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DF Oliver

Programming Update #4: Animating the Jack

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I hate shoddy Flash animation but honestly this doesn't look like it. I've seen a bunch of lovely short films that use a similar style and it works well in those -- I'm posting from my phone right now but I'll try to dig some out later. All that matters to me is that the animation looks nice and can convey personality well and I think this ticks both of those boxes.

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I hate shoddy Flash animation but honestly this doesn't look like it. I've seen a bunch of lovely short films that use a similar style and it works well in those -- I'm posting from my phone right now but I'll try to dig some out later. All that matters to me is that the animation looks nice and can convey personality well and I think this ticks both of those boxes.

I totally agree. I work as a flash animator and have worked on low budge shows and high budge ones. It all comes down to two things, how long you have to do the animation and the designs of the characters. The last show I worked on was The Amazing World of Gumball and I think its a really good example of what you can do with a style of animation like this

I'm 100% confident that DFA will have great animation no matter what process they use. I think people who are down on the idea of digital puppet animation just need to give DF time. Once we see the finished product I'm sure it will blow us away!

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I prefer hand drawn frame based animations like in day of the tentacle. i dont think such quality can be achieved with the puppet technique.

However i undestand they work on a low budget so they got to make some compromises.

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I prefer hand drawn frame based animations like in day of the tentacle. i dont think such quality can be achieved with the puppet technique.

However i undestand they work on a low budget so they got to make some compromises.

I prefer hand drawn animation too and I think it would look better but I think its way too early to be negative. Give the guys some time and lets see what they come up with

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I vote for hand-drawn animation. You mentioned the increased effort, but come on, there will only be two main characters as far as we know so far, in most adventure games, there isnt much walking involved for the NPCs. The skeleton animation just looks artificial and cheap in my opinion.

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All this insight into the early design process is extremely cool, but the fact that people keep drawing conclusions on what the finished product will look like based on pre-production mock-ups is bordering on ridiculous. Assuming that the final game will look "cheap" because of one gif and whatever "crappy flash animations" you're comparing it too just does not hold any sort of weight this early in the process.

Also, let's assume that the people working on the game - people who have fairly extensive previous experience working on games - know more about what the workload of "traditional animation" vs. skeleton animation entails, and how realistic, or not, comprehensive flipbook animation would be. And putting a "Come on, guys, it can't be that hard ;) " in there doesn't soften the message, rather it's condescending, intentionally or not.

Lastly, because this seems to keep cropping up: There are no "votes". Getting to watch the game develop is great, as is the opportunity to give feedback - but that's all it is: feedback. We've all paid for a Double Fine game, a documentary, and whatever perks were in our respective tiers. We have not paid to dictate, or even democratically vote on, specific aspects of the game. Because some responses - not at all limited to this one thread, and I'm not singling out any one person - come pretty close to overly entitled.

I'm coming off as overly harsh and grumpy here, but this attitude keeps cropping up, and I guess I'm kinda seething a bit. I'm not saying we should all fall to our knees and fawn over every single decision made, but maybe give these guys the benefit of the doubt and assume they know a bit about what they're doing, and not rendering any large judgements at least until we're actually seeing stuff they're actually going to include in the game.

[/grumblegrumble]

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I vote for hand-drawn animation. You mentioned the increased effort, but come on, there will only be two main characters as far as we know so far, in most adventure games, there isnt much walking involved for the NPCs.

You said it youself: MOST adventure games. And the reason for that is probably the expensiveness of animating every character. Now this cost is gone and we can have animation on all characters. Sounds like a win to me.

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I can totally understand why the animation is being done in 3D cut out/skeleton. Its faster and probably something the DF animators are used to.

But looking back at the animation in Day of the Tentacle, I think it will be hard to hit the same level with 3D cut out. Mainly because the animators wont be as free to draw poses and push the models. You just can't do Tex Avery style animation with 3D cut out.

I beg to differ... I think the main character animations in Rayman Origins, for example, look absolutelly stellar. Some bosses looked too "Puppetty" but for the most part, it was really good.

And it was done using http://ubi-art.uk.ubi.com/

If you have enough unique drawings and use the power of skeletal animation to improve pose holds, anticipations and the like, it can look like a super-smooth version of traditional animation.

I did a test once with 3D animations rendered on a toon style, and when you play them back with less FPS, people thought they were traditional animation, when they were on ones and perfectly smooth they thought they looked CG... so maybe that's why some people find themselves repelled by this.

On another note, to the folks of DoubleFine... Have you thought of giving some deph to things like the head to be able to do effects like these (better animated of course):

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Rayman Origins' animation looks cheap as well. The backgrounds are lovely, but they cheaped out on the animation and it looks like a flash cartoon.

I disagree, Rayman's animation looked fine. The animations in that game actually had plenty of unique keyframes, especially during the actions like jumping and kicking. Sure the walking was mostly tweened, but they could kinda get away with it because, well, Rayman has no limbs. And I think that game only looked flat because of the shading disparity between the backgrounds and the characters. But that doesn't matter so much for Rayman because it's a sidescroller.

But you don't only walk left and right in the DFA, we've seen that. So looking flat would be a major drawback. Adventure games are also a lot slower paced, we're not going to be jumping and kicking every few seconds, so we're going to be seeing a lot of that walking animation. If I'm going to be staring at it for most of the game I'd like like it to look nice, personally.

All this insight into the early design process is extremely cool, but the fact that people keep drawing conclusions on what the finished product will look like based on pre-production mock-ups is bordering on ridiculous. Assuming that the final game will look "cheap" because of one gif and whatever "crappy flash animations" you're comparing it too just does not hold any sort of weight this early in the process.

Nobody is drawing conclusions, all I've seen are people offering their opinions and suggestions. I doubt anyone here seriously thinks that that walkcycle is final.

We have not paid to dictate, or even democratically vote on, specific aspects of the game. Because some responses - not at all limited to this one thread, and I'm not singling out any one person - come pretty close to overly entitled.

Just because an honest opinion can come off as a little harsh sometimes doesn't mean it's dictating. DoubleFine still maintains right to refuse any suggestions given to them, although I'm pretty sure they find the feedback useful.

In fact I'm positive they do, I mean just take a listen to the kickstarter video:

The conversation won't just be a one way street. This is a game for adventure fans, funded by adventure fans, so we want to make it with adventure fans. You'll be able to talk back to us on the exclusive online community of people who funded the game. You'll give input on the concept arts and music, and your input will actually affect the direction the game takes

So while we all know that they know what they're doing, and they have the final say of course, it doesn't hurt for people to put in their 2 cents. Expect it to happen a lot more in the future, it's what we've paid to do.

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And if the comments are educated and backed by more than opinions, they are valuable input. Many times, a critique with suggested solutions, is the best feedback there is to make something better.

And in the subject of traditional animation vs skeletal... I'd bet full-hd traditional animation sprites for an adventure game are not only prohibitibely expensive to do for a production this size, but also very difficult to store and display as Oliver hinted.

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Rayman Origins' animation looks cheap as well. The backgrounds are lovely, but they cheaped out on the animation and it looks like a flash cartoon.

I disagree, Rayman's animation looked fine. The animations in that game actually had plenty of unique keyframes, especially during the actions like jumping and kicking.

Well I also just found the vector art kind of gross on top of the cheap animation. The new one admittedly looks better.

But keep in mind that Rayman is a side-scrolling game with a limbless character. Adventure games have to deal with things like characters walking diagonally away from the camera.

Watch when the lumberjack does that in the last pre-viz video. He does something between waddling and moonwalking. It looks awful. This process is just not really a good way to deal with a character that has to be versatile like an adventure game protagonist.

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And in the subject of traditional animation vs skeletal... I'd bet full-hd traditional animation sprites for an adventure game are not only prohibitibely expensive to do for a production this size, but also very difficult to store and display as Oliver hinted.

Skullgirls did it, with real TV animators, and on a lower budget. No excuses.

The key is just finding an efficient process, really. Obviously doing HD sprites in pixel art would take forever. But there are plenty of other ways to get there.

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Rayman Origins' animation looks cheap as well. The backgrounds are lovely, but they cheaped out on the animation and it looks like a flash cartoon.

I disagree, Rayman's animation looked fine. The animations in that game actually had plenty of unique keyframes, especially during the actions like jumping and kicking.

Well I also just found the vector art kind of gross on top of the cheap animation. The new one admittedly looks better.

But keep in mind that Rayman is a side-scrolling game with a limbless character. Adventure games have to deal with things like characters walking diagonally away from the camera.

Watch when the lumberjack does that in the last pre-viz video. He does something between waddling and moonwalking. It looks awful. This process is just not really a good way to deal with a character that has to be versatile like an adventure game protagonist.

You can do diagonal walking animations with this technique... you just have to have more custom drawings...

And Skullgirls is a fighting game... you only have eight characters with as much as 30 animations each... that's not even a slim percentage of the number of custom animations an adventure game has...

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Its propably also a matter of what the actual goal is. The original pun was "We wanna make an old-school point & click adventure game" but then they also statet that its gonna run on an ipad which has other size limitations than a pc.

Yes, dott only had a resolution of 320x240 but it was also just around 150mb big which for a pc today is nothing. Most games that come out today are like ten times the size. I bet if they were less restricted finacially and didnt bound themselves to weak plattforms like the ipad they could make a full resolution old school adventure with hand drawn animations for the pc.

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I have to admit I groaned when I read that skeletal animations were going to be used in lieu of fully-drawn animations. However, that Lumberjack walk cycle .gif has completely sold me on this method. It's really good!

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Rayman Origins' animation looks cheap as well. The backgrounds are lovely, but they cheaped out on the animation and it looks like a flash cartoon.

I disagree, Rayman's animation looked fine. The animations in that game actually had plenty of unique keyframes, especially during the actions like jumping and kicking.

Well I also just found the vector art kind of gross on top of the cheap animation. The new one admittedly looks better.

But keep in mind that Rayman is a side-scrolling game with a limbless character. Adventure games have to deal with things like characters walking diagonally away from the camera.

Watch when the lumberjack does that in the last pre-viz video. He does something between waddling and moonwalking. It looks awful. This process is just not really a good way to deal with a character that has to be versatile like an adventure game protagonist.

Man, Double Fine employ professional animators. They know when a diagonal walk away looks bad and they know how to make it look good. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

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Man, Double Fine employ professional animators.

There is a huge range of animation techniques. Just because someone is a professional animator and very talented does not necessarily mean that they are trained in a particular process or technique. If you took Double Fine's animation staff and asked them to animate a TV show, the result would (and I'm speculating) probably not be as good as if you had an animation house with TV experience do it.

Using this technique is just inherently more rigid, which can mean less expressive. In traditional animation there is a lot of distorting of proportions (known as "squash and stretch"), which can accentuate the sense of motion, as well as add humor, and a lot of these sorts of abstractions are simply not possible with skeletal animation. It is a major limitation.

The same is true of 3D animation by the way, especially in gaming. So if you're going to go 2D and you have access to these great artists, you should really not chain them up like this.

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Here's an example:

http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2011/05/real-animation.html

This kind of run cycle you just can't do with skeletal animation, and if you even tried it would be more work than it was worth and still not look as good. Hand-drawn animation is just better. Screw 30fps, who cares? I'd rather have good looking animation at half the frame-rate any day.

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Any kind of animation can be great! Take it away Terry:

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I don't know how many traditional 2D animators are there at Double Fine, but I'm willing to bet there's not a whole lot... May be wrong, though

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There is a huge range of animation techniques. Just because someone is a professional animator and very talented does not necessarily mean that they are trained in a particular process or technique.

So Double Fine should get their animators to do traditional animation - a more complicated technique that they're probably even less likely to do a good job with?

Using this technique is just inherently more rigid, which can mean less expressive. In traditional animation there is a lot of distorting of proportions (known as "squash and stretch"), which can accentuate the sense of motion, as well as add humor, and a lot of these sorts of abstractions are simply not possible with skeletal animation. It is a major limitation.

It's only more rigid if the animation method is standardised. If you allow the animators be as creative as they like, they can draw new assets, stretch and distort body parts and do whatever else needs to be done to make the actions look good. You're also kind of implying here that stretchy Chuck Jones style animation is the only option if you want your cartoon to be attractive and funny, which is just not true.

Here's an example:

http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2011/05/real-animation.html

This kind of run cycle you just can't do with skeletal animation, and if you even tried it would be more work than it was worth and still not look as good. Hand-drawn animation is just better. Screw 30fps, who cares? I'd rather have good looking animation at half the frame-rate any day.

Who cares about 30fps, you say? Well who cares about "real animation"? You're just being ignorant if you think this approach is the only way to make animated characters look good. I know that as an animator it's easy to get excited over great animation technique -- I love looking at pieces of beautiful old traditional animation too -- but the cold hard truth is that it's all completely irrelevant if it doesn't serve its purpose in the story/film/game. Maybe Double Fine aren't going with this as a stylistic choice but that's just the way it goes -- sometimes you've got to find the technique that works and then build the art style around it. All that matters is that it fits together in the end and does what it needs to. You've got to look at the bigger picture.

Man, I said "animation" so many times in this post.

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So Double Fine should get their animators to do traditional animation - a more complicated technique that they're probably even less likely to do a good job with?

No, I'm more implying that they should hire/outsource to whoever can do the job right/best/most efficiently if they don't have anyone in-house who can. Every animation studio in the world does subcontracting work for other companies.

You're also kind of implying here that stretchy Chuck Jones style animation is the only option if you want your cartoon to be attractive and funny, which is just not true.

No, I'm saying that taking tools away from animators hurts their range of expression.

Who cares about 30fps, you say? Well who cares about "real animation"?

I do. And I'm not saying my opinion matters more than anyone else's, but I am saying we have a forum here to give feedback and I have a right to give mine. I think their are other options here, and I especially don't like the way these other options have been dismissed on technical grounds when almost every 2D point and click adventure on the market does it just fine. Really? Full frame animation takes up too much RAM, but a low budget game like Journey Down does it no problem? GTFO, that's just clearly not true.

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Cool programming update, Oliver!

That lumberjack is really growing on me. I think pretty soon you guys are gonna have to include him into the game!

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I do. And I'm not saying my opinion matters more than anyone else's, but I am saying we have a forum here to give feedback and I have a right to give mine. I think their are other options here, and I especially don't like the way these other options have been dismissed on technical grounds when almost every 2D point and click adventure on the market does it just fine. Really? Full frame animation takes up too much RAM, but a low budget game like Journey Down does it no problem? GTFO, that's just clearly not true.

Really using journey down as example of how full frame animations would work the old low budget indy version had like 5 fps. And the new HD animation don't even look that impressive low fps and allot of frame skipping. We haven't even seen yet what double fine can do with skeleton animations because they are in a really early phase with it.

Stop making an opinion about something from what you seen in other games lets first see what doublefine can do with it and how it will look when they have a fully animated character that will be implemented in the game.

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Maybe it's not a 'real animation', but I really like the evolution of character design. It's definetly less creepy and more cartooney, which is good direction. Good job there!

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Stop making an opinion about something from what you seen in other games lets first see what doublefine can do with it and how it will look when they have a fully animated character that will be implemented in the game.

So we should wait until they're completely committed to one direction and have already completed a great deal of work before we evaluate the merits of that decision? I don't know who you hope to fool with that gag, but it isn't me.

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So Double Fine should get their animators to do traditional animation - a more complicated technique that they're probably even less likely to do a good job with?

No, I'm more implying that they should hire/outsource to whoever can do the job right/best/most efficiently if they don't have anyone in-house who can. Every animation studio in the world does subcontracting work for other companies.

You're also kind of implying here that stretchy Chuck Jones style animation is the only option if you want your cartoon to be attractive and funny, which is just not true.

No, I'm saying that taking tools away from animators hurts their range of expression.

Who cares about 30fps, you say? Well who cares about "real animation"?

I do. And I'm not saying my opinion matters more than anyone else's, but I am saying we have a forum here to give feedback and I have a right to give mine. I think their are other options here, and I especially don't like the way these other options have been dismissed on technical grounds when almost every 2D point and click adventure on the market does it just fine. Really? Full frame animation takes up too much RAM, but a low budget game like Journey Down does it no problem? GTFO, that's just clearly not true.

I think you're neglecting several advantages skeletal animations have over full-frame animations which aren't necessarily to do with efficiency.

For example, if you want to animate highly detailed characters or ones with a lot of texturing such as the painterly look DF is going for, then using Full frame animation can actually be troublesome, because the when you don't have clear lines or flatly textured characters then it can look very strange from one frame to the next.

Also, there's another consideration here which is that skeletal animation is a lot more appealing when you want to be able to iterate on designs quickly - I know that's a efficiency consideration, but it's also a quality one - the faster you can iterate on a design, the more time you have to polish it into something that looks really good.

Finally, they're not taking tools away from animators, if anything they're adding tools - with this technique you can have individual frames when needed for certain types of animation, and skeletal animation for other situations. But how about asking one of the animators on the project whether they felt their expression was being limited by using the planned techniques, if that's what you're concerned about? I'm going to take a guess that they actually find it more than sufficient for their needs, otherwise they would have argued for a different technique.

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I think you're neglecting several advantages skeletal animations have over full-frame animations which aren't necessarily to do with efficiency.

For example, if you want to animate highly detailed characters or ones with a lot of texturing such as the painterly look DF is going for, then using Full frame animation can actually be troublesome, because the when you don't have clear lines or flatly textured characters then it can look very strange from one frame to the next.

Also, there's another consideration here which is that skeletal animation is a lot more appealing when you want to be able to iterate on designs quickly - I know that's a efficiency consideration, but it's also a quality one - the faster you can iterate on a design, the more time you have to polish it into something that looks really good.

These are both fair points, worth considering. It's certainly possible to do frame by frame animation at that detail level, but whether or not they have the resources and manpower to do it without sacrificing quality is another matter.

Finally, they're not taking tools away from animators, if anything they're adding tools - with this technique you can have individual frames when needed for certain types of animation, and skeletal animation for other situations.
Well, they're adding shortcuts, anyway.

I may be overstating my case somewhat, so I apologize if I seem caustic, but I get frustrated by this want some people have to silence the discussion and "wait and see." If we wait and see, then it's too late.

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I think you're neglecting several advantages skeletal animations have over full-frame animations which aren't necessarily to do with efficiency.

For example, if you want to animate highly detailed characters or ones with a lot of texturing such as the painterly look DF is going for, then using Full frame animation can actually be troublesome, because the when you don't have clear lines or flatly textured characters then it can look very strange from one frame to the next.

Also, there's another consideration here which is that skeletal animation is a lot more appealing when you want to be able to iterate on designs quickly - I know that's a efficiency consideration, but it's also a quality one - the faster you can iterate on a design, the more time you have to polish it into something that looks really good.

These are both fair points, worth considering. It's certainly possible to do frame by frame animation at that detail level, but whether or not they have the resources and manpower to do it without sacrificing quality is another matter.

Finally, they're not taking tools away from animators, if anything they're adding tools - with this technique you can have individual frames when needed for certain types of animation, and skeletal animation for other situations.
Well, they're adding shortcuts, anyway.

I may be overstating my case somewhat, so I apologize if I seem caustic, but I get frustrated by this want some people have to silence the discussion and "wait and see." If we wait and see, then it's too late.

I think your mistake is in assuming that because a method provides shortcuts, it must inherently be lower quality - it's just not true, and I think it's kind of cynical to assume that because this is a more efficient way to work, that's the only thing the programmers and animators considered when choosing it. No disrespect intended, that's just how it seems to me.

What choosing a method which has shorcuts does do is make it more accessible to more people, which means that you see a lot of amateurish use of techniques which are easier to use. But as in my iteration example, it can also be a great enabler for someone who does have the skill to work really efficiently towards something great.

As for the people saying 'wait and see', I see your point, but then again, what else can we say? I mean, a fair number of us think DF is going to do a great job with this, and I would go as far to say that there are more disadvantages to pouring resources into Full-frame animation than there are advantages: they'd either have to put more animators on the project to meet the goal, which might mean putting fewer people on another part of the project, or alternatively just have less animation in the game overall, which could ultimately impact the number of characters in the game, the amount of details in the scene, etc. On that basis it seems very unlikely they'll change their mind. So I think that they're not so much saying 'silence!' as saying 'look, the only way we can convince you this method is going to work out fine is when you see it working out fine, which we think it will'

Addendum: Further to what I was on about earlier I think one of the things DF probably want to avoid with the sort of richly textured art they're making is the weird effect that can have on animations as you can see on this video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCEvL_hdN2A&t=2m Now of course The Snowman is a beautiful piece of animation, but the way the strongly textured drawings affect how the animation looks has a very strong impact on the style, so it's actually a very big stylistic choice to make, and I can totally understand why DF might not want it in their game.

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Rayman Origins used a similar technique to this and its one of the best looking games this year.
Rayman Origins' animation looks cheap as well. The backgrounds are lovely, but they cheaped out on the animation and it looks like a flash cartoon.

I agree, the traditional animation in the first Rayman game looked much better.

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