ICON 2009: NCSoft On MMORPG Graphics

A speech by Hyung Jun Kim at NCsoft on MMORPG graphics from ICON 2009 Busan, Korea.

MMORPG Graphics

The lecture provided the knowledge on MMORPG game graphics by Hyung Jun Kim, an art director at NCsoft. Hyun Jun focused more on artistic aspects rather than technical ones in this lecture.



  Hyung Jun Kim

Kim, Hyung Jun (NCsoft)

- Art Director of AION

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- City of Villains promotional characters and illustration production


■ Three important criteria in MMORPG graphics

 MMORPG game graphics needs to meet following three criteria;

 ▲ A realistic world that follows a storyline

▲ Optimization to accommodate hundred of thousands of concurrent users

▲ Variety of options to customize

Hyun Jun stressed the importance of the fields with more freedom and more NPC and monsters for PVE in accordance with level-up. The fields need to guarantee about 300 hours of playtime and optimize to accommodate 50,000 to 200,000 concurrent users.

 Also, graphic sources need to clarify character’s occupation and level, which offers users a way to express themselves through customization. In AION, users can choose among more than 760 clothing options.

 ■ A Realistic World in MMORPG graphics

In order to create a realistic world, there are a few tricks necessary such as void, interactive environment, social motion, and idle motion.

Socialmotion is non game-related motion likes of emoticons or waving hands or dancing in AION. This gives users to express themselves and create a lively community regardless of developers initial intention.

Idle motion is activated when characters set idle. In AION, characters yawn or take out an umbrella when raining. Actions are changed according to weather or venues in order to make it more realistic.

Designers need to pay more attention to details when they work on background graphics.The more are people exposed to high quality graphics, the more are people accustomed to realistic light and shadow graphics. If its done well, you can even create background images only using various textures or light and shadow.

■ Optimization in MMORPG graphics

Hyung Jun is working on improving rendering quality in AION rather than mapping sources and modeling. Thanks to realtime engine technology advancement, the process became easier and produced better quality. However, it required high spec of PCs to adequately show the graphics, which led to optimization issue.

To fully utilize the engine, reducing objects and size of modeling or mapping is necessary. Hence designers face a question what to keep and what to delete.

 Especially for nowadays MMORPGs with a larger-scale of castle battles optimization is not an option anymore. It becomes a must.

 ■ Customization in MMORPG graphics

 In MMORPGs, there should be enough quality graphics available for users to customize their characters and items to their liking. Sometimes thatd be something more tangible than in-game stats to users.

 It delivers more impacts when it intertwined with in-game contents rather than just physical set. Since MMORPGs are played by massive players, there should be more cosmetic items so that users can differentiate themselves from others. Giving users an array of customization options not only satisfies users but also can be used on NPCs and monsters.

 However, too many options can be a problem as well. More options give users more freedom but at the same time they give designers a hard time to control or get things done well. So it should be done up to the point it doesnt compromise the quality of the game.

 When it gets done in a well-balanced way, customization can become entirely something else. In AION, physical transformation is possible with endless customization and even there is a community to discuss ways to customize.

 ■ Balance between optimization and customization

 For it is aMMORPG, the game needs optimization AND customization but those two are somewhat contrary to each other. So you need to find an optimal point. One method to achieve the balance as using least resource is dye, especially fo rbackground data and clothing which require many objects. Other than dye, combining diffuse texture can also be useful to create various pieces of clothing easily as minimizing resource usage.

clothing dye  

Also using sequence effect makes the process of creating visual expression on a realtime engine easier. You can use sequence effect for background or monster as well.

 Reusing data in a simple way can also reduce resource usage.

 ■ Three criteria and three elements

 The speaker recapped three criteria that MMORPG graphics to meet; a realistic world, optimization and customization. To achieve so, three following elements are necessary;

 ▲ Effective and efficient development of graphic sources based on understanding of 3D technology

▲ Collaboration between designers and programmers

▲ Substance of game graphic sources

 Itd be ideal if graphics become a substantial content rather than just image.

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