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Egypt Urnash

ep 8: a bit of unsolicited animation critique

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Just watched episode 8. The shots we saw of the game are looking lovely!

However there's one thing about the animation that's bugging the hell out of me: the headturns. One frame of antic, then POP, they've turned 180º. One frame of settle, that's it. I'm really hoping that's an artifact of the early state rather than a stylistic decision; back when I was working on early Flash stuff at Spümcø, John K would've killed me if I turned in a scene with a headturn like that on anything but the fastest action.

I'd love to see a facing-the-camera head thrown into most of those turns. Maybe even taking all the separate elements of the faces and moving them around a little for a better illusion of dimension on particularly slow turns.

(I also recognize that (a) it's early days yet and (b) there are both stylistic and budgetary decisions to be made here. When I was cranking out 20min/week for a horrible choose-your-own-adventure porn cartoon, we didn't give a damn about any of that kind of smoothness!)

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I totally did NOT notice that. Then again, I'm not an animator, so I really don't have an eye for that.

What did strike me, however, was the floaty walks. The characters were just kind of sliding along the ground, like a moonwalk. This has always been a problem in (sprite based) adventure games, so I don't know how fixable it really is. But since REDS has skeletal animation, maybe it is possible?

Edit: Just so we're clear ... I love the visual style and everything, and I wouldn't mind playing the game as it looked the doc at all. Don't want to be a Negative Nancy. I'd rather be a Positive Patricia. Or a Constructive Caroline.

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I imagine they have a lot of work still do...this is really still very early on in the games development.. I love that you worked on spumco with John k..I loved that stuff.. Legendary!

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I also think, that character movement and animation is still quite clumsy and awkward. In other words character's animation does not seems very smooth, at the moment. If I had to make a comparison, current character animation resembles the "wooden" movement of past sierra adventures, and not the far superior, smooth animation we were used by LucasArts.

Hope it get's better until the end of the development

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I think it's rather useless to say anything concrete about the animation based on the new video, as it has been most likely fine tuned much further than it's shown in the video. I think most of those animations were still in the rough stage and no where near final.

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I think it's rather useless to say anything concrete about the animation based on the new video, as it has been most likely fine tuned much further than it's shown in the video. I think most of those animations were still in the rough stage and no where near final.

Criticism or better commenting is not bad. It helps things become better. I think people in Double Fine will be happy to hear comments from their potential users, so that they can identify possible flaws of their child (which normally parents oversee).

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It is pointless when the actual state of animation has already progressed further from the point it's shown in the video. The documentary isn't exactly in realtime you know.

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It is pointless when the actual state of animation has already progressed further from the point it's shown in the video. The documentary isn't exactly in realtime you know.

And how do you know it? Do you have internal information? Tell us more then!

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I don't know, but it is a logical assumption on how things progress. Most animation assets shown in these videos are most likely rough place holder art, that will be replaced with the final animation as soon as it is finished. Just like some of the background scenes shown in the video were just very rough sketches. It hardly represents the final quality of the product.

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I don't know, but it is a logical assumption on how things progress. Most animation assets shown in these videos are most likely rough place holder art, that will be replaced with the final animation as soon as it is finished. Just like some of the background scenes shown in the video were just very rough sketches. It hardly represents the final quality of the product.

Assumptions are not facts! And the fact is that animation was not as good as expected. Moreover, to my understanding the cloud colony is a more or less finalized part of the game, so why shouldn't I assume that animation is also final?

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The cloud colony seems to be pretty much the only finalized, or near finished, scene shown in the video, otherwise all assests were clearly a work in progress. There were several shots of the game screens, that were just rough sketches, as well as in the video it was pointed out that the animations needed some additional work. Nothing about the video implied that the animations were final.

It often happens in game development, that the first playable inhouse versions of the game use assets that are not finished yet, as the coders need material in order to implement the in game logic and puzzles. The artists will continue to fine tune the backgrounds and animations during this phase.

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It is pointless when the actual state of animation has already progressed further from the point it's shown in the video. The documentary isn't exactly in realtime you know.

It's true that the animations are always progressing in some way, but it's not a uniform advancement. They might get a bunch of supporting cast animations done in a sprint, or maybe they decide to add rough versions of new animations before refining old ones, whatever. The head turn might not get fleshed out until the very end for all we know.

At any rate, critique is never pointless. I get people to play early builds of my projects for mini QA sessions all the time. While most of what they say is in regards to stuff I'm aware of and plan on fixing or changing already, it still helps me get a bearing on what is in most need of my attention and even how I should go about changing it. As long as it's constructive, feedback of any kind is invaluable.

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It's true that the animations are always progressing in some way, but it's not a uniform advancement. They might get a bunch of supporting cast animations done in a sprint, or maybe they decide to add rough versions of new animations before refining old ones, whatever. The head turn might not get fleshed out until the very end for all we know.

At any rate, critique is never pointless. I get people to play early builds of my projects for mini QA sessions all the time. While most of what they say is in regards to stuff I'm aware of and plan on fixing or changing already, it still helps me get a bearing on what is in most need of my attention and even how I should go about changing it. As long as it's constructive, feedback of any kind is invaluable.

Well, as I said, if the prohress we'd be seeing here would be in realtime, then yes, the critiques would have some value in it, but as it's now, the critique is from my opinion pointless, as the thing critiqued is most likely already been corrected, or is on to do list, in the natural progression of things. And given that DF seems to have pretty competent animators, all the rough quirks will be ironed out before the release.

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It's true that the animations are always progressing in some way, but it's not a uniform advancement. They might get a bunch of supporting cast animations done in a sprint, or maybe they decide to add rough versions of new animations before refining old ones, whatever. The head turn might not get fleshed out until the very end for all we know.

At any rate, critique is never pointless. I get people to play early builds of my projects for mini QA sessions all the time. While most of what they say is in regards to stuff I'm aware of and plan on fixing or changing already, it still helps me get a bearing on what is in most need of my attention and even how I should go about changing it. As long as it's constructive, feedback of any kind is invaluable.

Well, as I said, if the prohress we'd be seeing here would be in realtime, then yes, the critiques would have some value in it, but as it's now, the critique is from my opinion pointless, as the thing critiqued is most likely already been corrected, or is on to do list, in the natural progression of things. And given that DF seems to have pretty competent animators, all the rough quirks will be ironed out before the release.

That's certainly true for technical issues, but the animation might be a stylistic thing (I don't know I'm not an animator or anything) and in that case it's good for the community to express it's opinion. Also, you never know when they might miss something because they're more focused on bigger issues and it can be good to remind them that you think there is a problem early so it's easier to fix.

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To summarise - there's nothing wrong with the original poster, as an animator, offering an expert opinion on what sticks out about the animation. These sorts of posts are cool and interesting and welcome.

On the other hand, tomimt probably does have a point that a lot of what we were looking at is unfinished, and DF are also professionals and aware of animation issues that haven't been addressed yet, so it might not be productive to comment on it whenever it looks like anything is out of shape. I mean, you wouldn't go up to a sculptor halfway through his work and say 'that doesn't look much like the model,' because you know it's not done, so we should probably relax a little until we're looking at finished or -near- finished scenes. There'll be plenty of time for tweaks in beta, after all.

But still, if you had some knowledge of sculpting you might offer some friendly advice like 'hey, you might be planning on doing this anyway, but have you considered...?' which I think was the spirit of the original post.

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I forget who, but a great chef once said "The problem with being a chef is: you're more knowledgeable about food than your customer."

If any of us see any flaw, they see it too. It would be silly to think otherwise.

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I forget who, but a great chef once said "The problem with being a chef is: you're more knowledgeable about food than your customer."

If any of us see any flaw, they see it too. It would be silly to think otherwise.

True, except if the customer is also a chef. In which case you might be on equal footing, or at least have a good chance of spotting something they missed.

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I forget who, but a great chef once said "The problem with being a chef is: you're more knowledgeable about food than your customer."

If any of us see any flaw, they see it too. It would be silly to think otherwise.

True, except if the customer is also a chef. In which case you might be on equal footing, or at least have a good chance of spotting something they missed.

Also, there's the point that you don't cook food for chefs, you cook it for customers. There could be something that you think is fine because you're used to it, but to average people it seems off.

Not sure if that's applicable here, but it's still good to have open communication nevertheless, especially when we think there is a problem. Even if it's pointless it doeen't really cost anything and it might potentially avoid one or two problems here and there.

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To summarise - there's nothing wrong with the original poster, as an animator, offering an expert opinion on what sticks out about the animation. These sorts of posts are cool and interesting and welcome.

On the other hand, tomimt probably does have a point that a lot of what we were looking at is unfinished, and DF are also professionals and aware of animation issues that haven't been addressed yet, so it might not be productive to comment on it whenever it looks like anything is out of shape. I mean, you wouldn't go up to a sculptor halfway through his work and say 'that doesn't look much like the model,' because you know it's not done, so we should probably relax a little until we're looking at finished or -near- finished scenes. There'll be plenty of time for tweaks in beta, after all.

But still, if you had some knowledge of sculpting you might offer some friendly advice like 'hey, you might be planning on doing this anyway, but have you considered...?' which I think was the spirit of the original post.

Yeah, I'm really figuring that this is first pass on the animation and that things like smoothing out the turns are on a task list somewhere. And like I said it may well be a deliberate stylistic choice too, in which case I will live with it.

The video was mostly about the first internal critique session, so throwing in a bit of my own crit as an outside professional felt like the thing to do. Especially since I spent a few years being paid to do this kind of flat animation and learning a lot of the tricks that Double Fine may not know; I think all their previous animation has either been fairly full, or has been full 3D stuff.

(The best place to learn these tricks offhand? Single-frame some episodes of "Foster's Imaginary Friends". One of my co-workers was the Flash director on that show and did some lovely work.)

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I think the poppy head-turns pointed out by the original poster may be a side-effect of the way that characters are created. (Creation process has been described by previous DF posts). Basically the characters have a set number of "angles" built into their geometry/textures (ie front/left side/right side), and the transition between them is basically hiding some parts and revealing other parts. So the while they will probably be able to smooth things out a little bit with care, attention and time, it'll be hard to completely hide the fact that the model really is popping from one state to another.

One of those tech tradeoffs that end-up turn into a style of its own :) Hard to get these things to look like it's a traditional 2d drawing being animated, since it's really a series of 3d planes being animated using traditional (3d!) bone+joint skinning. Can't blame them either for taking that approach, since they have an entire studio familiar with 3d techniques and can't re-staff of re-train everyone to be a traditional animator. Also I think it looks different and nice!

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I've a question, Will the animation be affected by the final voice-recordings? As many famous studios Pixar, Dreamworks... they usually record first the speech but also they film the faces of the actors to inspire or make the animation more credible.

I'm agree on all the things discussed (floating walking, fast head changes). I hope somebody from the team is reading this and writing down all this feedback.

Regards

Pablo

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I think that saying what you think is good and important, but you mustn't forget that what you are saying still remains just your opinion, whether you are a professional or not.

For myself, I did notice the snapping of the heads and I actually like it and consider it part of the style. It may not be so, and I won't complain if the animation will become smoother.

It is great to offer advice and say: "Hey, this is what I think! It would be so amazing if so and so was such and such." In any situation. Even if it is after the fact. Then you at least can make them feel warm and fuzzy inside when they read it, because they'll be happy they can surprise you next time with the progress they know they have already made.

BUT, using a condescending tone: "And the fact is that animation was not as good as expected," is not helpful at all. What does expected mean? Is there a set rulebook? Are you actually aware that you are looking at work in progress? Give them the benefit of the doubt and take a lesson from our law system: innocent until proven guilty. Don't impose your own opinions on others; offer them in a friendly way, don't force them.

DoubleFine have the best intentions for this project, they are obviously putting a lot of love into it and are undoubtedly aware that the characters kind of float and even know of other issues we might not have even spotted. They know how it looks, they aren't blind. If there is anything they can do about it, they will do it.

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I've heard this argument many times for games in production. People spot something wrong then write it off as early development. I've followed many development cycles and RARELY do visuals ever get fixed.

Now is the time to tell Double Fine about this.

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I like it; it has a distinctive and dreamlike quality to it that I think is reflective of Bagel's style. Also, keep in mind that regardless of whether it's in it's final state or not, it will probably feel different when you're actually sitting down and playing versus watching somebody else.

In any case, we'll see. Art and animation are certainly not weak points for double fine, especially not with this team.

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I agree, I don't really like the look of it.

I don't know if its final or not, it could be. It seems weird they're fully animating something you barely see in the background without finishing the animation on the characters first. Just seems like the main character would take precedent before they worked on small things like that.

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I agree, I don't really like the look of it.

I don't know if its final or not, it could be. It seems weird they're fully animating something you barely see in the background without finishing the animation on the characters first. Just seems like the main character would take precedent before they worked on small things like that.

It's quite likely to be different people working on each. Also I can sort of see the sense. You need a basic version of the main character to walk around the environments, but once you have that then it doesn't really matter that the main character animation is completely done, and there might be advantages to leaving the fine tuning unfinished until you can see how it looks against final background art.

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