Day 1: A Staff Warrior Kicks the Bucket
Published on April 18, 2011 By ScottTykoski In Elemental Dev Journals

Hey Everyone!

I know information on Fallen Enchantress seems to trickle as of late. This is an unfortunate side-effect of adopting a 'large studio' pipline (rather than our previous indie-team system, where our excitement tended to go unchecked on the forums). Know that the game is on track and design decisions have been fueled by the feedback gathered post-WoM.

Now, with the role of Producer in MUCH better hands, I was given the opportunity to pick up a new art form that is near and dear to me...animation. This is something I always wanted to do, but the GalCiv series didn't really need it, and for WoM I was making schedules and filling in on the code side of things.

Anyways, every Monday I'm going to give you step by step tour of a certain animation, for anyone that likes this sort of thing. We'll take a motion from rough keys to the final version that you'll be seeing in FE when the beta opens up.

Todays animation: Death with Staff!

Step 1: The Rough Pass
The first version of an animation is the ‘rough’, where we block in some basic poses. I want this guy to get knocked back, then fall the the ground. This rough accomplishes that, but timing is still off and...well...it’s not very good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkFd-4YPg_0


Step 2: The Timing Pass
At this point we want to really nail the ‘timing’ of the animation. These boil down to adding extra keyframes for anticipation and removing keygrames where things aren’t moving fast enough. Here you can another pose was added, where the character gets knocked to his knees, from where he can more seamlessly fall on his face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WzpAU_cF2Y

Step 3: The Secondary-Motion Pass

By this point, it’s starting to look more like the end product, but we still want to push the secondary motions so the head and arms properly follow the torso’s movements. Anything connected to the object that is moving (here, the torso is leading the motion) should follow a few frames behind that object.  I also zoom out a few times to make sure the animation reads well from far out, since players don’t normally played in at close zoom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYD6TA_u3jU

Step 4: The Polish Pass
After getting the 3rd step officially approved by Paul, our art director, I can go in and polish the animation, animating the plate mail and cape, as well as pushing those secondaty movements even further (not the extra limp wrist...possibly verging on over dramatic, but I’m gonna keep it in) 

Paul was also kind enough to remind me that we don’t have weapon specific deaths, so I went through to ensure the animation works with a sword, bow, etc.



And there we have a quick rundown of one of the MANY new animations you’ll see in FE. I think we have around double the animations roadmapped for Fallen Enchantress over WoM, so you should see a considerably more expressive and varied world (where the units and creatures are concerned).

Cya next Monday, for more animation excitement!


Comments (Page 2)
on Apr 19, 2011

Sweet! Way more expressive than the one in WoM. Great animation can sell average models, but great models can't sell average animation.

on Apr 20, 2011

Heavenfall: Right now effects are attached at the data level, right in the item or the unit, so (currently) we dont have a way to dynamically add them, but it's a system I'm sure we'll need, so I'll check with derek about 'dynamic adding of particles' being on the schedule.

I would like to revisit the animation system at some point to make it more flexable/data-driven. Its a shame that you guys can't add 2-handed animations, or I would LOVE to get unique animations in for special abilities, but ATM that's a coding task. 

on Apr 20, 2011

I'm not sure I understand that BoogieBac. Surely the point is to allow custom effects on units, no? As you say, display ailments. Are the effects "hardcoded" into the model (ie - this dog model sprinkles red dust always and only), or do the models now contain reference points accessed from the game xml? Like the localframes?

 

on Apr 20, 2011

Sorry - there are definiatly attachment points that effects can be linked to, but the only current way to attach in in XML, in the UnitType or ItemType. A spell that lit a weapon ablaze for a duration, visually, wouldn't currently be possible. I beleive it's a system that we'll need though, so I'll keep you posted as improvement are made.

on Apr 20, 2011

I wanted to comment on the animations feeling off and monsters giving more leniency. I agree with this 100%, but one really good comment that someone posted when the first FE trailer came out was that the fiery snake animations seemed really off. When you deal with monsters based on real life animals, I really, strongly suggest to check out YouTube vids for inspiration on movement & attack animations.

Clunkily animated animals can have a surprisingly big effect on the experience, at least in my case. Just wanted to point this out and I hope you took the comments way back then seriously. I remember someone commented on those comments so I trust they have been looked into.

This animation journal idea is really nice, I hope you keep posting at least a few more.

on Apr 21, 2011

I agree.  Creatures based on real life creatures such as snakes need to move like the real life creatures.

Best regards,
Steven.

on Apr 21, 2011

and similar creatures should move similarly to those they are similar to, eg most four legged animals will collapse in a similar way, but there are different ways of running  with the main differences being foot type(eg horse/zebra vs camel), spine type(eg horse vs cheetah), mass(eg springbok vs elephant) and leg length(eg giraffe vs bear)

harpo

 

on Apr 21, 2011

Yea, but you have to remember that ponies don't die.  My mom says they go to a special farm where they live forever!  Not sure how you will animate that...

on Apr 21, 2011

Sir_Linque
Clunkily animated animals can have a surprisingly big effect on the experience...
Yeah, first thing we do when animating creatures is pull up a proper reference in YouTube (and if you've never seen a cheetah run, go do so now...it's amazing).

Unfortunatly, alot of the choppyness you're probably seeing comes from the lack of 'animation blending', where a run will programatically merge into an idle, or idle to an attack,etc (frame overlap, basically). You currently get this horrible pop as one pose instantly snaps into the next, and until that's implemented there's not much we can do on the asset-creation side (though we've discussed it MANY times).

We'll keep pushing the bar, though...gotta knock these outta the park

 

on Apr 21, 2011

Boogie, I was saying this in another thread, but you guys should use mocap for the human animations. I'm sure it would make your lives far easier!

on Apr 21, 2011

TheProgress
Boogie, I was saying this in another thread, but you guys should use mocap for the human animations. I'm sure it would make your lives far easier!

You'd actually be suprised...while mocap is vital for long, cutscene quality animations (where actors can instill all the necessary subtlties) you end up spending so much time cleaning up unnecessary data that it'd be overkill for these quick 25-50 frame animations.

Not that it wouldn't be awesome to play with

on Apr 21, 2011

I'm just hoping that FE comes with 'play animations blazing fast' option at release. Long, unskippable animations are one of things which made EWoM very disappointing for me.

on Apr 21, 2011

His feet need to kick up a little bit when he hits the ground.  I mean both of them.  Nevermind...

 

on Apr 22, 2011

BoogieBac
Sorry - there are definiatly attachment points that effects can be linked to, but the only current way to attach in in XML, in the UnitType or ItemType. A spell that lit a weapon ablaze for a duration, visually, wouldn't currently be possible. I beleive it's a system that we'll need though, so I'll keep you posted as improvement are made.

Cool, curious to find out how the effect reference points work (I'm assuming they're attached to the meshes and not the skeletons?). But that's a later chapter.

on Apr 25, 2011

It's Monday!!!

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