Syphon Filter PS2 Weapons

Construction Details

From about 2000-2003 I did a bunch of stuff with weapons on Syphon Filter Omega Strain for the PS2, including weapons modeling, weapon integration with the character hardpoint system, weapon FX, and some scope artwork. There were around 60 different gun models and they came together at about 3 a day,  built in 3DSMax and averaging around 300 triangles. Our texture budget on SFOS was amazingly tight, since it was a 4 player online-coop game where each character could have a completely different outfit and weapons. I opted for what at the time was a novel texturing approach used by Metal Gear Solid where the highlights and shadows and specular reflections were painted in and high frequency details were often left to geometry. To up the vertex count to support this detail, it was vital to have efficient tristripping, so I’d just shoot a planar projection through the side of pieces of the gun to keep all the verts continuous.

Here’s a short clip showing one of my favorites to model, the FN-P90 – Watch Video

The weapons were also very visible to the player because of the hardpoint system. When characters stowed their guns, they’d go to one of four places on the skeleton – back, thigh right, thigh left, or chest. Since it is a third person game, the back hardpoint would really shove the gun right in the player’s face, so detail was important to maintain. Still, the texture resolution in multiplayer mode was set to half that of single player, and things would tend to get blurry. Luckily the geometry did much of the work, and considering that the models were all lit by the world, this didn’t end up being that bad.


Weapon FX had a bunch of different components. The gun flare was an actual model that was turned on and off, and was positioned via the gun’s skeleton. Yes, guns in this game had skeletons! Initially, the game design was more of an online RPG and had called for a crazy weapon customization system where players could purchase scopes, silencers, and the like. Most of these elements were dropped in the final design, but the gun skeleton was still used for a few things:

  • A bone to align the character’s trigger hand to dynamically
  • A bone where the support hand would go
  • Positioning of the gun flare
  • A bone for FX to emit from

As far as the FX, smoke particles were created and would shoot out of the tip of the gun. A light was also turned on with each shot. Turns out that the system also supported spawning a particle emitter on the bullet as well. And another one when it impacted! This was crazy, the amount of calculation that was being done. Bullet hits were tracked per bone, with ellipsoids around each one. You could shoot a guy in the arm, leg, head, and it would all be tracked. The character programmer even turned the vertex color red wherever a guy was hit. You know, cause that’s what blood looks like.

So, with that in mind, we got busy with the system late one night and hacked up a flamethrower, and it was awesome. It still is one of the only flamethrowers in-game that I’ve seen that properly splash fire on a surface that it hits. Here’s a Youtube playthrough that had to deal with them. Our designers made this last mission of the game nearly impossible.




Ok so this is a funny project to show for me for a few reasons. First, it is O-L-D. I did these before I was even in the game industry, right out of college. Second, I’m not a mechanical modeler by trade, but I can certainly do it if called on, and I like showing that. We all have favorite projects and this is one of mine. It was done in 3DSMax v2 or somewhere around that vintage.

It was a real blitzkrieg of a schedule, and I was holed up in my studio for a month or so modeling these things with just brochures for reference. There was rarely a good orthoganal shot and no measurements besides broad dimensions. And on top of that I was working on a Pentium-Pro 200 which was a 10th the speed of an iPhone!

Also of note was that this was way before the days of your fancy newfangled Global Illumination renderers. This is pure Max scanline baby. And of course it still took 10 minutes to render each shot.

Still, it was fun. The project was for training software for this pump manufacturer, and I also had a hand in the UI design as you can see in the last shot. There were animations as well but they weren’t very interesting, just showing a line traversing a cross section of the pump.

I still get excited when I’m out and come across a pump.

Female Commando

3DSMax Lipsync Rig – Convert Bones to Morph


This example shows a relatively low-poly head rigged with bones for the standard lipsync viseme targets. This was matched to a system called Animeter that has since been bought and sold a bunch of times. Anyway, the standard targets still apply now.

So, the way this guy works is that we have a head model that is rigged and animated to a different morph target every 5 frames. The script creates a button in the head object’s rollout called “Create Morpher Head”. When the artist hits the button, Max snapshots the head along the timeline to create morph targets. It then assigns the targets to a base head with the Morpher modifier. Then you’re ready to roll.

The advantage to this is that since morphs are always topology dependent, we can’t tweak the model very much without ruining the rig. So instead, we make modeling changes to the skinned head and regenerate the morph targets from there. This can save artists a bunch of time.

Below is the source for the script.

makeHeadCA = attributes makeHead
	parameters main rollout:params
		makeHeadBtn type:#boolean ui:makeHeadBtn
	rollout params "Make Morpher"
		button makeHeadBtn "Create Morpher Head"
		on makeHeadBtn pressed do
			headBasis = $
			nameArray = #("head_player_none_male","Eat","Earth","If","Ox","Oat","Wet","Size","Church","Fave","Though","Told","Bump","New","Roar","Cage","EyebrowRaiseLeft","EyebrowRaiseRight","BlinkLeft","BlinkRight","LookUp","LookDown","LookLeft","LookRight","EyebrowRaiseBoth","BlinkBoth")
			sliderTime = 0f
			headPosX = 0.5
			headDone = 1
			global headMorphs = #()
			--snapshot the main head
			for i = 1 to nameArray.count do
				newHead = snapshot headBasis
				headPosX = headPosX + .5 = nameArray[i]
				newHead.pos.x = headPosX
				append headMorphs newHead
				sliderTime = sliderTime + 5f
			sliderTime = 0f
			--now add the morpher plus the targets
			mainHead = headMorphs[1]
			addmodifier mainHead (morpher())
			global theMorpher = mainHead.morpher
			select mainHead
			for i = 1 to (headMorphs.count - 1) do
				print ("adding " + headmorphs[i+1].name)
				WM3_MC_BuildFromNode mainHead.morpher i headMorphs[i+1]
CAs = custattributes.getdefs $
if CAs.count > 0 then
	for i = 1 to CAs.count do
		custattributes.delete $ i
custAttributes.add $ makeHeadCA

Syphon Filter PS2 Characters

I was the Lead Character Artist on Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain at Sony Bend. In addition to heading up concepts, modeling, texturing, and rigging of all game and movie characters for the studio’s first PS2 title, I worked very closely with the Lead Character Programmer in creating a state-of-the-art character customization system and corresponding pipeline. Below are some samples of artwork and in-game shots.

Syphon Filter PS2 Marketing

As this game was wrapping up, I was asked to make some renderings for use by the gaming press. I already had the characters created for movie rendering, though they are game-resolution with high-res textures. I did get some help –  Shane Pierce, the concept artist at Sony at the time, and now of Epic, did quick black and white layout sketches for a couple of the shots and painted the tower in the background of one of them as well.

Each shot took about a day from start to finish and they were featured in Maxim, Play, GamePro, and other international gaming magazines. One of the shots was even used as the box cover art for the European SKU of Omega Strain.

Syphon Filter 3 Marketing

Created in 3DSMax, these renders were used by various game press for the release of Syphon Filter 3

Responsible for:

  • Modeling
  • Rigging
  • Lighting
  • Camera

Carbon Nanotube Concept

This project was done for a friend who worked at Scripps Institute in San Diego, CA. Their technology using carbon nanotubes for medical magic of some sorts was given the cover of Chemical and Engineering News, so they needed a cover image. Really fun project! I’d love to do more medical illustration because people get really excited seeing their ideas visualized.