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How They Make Your Skylanders

Sep 15, 2013

By: Jenna Busch

We know you guys are huge Skylander fans. We’re right there with you. This past week, we headed up to Northern California to check out the newest game Skylanders: Trap Team at Toys for Bob. First of all, this is one of the coolest places we’ve ever seen. One side of the office looks like a tropical tiki resort. The other side is a giant pirate ship, complete with a mast and sail. Not a bad place to work, right? While we were there, we got to chat with the design team, including I-Wei Huang, Toy and Character director for the game. We learned all about how your Skylanders are born. 

In the new game, you must help your Skylanders capture all the bad guys and catch them in Traptanium crystals, which you insert into the new Portal. Once you’ve got them, they can help you in your fight for good! Make sure to check back tomorrow for our preview of the game! 

First, the character goes through the planning stage. Character designers draw a little guy they’d like to see on screen. For example, Huang told us about one of our favorites (and his), Food Fight, our tomato gun-shooting artichoke. He drew him a number of ways, with a radish and turnip gun, a carrot crossbow and finally his signature tomato gun. Then he went through a number of different colors in the digital stage 

Food FightFood FightCourtesy of Activision

He then used a 3D printer to make models of his designs to get the “tactile feel” of the piece. (They have a cheaper version and a more expensive one. The cheaper version is used for the first passes.) They do it in a lot of different poses to get just the right look. 

The first 3D printer passThe first 3D printer passCourtesy of Jenna Busch

He also told us about Chopper, the little T-Rex with the propeller. He said he was originally a giant, with a big head and tail. The problem was, they got in the way when it got into gameplay. He also wouldn’t fit in the package the right way. So Huang made him more compact. There were still a number of version, including one with a shell for a back-cover and a cannon, which ended up covering him up too much. There was even a version of Chopper with a shark fin on his back, that Huang laughed about when he showed us the picture.

ChopperChopperCourtesy of Activision

We also learned that Head Rush, one of the new Earth Trap Masters who we’ll see in the new game. She’s got a giant sword made of Traptanium, the substance the prison holding the bad guys was made up. (In the game, the pieces are scattered everywhere, including Earth, which is where we get our villain-trapping crystals.) In earlier versions, she had the head of a cat, horns, and at one point she sort of looked like a goat. Now she’s in her final stage, a sort of Valkyrie/elf and she kicks butt!

Head Rush (New to Skylanders: Trap Team)Head Rush (New to Skylanders: Trap Team)Courtesy of Activision

Once we have the final design ideas, the team uses the more expensive 3D printer to create a final version. They shave off the edges and make sure the design is correct.

The final 3D printer passThe final 3D printer passCourtesy of Jenna Busch

They then take the models and paint them. They have little holders for each piece of the characters and they paint them as the final step. Check out the printer and one group of the same character in different poses.

Some versions of the same characterSome versions of the same characterCourtesy of Jenna Busch

On the animation side, the team takes a character, draws a “digital sculpt,” which is a 3D pic of the character and builds a “skeleton” on a digital screen. Each part of the character that has to move, everything from eyelids to fingers to legs gets a tool to move it. We saw the process for Snap Shot,a crocogator who is the leader of the Trap Masters in Skylanders: Trap Team. They figure out how he’s going to move by doing tests: quick animations of the characters running and jumping and doing all sorts of moves. We saw three separate attempts to make him run. One was sort of a bounce, but made him a little goofy. One was a stride that made him seem a bit sinister. The final one was a great run that made him look like the heroic crocogator his is. 

Snap ShotSnap ShotCourtesy of Activision

Next they work on his attacks. For instance, Snap Shot originally had a two-part spin attack that tossed him high in the air. It required a combo, so they had to decide what happened if the player didn’t finish the combo. He ended up falling down, and it didn’t look right, so they scrapped it. They also had to decide about how the weapons work, including a back pack that he originally had. It looked cool, but it made it hard to move his arms and got in the way. 

Later, after the story and the game are closer to the end, voice actors enter the sound booth to record lines for the characters. Alex Ness, who takes care of the story for the games actually did a place holder set of lines (called a “scratch track”) and they liked his work so much that they kept them. You’ll recognize him as the voice of Broccoli Guy and Chompy Mage. He told us, “the capture-able villains have over 100 lines each.” They don’t just talk to you in the game. When you have your crystal in the trap — one holding a villain you trapped, of course — they’ll comment on your progress throughout the game. “The Skylanders all have about 75 plus, but that includes all their emotes, their ‘ouches’ and everything.” Then there are all the NPC’s that tell you the story. All together, there are several thousand lines.”

So many Skylanders and we couldn't take ANY!So many Skylanders and we couldn't take ANY!

Skylanders: Trap Team will hit stores on October 5th, 2014!


Have Your Say

Did you know all the work that goes into the game? Who’s your favorite character? Let us know!