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DF benburbank

Cutscene Anims Are Goooooooooo

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Hey folks, how's it going? I'm one of the programmers on the White Birch, and I wanted to send a cool image of a tiny milestone tonight! Super Talented Cool Guy Dave G has been building out all these little animations that play for various actions in the game, everything from teetering on the edge of a steep cliff to climbing up the side of the tower. Well tonight we got our first animation loading in-engine and it's pretty awesome to see stuff like this getting in, another piece of our pipeline verified.

We trigger animations like this a lot of different ways, but most often it would be from level script or from the player entering a trigger volume in the world. Trigger volumes are like pieces of invisible geometry that get set up in our world building stuff (maya in this case) that we can find out when a player enters or exits it. This is how we do all kinds of useful stuff like find out when we should change camera angles or change lighting or... trigger a cutscene!

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I really like the cinematic look and feel you guys are going for. I also love how the girl looks so small compared to this massive tree. It seems like she's going to feel delicate, yet extremely strong in that she persistently continues on her journey up. I imagine the animations will go a long way toward conveying who this character is and what kind of world this is.

I'm not super familiar with this topic, but it seems to me like you'll have different types of animations that need to be implemented: some that are "widespread" in the sense that you can apply them to many parts of the environment (like climbing or falling or jumping), and some that are specific one use cases, perhaps like the initial climb through the hole into the tree. Is this assumption correct? If so, do you try to limit the number of special-case animations that need to be implemented, and is it a trade off of "it might take more work but it is an important 'set piece' moment in the storytelling" (like the initial entrance into the tree)?

If you have time, would you be able to elaborate on that process, and how the back-and-forth work between the programmer, the designer, and the animator works?

Thanks, and it's looking awesome!

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If you have time, would you be able to elaborate on that process, and how the back-and-forth work between the programmer, the designer, and the animator works?

Thanks, and it's looking awesome!

Hi! I would be happy to give you some answers about this process we're trying out for Birch! Basically, yea we have basic traversal animations, those are what you use when your running/jumping/climbing through the world. Jump, ledge climb, Run etc.

For key sequences in the demo, were trying this sort of sequential cut scene feature. The benefit to this is that we can have really dramatic animations but we don't have to build a giant dynamic monster of a feature. Parts of the world that your interacting with in these sequence will animate and react directly to what the character is doing too so hopefully it will make the whole world feel alive when your climbing a wall, rather than just the character. Rocks/plants moving as you move through them, branches pushing away as the characters geometry hits them, rather than her 'collision'.

We want these sequences to feel as loose and as controlled as general game play, not like a quicklime sequence. So the first thing I have to do is animate them to be quick and feel responsive, which is no easy task! The grey area between, quick and responsive and dramatic and physical is a very small area!

At DF we have this really great tool, we call the Cut scene editor. It is kind of like a video editing tool, but for animation tracks rather than video tracks. In it we can add event markers that trigger effects, or special bits of code, turn off collision etc.

For these sequences were using this tool, bringing it more into the game play realm, rather than just the cut scene realm! The programmers here, Ben and Chad really did a fast turn around getting the system working! So were cranking on the first sequence right now!

The process more or less works like this. Basically, Andy and I work out what visually we want to play/see as we hit these key moments, or a puzzle is designed and then I will sort of visualize the sequence in Maya, like you would a story board for a film or cut scene. Once we're all hunky dory with the sequence, I'll put my blinders on and as quickly as possible block it out in Maya and export the animations. In AF we don't really have the time to sketch something out, review it, re-work it, back and forth for a long time. What you implement, is usually what you get! So I'll block it out, get it in the game, and then tweak it as quickly as possible.

I'll adjust the speeds of the animations, the points at which they blend, making them sooner, or later, if they are feeling un-responsive or too quick or not physical enough.

Once the animation is blocked to a point where it feels good, I'll send it to Brian, our awesome sound guy. And he will work his magic on it! One of the cool things about animating these key sequences like this is he can score music directly to the animation! So while your climbing something and a twig snaps and you almost fall to your death but catch another branch at the last moment! The music can be synced up with that action to help add drama to that moment.

In the end we want you to feel like your climbing or interacting with something with complete control. That is the goal. We don't want it to feel like your playing canned sequences, so this is a test to see how the feature will work! If it does it will be a really cool first step in a direction to help add a lot of drama to running around and jumping through a level!

I hope this helps clear it up! I have to get back to working on it now! :D

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Thanks for the reply Dave. This is really interesting stuff and I appreciate your taking the time to describe your process.

This project seems like it has become a very animation heavy project. You mentioned above that since you're on a limited schedule, you don't have time to sketch things out and you really just need to get into Maya and play around with things. I was wondering if you could describe more how a compressed time frame like this changes your approach to the various animations you need to create. You (and everyone else in their respective disciplines) seem to be very fast at implementing content for these prototypes, and I imagine the amount of progress we've seen within the past week isn't necessarily representative of progress on a larger project. How would it work on a full project like The Cave? Do you devote a lot more time to planning and have a more traditional pre-production/production/polish cycle, or is it like the work we've seen on The White Birch where you're quickly iterating and testing things out? Or a combination of the two?

Also, how much of your time on this project is spent developing new techniques? Are you finding problems or challenges you haven't encountered before and are needing to develop new solutions on the fly? Have you found past AFs to be fertile ground for new techniques and approaches to develop, perhaps methods you take on to future projects? I'm curious to know what you and others take away from AF, individual projects aside, and how they influence your future work.

I realize that's a lot of questions, and I know you're all super busy. Watching you all work this past week or so has been a privilege and one of the coolest things I've witnessed in years. Thanks again for your time!

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Maybe you saw the live stream where I did this high quality piece of art. It was still open on my machine and I realized I just had to make it live on forever. oh the lolz of making video games! :D

Art.jpg

Art.jpg.f9c87d4ff7eba6a70835d1f31c907f5e

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And they made fun of my typing errors on the stream. I should have just pulled this gem out and pointed at you. Haha

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And they made fun of my typing errors on the stream. I should have just pulled this gem out and pointed at you. Haha

Pretty sure Crain is the proper spelling, and spell checkers all over the world have it wrong haha!

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A crane with a brain is a CRAIN. Like a smart crane, you know. Like this one.

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A crane with a brain is a CRAIN. Like a smart crane, you know. Like this one.

for that, you get a cat!

cute-pet-cat.jpg

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A crane with a brain is a CRAIN. Like a smart crane, you know. Like this one.

for that, you get a cat!

Well it IS officially caturday.

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A crane with a brain is a CRAIN. Like a smart crane, you know. Like this one.

for that, you get a cat!

Well it IS officially caturday.

Why do we not have a like feature on these forums! arg!

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A crane with a brain is a CRAIN. Like a smart crane, you know. Like this one.

for that, you get a cat!

Well it IS officially caturday.

Why do we not have a like feature on these forums! arg!

*like*

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