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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Mortgage leads Gollum actor into games
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Andy Serkis as the king in Heavenly Sword
Serkis plays the villain in the game, King Botan
When actor Andy Serkis was arranging his mortgage, little did he know it would lead to his involvement in a video game for the forthcoming PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Serkis is no stranger to the digital arts, having starred as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and as the giant ape King Kong.

He is now working on appearing in one of the leading titles for the PS3, Heavenly Sword, starring in it as the evil king and acting as its dramatic director.

The game is a martial arts epic developed by UK game makers Ninja Theory for Sony's next generation console.

Film qualities

Serkis became involved by chance. His mortgage advisor is the brother of the boss of Ninja Theory, Tameem Antoniades.

We've done facial tests with him to find out how to create believable performances in real time on the PlayStation 3
Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory
When Antoniades found out about his brother's celebrity client, he asked him to pass on a trailer for the game. Once Serkis saw it, he wanted in.

"We are aiming to bring the highest level of layered, truthful and emotionally engaging performance into Heavenly Sword," said the actor.

The game aims to bring the action and visuals of martial arts movies to an adventure video game set in a mythical time in the Far East.

Mr Antoniades said: "Because the production quality is so high, we have been working with more film people."

"Andy is taking care of all the performance capture, the casting and is heavily involved in writing."

"We've done facial tests with him to find out how to create believable performances in real time on the PlayStation 3."

Image capture technology has been used to recreate Serkis' face in the game for the villain, King Botan. The result is a caricature that closely resembles the actor.

Flagship game

The team behind the game say the computing power in Sony's new console has allowed them to aim for a visual style more commonly associated with Hollywood blockbusters.

Screenshot from Heavenly Sword
The game features intense fighting sequences
For example, said Antoniades, one of the processors inside the machine is solely devoted to recreating the movement of clothes and hair.

"Not many people believed what we showed was real," said the game maker, referring to a trailer for the game shown at lasy year's E3 games expo.

"This year we have proved ourselves to the doubters."

A playable version of the game was on show at this year's E3. Gamers were able to play as the heroine Nariko and fight off an array of enemy warriors.

Heavenly Sword is one of the flagship games for the PS3, which is due to launched in November. The game is expected shortly afterwards.


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