Q: For those that played ‘PDC World Championship Darts’ released in 2006, what are the noticeable changes in PDC World Championship Darts 2008?
SC: PDC 2008 features 15 of the worlds leading players which is a significant increase on the previous game. The success of the first darts title meant we could get much better access to the players themselves meaning increased quality visuals all round from textures, to mocap, to reference, meaning this years game has much more realistic graphics and animation.
We also overhauled the entire physics system to give realistic collisions with other darts, allowing for advanced techniques such as under and overstack, and realistic situations such as flights being knocked off and wire collision on the board.
PDC 2008 also features a career mode which allows the player to either enter as one of the named professionals and try and retain their position or to start as a newcomer and enter all the official events of the real PDC season while attempting to rise in the ranks.
There is now a full player creation menu to allow you to customize your character’s appearance. There is also the option to choose a female player for the first time.
The game now has 3 difficulty modes, ‘Amateur’ - which has a generous power gauge to allow you the players to get the feel of the game, ‘Pro’ which removes the gauge meaning the player has to judge their throw from their onscreen characters arm position, and ‘Master’ mode which ups the difficulty to a level only for professionals
There has been a significant revamp of the party games aspect, featuring all favourites such as ‘killer’, ‘cricket’ and ‘round the clock.
Q: This is the first appearance of the series on the Nintendo Wii. How different has it been to develop for this format with its unique control mechanism compared to the PS2 and PC versions, and what were the key challenges that needed to be overcome?
SC: The Wii version has been a pleasure to work on. If ever a game screamed ‘put me on the Wii!’ its PDC Darts 2008. The process was relatively simple once we integrated controller support in to our engine, the time consuming part has been getting the balance and feel of the controller just right. Menus of course have to be designed with all platforms in mind to ensure that all options are as accessible with the PS2 controller as with the Wii Remote.
Q: Has there been more input and involvement from the real-life professionals over last year’s version, and what has been their main contribution to the game?
SC: We had a great amount of access to the pros at events this time round. The success of the last game and the glowing accolades it received, meant that the players were happier to find windows in their very busy schedules to ensure we received all the photo and video reference we needed. All the players are fully behind the game and personally want to make sure they look as good as possible in game, so it their involvement has been greatly appreciated. The addition of mocap animation to PDC 2008 also allowed us to achieve a level of realism far beyond what we had achieved before in showing the players real life movements and actions.
Q: An accurate physics model of the darts while they are in flight was something that wasn’t present in ‘PDC World Championship Darts’ but has been introduced for PDC World Championship Darts 2008. Can you briefly explain the process of how this was implemented and the effect this has on the game?
SC: We were put in touch with a guy who makes rockets for a living, who also happens to be an avid darts fan. He really helped our tech guys get an understanding of the forces in play on a dart in flight and allowed us to create the most realistic system created so far. The darts physics deals with the darts path through the air and also as a resting body, meaning that each darts position can influence others allowing for advanced techniques such as under and overstack, and typical reactions like flights being knocked off and collision with the wire on the board. All this makes for a much more realistic simulation of darts, while careful balancing has ensured that we don’t loose sight of the ‘game’ element.
Q: Motion capture was again something that wasn’t present in last year’s game with all of the character animations being hand drawn. Can you briefly explain the motion capture procedure, who you motion-captured and the advantages motion-captured animations has over hand drawn ones?
SC: Mocap data is probably the single biggest improvement a developer can make in terms of animation. We’ve all seen the pictures of people with ping-pong balls stuck to lycra body suits – these are placed on key joints and bones on the actor and used as points of reference for cameras capture their exact movement and position. The data is then cleaned up to remove any erroneous data and this data is then applied to a skeleton in our software. This then gives a completely accurate representation of the actors exact moves, creating a level of subtlety and quality which would take many, many man hours to reproduce by hand – if it could be achieved at all.
For the purposes of PDC 2008, we enlisted the services of a professional darts player and actor who recreated the moves, walks, celebrations and quirks of each of the 15 professional players with amazing accuracy.
6. Facial animations is another area where there is a noticeable improvement over the previous version of the game. Can you briefly explain what has been done in PDC World Championship Darts 2008 to produce more life-like facial animations and realistic representations of the players?
SC: For the facial animations on the game, we could have used specific facial mocap (which is effectively much smaller ping pong ball’s) but we decided instead to use a technique called ‘morph targets’. With mocap, we would have had to have painstakingly gone through recording every possible reaction and expression each of the 15 players could ever produce and this just was not viable. Morph targets are a process of creating a broad selection of ‘masks’ for each player (basically copying the face of the 3d model) and manipulating them to the extreme’s of expression.
What we do then is add percentages of these extremes of expression to the face on our model – or ‘morph’ the masks on to our character model over a set period of time. For example, to create a blink, we would add 100% of a mask with fully closed eyes for a fraction of a second. We may have a smile mask, an open mouth mask, a furrowed brow mask and a raised eyebrow mask. If the player was in a tight battle, we may use 40% smile, 60% open mouth, 80% furrowed to get the right expression. If the same character is shocked and surprised by a lucky 180, we may use 60% smile, 80% open mouth and 80% raised eyebrow to get the right look. Using this system gives us an almost infinite amount of expressions and gives us the capacity to endow the characters with the full range of emotions.
Q: A large part of the fun of ‘PDC World Championship Darts’ was darts commentator Sid Waddell’s hilarious and off-the-wall witticisms. Has Sid returned for commentating duties on this year’s game and if so can you briefly explain the procedure from script to recording to editing to implementation. Does Sid ad lib at all or is everything scripted for him?
SC: Sid did indeed return to provide the commentary on the 2008 game. He came back with a full range of feedback base don comments from fans of his and the previous game. What was required were more ‘Siddisms’ such as ‘there’s only one word for that – magic darts’ etc, the bits only sid can write. The previous game had four pages of script as we needed the responses to be as general as possible.
The success of the first game meant we could up this to over 100 pages of commentary to cater for almost every unique situation, from simple interesting facts about the players, to specific such as missing the last dart of a nine dart checkout, or failing to get a required double. Sid wrote all the script himself, and even managed to improvise a huge selection of fantastic lines around the framework required. Sid is a professional with many years in the business, so was able to rewrite any of the cue’s which didn’t work and also deal with the issues surrounding having both a male and a female player. The voice over from Sid really does lift the game to a whole new level and creates a fantastic atmosphere.
The result is a much more interesting, realistic and altogether more humorous game.
Q: Have the arenas in the game also been accurately modeled on their real-life counterparts?
There are 7 arenas in the PDC 2008 based on the real world locations of all the official PDC tournaments, from Blackpool to Las Vegas.
Q: Can you briefly explain how you have managed to recreate the crowd noise in the game, from general crown noise, to cheering, etc, which obviously plays a massive part in creating atmosphere during the matches
SC: To get the crowd noises we recorded an entire day at a PDC event. This allowed us to capture all emotions from the beautiful game, and once we had removed all specific reference to individual players (and painstakingly removed all the swearing) we were able to create layers of audio. This meant we always had a bed of ambient crowd sound, but layered specific event driven audio for example 180’s, hitting a required double, checking out, missing third dart of a 180, missing specific double’s etc., to ensure the result was as realistic as possible.
Q: Multiplayer is a key aspect of PDC World Championship Darts 2008 with most gamers probably gravitating towards this mode. Can you explain the multiplayer side of the game, what variations there are, how many players can compete at any one time, etc?
SC: Multiplayer is available in Exhibition, Tournament and Party Modes. In Exhibition you play head to head with a friend. In Tournament mode you can play with up to 8 Human players in any of the official PDC Tournaments or even create your own Custom tournaments and leagues. There are 12 Party games that range from 2-4 players, unlike the other modes where players play 1 on 1 to knock the other out, this mode player’s play all in the same game to win.
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