NCAA Football 11: Making a Monument

by Matthew Kato on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Last fall we spent a day shadowing two EA Tiburon developers as they took pictures and video of the new home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team – TCF Bank Stadium (check out our original story in issue 197). The stadium makes its debut in NCAA Football 11, and the studio has given us a sneak peak at what it looks like in the game and discussed how the team took its raw photos and turned them into a virtual stadium. Come see the transformation and how the in-game rendition stacks up to the real thing.

NCAA Football environment lead Eric Sherwood says the team took the slew of photographs taken by the asset crew and used them to define the general boundary of the stadium and its different perspectives. Multiple shots are matched and referenced against each other in order to "block-in" the shape of the stadium from all angles, which you can see in the blue wireframe overlaid on top of this first photo below. Some of the blocked in shapes that seem out of place actually correspond to objects in the background, such as nearby buildings.

Click any of the shots to enlarge

The team works on to make sure the final wireframe (created in the 3D program Maya) is an accurate model before it gets put into the game proper, including representing all the trees as rectangles. When compared to the shot above, notice how the buildings immediately around the stadium are modeled as opposed to the some of the horizon landmarks further in the distance, which have been omitted entirely. This will be relevant later when the team determines the in-game stadium's entire background.

This is the stadium in the game after normal maps, textures, lighting, etc. have been added. Joe Warren, a lighting expert at EA Tiburon, told us that stadium's lighting starts – naturally – by dropping the sun in the game. The team uses aerial photography to determine the exact position of the sun, but it may be tweaked for artistic license. The lighting also has to be adjusted once the crowd is added to make sure there aren't any random dark areas. The stadium is consistently bug checked as players, refs, and other on-field elements are added.

Check out page two for a video fly-over of the final product, as well as some comparisons between the in-game stadium and the real thing.

Below you can examine a closer comparison of a few points of a real-life shot and the in-game stadium taken on location. In general, the stadium's city backdrop is comprised of modeled buildings close to the stadium, while anything farther back is just a flat image. If you look at the real-life shot and the close-up of the final product below, you can tell where this transition occurs.

Click any of the shots to enlarge

1. For some reason the two flag poles are missing for the stadium's veterans' memorial

2. The Minneapolis skyline is recognizably intact, although for the sake of clarity, the Metrodome (where the Vikings play) has been greatly enlarged and the area to the left of it has been squished in to remove some horizon dead space

3. The in-game Jumbotron replaces the Dairy Queen and Coca-Cola logos with one from EA Sports and some other property

4. This area of the stadium is for visiting fans. It'll be interesting to see if this is reflected in the final game with fans wearing appropriate team colors

Finally, here's a video fly-over of the in-game stadium render.