Here’s the intro video of our new Drakensang game (River Of Time):

(Go here for the bigger version)

The cutscene has been created in-engine with our new cutscene editor tool described in one of my former blog posts, and then captured frame by frame and encoded with Bink at 1280x720 (the YouTube version unfortunately looks quite a bit darker then the original if I’m not mistaken). The characters have higher resolution meshes and textures created especially for the intro video, but the underlying joint skeleton and facial animation system is identical with the ingame-characters. The decision to encode the cutscene into a video stream instead of running it in real-time was done early in the project to remove a few risks. We couldn’t be sure what the performance would look like with the high-res assets and all the dynamic lighting, and whether or not a lot of post-processing would be necessary after capturing the raw frames. Turns out that the real-time cutscene looks so good that no “cheating” was necessary, so in future projects we will probably do everything in real-time from the beginning.

The advantage of building and tweaking the cutscene with an instant real-time preview can’t be stressed enough. The intro to the original Drakensang was done the traditional way, short scenes have been built in Maya, rendered over night, and then arranged and cut in some video editing tool. The massive turn-around time between tweaking something and seeing the result was a huge problem and in the end we ran out of time. Creating the new intro video was completely painless and straight-forward. The artists actually had fun creating it (at least that’s the impression I got watching them from time to time hehe), and I think that’s clearly visible in the result :)