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Art Update 13: Ask the Animation Team Anything!

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I'm not smart enough to think of an animation question that is good that hasn't been asked already, so I'll resort to my back up question for stuff like this:

If you could be any kind of tree, what tree would you be and why?

I'd be an old Oak tree, because Andy buries his letter to Red under one and hopefully that tree would be me and then I would get to have a cameo in Shawshanke Redemption.

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What games by other developers in the last five or so years have had the best/your favorite animation?

Off the top of my head; Journey, Ghost Trick, Red Dead Redemption, Arkham City, Guacamelee, Limbo, Mark of the Ninja, The Last of Us, Shadow of Colossus (that was less than 5 years ago, right?)

There are so many!

I really love seeing great AAA game animation because they have the budget to add a ton of variety in their animations. Like when a character walks slowly around a corner and reaches their arm out for balance, or walks in a completely different way based on their health-state (Naughty Dog does this so well!) - that stuff is so awesome and makes me wish we were making a big AAA game sometimes.

But I also really love creative uses of animation on a limited budget, and that's what we strive to do in our games. Maybe in the future we can combine the AAA variety with a charming key-frame style...That would be really fun! :)

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Ghost Trick

Oh man, Ghost Trick was one of my favorite DS games, and the animation was stunning. Anyone with a DS, 3DS, or iOS device should give this game a try.

89Thzwo.gif

sGR0bbM.gif

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There is a really great talk by Chritine Phelan ( who worked on Costume Quest ) about getting a job in the video games industry as an animator. It's posted on her blog page.

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Ghost Trick

Oh man, Ghost Trick was one of my favorite DS games, and the animation was stunning. Anyone with a DS, 3DS, or iOS device should give this game a try.

89Thzwo.gif

sGR0bbM.gif

I adore the animation in this game!

When I first discovered it, I was hoping it was some new insane Toon Shader. But as it turns out, they actaully did 3D models and animation, then HAND drew over every frame, to give it that rotoscoped look. Amazing.

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1. What tips can you give to make good animation fast?

2. It looks like you're hitting keyposes quickly with some offset in the keys to give simple overlap and settle.

3. Do you have a library of pre-defined poses?

4. Are the rigs similar enough that you can re-use the cycles from one character to another?

Thanks

I added numbers to your quote so I could answer them easily!

1. I am a pretty fast animator. Its one of my advantages. I blame all the video games to be honest. Everything I ever did when using a PC (before I became an animator) was gaming, I was all about APM! So I translate that into my work as an animator. All my hot keys are set up on my PC the same way they would if Animating was an FPS. I use hot keys for every repeatable process, I try not to click on anything with my mouse except the rig. That speeds up a lot of time!

2. When I really care about an animation I put key poses on every joint, every 5 frames. Then when I've made it through the whole action, I adjust the timing. Then I add overlap from the root out, in 2 frame increments for major body parts to get the overlap! Then I spend the next 4 days crying as I try to polish the animation :(

3. We use an animation tool (ill post a screenshot of it below) that saves poses and animations allowing animators to share them easily. I am all about sharing animations in games! Striking a balance between sharing too much, and sharing just enough so you have time for kick ass animation! Is always something you should be thinking about.

4. On any project I think it is imperative that you can share animations between characters! If you don't, your going to waste a lot of time re-doing un-important work like turns, stops, idle gestures, anything that you don't want to be specifically unique, so much stuff! Sharing is caring and caring is shipping games! (that makes no sense, but it sounds nice, sort of)

Here is our anim tool box, have a look! and dont forget, ask questions! :)

AnimToolbox.jpg

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@DAVEG Thanks so much for the advice! I live in Vancouver and I'm right now in the Interactive Arts and Technology undergraduate program. This semester I did posters photography, webcomics, some basic typography, colour theory and animated typography. Of all of the things I did, I enjoyed making the comic and the animation the most. I'm planning on learning more about animation this summer (I've now put maya on my list of tools to try out), and right now I'm doing the writing and outline for a comic. I can't do illustration though since I'm not good at drawing yet, so I'm working with an illustrator and directing her on how to illustrate it. I really wanted to go to Vancouver Film School since they have the unquestionable best games program in BC, but I didn't have the up front money needed to go there. IAT at sfu is a team-based program though where team projects are the focus, so hopefully it will be suitable for getting into the games industry. Next semester I'll be learning processing (apparently a form of JAVA), and the semester after that I'll be able to start learning game design. Right now I'm just ok at everything, but I'm better at basic animation and comics than everything else since I love anime and comics. I also love games though so I'm going to see how well I am at my programming courses and game design courses. Then I'll be hopefully taking a creative writing elective and screenwriting elective to start to test how much I can improve my writing skills. My plan is to then begin working on my first small 2d gamemaker or gamesalad game project during my next winter break, and possibly a small 3d project or expanding my 2d project over the summer. By that point, I will start doing internships at games companies and other industries related to Interactive Arts and Technology, as a part of my school program. Hopefully I will have been able to figure out which part of game development I want to start out in by then. I'm really not sure which specific skill I excel in yet besides a general understanding of basic game design from having played thousands of games and some skill at writing from having taken writing courses. I'm still pretty new at all this (I'm still 18 and I only just finished my first semester of university), but my hope is that by making small projects together with 1 or if possible a few fellow students, I'll be able to figure out what part of game development I'm best at right now. I also hope to start going to Vancouver game jams and asking for more advice from some of the indies and AAA developers that tend to be there. To be honest I'm still a bit overwhelmed by just how much I have to learn between now and when I complete my undergrad degree (5-6 years from now roughly speaking), but hopefully all the work I put into it over that time will be enough to find a job that can get me started in the games industry. I guess the only other question I have is how long does it usually take to find a job with a good portfolio? If you aren't completely sure, then I'd appreciate knowing how long it took you to get a job. Thanks again Dave for spending the time to fully respond to my question =D

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Few questions since I'm a massive fan of you guys. :)

1) Do you guys hate rigging as much as I do? I love animating and I love a good rig, but for some reasons I just hate the process of actually rigging a model!

2) Do you guys have any funny stories like when you were trying to remember how jumping look and then having someone stare at you strangely because you were jumping on the spot in front of your desk?

3) Are there any Australians working at Double Fine? I feel like if there's at least one Australian already there, there's a chance more Australians could join and tell you fake stories of how they rode kangaroos to school or how everything is trying to kill you down there.

4) How are Double Fine employees so good looking? It must be a healthy dose of Tim Schafer everyday is the trick.

Love you guys, kudos from Australia as you can guess, you guys should post on Polycount too! :D

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My question was already sort of answered, but is slightly more specific: Who is doing the most interesting *interactive* animation right now in your opinion (no cutscenes, but actual gameplay stuff)? I love it when games use body language as feedback or build their entire core mechanic around how things move (Colossus).

@I am The Mad Pirate: The Walt Stanchfield lectures are definitely great. The animationmeat PDFs were taken down when they were published as books.

@Permafry_42: I would be careful about going into animation if what you really want to do is design. It's definitely a super useful skill for many aspects of design (mainly understanding movement and 'feel'), but there are very few studios where animators get to also do game design. Mainstream development tends towards specialization. If you want to learn and practice several disciplines all at once you might be happier going indie.

Learning an artist-friendly tool like Game Maker or Unity and starting small is definitely good advice. If you're looking for a good indie dev community, try TIGSource.

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@Ninja Dodo Thanks for the advice =D I've always wanted to work with medium sized development companies such as Double Fine or Telltale once I have enough specialized skills to fit a role. Before I do though I definitely would like to make a few indie projects since I've always been a master of none type person. Still before I go full independent I want to get some experience in the games industry itself in whatever capacity (probably these will end up being during the internships/job co-ops I will already need to take as a part of my university program) so I can have a better understanding of what works and what currently isn't working with the games industry, before I go on to be independent and maybe start a smaller companies of my own (a 2-5 person team for example being the most realistic). I doubt I have the talent to make games completely on my own yet since I still have to learn pretty much every element of game design, but hopefully when I've completed college and done courses in as many parts of game creation as I can, I'll consider trying an indie project with some of the classmates in my classes.

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Shadow of Colossus (that was less than 5 years ago, right?)
2005, originally, BUT it was re-released for the PS3 in 2011, so you're good.

I'm glad it made the list, though. The Colossi were incredibly animated to be sure, imparting weight and scale and perhaps a tinge of melancholy to the monstrous beasts, but Wander's animations built so much character and carried so much of the emotional weight of the story. That awkward adolescent run, the occasional stumble, the tendency to "clamber" while climbing, the feeling that Wander knew how to handle a sword but that maybe it was just a bit too big...

So great.

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A good reference book for rigging is "Stop Staring" 3th Edition ( you can see one of them in the last episodes) , very recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Staring-Facial-Modeling-Animation/dp/0470609907/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387050376&sr=1-1&keywords=Stop+Staring

EDIT : Added Amazon link

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hey guys ! i was wondering if all the animation that goes on while playing broekn age (not the cutscene animation) is done exclusively at double fine. and also, for the most part, is all that stuff done and polished by now? the cutscene stuff is obviously super important but i feel like many studios, big and small, don't live with ingame animation long enough to realize something feels/looks off and make those final tweaks to improve them, due to deadlines or having to tackle a million other things. one thing im really hoping for is some sort of transition animation between walking and running in broken age where the two feel seamless...and also feet that are nicely planted on the ground and when you walk, it makes sense where the feet are for the first frame of the walk cycle start...that type of stuff! because it makes the thing you do 80% of the game feel soooooo much better. will my eyes tear up in joy come january ?? i think i saw in a recent gameplay vid some new and improved walking away and towards us walk cycles, super stoked about how those came out. :P

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Hey animator people. How do you feel about animating in San Francisco, are you all local or do any of you come from out of the country?

Also, now you've had plenty of time to get used to the art style, what do you all think of the 2.5D style of animation in Maya, animating a 2D rig. Did any of you have any experience with this paper puppet style of animation before, or is this something you had to learn?

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If you had to make an acrostic poem out of:

A

N

I

M

A

T

I

O

N

What would you come up with? :-)

Smiles

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FK or IK

If you could only take one of these kinematic types with you on holiday which would it be? and why?

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FK or IK

If you could only take one of these kinematic types with you on holiday which would it be? and why?

That depends, is it a romantic holiday?

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FK or IK

If you could only take one of these kinematic types with you on holiday which would it be? and why?

That depends, is it a romantic holiday?

I was hoping the why would make that clear :)

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2. When I really care about an animation I put key poses on every joint, every 5 frames. Then when I've made it through the whole action, I adjust the timing. Then I add overlap from the root out, in 2 frame increments for major body parts to get the overlap! Then I spend the next 4 days crying as I try to polish the animation :(

Anyone who thinks this is the actual best answer please raise your hand. *raises hand*

Also, do you guys like animating in 2D or 3D more? All hand-drawn versus rigged models?

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How does working on Broken Age compare to other projects you've done in the past?

Having worked with 3d for so long, it is both refreshing and frustrating. Technically we are still working in 3D (we use Maya) but our rigs are limited to 2D planes.

Things you take for granted in 3D, like being able to rotate a character on any axis without even thinking about it, are a big challenge on Broken Age. So if I want to have Shay turn around, it isn't as simple as rotating him in Y axis; we actually have to "flip" his rig, so his 2D plane is mirrored. Having that match up smoothly is where it gets really tricky.

But with that said, it can also simplify some things because the motion can be "cheated" in a way that is more cartoony, and therefore, more forgiving. Also, because the art is so strong on the characters, they can often look good on a single pose and when used efficiently, that can go a long way.

DaveG or Ray may be able to elaborate more on this answer, too. We could go on for a long time about this topic!

Either way, I can honestly say that I've learned more on this project than I have on any other, because my mind has had to balance between 3D and 2D, and that has forced me to be more creative about a lot of things. It's been awesome!

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Frank Thomas or Rod Scribner? ... As if the two could really be compared in any meaningful way.

What I'm really asking is what kind of non-game influences you tend to find the most awesome and useful in animating for games. In particular, I'm thinking of golden age animation, which I'm a huge fan of. I know things have changed an awful lot since then and interactive animation has some unique challenges, but I'm just wondering if there are any specific traditional animators / films that have really influenced you?

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Maybe this question is better suited for the producers, but how much of the budget for Broken Age is going towards your awesome animation work?

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Not a question, but I tried animation before and after being told by a teacher that I'd never be able to get good at it, I haven't tried animating anything in a year. But I'm getting inspired again, enough to try and teach myself if classes just aren't working out. So thank you, I appreciate it.

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Not a question, but I tried animation before and after being told by a teacher that I'd never be able to get good at it, I haven't tried animating anything in a year. But I'm getting inspired again, enough to try and teach myself if classes just aren't working out. So thank you, I appreciate it.

I personally find that with most things it's how much you love and enjoy what you're doing that matters the most. It's hard to ignore outside comments, but eventually you're really doing it for yourself. No use in persisting something you hate, right?

All of us should start a Double Fine Art/Animation club or something :D.

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My question was already sort of answered, but is slightly more specific: Who is doing the most interesting *interactive* animation right now in your opinion (no cutscenes, but actual gameplay stuff)? I love it when games use body language as feedback or build their entire core mechanic around how things move (Colossus).

This is my favorite question! I love this stuff! Story telling through game play is the way interactive narrative works. I'm just gonna come out and say that, flat out.

Its such a fun subject. Being an animator, my interests in story are almost paramount. I say almost because being a gamer, game play is also almost paramount. So I have these two things that are the most important single thing... A lot of us do. So story telling through game play, makes them both one thing! yay!

Games that are doing it well: Last of Us. They are doing it the best. That game is the best at this. Its not perfect, but its so far the best blend of game play, and emotional storytelling being done at the exact same time. The sequence where your wandering through the empty bedrooms at the beginning, being drawn to each 'scene' by conventional game play techniques, lights and sound to bring you to the TV, to show you the 'classic movie news coverage' of whats going on outside.. the way, everyone is drawn to slowly look outside the sliding glass door just as... you know what, spoilers... Ill digress. But the main thing is all of this information is being given to the player, all during gameplay!

I think that the #1 thing you have to do when your blending the two, is avoid on screen prompts. So I immediately discount quicklime sequences from my list of 'doing it rights'. I do this because, say your about to kiss someone for the first time. You look into their eyes. Before they're able to withdraw, with your mind swimming in fears your arms are suddenly around them, you both feel again the youthful rush of helplessness, the sinking yielding, the surging tide ofAND THEN A HUGE B BUTTON APPEARS AND SAYS PRESS B TO KISS... you are no longer story telling, your game playing only... so yeah... those sequences don't count...

Its really hard to say, which games are doing it right, vs which ones aren't, because there is so much that's involved to make it really work. Other games that are doing it well! Half Life, Portal, Shadow of the Colossus, Zelda Windwaker, the walking dead... Ugh I could go on about this forever!

Can I say Portal is doing it best? Its pretty damn close... But thats got like no animation to thank for it! :)

For me the key to this, is simply ask what information does the player need? Once that's determined, is it delivered to them using conventional game-play mechanics? Can it?

In a crime drama for example? Can a NPC say, 'He went over there!' and point in the direction of an escaped criminal rather than showing a cut scene of that criminal running around a corner ahead of the player?

Often when I'm watching a movie I think to myself, what would the controls of this scene be like in a game? Could this scene where the the senator and the tobacco lobbyist make a deal be done all in game, completely controlled by the player? It is a great exercise. But the rules are, you cant change the scene at all, its got to play out almost identically! Even if the player try's to walk away. wtfbbq, how is it possible?! is it?! i don't know...

yes.. yes it is, of course it is! It's up to future designers to break down these walls and then one day, we'lll all live on holidecks and it will be awesome.

Love all the questions!

I also love how you guys are helping each other out too! Giving your own thoughts on school and stuff! Keep it up!!

Here is some quick home work.. Go watch the Animated movie How To Tame Your Dragon. Then watch any flying scene, but specifically the one where the girl and the boy go flying together for the first time. And then ask your self, 'how the, F, is every flying scene in every video game, not nearly as visceral, epic and mind blowing as this one, right here, exactly the same?!' Because there is absolutely no reason that it shouldn't be. To me, that is interactive narrative. That scene, in a game where I fly around on a dragon and am the hero. I Know the words 'interactive narrative' go to a lot of different places for a lot of different people, but for me, its that.

*edit* Just noticed you insinuated Shadow of the Colosus in your question? Honestly it was hard for me not to pick that one as the best. Its the game I always have felt the most like I am in a movie, while also completly playing a video game. I atribute a lot of the score for that game, coupled with exceptional Character design and animation :D

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we'lll all live on holidecks and it will be awesome.

That reminds me: what's the first idea that comes to mind for a game you want to make that would be perfect for a holodeck experience? For me I'd love to see a game like Slender played in a holodeck since I imagine horror games would be perfect for the surround environments that holodecks would provide

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That reminds me: what's the first idea that comes to mind for a game you want to make that would be perfect for a holodeck experience? For me I'd love to see a game like Slender played in a holodeck since I imagine horror games would be perfect for the surround environments that holodecks would provide
I'd read some feedback about horror games on the Rift where some people find even that level of immersion intolerable, even if they "enjoy" suspenseful games otherwise.

I can still remember jumping in my chair at the snort of a Pinky Demon's in Doom.

Personally, I'd love a holodeck-type experience for some sort of open-world exploration type game. Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind again, because it seems like a place that just begs to be explored. The various cities and time periods of Assassin's Creed would be a blast to experience in a more visceral manner.

Plus anything where you fly.

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Not a question, but I tried animation before and after being told by a teacher that I'd never be able to get good at it, I haven't tried animating anything in a year. But I'm getting inspired again, enough to try and teach myself if classes just aren't working out. So thank you, I appreciate it.

I personally find that with most things it's how much you love and enjoy what you're doing that matters the most. It's hard to ignore outside comments, but eventually you're really doing it for yourself. No use in persisting something you hate, right?

All of us should start a Double Fine Art/Animation club or something :D.

http://greatauthorquotes.tumblr.com/post/70755167384/talent-is-cheaper-than-table-salt-what-separates

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