As the birthplace of the massively multiplayer online game phenomena EverQuest and PlanetSide, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has become the leader in immersive entertainment, technology applications and talent.
With the impending launch of The Agency, a massively multiplayer, spy-themed, first-person shooter for the PC and PlayStation3, SOE is poised to set new benchmarks for innovative video game play. To create the game’s intricate characters, environments and objects, SOE artists turned to the Wacom Cintiq interactive pen display – giving them a much faster digital workflow with a natural drawing feel.
Concept Artist Patrick Shettlesworth says the Cintiq enables him to eliminate multiple steps in his workflow, from drawing characters on paper, scanning them into the computer and cleaning them up, to coloring with a Wacom Intuos3 tablet. This process would take as much as five to seven hours for a typical character. Using the Cintiq, he can finish the same character in three to five hours.
With Wacom’s unique pen-on-screen capability, Shettlesworth is able to draw and paint directly on the Cintiq’s 21” LCD screen in Photoshop, Illustrator and Corel Painter. The Cintiq pen’s 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity integrate seamlessly with the software and respond automatically to his touch for precise control over line weight, opacity, and exposure.
Transforming the Creative Workflow
“It feels so much better to be on top of a drawing with your hand, the way you would do on paper,” he explains. “I get into a rhythm when I’m doing something like this, and I don’t want to break it by having to scan or go back and forth with an eraser. And, because I can move fast and loose in any direction, I can come up with way more iterations as I draw.”
The Cintiq’s all-digital workflow streamlines Shettlesworth’s creative process in other ways, too. For example, he regularly zooms in up to 2,000 percent when doing extreme detail work. By simply assigning one of the pen’s programmable buttons to zoom the view back to 100 percent, he can quickly assess if he is over-detailing something that no one will ever see and can then change his approach without breaking stride.
Shettlesworth also credits the Cintiq with giving him the ability to do environment work. When working on large landscapes, buildings or street scenes, he imagines them as shapes, values and tones, instead of lines. “I can only create the environment stuff with a painterly approach, and the Cintiq allows me to do that,” he explains. “Drawing directly on-screen with the pen’s pressure sensitivity, I can work from a shape perspective, building up the values and tones the way I would on paper. It gives me more of a one-to-one, so my hand and the painting are working together.”
When Shettlesworth arrived at SOE to work on The Agency four years ago, there was just one Cintiq in use. The obvious advantages of the interactive pen-on-screen workflow soon created such a buzz that everyone wanted one. Now Cintiqs are widely used throughout the studio. Departments ranging from concept art to 3D modeling and animation are benefiting from the improved creative control, productivity, comfort and, most important, collaborative features of the Cintiq.
For Shettlesworth, the Cintiq has become such an integral part of his workflow that he can’t imagine working without it. “It’s ruined me,” he jokes. “I can’t draw any other way. Now I have to have one of these at home!”