Chairman and CFO Simon Elms tells us how specialist services differ from simple outsourcing
In our latest partner spotlight in the run-up to the 2014 Develop Awards, Cubic Motion's CFO and chairman Simon Elms discusses the benefits of specialisation and why developers should embrace it.
Facial animation specialist Cubic Motion is supporting this year's Develop Awards as a gold partner. The ceremony will be held on Wednesday, July 9th. More info below.
Partner Spotlight: Cubic Motion
Year founded: 2009
For any readers who might not know you, tell us a little more about your company and its goals.
We have a simple mission: to transform the way game developers, TV producers and film-makers think about the cost and speed of great facial animation. We now have around 60 staff delivering world-class results at unrivalled production speed. Over the last few years, more and more developers have bought into our vision as we've proved to be an extremely cost-effective solution for high-volumes of animation. Highlights of recent work include Ryse: Son of Rome, Battlefield 4 and Halo 4: Spartan Ops. We also had lots of unannounced work on show at E3 – all will be revealed soon!
What differentiates you from similar outfits? What's unique about you?
We've taken a bold stance, one that not all developers agree with (yet!). We believe, in general, that the successful growth of the industry depends on its willingness to embrace external specialists.
Specialisation is very different to just plain 'outsourcing', which sometimes gets a bad name. Specialists should be, frankly, better equipped than a developer to get a particular job done. Facial animation fits into this category. Getting it right, on modern complex rigs, to the standard that next-gen deserves, is difficult, especially at high volume.
It's technically hard, but it goes way beyond the need for technology. It's so specialised that it should be left to teams which, essentially, do nothing else. We argue that it simply isn't cost-effective for developers to hire large teams of animators on a project-by-project basis.
Moreover, it's very tough to assemble a large enough team of absolute experts. We have around 60 people here, and facial animation is all we do. We're hyper-efficient, not just because of our proprietary technology, but due to our scale and experience. We have so many projects running at any one time that we're not constantly hiring and firing, and thus, we build an ever-improving centre of knowledge and best-practice.
I like to think of it in the same way as Pirelli supplying Ferrari with tyres. It would be insane for Ferrari to try and make their own tyres. That's close to how we think of developers building massive facial animation teams. Leave it to us. Just go build great games!
We're pretty much the only place you can go for this amount of expertise at this kind of scale. Our 'rivals' aren't the tools vendors. We're convinced that own our technical methods are superior to theirs but, frankly, technology is just a part of the overall picture.
Where the tools vendors do pose a challenge to us is when developers' internal teams convince themselves (entirely wrongly in our opinion) that some animation tool is capable of revolutionizing their productivity. We think otherwise, but, historically, facial animation has been very much an 'in-house' activity, and it's not always easy to convince a developer to consider whether that model continues to make sense. However, most clients who get to the test stage make the jump to Cubic Motion - the difference is so dramatic and the risk-reduction clearly obvious to experienced producers.
What excites and/or encourages you about the games industry and games development today?
In personal experience, the fact that so many developers are starting to embrace specialisation. When we first started out, most producers would say "go speak to our animation lead, he/she might be interested in buying a tool from you", whereas now, producers are much more likely to say, "just get the job done". The industry has a long way to go, and not just in our field of course, but specialization is the key.
It goes without saying that developers now have the hardware platforms to tell stories with great visual beauty, and now we're starting to see the evolution of production models that allow developers (including, crucially, smaller ones), to make the most of these platforms. An interesting example will be Chris Roberts' Star Citizen (where Cubic Motion will animate the faces). This will be an outstanding game, built by a developer, Cloud Imperium, that embraces the idea of specialization. It will prove just how much significant (but not 'outrageous') budgets can achieve with the right production model.
Looking at the Develop Awards finalists (list here), what does it say to you about the industry and development today?
It highlights how the UK continues to punch above its weight. Thanks to the work of many, and to great events like the Develop Awards, the industry has probably never been so well-known and respected as a hugely important contributor to the British economy; this has of course been recognized by government through initiatives such as the games tax credits.
Do you have a message for the finalists?
Good luck, and "Embrace Specialisation"
Anything else you'd like to add about your company and the Develop Awards?
The Develop Awards proved an excellent way for our (then) smaller company to get our work noticed – we were producing material at the forefront of what was technically possible, and yet, as a small company, this kind of thing can go largely unnoticed by the industry. The Develop Awards are very democratic -– good work is good work, and likely to get recognized regardless of the size of the company.
About The Develop Awards
The 2014 Develop Awards will take place on Wednesday, July 9th at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in Brighton, and recognises the best innovators and development talent in the UK and Europe.
If you want to attend, you can book single seats and standard or gold tables by contacting Kathryn.Humphrey@intentmedia.co.uk or calling 01992 535646.
There are multiple new awards this year, with a total of 24 prizes up for grabs, while PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny is 2014's Development Legend.
There is a host of big names backing this year's Develop Awards, including Crytek and Deep Silver as Platinum Partners, a slew of Gold Partners in UKIE, Amiqus, Keywords International, Codemasters, Perforce, Cubic Motion and Unity, Event Partners Wales Interactive, InnoGames and Tandem Events and Table Gift Partner OPM.
For more information on the sponsorship and partnership opportunities still available, contact Alex.Boucher@intentmedia.co.uk or call 01992 535647.
You can find out more about the Develop Awards at the official Develop Awards website.