Producing intro and outro for Metro: Exodus Sam’s Story DLC

At the end of 2019 4A Games was finishing Sam’s Story DLC for Metro: Exodus.

I was working on a different project but was asked to help with production of in-game videos. It was necessary to jump into the process quickly and help the team to be super efficient in a short period of time.

Video production

For Sam’s Story we made three videos: one intro and two outro for different endings.

We had about ten scenes for intro and like twenty for “bad” and “good” endings.

All scenes were created and rendered in the game engine.

At the beginning of production we had script, storyboards, draft scenes and music tracks.

We needed to

  • review all scenes and their order
  • put static and dynamic objects at the levels
  • set-up camera tracks
  • check animations and timings
  • make final weather and light
  • add VFX
  • synchronize sound track

Don’t panic

Universal rule from “ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “.

First of all I’m trying to distance myself from emotions and bustle.

It’s always hard to do. You think about deadlines, our features affect the release of a big product but finally the producer is the man who stands still and coordinates teammates and keeps them calm.

People struggle to make right decisions under pressure. And if you have juniors in the team they get nervous even more because of big responsibility.

In one of the endings where Sam is sitting on the snowy pier, the camera is slowly moving away from him and a player can see the poles on the roadside. When we rendered this scene for the first time with RTX we had a funny glitch. At the moment poles came into the frame they started burning red like giant torches. That had very dramatic effect and you could think that Sam was meditating on the bay shore.

Get into details

I gave myself some time to dig into details and lower chances that my plans would be inaccurate.

I understood the scope of the task, its role and priority in the whole project, discussed the deadlines and estimated how much space we had for maneuvers.

Usually even if you have strict deadlines you can discuss them with stakeholders and figure out what exactly they need and when. You can transform one feature with one deadline to several features of less scope but with different deadlines. It’s a necessary step even if you think it’s not worth trying.

I checked all the materials on the videos that we had. Searched any information that could be useful: draft documents, Jira tasks, follow-ups of previous meetings, chat and email history.

There are a lot of things that can be in the minds of your teammates related to the task. I try to speak with them and document details and suggestions they mark as important.

Ask experts for help

One of the key points was to define experts on key tasks and discuss with them work direction and risks.

I relied on their opinions, told what I was planning to do and got constructive feedback.

Experts know which teammates are best for specific tasks. They also can give them introduction, support them during the work and make review of tasks.

During the work on the outro where Sam blew up the submarine, lost consciousness and then sat down near the bridge in Vladivostok we had an alternative explanation of it. After Sam hit the trigger he was dying and the winter scene was his last vision. Snow and cold symbolized death and the camera went away from him like it was saying goodbye. Changing the photo of San-Francisco’s bridge to the reality of Vladivostok was like the end of the dream for Sam, final point. When I asked script writers how solid that theory could be they just smiled. So I wish to think that we have an open ending.

Define task list

After necessary preparation I was able to write down and decompose tasks in Jira.

I try to make descriptions of the tasks very specific and detailed. Tag related persons and write down verbal discussions and agreements.

Then I define relations between tasks and set priorities. Blocking tasks goes first as well as things that can be paralleled.

Define persons list

After dealing with the tasks and speaking with experts I was able to define which persons were the best for specific objectives and who could catch up the task if necessary.

Tasks, people and dates were three elements of the preliminary plan for the videos.

At that moment I needed to make it more solid and dealt with the risks.

Define bottlenecks

In our case we had two experts who critically affected all the videos. Besides the fact that they had made the most complex tasks they helped others with consultations, review and direction.

It was a common situation so I just tried to remove all unnecessary work from them and make their communications with others easier.

Help with side tasks

I tried to support all secondary tasks that could help with the main things and make the life of your teammates easier.

It was really helpful to make render-farm across our offices, create and update scene tracker in Confluence to have all information in one place and do time consuming rendering of draft scenes. I handled it all by myself.

Make plan B

Simple question “What are we gonna do when we understand that the current plan has failed?” always helps me to search for alternatives, put intermediate control points and have a big picture in mind.

In our case we considered to reduce the number of the non-priority scenes and simplify most complex ones.

There is an Easter egg in California scene where submarine is moving along the coast with the “Road Closed” sign on it. Could you name it?

Result

We were fortunate to release the videos for Sam’s Story a little bit ahead of the initial plan.

The team pulled together and performed very well. We were able to slowly let off people who finished their part of the tasks.

Sam’s Story Official Key Art

Will be happy to have your comments and feedback.

Thanks to my wife for editing this article ♥

About me

I write articles based on my professional experience in such game companies like 4A Games (Metro), Wargaming (World of Tanks), MY.GAMES (Warface, Armored Warfare) and Nival (Heroes of Might and Magic 5, Blitzkrieg).

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Game Producer, Master’s Degree in Applied Math https://www.linkedin.com/in/timursuzi/

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