Anyone who’s ever taken satisfaction from building a city, raising a civilization or constructing a theme park within a game is liable to envy Jean-Baptiste Reynes’ day job.
President and co-founder of French firm ENODO, Jean-Baptiste is part of a team using CryENGINE 3 to create virtual environments that will often go on to become concrete realities. Along with fellow architect Arnaud Moioli, Jean-Baptiste saw a recurring frustration among clients that he felt could be alleviated by drawing inspiration from his passion for gaming.
Laléh Sahrai, responsible for Business Development at ENODO, explains: “The idea for the creation of the company came when Jean-Baptiste and Arnaud were experimenting throughout large urban planning or architectural projects, and they were feeling that their clients were having trouble communicating technical data around those projects. In parallel, they were hardcore gamers and noticing how much that technology had evolved and the amount of incredible things they could do in a videogame. So the whole idea came from trying to bond these two worlds to each other, and trying to use the videogame software for non-gaming purposes. That’s the whole idea.”
A snapshot of ENODO's work with CryENGINE 3.
Jean-Baptiste remembers the specific ‘eureka’ moment that inspired him to bring his gaming interests into his professional sphere. “I saw a video made using the CryENGINE Sandbox. When they showed in the video how it was possible to create an environment in 3D and playtest it in real-time, and change it in real-time, I thought, ‘If I can use this tool for architectural projects in real-time, that would be really cool.’ So I contacted Crytek and we signed a partnership in 2007.” Since then, ENODO have built up an enviable client list that features high profile names such as BMW, energy company TOTAL and leading French telecoms provider, SFR.
In practical terms, ENODO exist simply to help their clients communicate more clearly with their audience. So when SFR planned to build a new 170,000 m2 head office on the outskirts of Paris, ENODO were tasked with creating a version of it in CryENGINE that would help everyone affected by the project to better understand the vision. Their work, however, should not be confused with the standard type of 3D artist’s impression you may be used to seeing at the early stages of architectural planning.
Inside the virtual offices of French telecoms company, SFR.
Running a demo that shows off the impressive work ENODO undertook for SFR, Laléh elaborates. “It’s not approximate. It’s a real simulation of precise technical information. This is the planning. So rather than presenting an .xl file to local politicians to convince the city hall that they have to build or something, they can show this. Explaining a six-year long construction project in a simple document is not an easy thing to do – but CryENGINE’s real-time tools allow us to facilitate the understanding of heavy implications, but also practice this in real-time. For example, if I’m walking throughout a floor of a building, this is how much time it will take to get to the meeting room. The distances are accurate; my walking speed is human walking speed. Other companies exist doing virtual walkthroughs and interactive models of projects, but they don’t use this kind of technology. So we’re unique in that sense.”
SFR used ENODO’s demo to communicate the plans for their new office to groups of 300 staff once a week, addressing their concerns and answering questions with a degree of detail simply unavailable by more traditional means. A similar level of detail was on display when ENODO ‘built’ a new tramway for their hometown of Nice. Once again created using CryENGINE, the virtual version of the transport project was approved by government as the official form of communication during the public consultation phase – meaning the people of Nice will vote on whether to proceed with the tramway based on ENODO’s interpretation of it. The advantage of what ENODO provided over a traditional blueprint was clear, with locals being able to explore an accurate depiction of the city on virtual trams running to a real-world schedule. “It’s reassuring for the public to understand these things,” suggests Laléh. “The tramway was going to go underground and people were thinking ‘Is it going to ruin my building?’ and that sort of thing. But we can show them where it’s going and how it’s going to be done. In general, these projects involve heavy processes, which are linked to governmental, political and technical issues, so we use the aesthetics and intelligence of CryENGINE to make it easier for everyone.”
ENODO recreated parts of their hometown, Nice, in CryENGINE 3.
Checking the comments beneath your average ENODO video online reveals that gamers, as well as governments, are enamored with their work. Their recent 2013 demo reel made its way into the mainstream gaming press, with sites like Eurogamer and Kotaku making much of their ‘mind-blowing’ and ‘amazing’ achievements. Such praise is music to Jean-Baptiste’s ears, especially as he acknowledges it took time for clients to fully understand the advantages of their services.
“It was tough in the beginning, because our clients were not gamers. So the first thing we had to do was explain to them why we were using gaming technology – they thought gaming was for children, you know, saying; ‘I’m a serious guy and I don’t want to play’. So we told them, no, you can use the technology from videogames, and you can use it for showing your project. We also needed to explain what real-time is. For a lot of people it’s not really clear what the difference is between a movie and real-time.”
A diverse client list including the likes of BMW keeps ENODO's work varied.
Today, however, Jean-Baptiste is happy to report a clearer understanding of ENODO’s services. “It’s changing. As I said to Cevat (Crytek’s CEO), last week was the first time that one of my clients showed me the project through the 3D engine and explained it to me and to other people directly with a control pad in hand. That was new. Now we can give the client access to the 3D model in their offices, and they can explain the project themselves by using it. So it’s changing, possibly because the way people think about videogames has changed too. It’s a question of generations as well – my generation knows videogames and we can work with people who know them.”
ENODO’s co-founder says in future he’d love to be able to give clients full access to their work through a variety of platforms such as tablets and mobiles, further increasing the options for how they interact with their projects. In the short-term, however, his ambitions remain connected to his love of gaming. “We’re thinking of how we can not only use videogame technology, but also the narrative; you know, how to discover things, what sort of interaction you have with your environment. We’ve just hired a game designer and we hope that he can help us to create a smoother way to discover the projects. I think it’s a good step for us.”
ENODO's 2012 demo reel. To view their 2013 demo reel, visit: https://vimeo.com/64654077
From architecture and industry to government and gaming press, ENODO look certain to attract more attention down the line. For Laléh, however, the company’s core values will remain unchanged. “Our goal is to show that videogame technology and the CryENGINE have the ability to absorb multimedia but address multi-purpose usages. You have to understand that in these fields of work, in these activities, the projects become more and more complex throughout the years, and there’s a larger amount of people involved. So, on one project you can have an architect, a politician, the civil engineering department, the landscaping department – so all those people communicate with blueprints and technical files that are really not easy to understand depending on your job.”
“Our job is to facilitate the communication. That’s where the name ‘ENODO’ comes from – in Latin it means ‘untangling’.”
To see more of ENODO’s work visit www.enodo.fr/en and check out the gallery below.