Oddworld’s Inhabitants: Marquise Bent, Lead Realtime Modeler

Oddworld's Inhabitants: Marquise Bent, Lead Realtime Modeler [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: 04/12/2000

Interviewer: Oddworld.com

Interviewee: Marquise Bent

. Oddworld’s Inhabitants
Marquise Bent has been an Inhabitant of Oddworld since December of 1997. Since then, she’s been a Realtime modeler, modeled props for Abe’s Exoddus, helped the paint team translate background screens into four different languages, and even discovered that her own, long-lost brother was working at the very same company! Learn more about Marquise’s Oddysee in this month’s Inhabitants interview!

Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.

Marquise Bent, Lead Realtime Modeler Marquise Bent

Marquise’s trek to Oddworld began at Mondo Media, where, as an independant contractor, worked as a 2D computer artist for an internet game sponsored by MSN called the Broken Line. With the angst that only the young can afford, Marquise turned up her nose at learning 3D computer graphics. Her college vow to never work for the Man on a 3D product lasted almost two weeks until she found that money could be a valuable commodity. Desperate and broke in San Francisco, she agreed to give 3D a try and ended up working for Disney Interactive and loving the Establishment. When the Mouse House looked the other way, Marquise found herself swept off her feet by a Mudokon named Abe and left Disney to become an Oddworld Inhabitant.

Q: What kind of software & hardware does the Oddworld Inhabitants Realtime team use?

Marquise Bent: The Realtime team is actually divided into two groups. One group creates the Realtime characters and animation while the other focuses on the interior and exterior environments. The group working on the characters use a combination of SGIs and PCs running Maya, 3DS Max R3, Photoshop and MoveTools. The group that creates the environments work on PCs that run 3DS Max R3 and Photoshop. Another handy tool is the MaxImmerse plug-in from NDL. It allows us to import the Realtime art into our game engine. We also try and steal a lot or art from Oddworld’s CG team, so I guess you could say that we use all of their tools, like Maya, indirectly.

Q: What do you find the most challenging part of creating art for a Realtime game? What is the most rewarding?

Marquise Bent: I think the most challenging part of creating the Realtime art are all the technical issues involved. When we create anything we must consider how it functions in game play. How do the character interact with it? Harder still are all the limitations that Realtime game engines place on the art. It is amazing the list of do’s and don’ts that you are faced with despite the next generation game consols. But don’t get me wrong. Despite the challenge of Realtime modeling, most of us would tell you that the challenge of this job is what we most look forward to. We love it when we are told that we can’t do something and we figure out a way to say we can. Real-time is all about tricks and illusions. We spend a lot of time testing theories and creativly solving problems. The daily reward is when we get to see the environments and characters interact with each other. When a theory works and gets implimented. When we get that thumbs up from Lorne Lanning. The big payoff is when the game hits the shelf and we start hearing the feedback from all the fans.

Q: Can you describe the character model & animation process for Realtime?

Marquise Bent: It’s really a marriage that the Realtime department has with the CG department. >From the CG department we will grab the hi-res NURBS models and use them as a template to build our Realtime polygon characters. Then, we render the hi-res model in a number of different views to build a detailed texture sheet for the Realtime model. Using what was already created in CG helps us to keep continuity between the movies and game play. The Realtime team animates the basic moves for the character that will occur in game play, using Maya and a bunch of cubes that resemble the character they are animating. This allows the CG department to steal the basic moves and use them for the movie sequences. Again, this insures that Abe walks the same way in the game as he does in the movies. The skeletal information (you get rid of the funky cubes) then gets exported into 3DS Max with the help of MoveTools. In 3DS Max the Realtime model gets skinned to the skeletal information. We do a little keyframe optimization and export it off to the engine down in programming somewhere.

Q: How many people are on the Realtime team? What are their specialties?

Marquise Bent: We currently have 8 people on the team including myself.

ROB BROWN (Art Director and Honorary Realtime Modeler)
MARK AHLIN (Sr.Realtime Modeler)
SEAN MILLER (Animator)
KYO LADOPOULOS (Animator and Realtime Modeler)
IVAN POWER (Jr.Realtime Modeler)
AIMEE SMITH (Art Wrangler)
RAJEEV NATTAM (Jr. Realtime Modeler)

Q: How do you feel about Munch’s move to the Xbox?

Marquise Bent: Relieved. As an artist, I’m for anything that makes the game look even better. It would have looked good on the PS2 but on the Xbox, the rt team will really be able to shine.. errr…I mean, Munch will really shine.

Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character? Why?

Marquise Bent: Well, you know, I’m really starting to favor the Fuzzle. Soft, cute, yet oh so vicious when they want to be. I like the contrast. It also feeds my toy habit. I can totally see squeeky toys out of these guys and it makes me giggle with glee and total delight.

Q: What is the longest “day” you’ve ever spent at Oddworld?

Marquise Bent: Hmmm.. that’s a hard one. The days go by so fast here. I mean, I come in, sit at my desk, turn around and all of a sudden it’s 7:00. It’s wacky how fast time flies… I guess I have a lot of fun at work. Well.. okay.. there have been a few days that were a bit long… like back when I was working on Exoddus and I had to model sandbags…piles and piles of sandbags (by the way Farzad, thanks). That was a long month.. or was that only a week. And then there are those crunch times when you work 32 hours straight and those last 8 hours feel like forever and you just want whatever you are doing done. But, even those days… what I concider “bad” days… are still a lot of fun… I mean compared to my best days flipping burgers or selling art supplies.

Q: Do you have any funny stories to share about your team mates or Oddworld?

Marquise Bent: The Realtime team is a really fun team to be a part of. On any given day of the week something is bound to happen that finds me laughing until I can’t breathe, tears running down my cheek. A week in Realtime would go a lot like this:
Monday: Monday is bagel and fresh fruit day. Along with vitamin day and if you are a fan of Oddworld, you probably already know about the lengths Sherry McKenna goes through to keep us all healthy. One Monday we got our basket of fruit replentished and we discovered a pear with a rather odd feature. It had a rather nice looking butt. Mark Ahlin promptly dressed the naked pear in a g-string made of post-it notes and it became somewhat of a mascot for the Realtime team. It was named “Bootie Fruit” and was proudly shown to all that walked through our area. That is, until the flies came and I tried as secretly as I could to throw it out. When they asked what happened to Bootie Fruit, I tried telling them that it was much happier now that it was running free on a ranch somewhere… only some of them bought it.
Tuesday: If Monday is dedicated to our health, Tuesday is equally as just. Confessions of Underground Sweets. Snuck in under our coats, we bring in “healthy” treats in pink boxes, hide them in the bookshelves of the office and consume the contents quickly and quitely before any member of Sherry McKenna’s junk food spy team can catch us in the act of destroying the human body.
Wednesday: By Wednesday, a member of the office has fallen to the latest local disease and must be added to the flu tracker we keep updated on a wipe board. Somehow it always starts with a monkey in Nigeria who passes it on to me first, works it’s way through the office hitting me again, moving onto a fast food resturant, and finally ending up back at the monkey where it starts it all over again.
Thursday: By Thursday everyone is back in the office and if there is a deadline to meet you better have some pretzles or peanuts at your desk. They make for a great Lorne lure. The idea is to keep him happy and busy munching while you are busy making the latest Lorne revisions. Friday: Friday at Five… the 80’s music comes on, the disco ball spins… and we try to get another hour’s work complete before heading out for the weekend.

Q: Are you a game-player? What is your favorite game?

Marquise Bent: Yes, I’m a game player, although I played a lot more when I was younger. Long ago, my parents bought me an Atari system and I remember hours of Pong and Breakout. My parents were so concerned about the hours I spent playing, they sold my beloved system at a garage sale with the fear that I’d make my career in video gaming if something wasn’t done fast. They were too late. I have a lot of old arcade favorites like Centipede and Paper Boy topping the list. I haven’t gotten into the 3D games as much because I get motion sick easily, which is why I’m excited about the camera system in Munch’s Oddysee. It will help us weak-in-the-stomach types get back into gaming.

Q: What inspires you?

Marquise Bent: In my personal artwork, I am often inspired by Biblical stories and prophetic dreams. I like to see the spiritual relm take on physical form and the Bible is full of that. At Oddworld, I’m inspired most often by Lorne Lanning. You can’t help but be inspired by his sugar packet puppet show during a lunch meeting.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Marquise Bent: I like to watch old movies, or play with my 2 yr old nephew. I’ve also been collecting instruments, mainly guitars and percussion, which I really love to play. My mom and I are trying to get a ukulele group together, but it’s been a slow start. I’m addicted to Ebay, I’m going to have to get help soon.

Q: What advice would you give to kids wanting to get into the Game Industry as an artist?

Marquise Bent: Recently I got a letter from a kid asking me a similar question. I found myself writing a 5 page letter giving advice on every aspect of the industry. I’ll spare you the details. Basically it all boils down to having a strong work ethic. Love what you do, be passionate and work like mad toward what you want to do, be professional in how you do it, and live your life in a way that makes a positive impact on those around you. You can’t go wrong.

Q: What is the most exciting thing you can tell the fans about Munch’s Oddysee?

Marquise Bent: I don’t know if I can choose one thing. The graphics are going to be incredible. The art compliments the A.L.I.V.E. 2 engine and with Munch’s Oddysee I think we will be taking a giant step forward into interactive cinema. That’s exciting.