Steel City Interactive, the studio behind the upcoming boxing title eSports Boxing Club, invited SGO for an exclusive preview of their game. The developers provided SGO with a case study on the magic behind recreating boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. We asked the project’s Character Artist and Italian native, Francesco Primiceri, questions regarding his creative process.
eSports Boxing Club will feature an expansive cast of fighters on release. The roster includes active boxers as well as some of the sport’s most legendary figures. For current boxers, SCI utilizes Ten 24’s scanning services. They basically scan a boxer straight into the game. How do you scan a legend, though? Notably, how do you make a retired boxer look how they did when they were active in the ring? According to Primiceri, one of the most challenging parts of recreating legends is the de-aging process. Primiceri is reverse-engineering the effects of time on the human body.
Steel City Interactive walked us through a detailed process to recreate Jones Jr. The first step involves scanning and researching the fighter, which requires finding classic photos for reference. Then, the “de-aging” work begins. This includes sculpting the model and defining the fighter’s muscles, skin and features with Zbrush; it also entails developing various color map textures. Lastly, SCI tests the character in various lighting environments.
Recreating a Legend – De-Aging Roy Jones Jr.
De-aging begins with a full-body scan of the fighter; In this case, the modern-day Roy Jones Jr. Ten 24 Digital Capture studio physically scans Jones Jr. in 3D with an elaborate, state-of-the-art camera system. The studio delivers the scans to SCI. From there, SCI begins to rig the character, apply textures, shaders, and bake in all of the details.
Primiceri takes the initial scan and body frame as his baseline. He then attempts to keep the main body volume and overall proportions intact while removing wrinkles, body imperfections, skin dots, and more from the character scan. Essentially, SCI is airbrushing the player model to make him look younger.
Primiceri works with his mouse and cursor to sculpt our favorite legends back into fighting shape; he recreates their appearance from their greatest and most timeless fights. Many traits change with age – eye shape, lip volume, cheekbones, body fat, cartilages, and even ear size. To work Jones Jr. back through the sands of time, Primiceri gathers image references from every angle to plan out what he wishes to achieve. He reviews them side-by-side with his current fighter model to understand what to keep and what to airbrush based on the images.
From there, Primiceri continues to shape the body. Next, he finesses the main muscles and facial features in ZBrush to match the classic imagery of RJJ in his prime. When he is happy with the result from different angles and perspectives, he begins to work on color textures.
Getting It Right – The Finer Details
Primiceri works on the color map texture in Adobe Photoshop. He adjusts tones and recreates Jones Jr.’s hairline and iconic beard. He continues to work on the skin tones to create a softer “young Roy Jones Jr.” skin texture, then applies it to the character model. Lastly, the artist adds details on the arms such as veins, and muscle toning in the biceps.
Next, the artist opens Young Roy Jones Jr. in ultimate production mode, where the artist tests the character model in different lighting environments. Here, Primiceli can check the textures and color balances in each unique arena and light setting with just the click of a mouse button.
Progressive Damage Visual Effects
Steel City Interactive confirmed with SGO that ESBC will feature a dynamic fighter damage system. SCI created custom shaders and “blendshapes,” allowing them to portray the appearance of progressive damage as each fight plays out. The shaders update in real-time as you play the game to demonstrate damage based on each fighter’s health and damage stats. Accordingly, ESBC is measuring health and damage with each punch and each movement and using the data to contextually apply visual textures and shaders. The net result is the fighters drip sweat when tired, or appear bruised and battered after a long and grueling match.
Recent footage of ESBC demonstrates striking visuals. The color profiles have a dynamic range, and the lighting and contrast ratios are expertly crafted to elevate the fight scenes. The graphic artists at Steel City Interactive are competing with the best in the world. Despite this, Primiceri and company remain on track to establish their footing in sports gaming. ESBC’s alpha is already a visual achievement when set in motion.