Sierra Entertainment's Hoyle Casino is the best-selling casino game of all time. With an easy-to-use user interface, entertaining artificial intelligence, loads of special features, and 14 authentic Vegas games, Hoyle Casino provides endless fun for novice and expert gamblers alike.
One of the most popular features of Hoyle Casino—as well as Hoyle Card Games and Hoyle Board Games—is the computer opponents. With their robust AI and entertaining antics, the Hoyle characters help the Hoyle line of games stand out from the rest of the casual gaming market. They are one of the main selling points of the titles, giving consumers a reason to spend $29.95 on a Hoyle product instead of simply playing blackjack for free online, or downloading a shareware version of hearts.
In 2000, it was decided to bring Hoyle Casino's animated opponents into the 3D world for the first time. I suggested Poser as an option for this process, but the team ultimately decided to go with Maya. That year, it took three artists eight months to make eight animated characters using Maya. While the artists did an amazing job of building the characters from scratch in that time, the producer was unhappy with the time and money required for the process. Three copies of Maya and the training time required to use it effectively chewed up much of the art resources for the project. In hindsight, Maya was clearly overkill given the needs of the game, and the Hoyle artists found themselves wondering if there was a better sulution.
Near the end of the Hoyle Casino development cycle, it was clear that the artists would not have time to create the additional 20 "shadow" characters needed to complete the character art for Hoyle Casino. Shadow characters are avatars players choose to represent themselves in the game. Shadow characters blink, but don't speak or have complex animations like the Hoyle characters do. I had been using Poser for a couple of years, and felt it was quite capable of creating high-quality shadow characters in a short amount of time. The producer asked me to make as many as I could with Poser before the art deadline, which loomed three weeks away.
In the end, I didn't make all of the animations for the characters I wanted to, because I simply ran out of time. That was a minor setback, though—the benefits of Poser and DAZ enabled me to out-produce our Maya-based process by a wide margin, and it has redefined our approach to Hoyle character creation across our product line.
(Note: As for the rest of the art in Hoyle Casino, we use the following software tools: Electric Image, EI Modeler, Form*Z, Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects.)