What’s the difference between a CG-animated movie and a videogame? About 27 hours. "The movie’s only a couple of hours long, but the game is going to be 30 hours long," says Pixar’s Mark Andrews. "That blew me away. What are you going to do for 30 hours?" Andrews story supervisor, on The Incredibles, got his first taste of videogame design in early meetings with the team from Culver City, CA game developer Heavy Iron Studios, which was working on an Incredibles videogame for publisher THQ.
The crew from Heavy Iron met every four to six weeks with a team from Pixar to discuss ways to build the film into a detailed videogame world. "In movies, you only build what you need to see," notes Andrews. "But for the videogame, you’re buying what’s behind that- you want to go down the stairs and into the basement because that’s where the videogame can take you."
Scott Caple, a pre-production art director on the film, subsequently worked directly with Heavy Iron, showing them how to transition the 2D film to a 3D world and making prescriptive refinements, or "draw-overs," of their images. "We would model [low-res 3D] blockouts of our levels, showing the scale and dimension, and [Caple] would draw on top of those on tracing paper," Heavy Iron Executive Producer Lyle Hall recalls. "We would take those drawings back and build those materials as texture maps, then light and shade them so they matched." Heavy Iron worked in Maya and Photoshop, but never actually used Pixar’s film data or CG files. "We got a ton of reference, lots of Fujix high-res prints and animation weeklies on tape," Hall says. "We got meticulous detail from their team in terms of making sure what we were building matched anything they had done."
Pixar eventually found that gaming technology limited the kind of images that could be achieved. "I would do draw-overs and send them back," Andrews says, "and they would say,Ã¢Â€Â˜We can’t get that because that would add three more points of polygons, and that’s too much. The game would chug.’ It was things like that."