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The Romans Cheated! …And Won.

A follow-up to Hiroshi Matsuyama and Seiji Shimoda's GDC '09 talk on the cinematic art of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. Why one of the next steps in game visuals is cheating like a grade school bully……and getting away with it.

Matt Allmer, Blogger

April 9, 2009

3 Min Read

Greeks followed the letter of logic. It looked good but they were showed up, thousands of years later, when the Romans took their process and tweaked it here and there to make it look more appealing.


We should do the same with our engineer-oppressed, in-game art.


Art History: Class Remissed
Take a walk to your local college and enroll in one of its basic art history classes and you will soon learn that the Romans, more or less, ripped-off the Greeks' approach to creation and craft. (You could argue the Romans were inspired by Greece but what the hell, I like to make it sound more dramatic.)

You will also learn of the adjustments the Romans made to certain Greek principles. Take for instance the Greek Parthenon. Specifically, if your eye travels along the length of the floor, you would notice the Greeks kept it as perfectly level as possible. Those crazy Greeks were mad about mathematical perfection. It was a programmer's paradise!

So, the Roman's come along and see this fancy-pants, column-riddled building and start mimicking its style. However, in addition to many others, one thing the Romans tweak is the horizontal contour of the floor. They noticed, even though the Greek specifications are mathematically correct, the visual line it creates tricks the eye into thinking the floor sags a bit. So, what do those sneaky Romans do? They cheat it a bit and raise the contour of the floor to an ever-so subtle bevel. Thus, breaking the absolute reign of mathematical purity. (Heathens!)

The Romans did this to everything, consequently trampling all over the Greeks' aesthetic approach. The funny thing though, if you compare Roman architecture to Greece's (and your visual tastes reflect mine), you'll notice the Romans' is subconsciously more pleasing to the eye.

Slapped In the Face By A Big Giant Hand
Ok, wake up. History class is over. I know, I slept with my eyes open too when I took those classes. So, if you're a smarty-pants, you'll know where I'm going with this. If so, good for you. Keep reading anyway. 

NarutoAt GDC '09, Hiroshi Matsuyama and Seiji Shimoda discussed cinematic art techniques used for Naruto: Ulitmate Ninja Storm. During their presentation, I noticed one technique took a page out of the Romans' playbook. (There's a good chance my western-based visual tweaking analogy has an Asian counter part. If there is, awesome. But I'm a fat, lazy American with an American bias, so I'm sticking with the Romans.) They showed an in-game, cinematic still shot of Naruto in mid-air, hand in foreground. It looked dramatic and aesthetically pleasing. They then rotated the in-game model to reveal Naruto had a ridiculously large hand. This was done because, had they kept Naruto's hand the correct proportion, it wouldn't have looked as good. 

They cheated it a bit to get the right look. Just like those sneaky Romans. It's a trick that should be done more often, in my opinion. Now that we have all this supposed, graphic-happy technology and hardware, it's high time we get pre-medieval on those sorry assets!

Shameless Rally Cry For The Cheating Romans In All Of Us
So, can a right-brained brotha-from-anotha-motha get a "Hoorah!"? It's about goram time we take visuals from the math purists not privy to the…inspirations…of ancient Roman (and speculative, Asian counter part) traditions. I say, tweak away! I say, grab those foreground models by the bones and squash (or stretch) until they properly contribute to an eye-pleasing composition!

But first…

Walk up nicely to said tweak-repressing, math purists and softly ask them to make you tools capable of performing such tasks. And then…march on, Roman soldier. March. The frak. On.

Matt Allmer

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About the Author(s)

Matt Allmer


Matt Allmer is a designer committed to the evolution of user experience, narrative and system design for consoles. He is credited for the patent of a gameplay mechanic and his experience includes development work at Electronic Arts and Page 44 Studios. He also has experience collaborating with publishers including Activision Blizzard and Disney Interactive Studios. His other interests include writing, concept art and producing short film & animation projects.

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