Toys for Bob
founders Paul Reiche and Fred Ford have been developing games since 1989,
creating games for the Sega Genesis, 3DO, Playstation, GameCube and then moved up to the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii platforms
with their Skylanders video games. Now a subsidiary of Activision they have expanded the market of their Skylanders games to manufacturing
toys as well as board games and similar products.
Located in Novato, California Toys for Bob have made their name in the video game industry by developing titles such as;
the unholy war, 101 Dalmatians: Puppies to the rescue, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam and Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa.
Please tell us about your company?
Peter Lipson: Sure! We are a video game and toy development studio with about 100 people here, but we used to have a lot less.
Like 11 when I joined the team in 2001. For over a decade now, we’ve worked on games generally geared towards a family audience.
We like to inject a certain level of humor, whimsicality, charm, and non-reality into our games and family-oriented titles are a good fit
for us there. In 2011, we had a really big hit with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and followed it up with Skylanders: Giants in 2012,
launching the toys-to-life genre.
Skylanders is now the #1 kids’ franchise and has crossed over $1 Billion in worldwide sales. Besides all that good stuff though, we love it.
We love working on this brand and hope to do it forever and ever. Well, maybe not “ever” but at least “forever.”
Can you describe for us the production you have created using Di-O-Matic tools?
Peter Lipson: Well it just so happens that those two projects I just mentioned used the
Di-O-Matic tools – Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders: Giants. They are video games for the console market where toys literally
come to life in the game, using our Portal of Power. Besides just coming to life, these toys represent epic heroes (Skylanders),
sworn to defend their world (Skylands) from the forces of evil (bald-headed twerp named “Kaos”).
They all have unique abilities and powers that can be upgraded and personalized throughout the experience,
with all data being saved directly to the door. We have a large cast of villains and Non-Playable-Characters,
good guys and a pretty big story to tell, requiring a fair amount of in-game cinematics.
Which Di-O-Matic plugins did you use and why?
Peter Lipson: We used Voice-O-Matic on Maya 8.0. Since the release of Skylanders: Giants,
our studio converted to Maya 2013. We chose Voice-O-Matic because it works seamlessly within Maya. Voice-O-Matic doesn’t have rigid
prerequisites and can be used to drive anything. In our case, joints and custom attributes. Because of sheer volume of dialogue that
requires lip sync and how late dialogue tends to come online, Voice-O-Matic enables us to process a first pass of animation so that we can focus
our hand-keyed efforts on key scenes.
How did you succeed in creating that particular project?
Peter Lipson: On Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, we had about a two-and-a-half year development cycle.
We were starting up a brand new franchise and there was a big learning curve. For the sequel, Skylanders: Giants, we were able to turn it
around in about 11 months. Now we had the formula down. Our internal team size ranged from about 80-100 and we had a lot of additional support
from our publisher/parent company Activision as well as outside contractors. On the art side, we had about 20ish people on the environmental art
team and 10ish working on characters.
How did you include our tools in your production pipeline?
Peter Lipson: Toys for Bob has been using its own proprietary toolchain for over ten years.
Any third-party technology that we use has to be incorporated into our own production processes, ideally without requiring any training for our production teams.
We prefer to integrate extra features without exposing any extra interfaces. Because of this constraint, we requested Di-O-Matic to make a few changes to the
MEL interface of Voice-O-Matic. Within a few weeks, we were able to generate animation data as we exported our sounds. From a tool-chain perspective,
the ability to export without requiring user configuration for each sound is crucial. It was easy to setup a few configuration files that were used by all our
exported sounds. It was also important that we were able to use a floating-license system on a shared server, because the export could be triggered
by any one of our dozens of developers.
Did you create Lipsync animations with Voice-O-Matic solely in English,
or in other languages as well? Were you able to achieve what you had in mind for the animation? How many characters did you create for the game?
Peter Lipson: We used Voice-O-Matic to process the complete lipsync animation
(or in certain cases the first pass of animation) of 32 playable characters + 60 enemies + 30 (approx) NPCs for Skylanders:
Spyro’s Adventure and additionally for Skylanders: Giants 16 additional playable characters
(all 32 from the last game were playable too) + 40 enemies (approx.) + 30 NPCs (approx.).
Multiply that with over 20 languages and that’s a lot of lipsync animations! Luckily with the help of Di-O-Matic and
we were able to get through a ton of assets in very little time
We at Di-O-Matic are very happy with the results Toys for Bob have been able to achieve using
Voice-O-Matic. We would like to thank Toys for Bob for accepting to do this interview. For more information on Toys for Bob please visit