n-Space Blog

Meet the Team: Roberto Garcia-Lago

Posted in Our Staff by Joshua on August 10, 2012

Roberto Garcia-Lago is one of our Lead Game Designers, and has been a part of the game industry since 2004. Attending the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, Roberto enrolled in their Game Art & Design curriculum, and during this period was involved in several aspects of the industry which helped him grow as a designer.

A gamer first, Roberto started writing for an enthusiast press outlet, allowing him to network with people across the world, attending conferences and events for all aspects of media, from console to mobile. These experiences helped Roberto broaden his skill set, and he eventually found himself serving as an IGDA chapter coordinator, leading a community and organizing monthly meetings to discuss the industry as a whole. Leveraging his extensive network and industry knowledge, Roberto began helping like-minded designers and developers by working with a specialized local recruiting company, aiding the company in staffing world class talent for some of the biggest publishers in the video game industry.

Soon after graduating, Roberto joined n-Space as a game designer. He has since helped develop five different titles for a consoles, handhelds and other devices, working with high-profile licensed properties. In addition to overseeing production on his titles, Roberto also assists with producing concept pitches, writing design documents, and providing internal feedback for other projects.

Meet n-Space – Art Directors…

Posted in Our Staff by Dan O'Leary on April 20, 2011

Today and tomorrow, n-Space will be supporting an Art Summit hosted by the Game Development program at Full Sail University here in Orlando. Two of our Art Directors will be attending a Q&A panel this evening, where they will be joined by team members from Rockstar and Vicarious Visions. They will also be participating in open art critiques both days. The goal is to help students and alumni grow, improve and connect.

It seemed like a great opportunity to introduce them to you, and talk a bit about what an Art Director does. Without further delay, I’m proud to present Chris Bromby and Seung Kim! We’ll start with their professional bios…

Chris has been working as an art professional for over ten years and has held a wide range of artistic roles. For the past 4 years Chris has worked at n-Space, Inc. where he currently serves as Art Director creating games for multiple top selling consoles including the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in animation and is an alumnus of the University of Central Florida College of Art. He came to n-Space, Inc. with 3 years of experience gained at Electronic Arts, where he worked as both a Character Modeler and an Environment Artist. Prior to his years at EA, Chris worked in the film industry for 4 years as a Special Effects Animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation working on major feature films such as: Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear.

Seung is presently working at n-Space in Orlando as an Art Director and Concept Artist. He is responsible for establishing the visual look for a variety of games of different genres, target markets and visual styles. He contributes in many ways, including Concept art, Storyboards, Cinematic and Graphic Design. Having been in the entertainment, animation and video game industries for over 16 years, Seung worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation FL, Project Firefly, various oversea CG animation studios, Digital Magic Entertainment in South Korea and Electronic Arts Tiburon before joining n-Space. He graduated from the School of Visual Art, majoring in Illustration.

Here is a gallery of work samples with notes from them on the content and process:

n-Space rumor control…

Posted in Dan O'Leary by Dan O'Leary on October 9, 2010

There are a lot of reports going around about Friday’s layoffs that draw the wrong conclusion about n-Space’s status and future.  I’d like to take a minute to set the record straight.  Here’s the bottom line:

n-Space is down, but definitely not out.

After supporting 70-90 employees for several months without funding, Fridays layoffs were unavoidable.  I will be back in the office next week, along with our core team, to firm up a few of the many deals we are negotiating.  If all goes as planned we’ll be calling people back before the end of the week.

Life as an independent developer is often a painful hand to mouth exercise of love.  This has never been more true than in the last few years.  The games industry is, frankly, a mess.  The economy has robbed customers of disposable income, reducing the number of titles that purchased per year.  Huge budget titles have to sell massive numbers to return a profit and the App Store has disrupted our industry in the same way iTunes changed consumer expectations for music.  People that use to buy many games every year now buy a few AAA titles, supplementing their need with games that are free or cost less than a pack of gum.  Anything in the “middle” is struggling.  The Wii and DS markets have nearly collapsed and 3DS is a brave new world the publishers are excited about but also very cautious to enter.  Even for an extremely successful Wii/DS developer like n-Space, with a long history of delivering quality titles on time and on budget, this creates a very challenging business environment.

n-Space is shipping 7 titles this year (plus an iOS game we’ll be announcing next week), 5 of which were approved in September.  This is quite an achievement for a studio of our size (approx 90 at that time), but it also creates a real challenge from a business development point of view.  Placing 4-5 follow-on titles in a vibrant market is tough enough.  In 2010 it’s damn near impossible.  We’ve worked tirelessly to secure work, preparing literally dozens of concepts and proposals this year alone, built two impressive demos since E3 and even delivered, in good faith, the first milestone of one of the projects we are pursuing.

Last week it looked as though all that hard work would finally pay off, with one deal “done” and several more soon to follow.  Then, with a last minute change of heart from the licensor, that deal was dead.  When the week ended without commitments from other publishers to offset this setback, I was forced to take drastic action.

Since 2008 the n-Space family has faced and overcome a number of tremendous challenges, and it seems our work is not yet done.  Through it all the entire n-Space crew has demonstrated a level of professionalism and support that is beyond compare.  This week was no exception.  I am truly blessed to have assembled such a talented, hard working, and resilient creative team and I look forward to sharing their future accomplishments with you.

More on 3DS pixels…

Posted in Analysis, Shawn Leaf by Dan O'Leary on August 3, 2010

Contributed by n-Space Technical Director, Shawn Leaf.

Some say the new 3DS from Nintendo will feature per-pixel lighting.  Sounds cool!  But what does that mean?  To explain per pixel lighting requires a bit of background information…

How Rendering Works

When a graphics processing unit (GPU) is painting a 3D scene, it typically uses triangles that were authored by a 3D artist and then pushed through a math-intensive pipeline that results in 3 points placed on your screen.  Those three points (vertices) carry information the GPU uses to shade the face of the triangle.

By the way, when you see GPU stats about fill rate, that’s the number of pixels in triangle faces that the GPU can shade per second.  When you’re drawing a complex game scene, painting the pixels just once is not sufficient.  You need extra bandwidth to draw shadows, reflections, layers of transparency, etc.  So that raises the question, how many times per frame can we paint the 3DS’s stereo screen?

Given:
•    DMP’s PICA200 spec sheet claims a fill rate of 800 million pixels per second
•    The 3DS stereo screen is 400×240 pixels per eye:  400 * 240 * 2 = 192k pixels plus the non-stereo screen of 320×240 = 78.6k pixels, total of 268.8k pixels in a frame
•    And let’s say we want to draw at 60 frames per second

800M pixels per second / 268.8k pixels per frame / 60 frames per second = 49 and change… so, it’s got enough horsepower to repaint the whole stereo screen and the non-stereo screen 49 times a frame.

To put that number in context, how does that compare to a PS3 or Xbox 360?  These guys say 4 giga-pixels.  Repeat the math above with 4 giga-pixels and a 1920×1080 (1080p) frame buffer…  32.  Repeat the math again with 4 giga-pixels and a 1280×720 (720p) frame buffer…  72.

So, the 3DS is in good company… especially since its 49 is based on stereo rendering and that 720p 72 is not.

Back to rendering…

What’s in a vertex?

A vertex can contain…
•    Position – where
•    Color – what color
•    Texture Coordinates – if there’s a texture image to be applied, what part of the texture
•    Normal Vector – which direction is “up” and away from the triangle mesh

Why does that matter?

Two of these vertex components are used for lighting:  the position and the normal vector.  These two components describe the triangle’s surface at the vertex, and thus can be used to determine how a light source affects that surface.

Old school rendering hardware computes the lighting for each vertex, and then interpolates the result to create a smooth gradient across the face of the triangle.  This looks pretty good.  But, someone had a better idea…

Lighting Each Pixel

As GPU computational power increased, someone realized that they could afford to do the lighting calculation not just at the vertices of a triangle, but at each pixel that gets painted.  This produces much more realistic results than interpolating, and opens the door to a really cool feature… normal mapping.

Remember that normal vector in the vertex that points up and away from the mesh surface?  If we encode those up vectors in a texture map, we could sample the map per pixel and have a much more detailed surface.  A normal vector has X, Y and Z components that indicate the up direction.  A color texture has red, green and blue color components.  By storing the X in the red, the Y in the green, and the Z in the blue, we can store surface information in the texture instead of an image.

Now the GPU shading hardware can extract the surface normal from the texture instead of from the vertices, and voila… incredible surface details without an insanely dense triangle mesh.

This kind of computational ability per pixel opens the door to other rendering features as well, including different lighting models, refraction and environment reflections.

Summary

So, the GPU in the Nintendo 3DS appears to be quite the power-house, at least by the specs.  I look forward to seeing what we game developers can do with this little box!

Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids Wii Comic-Con Report…

Posted in Tim Schwalk, Tron: Evolution - Battle Grids Wii (2010) by Dan O'Leary on July 30, 2010

Contributed by n-Space Game Director, Tim Schwalk.

Comic-Con 2010 has officially come to a close, and it was a HUGE success not only for our Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids Wii game, but for the Tron franchise in general.  One particular highlight for me was the opportunity Jamie Toghill and I had to speak to GameSpot.com about our game as part of their live Day 3 coverage (our coverage starts at 11:00).

Jamie is our external producer from Propaganda Games.  Even though we’re developing the game here at n-Space in sunny Orlando Florida, we’re working very closely with the guys at Disney owned Propaganda Games in Vancouver Canada.  It’s a unique relationship with two developers coming together to create a game, and it’s one that has worked very well.

Here’s a list of the exciting features we discussed in the interview:

Wii Exclusive
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids is exclusive to the Nintendo Wii, offering a completely different gaming experience than the 360 and PS3 games.
•    While our game is based on the Tron film franchise, this is not a movie game.  Our story bridges the gap between the original 1982 film and the next-gen games.  Taking place in 1988, our game presents a Utopian Tron world where grid games are played for sport, rather than for gladiatorial competition.  Even with this original story, we do share some characters and locations with the upcoming Legacy film.
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids is considered a prequel to the PS3 and 360 Tron: Evolution video game and will be released this holiday season.

Grid Games
•    Three grid games were featured at Comic-Con:  Light Cycle Arena Battle, Light Cycle Race and Light Runer Arena Battle.
•    A fourth grid game was confirmed at the show, based on the iconic Light Discs competition.
•    The final product will feature 15 different modes in 7 grid game settings, with more character and vehicle based grids to be announced soon.  Rest assured that Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids will deliver all of your favorite Tron grid game moments.
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids was built with multiplayer gaming in mind.  All grid games are designed to be played with up to 4 players on the same television!  We’ve created the ultimate “in-the-livingroom” competition game to play with your family and friends.
•    Play as teams!  We offer 2 VS 2 Team Play against humans or AI.
•    Simple, Intuitive Controls!  Every grid game exhibits simple “pick up and play” controls while also offering an additional layer of depth for more experienced gamers.  This way fathers can play with sons and older brothers can play with younger siblings.  And while we support use of the Nunchuk peripheral, it isn’t ever required.  You can play any of our games using just a Wii Remote.

Single Player Story
•    The annual Game Grids Championship has become the biggest recreational spectacle in the TRON universe, bringing all programs together to support the strongest of warriors competing for the coveted title.  With Tron unexpectedly stepping down from the competition, you play a talented young program with hopes of becoming the new champion.  Joined on your quest by Quorra (voiced by Olivia Wilde), you’ll meet both familiar and unique characters while visiting Wii exclusive locations in this expanded Tron Universe.
•    Script writers from the Legacy film oversaw the development of our story.  They received drafts as we worked through the script and provided feedback that was critical in shaping our final narrative.
•    The single player story experience will take 5-6 hours to fully explore.

Additional Features
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids offers a full character customization system.  Create a male or female program to be used in every game mode.  Customization options include choosing suits, piping, heads, faces, hair, colors, accessories, and more!  Continue to evolve your character’s appearance as new items become unlocked while playing through the game.
•    Earn bits as you play to purchase new vehicles, parts, and accessories.  Bits are earned regardless of game mode or number of players.  Acquire them by doing well on the grid, or simply pick them up by finding them while exploring the story hubs.
•    Everything you do in the game counts!  Our stat tracking system remembers everything you do, allowing you to compare your progress against family and friends.  By tracking everything, we can use stats to tell the story of a match before it begins, giving it additional meaning.  For example, the loading screen might say “Player 1 beats Player 2 40% of the time when racing light cycles”.  Or you might see “Player 2 is on a 4 game winning streak”.
•    Stats can easily be compared with our comprehensive leader boards.  See how you stack up against everyone who has played, or look at detailed head to head stats against one other competitor.
•    Gain rank by performing well on the Grid!  You may be a Rookie now, but you’ll be a Legend in no time at all!
•    Jump into the Championship mode to play all of your favorite games in any order by yourself or with your friends.  Create custom free-for-all or team based Championships and battle your way to the end.  Gain points by placing well in each event — finish with the most points to become the true Game Grids Champion!
Immerse yourself in the world of Tron like never before with our exclusive Wii game, available this holiday season.  And watch here for more information as we get closer to release!

I’d like to thank Sophia and the folks at Gamespot.com for the opportunity to speak to them about our game.  We could have talked for an hour and barely scratched the surface of what Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids for the Wii has to offer.  Thanks also to all of the gamers and Tron fans that I met at the show!  You guys are the reason we’re making the game, and we appreciate your support!