Maya Creative Helps Artifice Studio Immerse Players in the 13th Century for Legends of the Round Table

4 min read

Indie game studio, Artifice, is challenging conventions with its unique concepts. The Montreal-based company struck a chord with its debut title, Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves, set in a fantasy French Canadian 19th universe. The game, which was released in 2012 and went on to sell over 600,000 copies, was created by “five guys working in a kitchen,” as Co-Founder Yan Pepin notes.

Artifice is now preparing for the launch of their latest title, Legends of the Round Table, an RPG that immerses players in the Arthurian legends in a faithful way, through the meticulous recreation of medieval art and music. To create this ambitious game, the Artifice team of 15 found that Autodesk’s Maya Creative was the best solution for their art. Its 3D modeling, animation, and rendering toolset, along with its pay-as-you-go model made it the perfect fit for their production process and budget.

“Since we’re a small team, everyone needs to wear multiple hats,” said Pepin. “One day you might be designing a level, the next you’re fixing a bug in C#, and on another you’re modeling a new character or touching up an animation. This is where Maya Creative has really helped us. We pay for it only when we need it. And even if we need it all the time, having this flexibility makes it a more affordable option for smaller teams while still offering all the features we need for game development.”

A tribute to the complexity and sophistication of 13th century art

Pepin has always been fascinated with Arthurian legends because “You never know where history stops and fiction starts,” he said. While many films, TV shows and games have been created around the legends, Artifice wanted to go one step further and capture the complexity and sophistication of the time period’s art. In Legends of the Round Table, all of the game backgrounds are hand-painted on parchment then scanned and mapped in 3D. The game is colorful, like the art of the period. “Medieval art is accessible,” Pepin said. “It has a charm to it, like fairy tales in this world.”

Artifice uses Unity’s game engine, which is integrated with Maya Creative, via Unity’s export plugins. For Legends, all modeling and animation was done directly in Maya Creative and details were handled in Adobe Substance. The illumination artists created paintings by hand, sent scans to Pepin and team who painted over them digitally, then modelers and texture artists brought the images into Adobe Substance to create textures on the 3D Maya Creative models and applied them as shaders in Unity.

Pepin explained, “Everything has paint strokes, and it’s a challenging aspect of our job. It’s technically difficult to achieve this look. If we succeed, people won’t know it’s 3D. They’ll think it’s 2D and hand drawn.”

In the case of this game, delivering final images in 2D wouldn’t have been possible because the game required more fluid animations for scenes of riders on horseback, and the high action of fight scenes.

Maya Creative offers flexibility, control, and a safety net

Autodesk Maya has always been Pepin’s 3D tool of choice — even before founding Artifice, when he was working with EA on Army of 2 and The Simpsons. At Artifice though, the economics of purchasing multiple Maya licenses didn’t work, so they initially moved to Maya LT. “It was made for studios exactly like ours, but had some drawbacks.”

“When Maya Creative was released, it was like a dream come true for us. We can work with .ma and .mb files and we can import references, which makes our lives so much simpler when we need to outsource some assets. We also have access to Maya’s full modeling, animation, and rendering toolsets and benefit from the continuous updates to Maya.”

He also noted that since many on the Artifice team don’t open Maya every day, the flexible token-based payment system Maya Creative offers is a well-matched economical solution to their production process. “With Maya Creative we get flexibility and software designed for people who wear many hats. That’s our reality.”

In Artifice’s initial exploration to find software suited for their small studio, they noted the temptation to pick up free tools, but one of the deciding factors that led them to go with Maya Creative was customer support. When working with free software, users must rely on forums to resolve issues. “I have to pay salaries every two weeks, so if we have a problem, we need a solution fast. With Maya Creative, Autodesk is showing they are happy to support smaller studios and they make fixes that benefit everyone. At the end of the day, support is a really important factor.”

Overall, Pepin said, “Maya Creative is a welcome addition to our set of creative tools. For Legends of the Round Table, the toolset has enabled us to create truly immersive interactive experiences that sends players back in time while also keeping up with our limited budget. This solution is made for small indie studios.”

Legends of the Round Table is set to release in 2024. Get your 30-day free trial of Maya Creative today or start creating with Flex tokens.