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A Look Back: KH2 Ultimania, Event & Movie Team Interview



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We're continuing to work our way through the rest of our interview backlog! Next on our list are the KH2 Ultimania team interviews, starting with the Event & Movie Team. Check it out!

T/N: "event" refers to in-game cutscenes, "movie" refers to CGI scenes like the opening and ending.

Interviewees:
Masaru Oka, Planning Director: Event
Tomohiro Kayano, 3D Modeling Director: Character
Tatsuya Kando, Animation Director
Tomohiro Hasegawa, Art Director: Texture
Takeshi Nozue, Movie Director

Two stories for each world, bringing the total number of events up to nearly 800.

— Compared to the previous game, KHII has considerably more event scenes.

Oka: In KH1, after clearing Hollow Bastion, it was like "Alright, let's go through the worlds again!" If we were going to follow a similar structure this time around, I thought it'd be more fun to have a proper scenario for the second visit, rather than just defeating a boss and calling it a day, so I suggested that we have two scenarios for each world. At the beginning, we had prepared tools for event production, so it seemed like we wouldn't have to spend as much time working on each one. I was confident that we'd have enough time to make both scenarios, but by the time we actually got around to doing it, there were nearly 800 events (laughs).

— Among the events, the nature of Atlantica's musical was different and memorable.

Oka: We'd actually been talking about adding musical elements to KH since its inception, and finally decided to make it happen this time. When we thought about which world to incorporate it into, we determined that Atlantica from "The Little Mermaid" would be the best fit. We didn't want it to be a half-baked production, so we made it a full-length musical, including the battle with Ursula.

Kando: It was very difficult to create motions that matched the music and songs in the musical. The button prompts branch into two types of motions depending on whether you've succeeded or failed, so we had to make sure both of them would connect smoothly. For that reason, I focused on creating movements that would go with the flow of the music.

— Regarding the graphics, are there any technical changes from the previous game?

Kayano: When it comes to the modeling, our policy from the beginning was to use the KH1 models, so we couldn't make major changes. Instead, KH2's models were designed to solve the issues that plagued those older ones. In particular, we've cut down on the number of skeletons (framework for movement), reduced the number of polygons without compromising on the visual quality, and made efforts in areas that aren't outwardly noticeable.

Hasegawa: As for the textures, rather than doing something that was technically new, I feel that we've achieved what is the most beautiful out of anything we've done on the PS2.

Kando: We made a lot of facial models (face models used to animate facial expressions in close-up scenes of the characters). There must have been about 100 of them in total.

Oka: I requested a lot of them for the events. When I asked and they said "Sure," I couldn't help myself (laughs).

Kayano: We wanted to use facial motion in any scene that gets even the slightest bit of close-up.

Kando: Using facial motion suddenly makes the screen look better. CG tends to look like a puppet show, so the use of facial motion has a tremendous effect in adding a human touch.

Hasegawa: When facial motion evolves significantly, the difference between a "high model" (a model with a higher polygon count used in scenes where the character is close up) and a "middle model" (a model with a lower polygon count for lighter processing) becomes much more noticeable. That's why we significantly increased the number of texture animations for the middle model this time around. Otherwise, the moment the model changes to the middle model, it will suddenly appear to have a face with no facial expression. As part of this process, the middle model's facial expressions change during battle, such as closing their eyes when taking damage, and adopting a brave look when attacking.

Disney is impressed with the amazing reproduction of the graphics!

— Among the newly introduced worlds, Port Royal caught my attention as a world with realistic textures thrown into a cartoony setting.

Kando: For Port Royal's graphics, the concept for the visuals was "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." I wanted to express an "interesting gap" in the game with live-action people and animated characters coexisting.

Kayano: I studied Port Royal's film of origin, "Pirates of the Caribbean," by watching it countless times and collecting magazines with articles about it.

Kando: As for Jack Sparrow, we had many discussions to make sure he'd look and move like the actor. When he saw the test version we had made, he replied back saying, "It's wonderful!" From then on, the staff at the office became even more excited.

Hasegawa: The direction of the graphics for this world and FFXII is similar, so I told myself, "I'm not going to let them beat us!" It was something I was very conscious about. FFXII does a great job with hair and beards, so I approached it with enthusiasm and strived to be just as meticulous here.

Oka: We've devised a little bit of camera work for Port Royal, creating an atmosphere akin to a live-action movie with a cameraman. If you watch closely, you will see the camera shake from time to time.

— The appearance of the undead pirates changes when they're illuminated by moonlight. How are those visuals achieved?

Hasegawa: There are actually two models - one that depicts the pirate as flesh and blood, and the other as a skeleton - overlapping with one another, but one is left hidden. When the pirate is exposed to light, the skeleton fades in, and when it gets dark, the flesh and blood fades in, making them look like they're transforming. However, the effects couldn't show up properly when they were layered on top of each other, so it was difficult to make adjustments.

Oka: We checked and adjusted each frame until we were satisfied. Because of those efforts, I think we were able to successfully recreate the scene where Jack Sparrow is stabbed by a sword and staggers back as he transforms.

— A lot of new characters appear in this game, but who was particularly difficult to work with?

Kayano: First and foremost, all of those characters in the black coats (laughs). We initially planned on making only three types of models or so, because it would be more efficient to work on them later if we didn't have to change the framework too much. However, once we started production, we decided to just make different models for everybody. We made slight adjustments to their heights, builds, length of their sleeves, etc., to give all thirteen a unique look.

— The new Nobody enemies are quite unique in their design and movements.

Hasegawa: Fundamentally, the silhouette being round and comical is a characteristic of the Heartless, so to contrast with that, the Nobodies were given sharp lines with gouged curves. The original request was for "something scary with a bit of intelligence," to differentiate the Nobodies from their more endearing counterparts. Additionally, we tried to distinguish them from the brightly colored Heartless by giving the Nobodies achromatic colors and a metallic flavor.

Kayano: Normally, the Modeling Team creates a skeleton with a certain degree of movement in mind, and the model is used as is. However, in the case of the Nobodies, the Motion Team wanted them to move in peculiar ways. In order to achieve this, after we gave them a model and its skeleton, the Motion Team were given free rein to adjust said skeleton however they pleased.

Kando: Thanks to them, we were able to be quite adventurous when creating the movements. First, Nomura came up with the design for the Dusk, and based on that, I wondered, "What kind of movements would a non-existent person have?" I tried making it move and then playing the animation backwards, or animating it in such a way that the original design remains constant. It took a lot of hard work until we arrived at the unique movements we have today.

Realizing high-quality movies with the know-how cultivated in FFVII AC

— I was also surprised by the high quality of the movies. Did you receive any technical feedback from FFVII Advent Children (henceforth referred to as FFVII AC)?

Nozue: Actually, the tools I used for lighting (illuminating characters and the entire space) in FFVII AC were able to achieve what I wanted to do in KH1. This time, I was able to use those tools, so it felt like my greatest wish had come true. I was also able to express the texture of the characters' skin, which was something I'd been thinking about since the first game. The characters have an air of softness about them, so I wanted the movies to have a similar vibe that wouldn't be so CG-esque.

— I was surprised that the ending scene, where Sora begins to read the letter on the beach in the Realm of Darkness, switched to a movie without feeling jarring.

Oka: It worked out pretty well there, didn't it?

Nozue: I was very nervous about that (laughs). It may have been the most difficult part of the movie. I was concerned about the timing and visual consistency, since it led directly from an event. The real-time (actual in-game) graphics were in close proximity to the shore of the Realm of Darkness seen in the KHFM secret movie, so we used that as a reference and made adjustments so that things wouldn't look out of place.

— After that, we have the customary secret movie. What kind of instructions did Nomura give you for production of this movie?

Nozue: That there are people like this, doing things like that... That's about the extent of my knowledge. Well, I've gotten used to making things without understanding anything after the last time (laughs).

Hasegawa: I went to Nomura and asked, "What kind of material is the armor made of?" He replied back, saying, "I imagine it more like crystal than steel." He also told me that he intentionally does not want to show the characters' faces. I think it's the same case as the blindfold and hood that appeared in KH1's secret movie, with the armor being used to conceal them.

Oka: If there is a next time, we'll have to make events to go along with that movie. I had a hard time figuring out how to incorporate the contents of KH1's secret movie into KH2, but this one... I have no idea what's going on (laughs).

Hasegawa: I'd like to be able to recharge my batteries for once (laughs). I get a very strong impression from KH2 that it's the result of us doing what we set out to accomplish. I'm quite satisfied with it because we were able to pack in just about everything we wanted to do without making cuts. But I'm sure that after some time passes, I'll come up with other things that I would have liked to do.

Kando: I've had the honor of being in this Disney world two times in a row, so I'd like to try something wicked now. Perhaps a game where only old men appear (laughs).


Secrets of this title that only they know:

Oka: On the 6th day of Roxas's episode, when "THE 6th DAY" appears on the screen and birds fly past the window, Roxas turns into Sora for a split second. It's only a couple of frames, so watch closely.

Kayano: Roxas and Sora's facial models are, for all intents and purposes, practically identical, but their chins are slightly different. Roxas looked a little chubbier when we added the hair, so we made his chin thinner.

Kando: During the scene in Port Royal where Elizabeth pats Will's face, the facial motions make him tremble in response to her touch. We were very particular about it.

Hasegawa: There are Magic Brooms in Disney Castle, right? You can't really see it, but the water in their buckets are animated with ripples.

Nozue: Well, lemme present it like in Hey! Spring of Trivia. "In the secret movie, there are a myriad of swords where the people in armor are gathering. Among them is one of Cloud's swords that was scrapped."

 

Elysium

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I never realized it until right now reading that description of the game as having 800 "events"--but KH2's way of doing things must've been a jumpoff from the way Final Fantasy X-2 works. X-2 similarly had events notifying you to go to specific places via a ship. I don't know why I never noticed that connection before.
 

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Kando: As for Jack Sparrow, we had many discussions to make sure he'd look and move like the actor. When he saw the test version we had made, he replied back saying, "It's wonderful!" From then on, the staff at the office became even more excited.
So Johnny Depp knows KH exists? Veryyyy interesting
 

okhi12

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Oka: We've devised a little bit of camera work for Port Royal, creating an atmosphere akin to a live-action movie with a cameraman. If you watch closely, you will see the camera shake from time to time.
I had no idea, but I love tiny details like that.

Oka: On the 6th day of Roxas's episode, when "THE 6th DAY" appears on the screen and birds fly past the window, Roxas turns into Sora for a split second. It's only a couple of frames, so watch closely.
Interesting, I never noticed. I'll check in a youtube video at 0.25 speed :LOL:

— I was also surprised by the high quality of the movies. Did you receive any technical feedback from FFVII Advent Children (henceforth referred to as FFVII AC)?

Nozue:
Actually, the tools I used for lighting (illuminating characters and the entire space) in FFVII AC were able to achieve what I wanted to do in KH1. This time, I was able to use those tools, so it felt like my greatest wish had come true. I was also able to express the texture of the characters' skin, which was something I'd been thinking about since the first game. The characters have an air of softness about them, so I wanted the movies to have a similar vibe that wouldn't be so CG-esque.
In my opinion the CGI scenes from KH1 and KH2 looked much better than the ones in KH3... in particular Aqua restoring Castle Oblivion into the Land of Departure and the ending scene in which Sora uses the Power of Waking to find Kairi looked like they were a bit rushed. The textures and colors in that ending scene were a bit improved later in an update, though. It didn't help that I don't like Sora's (and by extension Roxas's and Ventus's) CGI model in KH3. He doesn't look like Sora at all.
 

Sign

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Interesting, I never noticed. I'll check in a youtube video at 0.25 speed :LOL:
I got you:

04A.png
 

okhi12

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I got you:

04A.png
Thank you! No wonder it's difficult to see it unless you already know it. Who would pay attention to the window when there's a creepy bird covering the screen?
 
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