Wild Water Adrenaline is a Playstation2 sports game developped by Fresh3d (our company) and published by Indie Games (Nobilis group) in 2005.
How it all started
After a couple unsuccessful projects (see Outcast II and Tintin stories) and Appeal went bankrupt, I was tired of running a studio and it crossed my mind I would stop working in the games industry altogether. I would look to start a new career in the animation or film effects industries. I did look for job opportunities, but quickly understood it would require me to start again at the bottom of the line as they were requiring a totally different set of skills or experiences than the ones I had. I brought my thought together and started to look for a job in the games industry instead, but this time it would be in the States, I was sick of Europe.
During the bankrupcy procedure, all assets from Appeal would be sold. Yves had left the company early during Outcast II development to start his own studio, and Yann and me had been running the studio since then. So we naturally proposed the curator to buy back a number of assets, and made a bid for the technology of the company, called Himalaya. Himalaya was the PS2 and PC engine developed for Outcast II. Although it had some great potential, it was still pretty much work in progress.
In fall 2002, we were still in the closing paperwork of the bankrupcy when I got a call from Doug Hare from The Collective Inc, Newport Beach CA. He had been impressed by my portfolio and invited me to go there for a while so we would see if we could work together. It happened I talk about our situation with the banckrupcy of Appeal and eventually Yann was also invited to go there.
Left: Yann Robert and me in Newport Beach, October 2002.
We flew to sunny California. At that point, I was so convinced I was going to settle there, I was already looking for a house. Collective was a very nice company to work with, and the three founders and all employees were very nice people. This is when I had the chance to work on two of their projects, Indiana Jones and The Emperor Tomb and Wrath Unleashed. This is also the place I met a very good friend, Mike Singleton, who unfortunately passed away, way too early, in 2012.
Then one day, we received a phone call from the curator of Appeal. We were the highest bidder for the Himalaya technology and were now its legal owner again.
We talked with The Collective about our technology and showed them some demo. Although they were impressed, should we stay there, they would not let us work on a different technology, we had to adapt to theirs, not the opposite, obviously. While we were there, we went to see Brian Fargo at InXile but he was already using another engine and was not interested either.
We had a difficult choice to make. Stay in the US and forget about Himalaya, or go back to Europe and start a new company on the basis of this young yet promising technology.
Two years ealier, right after Outcast had shipped, our internal producer at Appeal, Olivier Masclef had gone back to France to start his own studio (Wide Screen Games). He was being pretty successful with his studio and Yann had kept contact with him during our stay in California. Olivier told Yann our technology might be usefull for his project, and potentially many others in Europe.
We took the decision to come back to Europe and give our tech another try. We started by visiting Wide Screen Games to see how our technology could help them. We started working with them on a new game prototype called Amon Ra that was eventually never signed, and during the next year, we visited several companies and demonstrated our technology while working on it to make it a finished, useable product. During this lenghtly process that spanned through the entire year 2003, I worked as consultant on several projects including Far Cry and Alexander.
In early 2004, Wide Screen Games had recently signed a Kayaking game on Playstation2 for publisher Nobilis when another, much bigger and interresting opportunity appeared for the studio. Clearly, the Kayaking game was now something Olivier did not want his team to focus on, preferring the much larger project instead.
He naturally asked us if we wanted the Kayaking game contract. This was an opportunity for us not only to continue using and evolving the technology, but also to work again on game development in our own small studio.
In summer 2004, Fresh3d was incorporated, and after two years of complete clean-up and refactoring, the technology was renamed FreshEngine. The contracts were signed and we started the developpemt of Wild Water Adrenaline for PS2.
We had an extremely tight budget for a Playstation2 game, about 250K euros. But fortunately, the scope was small and the team kept to the strict minimum.
One of the key element of the PS2 FreshEngine was our fantastic water technology. This was a perfect match for the game and a essential element to its feasability.
I came up with the idea of using pads in a way that would today be called 'motion control' where you actually performed the rowing in realtime, with one to one mapping between the stick angle and the paddle angle. Most of the journos didn't get it, and we got flamed for the 'bad' controls.
Anyways, I'm proud of this title even if it scores rather low in most reviews. Yann and I did pretty much an entire PS2 game on our own, which is no small feat, apart from characters done by Francois-Xavier Melard and some extra art from internship, all for the lowest budget on the planet. Beat that :P
Left: nurbs surfaces were used to create the water track.
I used Maya for creating all the 3d assets and also for level building. Some textures were painted using Photoshop, others were directly painted inside Maya with the 3d painter.
The levels were built using a library of individual elements that I created and assembled together to create the environments. I would start with the water track, then add environment elements around it.
The water was using a 3rd degree spline surface that was separately built and converted into our water system during export. Our water technology allowed the combination of four sinusoidal waves that would displace vertices in real-time to create real geometric waves. Furthermore, the quads originating from the nurbs surface were generated on the fly on the Playstation2 vector unit, allowing for adaptive tesselation according to distance.
The terrain beneath the water and on the shore of the rivers was built out of a tile system. Tiles textures would be prepares in Photoshop, and mapped to 3d tiles with various slopes that could be instanced.
Instances allowed for low memory footprint and fast rendering as the PS2 was capable of caching vertices in the VU data memory and combine a separate vertex color stream on the fly.
Working with individual elements (objects or tiles) allowed me to use the most cache-friendly textures, with 128x128 texels in 16 colors (4 bits/texel) being the norm.
Right: The terrain used tiled textures created in Photoshop
Above: Level building wip
Above: a section of a completed level
At the time, we were using a separate tool to generate the per-vertex lighting, so it was not possible to preview the lighting in Maya (mostly because of instances). Only once in the game you could see the final result.
Reviews and articles
Jeuvideo.com (FR) http://www.jeuxvideo.com/articles/0000/00005664_test.htm
- There are a couple refurbished assets from Outcast II in the game, like the pine tree and one exotic root.
- The palm tree is also a refurbished asset I made for the Amon-Ra demo the previous year.
- An NTSC version of the game was built later on for the Japanese market, under the RRA name, published by Red Entertainment.
- See the INCREDIBLE publisher commitment at work... look at the title on the cover, it's written 'Adrelanine' instead of 'Adrenaline'. Wonderful !
Engine and game programming: Yann Robert
Environments art, level building: Franck Sauer
Characters art: Francois-Xavier Melard
Additionnal art: Renaud Galand, Amaury Scheen, Cedric Storm, Robert Foriel
Additionnal programming: Laurent Auneau
How to play the game today
You can probably get a copy off e-bay these days. Also it is quite cheap on Amazon.