South Park: The Fractured But Whole has a deeper connection to the Comedy Central TV series than you probably realize.
The long-awaited Stick of Truth sequel has seen its share of delays — it was originally meant to arrive in late 2016. The work would be moving a lot more slowly now, however, if not for a major change to the way Ubisoft works with South Park’s Comedy Central team.
"We made the process different," Senior Producer Jason Schroeder said during a new episode of Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast, referring to the sequel’s use of a new engine — Snowdrop — to power the game.
The Stick of Truth was an Obsidian Entertainment production, but this sequel is in the hands of Ubisoft’s San Francisco studio. And the switch to Snowdrop, which is proprietary Ubi technology, comes with one important advantage: Snowdrop works with Autodesk Maya, the software used to create South Park episodes.
"We started from scratch with Snowdrop, but that was with the idea that their show is built in Maya, and Snowdrop imports Maya files clean," Schroeder said.
"We built a pipeline that basically, we run export tools, clean up some files, and then all of a sudden their content plays in game. It’s a crazy, crazy pipeline, but it actually works to create something that looks so authentically like the show."
It’s South Park’s seemingly simple 2D look that makes the development process more challenging on the art side. While many current tools are built to make 3D world creation smoother, a greater degree of hands-on work is required to animate 2D visuals.
"I think when you’re animating to a very specific look and style, there’s not really compromising. There’s no shortcuts," Schroeder said earlier in the interview.
"[If] you want to have unique facial expressions — and so much of the action of the show actually takes place on those big eyes and little mouth shapes — if you want it to be really expressive, you’ve gotta animate that too. You’ve gotta show pain, show effort, show all this stuff."