In this second post Michael Alcover, our lead animator, will discuss about the challenges animation faces in video games industry.
In the digital entertainment industry, more specifically in video games where there are products with a wide range of qualities and requirements, we find large variations in the visual aspects, due to the power differences that exist in the different game platforms, from mobiles with more limited graphics processors to state-of-the-art game consoles. If we add this to the fact that the budgets of development the companies have, vary greatly from one studio to another, we can then justify the different ways to take on a project. The common aspect in all the cases is to bet on and strengthen the virtues and talents of the members of each studio. In my case I will talk about the role of the animator.
With this introduction I would like to point out the ongoing need to continue having animators in this sector. In my experience I have learned that there are certain projects where a "keyframe" animator (one who uses the computer to animate "by hand", without motion capture) is more important than a good motion capture, either because the animation style gets away from realism or, on the contrary, they try to copy the reality, or because the company cannot afford this kind of technology.
An animator who comes from other media such TV series production, advertising, shorts etc., like me, finds himself faced with a double challenge in video games.
The first challenge is linked to gameplay animations, generally composed of cycles and short actions, which are activated with a simple movement of the player. These animations in general are very direct actions and due to the requirement of the player to get a quick response, they often lack anticipation. An example of this might be a simple jump, the player presses the button and at that moment the character has to lift off the ground. We cannot spend time to create an animation where the character crouches down before jumping, because if we did so, the player would lose the feeling of control.
The second challenge concerns the limitations imposed when using the tools to animate. In the development of video games is very important to optimize resources, therefore the rigs (tools used to animate the characters) must be much more limited when animating than in other productions.
Despite these two handicaps, the animator has the same goal as in any other production: to convey the character we see on the screen lives and has a soul. The word animation derives from the Latin word anima which means soul. It is true that while playing the game, we will not see the character has doubts, thoughts, motivations, because the actions taken are executed by the player. However, at some times, other animations are carried out in the game like cutscenes. In the cutscenes the aim is to provide to players the feeling that the character they managed at a level of the game, has anima, giving him life and above all, soul.
Thus, the first goal of an animator is to make the action to perform clear and credible (mechanical principles), the second goal, which makes the difference between a good animator and a great animator, is to get an animation genuinely attractive (artistic principles). If we can successfully express these two goals, then we have achieved to convey the desired sensations to the audience (players) increasing the entertainment value of the product.