Courtesy of Ubisoft

STEEP: Riding with Style and Substance

Vincent Gault on December 14 2016 | Stories, News, Game

You guys know it: Winter is coming, which is the perfect time for Ubisoft Annecy to release Steep , an open world winter sports game that gives you extreme sensations from the French Alps to Alaska. We got the opportunity to speak with Lead Character Artist and Character Art Director Fabien Yorgandjian, who explained how the team relied extensively on Substance Painter and Substance Designer for their texturing pipeline.

Hi Fabien, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! Before we start, can you introduce yourself?

Hello, guys and thank you for the opportunity!
I’m Fabien Yorgandjian and I’ve worked in the CG industry as a digital sculptor and texture artist for almost 15 years now (Ouch, time flies!)I’ve had the chance to work in different creative industries: I started working in animated feature films and commercials then switched to the VFX industry. Currently, I’m Lead and Art Director of the amazing character team of Ubisoft Annecy.

You guys just released Steep a few days ago: can you tell us a bit more about the game?

Of course! Steep is an open world action sports game where you can explore the Alps, and soon Alaska, combining four sports: snowboard, ski, wingsuit and paraglide. We developed the game with sharing in mind: you can play in a team of up to four players, create videos of your best rides via our replay feature and share those videos with your friends and the community.
Most of the people in the Annecy studio (which is very close to the Alps) love the mountains and outdoor sports, so it was really great for us to create this game!

From an artistic point of view, what were the main challenges on a project like this one?

The main challenges were to create immersive mountains with realistic riders in them!
You always have to try to strike a good balance between artistic and production requirements.On Steep, from a character designer’s perspective, the goal was to create several preset avatars with quantities of customizable outfits and costumes (including fun ones) with the highest attention to detail.

Your texturing pipeline was based on Substance Painter and Substance Designer: can you explain to us how you implemented them in your workflow?

The starting point was to be able to have the same lighting and PBR setup in Substance painter and in our game engine.
Since Substance Painter 2.0 was released, we have been building our own specular/glossiness material library in Substance Designer with the help of Allegorithmic. That being done, it was easy to artistically review the assets inside Substance Painter, iterate if needed and finally integrate them inside the engine.

What do you think are the main advantages of products like Substance Painter and Substance Designer in a production context? Any specific examples where they really speeded up your work?

Well, PBR in general and tools like Substance Designer in particular help us to ensure consistency on a realistic project through different teams and artists.

Concerning Substance Painter, the first thing that comes to mind is the ability to directly see the result of the changes you make. It prevents us from iterating without visibility…and having to do it over again and again. One of the basic functions I use all the time is the ability to update a mask on the fly by selecting UV shell or object in one click.
That being said, painting different channels in one stroke is amazing, the generators are big time-savers when creating a starting point, and the triplanar projection is great for avoiding UV seams.

Aside from UBISOFT, do you have any personal projects you want to share with us?

I’m always fighting against routine by being invested in several projects at once so I’m working on freelance projects from time to time. I’m also regularly teaching Zbrush in CG schools and doing some real life sculpture. At the moment, I’m helping friends with a short movie to promote their new CG art school (Creative Seeds).

What do you do when you don’t work?

I spend time with my incredible wife and my fantastic kids :)

Here is Fabien and his workplace

And some of his work:

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