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DF Oliver

Programming Update #4: Animating the Jack

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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.

I would think that is an unfortunate choice of negative example. It's one of my favorite pieces of animation.

Similarly, many of Alexandr Petrov's animations hand paint every frame on oil and glass to positively stunning effect:

To play devil's advocate, Yuri Norestein is doing some incredible things with paper cut outs:

But then Yuri Noestein has been working on that film for 30 years and still isn't done. I think it's one of those things that if you really put a lot of love into it, it stops being much of a shortcut and ends up being even more work.

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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.

I would think that is an unfortunate choice of negative example. It's one of my favorite pieces of animation.

.

Nope, sorry, you missed my point (bolded above, but essentially I was saying that animating something very richly textured in this way has a very big effect on the over-all look of the piece, and if that look isn't what you're trying for then that can work against your goals)

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Nice and interesting, as usual. :)

I only wish aPNG was more spread, as animated GIFs suck big time. :P

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I was saying that animating something very richly textured in this way has a very big effect on the over-all look of the piece
But a largely positive one, in my opinion.

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i'm not an animator but i occasionally dabble in rotoscoping. it takes me like a whole day to pump out 10 seconds, and i'm just doing quick crappy tracings! so if they were to do high-quality frame-by-frame animation for the whole game i could easily imagine it busting the budget. just a thought.

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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.

I totally agree with you man. The reason i loved the old 2d adventure games was because unlike 3d games, it had that human touch, and human expression , rather then computerised tweens.

To be confident that the skeleton wireframe animation is going to look great, to me is like a singer saying '' im not going to sing live, im going to lip-sync, but dont worry, im a really really really amazing lip-syncer and there will be lots of lighting effects to make it look better.''

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I was saying that animating something very richly textured in this way has a very big effect on the over-all look of the piece
But a largely positive one, in my opinion.

Irrelevant, if that's not what the artists are going for. Unless you're now trying to tell them what art style they should be going for, as well as how they need to go about it.

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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.

Yeah, sorry, I'm not trying to censor or silence you, I just don't like to see people looking down on particular types of animation. I've just seen so many instances of animators obsessing over beautiful animation technique and still making something rubbish, while somebody using a less prestigious technique makes something fantastic.

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To play devil's advocate, Yuri Norestein is doing some incredible things with paper cut outs:

That animation is beautiful and it's exactly the sort of thing I was picturing when I said the lumberjack walkcycle should have more keyframes. He didn't just draw one frame of that guy's head and slide it around (like in the lumberjack walkcycle), he drew several and only slid the paper cutouts to fill the gaps inbetween those frames.

I obviously don't expect the DFA to match that quality but it'd be nice if they could get a little closer in that direction. You can't deny that more frames look better than one

edit: I found some more footage of that unfinished film in better quality here if anyone's interested:

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To play devil's advocate, Yuri Norestein is doing some incredible things with paper cut outs:

That animation is beautiful and it's exactly the sort of thing I was picturing when I said the lumberjack walkcycle should have more keyframes. He didn't just draw one frame of that guy's head and slide it around (like in the lumberjack walkcycle), he drew several and only slid the paper cutouts to fill the gaps inbetween those frames.

I obviously don't expect the DFA to match that quality but it'd be nice if they could get a little closer in that direction. You can't deny that more frames look better than one

edit: I found some more footage of that unfinished film in better quality here if anyone's interested:

It does bear mentioning that The Overcoat has been in active production/filming since 1981, and is perhaps not the best argument for the efficiency of such techniques, haha.

I heard it's done filming and should be out soon now, though. It'll be amazing to see after all these years. It's the Duke Nukem Forever of arthouse animation (though hopefully more worth the wait).

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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.

Yeah, sorry, I'm not trying to censor or silence you, I just don't like to see people looking down on particular types of animation. I've just seen so many instances of animators obsessing over beautiful animation technique and still making something rubbish, while somebody using a less prestigious technique makes something fantastic.

 I do think that there is a bit of traditional animation snobbery going on which, to be honest, seems to me to be a little bit insulting to those animators who prefer this technique in certain circumstances and not simply because it is more efficient.

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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.

Yeah, sorry, I'm not trying to censor or silence you, I just don't like to see people looking down on particular types of animation. I've just seen so many instances of animators obsessing over beautiful animation technique and still making something rubbish, while somebody using a less prestigious technique makes something fantastic.

 I do think that there is a bit of traditional animation snobbery going on which, to be honest, seems to me to be a little bit insulting to those animators who prefer this technique in certain circumstances and not simply because it is more efficient.

If Double Fine can make it work then there is obviously nothing wrong with skeletal animation. I think the issue is that the example which was shown is so basic that it sets off everyone's 'cheap flash game' sensors. That, coupled with the fact that Double Fine said they were doing it for cost reasons rather than stylistic ones makes it easy to jump to conclusions about the final product.

I'm not worried about the over all quality of the game, but I do agree that Double Fine has yet to win me over to the advantages of skeletal animation. Even if it's to cut costs, the finished product should have an art style that feels like the best choice for the game. I'm still open to the possibility that I'll see the light of course. When they start using more polished animations maybe we'll all wonder how we could have been so blind, but that's what you get when you talk about the art style of a game so early in development.

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Well, I guess it bears repeating that this is not an art update, but a programming update. Let's see what the art people will actually do with this technique!

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Well, I guess it bears repeating that this is not an art update, but a programming update. Let's see what the art people will actually do with this technique!

This.

Skeleton-based animation will still look great I think, and as much as it may seem like the game has an infinite budget, hand-drawing every single frame for the game would be a ton of work, even if the frame rate was slashed in half. What this also means is that there can be more characters with distinctive animations, and more time can be spent on the special animation cases as opposed to the generic walk animation.

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So first of all I want to put out there that I kind of got really disappointed once I saw that the idea is to use a Maya skeleton rig, but I'm kind of fine with the result...

I want to put emphasis on "kind of" because based on the art style of the character(s) it will be very hard to reproduce hand drawn frames, as the style is very specific to Bagel.

However I'd much rather see 12fps keyed frames than 30 fps of supervised curves. Keep it in stepped if you have to. that way it won't look weird if you need to make some transitional hand-drawn keys.

I also saw Oliver use the Monkey Island SE games as an excuse for having a bad result using low frame rate animations in high res backgrounds, I can not disagree with him more, because if the frames actually had Squash & Stretch, Anticipation, Follow through, Overlap, Slow Ins/Outs, Arcs, Timing, Spacing, Exaggeration and Appeal, Like the original MIs it would have looked great.

But in the case of those games, all the drawings look kind of static; they look great in High Res as frozen frames, but they don't have movement to them.

Our brains are perfectly capable to fill in the blanks if the drawings have movement, but if they don't we need more frames to understand what's going on.

The animation in MI 3 Would translate great in High Def and in that game the backgrounds are quite detailed as well. But the key is that the characters aren't; they actually don't have much detail at all, this making it a whole lot easier for the animators to draw over and over and also applying a very "Disneyesc" style makes it easier to find more talented animators that are compatible with keeping the character on model.

Facial expressions are very readable as well, and not covered with a lot of mush, cloths don't have too much texture so they don't have to be animated with a rig to make them deform correctly.

On the topic of Disney animation; The Princess and the Frog was pretty much also animated for High Definition quite recently and it looked great, but had simple and appealing characters. Most of the Disney classics also translate well into High Def and have even simpler characters, with lower framerate.

I actually will come back to something I wrote about in a previous art update, and that's basically the style. The style seems to be the biggest limit here, so I totally understand that you would want to animate the characters in Maya, but I think that going for smooth animation as apposed to expressive animation will set this game back quite a bit. I really liked how the close up facial animations worked out in the last Art update, but going for smooth 30 fps animation will make that feel more inconsistent, if animation was done more in a stepped kind of fission it might feel more organic and it will feel less poppy in areas where you need to turn the character, as everything is kind of poppy. I'm not saying do it more sloppy, I'm just saying get all the automatic curvy animation out of there, and pretty much do a very detailed and awesome stepped pass.

This will give you consistency and opportunity for exaggeration. Just saying. And of course great work!

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I have the feeling that the iOs and Android versions will limitate what you are doing with the PC version, referring to terms of memory or graphic capacity. Please, keep in mind that the original project was only gong to be released on PC. Don't exclude some good ideas from the game just because of the "portable versions".

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I have the feeling that the iOs and Android versions will limitate what you are doing woth the PC versi

I wouldn't be worried about that, but I'm kind of scared the game will end up feeling like the MI:SE games in terms of movement.

In those games they could have pretty much rotoscoped the previous animation and it would have looked better than the final result.

I really want this game to be remembered as a beautiful game in the next 30 years not only as the game that kicked of the new era of game funding, but that doesn't have to be impaired by making it mobile as well, if they're only smart about it.

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I have the feeling that the iOs and Android versions will limitate what you are doing woth the PC versi

I wouldn't be worried about that, but I'm kind of scared the game will end up feeling like the MI:SE games in terms of movement.

In those games they could have pretty much rotoscoped the previous animation and it would have looked better than the final result.

I really want this game to be remembered as a beautiful game in the next 30 years not only as the game that kicked of the new era of game funding, but that doesn't have to be impaired by making it mobile as well, if they're only smart about it.

Yeah, I never understood why they did new, ugly animation for the Monkey Island remake instead of just tracing the old stuff.

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Sorry about the cut in the phrase, I've already editted it. What I was meaning was that, as the game is also going to be released in mobile devices (and apps for mobile devices are generally very lite), it could affect the PC version by making it less complex. As developers have been saying all along the last design post, they're focusing on the tablets' port of the game by simplifying its characteristics (menus, controls...), and it could affect the graphics as well. I am not saying that simplified menus are worse, or that I prefer a more complicated interface, it's just that I'm a bit worried about it.

(Sorry if I haven't explained myself properly, I'm not a native English speaker. ;P)

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The animation in MI 3 Would translate great in High Def and in that game the backgrounds are quite detailed as well. But the key is that the characters aren't; they actually don't have much detail at all, this making it a whole lot easier for the animators to draw over and over and also applying a very "Disneyesc" style makes it easier to find more talented animators that are compatible with keeping the character on model.

I never liked the art nor the animations in MI 3. Felt very little MI-like and was terrible at making me immerse myself into the world and felt partially soulless. I personally find MI 3 to be a bad example for adventure games to follow.

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Sorry about the cut in the phrase, I've already editted it. What I was meaning was that, as the game is also going to be released in mobile devices (and apps for mobile devices are generally very lite), it could affect the PC version by making it less complex. As developers have been saying all along the last design post, they're focusing on the tablets' port of the game by simplifying its characteristics (menus, controls...), and it could affect the graphics as well. I am not saying that simplified menus are worse, or that I prefer a more complicated interface, it's just that I'm a bit worried about it.

(Sorry if I haven't explained myself properly, I'm not a native English speaker. ;P)

I'm not worried, as the point and click games from before have transferred pretty well to tablets via ScummVM,

And in terms of graphic they would pretty much just have to make sure they scale down the high res textures a little so they don't waste resources on the handhelds.

sure, controls could be limited, but if you pledged for something else than a point and click adventure game you might have had to think that over a bit. I love playing PnC on my iPad, it's like the perfect game to play while commuting as you can basically just stick your headphones in and you won't fail because of turbulence or a jerk asking you if you have your tickets.

I only hope that the artwork doesn't have to suffer by the simplicity of todays computers. (automatic inbetweens in animation,) and generic floaty movement where personality is sacrificed for efficiency and making the game meet modern standards.

I feel like most of the backers are fans of the classics and making the movement look smooth and running on 30 fps isn't really the main concern. It would have made sense in a shooter or something where the characters precision actually mattered, but in a PnC, game apart from the walk cycle, and in cue with the classics most of the animations were pretty much unique, or at least felt that way.

I guess I kind of expected too much, because I feel like adventures with generic to limited movement have come out quite often in the last years, and hear I kind of hoped that Double Fine would really show the other devs how it's done.

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The animation in MI 3 Would translate great in High Def and in that game the backgrounds are quite detailed as well. But the key is that the characters aren't; they actually don't have much detail at all, this making it a whole lot easier for the animators to draw over and over and also applying a very "Disneyesc" style makes it easier to find more talented animators that are compatible with keeping the character on model.

I never liked the art nor the animations in MI 3. Felt very little MI-like and was terrible at making me immerse myself into the world and felt partially soulless. I personally find MI 3 to be a bad example for adventure games to follow.

OK, I just used it pretty much as an example of something that actually had Animation principles in mind, as opposed to MI1&2 SE

MI1&2 (ORIGINALS) did have animation in mind, but the character's would have to be re-traced with pencil, in MI3's case they could basically just re-scan the drawings and it would still look quite good.

I totally agree that MI1&2 had better animation, and it's kind of my point in that I'd rather see fewer frames than actually a bunch of half-assed frames in order to make animation run smoothly.

Smooth animations does not imply Dynamic Animations, in fact it only gives more room for error.

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The animation in MI 3 Would translate great in High Def and in that game the backgrounds are quite detailed as well. But the key is that the characters aren't; they actually don't have much detail at all, this making it a whole lot easier for the animators to draw over and over and also applying a very "Disneyesc" style makes it easier to find more talented animators that are compatible with keeping the character on model.

I never liked the art nor the animations in MI 3. Felt very little MI-like and was terrible at making me immerse myself into the world and felt partially soulless. I personally find MI 3 to be a bad example for adventure games to follow.

OK, I just used it pretty much as an example of something that actually had Animation principles in mind, as opposed to MI1&2 SE

MI1&2 (ORIGINALS) did have animation in mind, but the character's would have to be re-traced with pencil, in MI3's case they could basically just re-scan the drawings and it would still look quite good.

I totally agree that MI1&2 had better animation, and it's kind of my point in that I'd rather see fewer frames than actually a bunch of half-assed frames in order to make animation run smoothly.

Smooth animations does not imply Dynamic Animations, in fact it only gives more room for error.

I agree with you that smooth, tweeny animation looks bad if it's used lazily, I just don't see what basis you have for thinking Double Fine will use it lazily.

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Hi Backers!

It’s Ray here. I’m the lead animator on this crazy adventure. I was delighted at the excitement that so many have for the animation style of DFA. I’ve read through most of the comments and was impressed by the knowledge and the passion that so many of you have for the art form. I know that some of you are excited, and some of you are less excited and even downright disappointed in the technique and the style of what they have seen so far. Art is so subjective and we are all affected by it in different ways and by different styles. The art, animation and programming team have sat down many times to discuss the ways that we should approach the animation for this game. There are so many factors that we have looked at and continue to discuss. A few of those factors are art style, skill set at the studio, tool set, pipeline, timeline and budget. This is just a few of course.

All of us on the project love and have the greatest respect for the old Lucas Arts Adventure game animation. It’s is so expressive, sometimes outrageous and really fun to watch, but it may not be what will fit with the current art direction that DFA is going in. Game production is a process and during that process there needs to be room for experimenting. The artist or animator can’t be afraid to put their early tests out to their peers. Their peers are there to give them feedback, constructive critisim and encouragement. That is the advantage of working as a team. Also once we’ve given our opinions, suggestions and laid out our arguments, it is our responsibility to accept and respect final decision and direction of the creative director. It is important to buy into the decision of that person or persons and support them. It is their vision and we are there to support that vision in any way we can. It will then become your vision as well.

I appreciate the links to examples that people put up. I had even watched some of those videos when doing research for this game. As you see the evolving direction that we are going please put up more links to work that you feel would inspire and add to the conversation. Great work backers!

Lastly the animation that you have seen is animation that Oliver needed very quickly to get a character in the game engine and walking around. One of the jobs for an animator in preproduction is to get the programmer what they need so that they aren’t blocked by art. These test anims should not be finished or final they should just keep the programmer from being blocked. There will be time to go back to them and experiment, iterate and polish.

Many Thanks,

ray

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I agree with you that smooth, tweeny animation looks bad if it's used lazily, I just don't see what basis you have for thinking Double Fine will use it lazily.

Oh don't get me wrong, I don't think they will be lazy with it, but I think that it will cause just as many problems as it will fix, and in a 2D style unless the characters are moving really fast you can get away with more cool things like in DOTT; Stretch frames bizarre movement and what not, the problem with having the character on a skeleton rig is that it will be limited to that rig. Of course there are probably more Maya Animators out there than pencil animators, but I think most Maya animators can still animate with pencils if they had the draftsmanship required, so they know what good frames should look like. If they don't have to limit themselves to a skeleton rig, they could use animation tools in Maya like Lattice and make cool stretch frames and stuff like that, but if the skeleton is the only thing being animated, that won't count, and another thing to keep in mind is that if the game engine were to support lattice, it would be very hard to supervise it for 30 frames per second.

And no matter how well they supervise their animation curves in the end, blending will have to be animated by hand in order to not have it all pop when you go from one animation to another, if you have a base dynamic framerate of give and take 12 fps you will not need that many custom frames in the transitions, but if everything is running smoothly on 30 it will be very noticeable if you go over to a blend, because of the sudden drop in visual frames.

The game will still run on X frames per second I'm just saying the character(s) doesn't have to be animated for all of them and in most cases people won't think about it.

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All of us on the project love and have the greatest respect for the old Lucas Arts Adventure game animation. It’s is so expressive, sometimes outrageous and really fun to watch, but it may not be what will fit with the current art direction that DFA is going in.

This is a fair point, and for what it's worth I absolutely love what I've seen of the art direction so far. It's really not hung up on the LucasArts thing, and it's why I bring up people like Aleksandr Petrov who have a very painterly style, at the expense of a fluid frame rate and achieve beautiful results. All decisions have to stem from the overall art direction, which is very strong in this case.

I appreciate the links to examples that people put up. I had even watched some of those videos when doing research for this game. As you see the evolving direction that we are going please put up more links to work that you feel would inspire and add to the conversation. Great work backers!

I've seen 3D animation that is done to look like stop-motion animation, with less fluid movement without all the tweening (Telltale's Wallace and Grommit did this a little bit, to use a gaming example). I wonder if applying some of the same principles here might help avoid that super smooth movement that gives the impression of a flash cartoon might address some of the issues of people like myself and others who don't like that look.

Has that sort of compromise been discussed, Raymond? I'm interested to know what some of the alternatives were.

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All of us on the project love and have the greatest respect for the old Lucas Arts Adventure game animation. It’s is so expressive, sometimes outrageous and really fun to watch, but it may not be what will fit with the current art direction that DFA is going in.

This is a fair point, and for what it's worth I absolutely love what I've seen of the art direction so far. It's really not hung up on the LucasArts thing, and it's why I bring up people like Aleksandr Petrov who have a very painterly style, at the expense of a fluid frame rate and achieve beautiful results. All decisions have to stem from the overall art direction, which is very strong in this case.

I appreciate the links to examples that people put up. I had even watched some of those videos when doing research for this game. As you see the evolving direction that we are going please put up more links to work that you feel would inspire and add to the conversation. Great work backers!

I've seen 3D animation that is done to look like stop-motion animation, with less fluid movement without all the tweening (Telltale's Wallace and Grommit did this a little bit, to use a gaming example). I wonder if applying some of the same principles here might help avoid that super smooth movement that gives the impression of a flash cartoon might address some of the issues of people like myself and others who don't like that look.

Has that sort of compromise been discussed, Raymond? I'm interested to know what some of the alternatives were.

I do actually wonder whether the framerate itself is having an effect on some people's perception of the art. Could it be that actually it's the smoothness that is some of the reason some people think it looks cheap, and just by halving the number of frames it could be technically worse quality (temporal-resolution-wise) but seem somehow 'better'. This has precedent, such as what I was talking about earlier, where people thought the higher framerate of The Hobbit movie made it look cheap (probably from its association with low-budget TV which actually uses higher framerates than film). Maybe something similar is happening with smooth tweening being associated with flash animation... *shrug*

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Having animation on 12fps can really help it look less tweenie and can give it more character. A lot of flash studios now animate on 2's (12fps). I'm working on a show were we animate on 1's (24fps) first and then put it on 2's after. Its actually more work but it looks way better. Howlstone wrote a great post about doing this in Maya using step keys, in a few posts back

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All of us on the project love and have the greatest respect for the old Lucas Arts Adventure game animation. It’s is so expressive, sometimes outrageous and really fun to watch, but it may not be what will fit with the current art direction that DFA is going in.

This is a fair point, and for what it's worth I absolutely love what I've seen of the art direction so far. It's really not hung up on the LucasArts thing, and it's why I bring up people like Aleksandr Petrov who have a very painterly style, at the expense of a fluid frame rate and achieve beautiful results. All decisions have to stem from the overall art direction, which is very strong in this case.

I appreciate the links to examples that people put up. I had even watched some of those videos when doing research for this game. As you see the evolving direction that we are going please put up more links to work that you feel would inspire and add to the conversation. Great work backers!

I've seen 3D animation that is done to look like stop-motion animation, with less fluid movement without all the tweening (Telltale's Wallace and Grommit did this a little bit, to use a gaming example). I wonder if applying some of the same principles here might help avoid that super smooth movement that gives the impression of a flash cartoon might address some of the issues of people like myself and others who don't like that look.

Has that sort of compromise been discussed, Raymond? I'm interested to know what some of the alternatives were.

I actually have had this discussion with Oliver about dropping the frame rate down and seeing what look it gives us. We will try it at some point and we'll try to post the results when we do it. We just want to make sure it improves the look and doesn't take away from anything. There will also be a lot more animation on the polished version so that the program wouldn't be choosing how to interpolate between frames, but the animator will make that choice. That will help it feel like human hands have touched it and not a soulless machine. :)

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