developer:Rare
publisher:Microsoft Studios
platform:Xbox
released:21 June 2005
genre:action, platforming, third-person shooter
rodent202h
Conker: Live & Reloaded is an action-platform video game developed by Rare and exclusively released for the Xbox in June 2005. The single player mode is a remake of the 2001 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64. The multiplayer on the Xbox is completely different from the Nintendo 64 version and utilizes Xbox Live. Conker was praised by critics for its presentation and graphics. At the E3 in 2005 the game won IGN’s “Best Graphics” (I was there :-). The multiplayer remained in the top 10 most played titles on Xbox well into 2007.

In 2003 I came to the UK and joined the Conker team. My main task was to upgrade single-player characters. They already had the N64 version up and running on the Xbox. Since I had never played the N64 version before, working on a new section of the game every week was a real joy. For me as an artist having a fully working game available resulted in a great workflow. I could take a character, upgrade it and see it immediately in the actual game. I could see if the mesh could perform the required animations. I could also see if the mesh and textures had enough resolution for the cutscenes. As for artistic freedom, the N64 models were so low-poly that it left plenty of space for artistic interpretation. A typical N64 model was around 700 polygons. On the Xbox we could use 2000 polygons for standard characters and 3500 for key characters and bosses. This is without counting the 16 layers of fur (!).



Technical
Optimizing the workflow
At Conker I introduced prelighting on the characters. Usually this is the first pass I do, before continuing with the texturing. I had written a mel script to automate this. The script would generate an array of lights and bake the shadows. It also took into account things as assigning a white material prior to baking and restoring everything back to normal afterwards. The standard occlusion baking methods as seen nowadays were not available yet. For the already finished characters I converted the script to bake the lighting onto the vertex colors, so no texture edits were required.

To improve the workflow, I wrote a texture attribute editor. This allowed the artists to edit the attributes on multiple textures at the same time. This included attributes as texture compression, texture size, mipmapping. This not only increased the workflow speed, it also helped to spot faulty settings on models more easily.