AAA game developer Studio Wildcard partnered with NEXODUS to deliver an ambitious, four-minute announcement trailer for ARK II, the sequel to Wildcard’s acclaimed open-world adventure ARK: Survival Evolved. The 100% CGI project featured a lush jungle setting teeming with otherworldly creatures -- from an exotic flower that turns out to be a chameleon to a rampaging dinosaur -- and a clan of human survivors led by a digital double of action star Vin Diesel.
From the beginning, Wildcard was reluctant to outsource work on content so critical to their company. With Wildcard’s internal teams committed to other projects, NEXODUS offered a unique solution: a purpose-built project team that grew to 37 people across multiple disciplines, and integrated seamlessly with Wildcard’s in-house talent to a degree that would have been impossible for a traditional VFX studio.
NEXODUS provided the combined team -- both artists from NEXODUS and Wildcard artists joining the project -- with their turnkey technology platform and comprehensive production support. NEXODUS team members worked on previz, look development, asset creation, animation, lighting, and simulations -- far surpassing the scope of a conventional, compositing-only in-house VFX team. The cutting edge NEXODUS cloud platform met the project’s hardware, storage, and software license needs, all deployed on-demand.
Seamless Integration of Teams and Technology
The creators of ARK had larger goals for the trailer than simply a marketing piece. With the game’s release was timed to coincide with Unreal Engine 5 -- not to mention next gen gaming consoles -- Wildcard decided the entire trailer would run in Unreal, showcasing the latest in-game graphics technology such as real-time raytracing and cloth simulation. This required especially close collaboration with NEXODUS team members to solve technical challenges, like cleanly migrating animation from Maya to Unreal and pushing the limits of large-scale simulations running in a real-time game engine.
NEXODUS augmented Wildcard’s staff with a purpose-built team of experienced artists and production personnel. The NEXODUS team quickly absorbed Wildcard’s workflow standards and began producing content as though it had originated from within the Wildcard studio, using Perforce to interact directly with Wildcard’s server. Throughout the project, NEXODUS artists communicated with Wildcard creatives through shared Slack channels, allowing for rapid feedback and revisions.
Seamless technical integration between Wildcard and NEXODUS enabled Maya animators supplied by NEXODUS to synchronize their efforts with Wildcard’s environment artists, making the line-up of assets immensely easier. Technical artists on both sides collaborated on pipeline scripts for automation tasks critical to on-time completion. When Wildcard added additional artists from their in-house team late in the production schedule, NEXODUS furnished them with high-end virtual workstations compatible with the rest of the project team, drastically reducing their ramp-up time.
A Flexible, End-to-End Solution
NEXODUS provided a true end-to-end solution for the ARK II trailer. Working hand-in-hand with production company Davey Jones, NEXODUS animators created previz to guide story development. FX artists smashed trees and splattered blood, Creature Technical Directors gave life to flowing capes and wavy dreadlocks. NEXODUS Production staff kept the project’s Shotgun database up-to-date and the complex project on track.
With production well underway, it became clear the trailer would need extensive motion capture and further development of character assets. Los Angeles-based Digital Domain was brought in to build a photoreal digital double of Vin Diesel, and provide motion capture for the action sequences. NEXODUS supervised all the technical aspects of the work on Wildcard’s behalf, with NEXODUS staff at the mocap shoot to guide production. NEXODUS also developed a system to implement Digital Domain’s mocap data on the project. With the major pipeline questions answered, Wildcard’s team was able to focus on providing creative direction.
The iconography of the ARK games is integral to Wildcard’s studio identity. And with the ARK II trailer designed to be a showcase for next generation in-engine graphics, a breathtaking result was not only necessary but expected. The promo aired for the first time during the 2020 Game Awards, garnering hundreds of thousands of views within hours, and some very excited Tweets from Vin Diesel himself. Within days, Xbox reposted the trailer on its official YouTube channel and every major gaming news outlet had published articles in anticipation of the forthcoming release.
“At NEXODUS, we believe that every production can be made better when teams work together as a unified whole, rather than as a sum of parts. We offer a new way to make content, allowing creatives to focus on creativity and worry less about logistics. We stand ready at a moment’s notice to augment any team, providing exactly what is needed to get the job done right.” John Baer, CEO at NEXODUS