Pitch & Produce | COLORS ZERO: Creating a Tech Noir Game with Ink Paint Comic Style Animations

Tojosoa “Cid” Andoniaina Andrianarison – Indie game developer

Tojosoa “Cid” Andoniaina Andrianarison

My name is Tojosoa Andoniaina Andrianarison, “Cid” is my artist name. I’m an indie video game developer from Madagascar. Besides game development, I’m also a short film director.

I grew up playing video games of the 90’s and loved drawing since my childhood. I was inspired by many recent games : Life is Strange, Detroit Become Human along with animations such as Animatrix, Tekkon Kinkreet, and old movies like Columbo, Twilight Zone including Japanese directors : Koji Morimoto, Satoshi Kon.

After my high school graduation, I studied architecture and design. I worked as a graphic designer for a festival, then as a sound designer and a music composer for a feature film. Afterwards, I focused on making my own short films and won several awards for my works. I’ve worked in various fields as a freelancer including video editing, VFX artist, animation, video mapping and 3D modeling. I eventually got the opportunity to study filmmaking and video games in Berlin and worked in a VR studio there as a programmer.

I started my project “Colors: Zero” in 2016. The idea came from my second short film “Colors”. The interactive genre combines both my film and video game skills. Now I’m reaching my 6th year of development and working full-time on the project. Making a game is never easy as it is time consuming but with the right animation tools like Reallusion’s iClone and Character Creator, along with believing in what you do, things turn out the way you need them to!

“Reallusion is the ultimate solution for quick and smooth workflows. Through their Pitch & Produce program, I have been able to accelerate my project, bringing me closer to my goals.”

Tojosoa “Cid” Andoniaina Andrianarison – Indie game developer

Q: Greetings Cid! Congratulations for being part of the Pitch & Produce program. Kindly introduce yourself, and tell us the story and how you started with COLORS ZERO?

Thank you ! My name is Tojosoa Andoniaina Andrianarison, quite a long name. « Cid » is my artist name. I live in Madagascar where I run a small studio on my own. I’m an indie game developer and also a short film director, and I’ve been working in various audio-visual fields in the past. Mainly self-taught but I got the opportunity to study in film school and game schools overseas.

The idea of “Colors: Zero” came from my short film “Colors” where people live in a discolored world. The interactive genre combines both my film and video game knowledge. In end of 2015, I started learning Unreal Engine and in 2016 I started the project with no financial support for 3 years until I received an Epic MegaGrant in 2019.

Those 3 years were part of the hardest time of my life as I didn’t have a job and fell into depression. I also lived the common story where “no one believes in what you do”. So I kept working on the project as a lone wolf and kept believing in what I was doing.

Q: For several years you have been working on this project. How have Reallusion real-time animation tools accelerated and changed the way you work?

I was working 8 hours+ a day, 6/7 days. Before using Reallusion’s tool, everything around characters was a kind of nightmare with all the modeling, rigging, clothing, accessories and animations. It took days and sometimes weeks to make one character at my level. Also the lack of financial support didn’t allow me to hire freelancers or buy software at the project’s early development.

Time wise, I’m still working at the same rate but with help from the Reallusion Pitch & Produce program, now I can focus more on the creative part. I also have more time to work on other aspects of the project like screenplay, UI, enhancing existing features and add new ones.

Q: Your stylized characters follow an interesting Neo Noir style. Please share with us how much time Character Creator saves you, versus using traditional character modeling tools. Also give us an insight into your creation process.

When I started this project, I collected all free characters and character tools that can be seen on the web. Some characters were rigged, some were not. When dealing with the rigged one, they didn’t necessarily fit well into Unreal Engine’s skeleton hierarchy nor did they have root bones. The unrigged characters were even worse as rigging was not really my cup of tea, so I spent days and days trying to make things work. And don’t even think about changing any character’s outfit!

Discovering Character Creator was a revelation and game-changer for my project. Using morphs to create unlimited characters, while drag and dropping clothes and accessories was such a relief! The most  amazing thing is that the characters are all rigged, and even if I added custom outfits there is a magical button called Transfer Skin Weight that would adjust all for me. To sum it up, weeks become days with Character Creator.

Essentially I use Character Creator for all my characters and use Blender to create any custom accessories I need. The most challenging part are the textures which are meticulously worked one by one to give the sketched feeling to my style. This step cannot be automated or batch processed. Once sent the project to Unreal Engine, I assigned my custom materials to each element and all the characters were ready to go.

“After many years of struggling with avatar generation, Reallusion’s Character Creator is my savior. This clever application has everything I need to create fully-rigged characters for either realistic or stylized games.”

Tojosoa “Cid” Andoniaina Andrianarison – Indie game developer

Q: iClone was used for the animation part. How did this tool resolve your previous animations problems? And how easy was it to use with Unreal Engine?

Like characters, animation was quite difficult at the time. We can all agree that the quality of rigging highly contributes to the overall result of the animation. Even if there is retargeting, the bones hierarchy matters a lot in Unreal Engine, especially the root bone. For instance, Mixamo has great animations but I had no control over it before I used iClone. The same thing for other animation sources outside Unreal Engine.

Another important thing is facial animation. The first trailer of the game didn’t use facial animation as it was out of reach. But iClone literally surpasses all these limitations. Click and send characters from Character Creator to iClone ; fully rigged with root bone and conforming to Unreal Engine’s bone hierarchy. Now I can blend multiple animations, control hand gestures, and the most amazing tool is facial animation which contains a real time facial puppet, expressions, visemes…and everything that you need to fully animate  characters.

“iClone is literally the most intuitive and user-friendly animation tool in the industry. With its powerful animation features, combined with a streamlined Unreal Engine pipeline, you can barely hold your tears of excitement.”

Tojosoa “Cid” Andoniaina Andrianarison – Indie game developer

Talking about real-time technology, the iClone Unreal Live Link is a time saver. There is no more need to click on File, Export, Export As, Choose options and destination path before waiting to export… now just plug and play, and I have everything I need inside Unreal Engine.

iClone Unreal Live Link

Q: Colors Zero is on track for production, when can audiences look forward to see the first episode and where will you publish?

« Colors:Zero » has always been in development these last 6 years but from 2019 on, it reached another level thanks to Epic’s MegaGrant support. And now, with Reallusion’s Pitch and Produce program everything is running even faster.

So far I’m developing the entire game by myself, from screenplay to complex blueprints. (quite a huge task, but no complaints). Another challenging aspect of this game is that it uses a lot of custom assets like; graphics, materials and shaders, lights, effects, particles, some UI elements and gameplay.

The first episode is scheduled to be released on Steam in the end of 2022 and hoping to get further support until then and later for next episodes.

Follow Cid’s work:

Website:
www.colors-zero.com

Trailer:
https://youtu.be/fco_UzC9Vz0

Interactive Trailer:
https://youtu.be/Vbi9NcTIjSE

YouTube Channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbKZY3o4vZmnm0mI6VqcFeQ

Twiitter:
https://twitter.com/ColorsZeroGame

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