendering was really important for us,” says Weerasuriya. “Eyes are a perfect example: Building an eye that has that aqueous thin layer on top is what makes it feel real. Oftentimes in games, if you put in eyes that are not correctly rendered, the character itself feels dead. It doesn’t matter how much good work you do around it.”