Skrice Studios recently unveiled a cinematic trailer for their upcoming videogame, Heroes of Mavia. An ambitious project which was created within Skrice Studios and includes a long sequence shot: we therefore decided to ask Skrice Studios how they created it.
Heroes of Mavia is based on play-to-earn mechanics and NFTs. This approach is getting more and more common, but it also faces criticism. For example, critics point out that this can lead to speculation, and they highlight the environmental impact of crypto/NFTs. Just like we did when we published an interview on Plush, an animated movie project funded by the sale of a NFT collection, we therefore chose to discuss these issues head-on with the team from Skrice Studios.
Last, but not least, since Skrice Studios relies on artists located around the world, we asked them about the pipeline they put in place so that these artists can work as a team.
Here is the cinematic trailer, followed by our interview:
3DVF: Hello Skrice Studios, you are a game development studio based in Vietnam, with an international team. Can you tell us a little bit about your current project, an upcoming game called Mavia?
Tristan Chaudhry (Managing Director – Skrice Studios): Heroes of Mavia is a play-to-earn MMO Strategy game developed by Skrice Studios. The game takes place in a fantasy-themed island called Mavia, where players build bases on plots of land and battle neighboring bases and armies to earn in-game resources, such as Mavia’s play-to-earn cryptocurrency RUBY.
3DVF: You recently unveiled the reveal trailer. You chose to create it within the studio, while many video game studios outsource this kind of job: why did you choose this approach?
Tristan Chaudhry: We believe that the best art team’s can be formed in-house, where each artist and team member is deeply engrained into the company culture and aligned with our vision. While most games outsource trailers, we felt it would strengthen our team to develop the trailer completely internally. A byproduct of this decision is lower costs, and the ability to more rapidly develop future trailers.
3DVF: The trailer features several FX-heavy shots: a nebula and electric arcs inside a ruby crystal, shots fired, explosions, a building being destroyed…. From a technical point of view, which FX where the most challenging, and how did you handle them?
Julian Dropsit (CG Supervisor – Skrice Studios): The Nebula effect was overall the most challenging FX in the Trailer. The point was to suggest we are inside of a Nebula which reveals being the energy field inside the Ruby itself. It is a pretty abstract shot so it is difficult to preserve the idea from the vision to the execution.
Technically speaking we’re talking about 26+ millions particles, dynamics and volumes working together in a very specific way.
3DVF: The first shot is 36 seconds long, with lots of animated characters, assets, FX. How did you approach this shot?
Julian Dropsit: Sequence shots aren’t easy to make but they always look amazing, and this is exactly why we wanted one in our trailer. To facilitate the work, we have divided this shot into 7 small scenes. You can clearly separated some actions from another, for example Mira (the girl smashing the Ruby) and the Warrior were on the same stage, the Suicide Car on another, etc..
Once separated you send the set, the characters and the camera to any department that needs to work on those (Animation, FX). The biggest challenge was for the Assembly department, they had to merge everything together and make the render.
3DVF: Can you tell us about the rendering & compositing process?
Julian Dropsit: We use Houdini as our core software and Redshift as the render engine. For the rendering we separated the shots into passes: Set / Character / FX / Sky and composite them all back in Nuke. The final color grading was made in Resolve. We had 5-6 multi-GPU servers to render this trailer, and now with our 2.0 pipeline we can scale up and down our renderfarm pretty easily, going from 1 computer to 30 on a single click using USD, Prism, Deadline.
3DVF: How did you create the environment we can see at the end of the trailer?
Yvan Feusi (Executive Director – Skrice Studios): The ground has been created procedurally in Houdini using Heighfields and a Blend Material in Redshift. We scatter some trees, randomize them in compositing and create a matte painting for the sky.
3DVF: Your animation pipeline relies on USD: what are the main advantages for Skrice Studios? And are there any drawbacks? Which improvements are you hoping for in the months and years to come?
Yvan Feusi: We want to leverage the features of USD in our pipeline because we produce a lot of Themes and Levels for each Hero, Unit & Building so they all become Variants and SubLayers in one unified USD so we can easily drag/drop characters & assets from the library to the scene. USD works a lot with references & we always have a master USD version for each asset referenced into other USD so whenever someone modifies something on a character it’s always reflected in every department and that edit is just a USD on the stack so it’s non-destructive as we could revert back the master file to any previous version.
In the future, we also want to let our community have access to our content so they can easily create their own stories & output the same quality as us, something like Machinimas but with USD on multi-GPU servers.
3DVF: A few words about the team behind Skrice Studios? Some of your employees are based outside Vietnam (for example, in France): is it challenging on a day-to-day basis?
Tristan Chaudhry: Skrice Studios works with international artists. they come from the US, Brazil, Japan, Portugal, the Philippines, Algeria, France, and some more! The biggest challenges are to work together and remotely without the feeling of being thousands of miles away from each other. The time zones are quite challenging but with good team management we get used to them. Regarding all the technical aspects we’ve been building a pipeline where any artist in the world can work smoothly with any asset and artist from Skrice.
3DVF: Can you tell us more about this new pipeline and how do you manage to work with any artist in the world?
Yvan Feusi: Our team is international and works remotely which obviously brings some difficulties when it comes to storage, rendering & data management.
We partnered with Richard Frangenberg to tailor Prism v2 to our needs with custom plugins which let us sub-categorize all Themes and Levels for each asset.
We sync all files between artists & mirror everything on our storage server which is in local network with the multi-GPU render nodes from the datacenter we partnered with. The solution is fully “in the cloud”. We can scale up to 200 NVIDIA RTX cards, and scale down to almost nothing the next minute. It is very powerful and cost-efficient, there is never the need to download/upload as it’s always already there on the servers.
3DVF : Let’s go back to the game itself. Can you tell us a little bit about the gameplay? Mavia relies on NFTs and on RUBY, a cryptocurrency: how are they going to be used by the players, and what are the advantages compared to regular in-game purchases?
Tristan Chaudhry: Mavia has “Land NFTs” which can be purchased, rented or partnered with. The benefits of owning land are numerous, including the ability to earn the RUBY cryptocurrency through gameplay, tournaments, challenges and more. Mavia will also feature a free-to-play model which does not require any NFT to play. We are focused on creating an ecosystem that combines both free and paid players in a way which benefits everyone. Our model is very unique, and has not yet been tried by other NFT games, and we look forward to seeing the results of this strategy!
3DVF: NFTs and cryptocurrency face a lot of criticism: for example, they have a high environmental impact, NFTs and NFTs-based games generate a lot of speculation and volatility, there are sometimes scams… What’s your take on these issues?
Tristan Chaudhry: We fully understand the criticism of NFT technology (and crypto gaming as a whole), and we speak regularly to individuals who are skeptical of this space. We believe that as the space develops, and serious players introduce frameworks which help to integrate responsible tokenomic models, alongside engaging gameplay and inclusion of non-crypto players, we will see a much different response to the space.
3DVF: Many play-to-earn games fall in the same pitfall: they are not really fun to play, and people end up playing them (or paying people to play them) only to earn tokens/NFTs, not for fun. How do you plan to avoid this risk?
Tristan Chaudhry: Our solution is simple, we plan to create a game that is fun even without any cryptocurrency. By our standards, Mavia should be engaging and addicting to players with both crypto and non-crypto backgrounds. Our free-to-play model will allow anyone to build a base, and participate in the ecosystem.
3DVF: The NFT and cryptocurrency market isn’t really in a good situation right now. How does this affect your strategy/roadmap?
Tristan Chaudhry: It is unfortunate to see large downtrends in the crypto space, but fortunately we were minimally exposed to the volatility. We are very responsible with our treasury management, and we suffered almost no loss during the recent crash. We believe the space will soon recover, and grow to be even more strong and resilient.
3DVF: You announced that another trailer is in the works: can you give us a hint of what we can expect, and when are you planning to release it?
Julian Dropsit: Yes, there are a few trailers coming up in the next few months. The first one got such a good reception, we cannot wait to show you the result of the second. The release for the second trailer will be around the beginning of July. For the next trailer’s sneak peak, here’s one of our visual key but we won’t tell more about it, you’ll have to wait a bit more.
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