Wacom Cintiq Is Key to Help Sony Online Entertainment Unlock Secrets of The Agency

As the birthplace of massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) phenomena EverQuest® and PlanetSide®, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is a leader in immersive entertainment, technology applications and talent. With the impending launch of The Agency™, a spy-themed first-person shooter MMO for the PC and PlayStation® 3, SOE is poised to set new benchmarks for innovative video game play. To create the game's intricate characters, environments and objects, SOE artists turned to the Wacom® Cintiq® interactive pen display - giving them a much faster digital workflow with a natural drawing feel.

SOE Concept Artist Patrick Shettlesworth says the Cintiq enables him to eliminate multiple steps in his workflow, from drawing characters on paper, scanning them into the computer and cleaning them up, to coloring with a Wacom Intuos® 3 tablet. This process would take as much as five to seven hours for a typical character. Using the Cintiq, he can finish the same character in three to five hours.

With Wacom's unique pen-on-screen capability, Shettlesworth is able to draw and paint directly on the Cintiq's 21-in. LCD screen in Adobe® Photoshop® , Illustrator® and Corel® Painter™. The Cintiq pen's 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity integrate seamlessly with the software and respond automatically to his touch for precise control over line weight, opacity and exposure.

"With interchangeable pen nibs that emulate the feel of traditional media, the Cintiq gives you a natural drawing response that lets you be as expressive as you want," he says. "I usually begin with a really firm pen tip, so I can keep the lines tight and clean. Once I start painting, I switch to a looser tip. It's a process of gently laying in colors and gradually building them up, rather than going in really hard and firm."

This new routine has transformed his process, providing an uninterrupted workflow that saves over two hours of development time per character. "It feels so much better to be on top of a drawing with your hand, the way you would do it on paper," he explains. "I get into a rhythm when I'm doing something like this, and I don't want to break it by having to scan or go back and forth with an eraser. And because I can move fast and loose in any direction, I can come up with way more iterations as I draw."

The Cintiq's all-digital workflow streamlines Shettlesworth's creative process in other ways too. Regularly zooming in up to 2,000 percent when doing extreme detail work, he constantly reverts to actual size to make sure the changes will be visible. By simply assigning one of the pen's programmable buttons to zoom the view to 100 percent, he can quickly assess if he is over-detailing something no one will ever see and change his approach without breaking stride.

Shettlesworth also credits the Cintiq with giving him the ability to do environment work. When working on large landscapes, buildings or street scenes, he imagines them as shapes, values and tones, instead of lines. The Cintiq's pen-on-screen versatility makes it easy to realize these forms.

"I can only create the environment stuff with a painterly approach, and the Cintiq allows me to do that," he explains. "Drawing directly on-screen with the pen's pressure sensitivity, I can work from a shape perspective, building up the values and tones the way I would on paper. It gives me more of a one-to-one, so my hand and the painting are working together."

When Shettlesworth arrived at Sony Online Entertainment to work on The Agency four years ago, there was just one Cintiq in use. The obvious advantages of the interactive pen-on-screen workflow soon created such a buzz that everyone wanted a Cintiq. Now, Cintiqs are widely used throughout the studio. Departments ranging from concept art to 3D modeling and animation are benefitting from the improved creative control, productivity, comfort, and most important, collaborative features of the Cintiq, which have greatly improved overall efficiency.

For Shettlesworth, the Cintiq has become such an integral part of his workflow that he can't imagine working without it. "It's ruined me," he jokes. "I can't draw any other way. Now I have to have one of these at home!"