I talked the guys through a basic attack series. Just about all third person run around games have one, its the sequence that plays if you hit the attack button over and over, it also needs to be able to stop and return to the hold pose at at several points in case the player only hits the attack button once or twice.
Now for any pro's out there looking on I have to stress that this is my first go at a piece like this, I've been kept busy animating on other parts of the project since starting at Krome, but I did get to take a close look at some existing in game animations and bounce ideas for this piece off some of the other animators who had been working in games for some time.
OK, so if the player hits the attack button once this is what they are going to get.
The basic attack is made up of three main parts. The attack itself, a floating hold on the follow through pose and a return to the hold pose, the attack is about 15 frames long, the hold is about 20 frames and the return can be any length you like within reason (that's all at 30fps). Here are some important points....
- You need to be aware of when the character is reacting to directions from the game player, and when this is the case the animation needs to get moving quick smart. When I showed this to a co-worker with more in game experience the first thing he did was delete my first 2 inbetweens. Players hate it when a characters reaction to them feels sluggish or unresponsive. In my film experience I would normally have at least a couple of frames easing out of the start pose, but not in this case.
- The attack part is made up of three basic poses, each one has to have a kick ass dynamic line of action and be bursting with energy.
- The Anticipation - Often in a film context I would have the antic pose move back in the opposite direction to the strike, but as the player will be expecting him to launch into the action he or she requests at once I think it best to put it along the path into the action, in this case I just pushed him up onto his toe so he could still drop down into the attack, creating a nice arc. There is an ease in and out either side of the anticipation in this case, but that will vary from game to game (research!).
- The Strike - Pull out all the stops on this pose and be as bold as you can, there are next to no inbetweens either side of this pose, so it has to read in about one 30th of a second. I'll talk more about the timing around this pose for the second strike. I also like for there to be a reversal in the line of action at about this point, it makes for more change between the poses and gives the hit more impact.
- The Follow Through - Because we are going to build on this attack to make a whole sequence, the follow through pose has to work as an anticipation pose for the next strike. I originally had a more spread out pose here, but then had to twist it up more so that it made for a contrast into the next strike.
- In this case the strike frame is 10 frames from the start, and that is based on an existing game. But it dose vary, the speed at which these things happen depend on the style of play the game is intended to have. Do your research, find a game where you like the animation style, get a clip of some game play (there are heaps all over the net) and match the speeds at which they do things. Don't just make it up as you go, its nice if you can have a consistent style.
- The hold is there so that the player gets a fraction of a second to decide if they are going to continue with the next strike or do something else. Its just a subtle bit of movement, it needs to tween away from here into the next things, so nothing too broad.
- The return to the hold pose is not in response to anything the player does, so you can be a little more relaxed with how many inbetweens you put in there and ease out of the follow through pose if you want.
So as you can see the strike is the untwisting of the follow through pose on strike one. Again he has to spring away from that pose very quickly with very few inbwtweens. Here the strike is 4 frames after the antic (or the follow through from attack 1), and the attack its self is insanely fast. Lets have a look at how fast.
You can see in this overlay of the three frames showing the attack that there is a huge space either side of the strike pose. Its pretty much a triangle rather than the nice arc I would normall try to do. It has to be this fast to achieve the responsiveness needed for game play. Don't be to concerned if the attack seems so fast you can hardly see it, game makers have a trick up their sleeve. Games pretty much always have big swishy effects that they overlay onto the animation, the big broad arcs created by these effects combined with the lethal speed in the timing make for the perfect payoff the player is looking for when they push that button.
Also note that I was able to have a bit of fun with the return animation after the second attack, remember to be aware of when you character is responding to the player. If it is not then you can can spare some extra frames for some flair and personality.
On to attack 3. These strings of actions can vary in length, but I've only had time for to do 3 parts, that means its time for a big finish.
This last piece is not as polished at I would like, there are a few frames as he comes down into the strike that I'm not happy with, but its not looking like I'll find the time or energy to fix em so I think it better to post as is than not at all :P
We are looking for a nice rhythm here, one of the more experienced animators I showed this too tapped out the beats with his finger on the desk at each strike point to see if it was appealing which I thought was interesting. I made the anticipation a bit longer (the big flip) so as to break up the rhythm a bit, but the attack is still very quick.
The whole sequence should build to a climax, game players like a big finish.
This rig is the Rohan rig from TJ Phans blog, I found it very easy to use.