Behind the mocap magic of Arashi: Castles of Sin, out tomorrow

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Behind the mocap magic of Arashi: Castles of Sin, out tomorrow

How running with wolves and staying scrappy made this PS VR title possible.

Hello! I’m thrilled to share with you that Arashi: Castles of Sin launches exclusively on PlayStation VR tomorrow, August 10. 

In Arashi: Castles of Sin, assume the role of Kenshiro, an elite shinobi assassin. With an arsenal of feudal weapons and your wolf companion, Haru, exact vengeance against ruthless bandits who have terrorized the countryside and claimed castles across feudal Japan as their own.

One of the keys to making this game was to stay small, scrappy, and flexible. We kept our approach as DIY as possible by using state-of-the-art mocap tools like an inertial motion capture suit for full body capture, mocap gloves for finger capture, and an app that captures high quality facial motion. We captured this all on a sub-$1,000 laptop, proving it can be done without huge, expensive workstations.

Behind the mocap magic of Arashi: Castles of Sin, out tomorrow

By having these tools on hand, we were able to have a mobile mocap studio capable of shooting at a quality that would usually require a mocap stage, a dozen personnel, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of hardware and equipment – all with a three-person team of Forrest Söderlind, Patrick Jandro, and myself from our office last summer. 

To provide the motion capture for the combatants you’ll fight we worked with Master Russell McCartney, a world record holder in Japanese swordplay. As our Creative Director Tom Doyle likes to say, “you won’t simply be fighting against some sword-wielding bad guy; you’re actually facing one of the greatest swordsmen alive.” 

Your katana isn’t your only weapon though- it’s only one of ten different weapons in Arashi.  Meaningful player choices and expressive play are paramount to our design director, Peter Carlson, so we made sure each weapon has its own strengths and drawbacks which enable players to tackle challenges in the play style of their choice.

Our team was passionate about presenting this story entirely in Japanese with subtitles. We have a deep love and appreciation for Japanese cinema of the 40s and 50s and wanted to transport the player right into their own personal Criterion Collection film. 

We felt it was important to find a way to represent cultural mannerisms specific to Japan. Our solution: send a mobile phone all the way around the world to Japan, set up a tripod, and hit record on capture software while our Japanese voice actors performed. As excited as we were about it, presenting the entire game in Japanese brought about an interesting challenge as neither of our animators are Japanese speakers. Luckily, our 3D Art Lead Louis Lu and his wife are both fluent and helped make the lip syncing and subtitles as cohesive as possible. 

There was still plenty of work from there and Forrest and Pat say this was one of the most complex and rewarding experiences for them on this project. To give you a peek into one part of the process, we whipped up this video of Ayane, Kenshiro’s cousin and guide.

We wanted Haru to not just be a powerful weapon, but also your companion. To capture the spirit of Haru, we took a field trip to a wildlife sanctuary, Predators of the Heart, and had an amazing day studying and playing with the wolves. 

Haru was one part of our process that was a little less DIY. Our plan was to be at a mocap studio and shoot animation for her, but due to pandemic reasons that was a bust. We called up our friends at Beyond Capture in Vancouver, Canada, who coordinated with us for a remote capture of four German Shepherds, each with a different role: neutral, aggressive, cinematic, and playful. In all our careers, doing a remote quadruped shoot was completely unprecedented and a massive undertaking, but we’re so happy with Haru. 

Oh, and can you pet the dog? 

Yep. You can pet the dog. Well, wolf. 

When I’m playing Arashi, I feel like a stealthy, strategic ninja assassin in a playground with all my awesome toys. I laughed out loud with joy the first time I took on two enemies, fighting one with my katana and the other with my tanto. One of my favorite things is to drop a mine near a bunch of enemies and command Haru to distract them, luring them right into my trap. Boom! 

Our team is so excited for you to play starting tomorrow, August 10. We can’t wait to hear about your adventures in the shadows.

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