Friday, February 29, 2008

When Badasses Collide

Check out this insane duel from Crisis Core, an upcoming game for the PSP. Yeah, I'm a nerd when it comes to this stuff.

Here are some of the things I thought were pretty slick (Watch the clip first!)

-----The tunes at the beginning, accompanied by the book-reading before the battle.
-----The lighting and location (I'm guessing the platform they were on was some sort of super-canon)
-----The swords.
-----When the guy in red (Genesis) first charges up his sword--that last flick of the wrist was a nice touch.
-----And when Sephiroth started slicin' n dicin' the platform like sushi, I couldn't help but think, "how badass is that?!"

OK--enough geekin', I better get back to something more productive.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


My friend Tomo sent me this link. Check it out!

Now this is what I call making the most of the medium! Very creative and nicely executed. Props to the folks that created this!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spiderwick Concepts

Before we had any reference material or direction from the film, we explored the idea of taking a cartoonier route for the look of the game. These are early concepts I did for the game version of Jared, Simon and Mallory--the main characters from the Spiderwick Chronicles.

An initial direction I was given was to throw Jared, the head-strong twin, into a hoodie and some cargo shorts. Simon, the more timid and "nerdier" twin was to sport a vest sweater. No matter what I did, though, Jared always ended up looking not as brash as I had hoped for with the shorts.

I finally decided that the better, and more atypical solution was to flip it and give Jared the vest and collar outfit. To me, it wasn't about what you wore, but how you wore it.

In the end, we had to match the film so all of this was thrown out the door anyway. To this day, I still would have liked to see the game end up with a more stylized and storybook look as opposed to a realistic one, but that's just me:)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Grace Kids

Here you go, round 2 of the Spiderwick anims -- Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace.

For me, animating player-controlled characters is usually a bit more satisfying. They are also a bit more challenging. How the animations feel when the buttons are pressed will take precedent over how they look.

Here are some of the challenges we usually have to deal with when trying to strike that balance between responsive controls and believable motion:

-----First off, very little anticipation and quick recoveries are general rules when it comes to player characters. Jumps are even more tricky. Running jumps should probably have no anticipation, otherwise the jump may feel sticky. Landings probably should not translate too far forward even though momentum might dictate this. Players will likely want to stop on a dime when they land, and not worry about overshooting off a ledge. To further complicate things, jump animations are usually split into several pieces. This is to account for all the different terrain heights and the various landing senarios.

-----Regarding the jumps in the game, I thought it'd be interesting to have the character almost not make the jump every once in a while. The trick was then to get him back up as quickly as possible, since (for this game) there wouldn't be any button presses to climb up from the hanging position. In the end the "near-miss" anim was still too slow and unresponsive so we had to stick with the regular jump and land for every instance.

-----When memory space is an issue (as well as time) we can't have 2 sets of anims just to accomodate the character having an equipped weapon or not. That's why you'll notice that Jared's bat may feel a bit light. The anims have to work for when he has a weapon in hand as well as when he doesn't.

These game rules and constraints are all good, though. Because I'm a gamer myself, I tend to embrace and appreciate these challenges as opposed to just seeing them as fustrations.

Hope everyone's not getting too bored of all these in-game anims. I'll try to mix it up with some 2D artwork and maybe some personal workflow stuff in upcoming posts.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spiderwick Goblins

Alrighty, here's the first round of Spiderwick anims. These little green dudes were fun characters--both to animate and to whack around in the game. They're basically bouncing balls with teeth.

A lot of these anims probably could use another layer of polish, but often times a tight schedule doesn't allow for as much polish time as we'd like. This really trains us to be efficient at picking our battles and knowing when to spend that extra time and when to just bang something out and move on.

For example, player-controlled anims, esp. main combos and run cycles tend to be considered more important because not only do you see it a lot in the game, they have to feel good as well as look good. Hit-reacts, strafes, get-ups, and back-to-idle-pose anims are usually a bit lower on the totem pole. All of this is fine--it's just another form of problem solving, and I'd rather do that than to be in production on a single title for 5+ years!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

This was the last game I worked on at Stormfront Studios. It's based off the movie and should appeal to a younger audience (10-12 years).

This was definitely an interesting project to work on. We had a smaller development team and a production cycle that was just under 1 year. Despite the tight schedule, I had a lot of fun on this one, esp. from an animation standpoint. It was a welcomed change of pace from the all the T-rated combat stuff I was doing on past projects.

Now that the game is finally shipping, I'll be posting a good chunk of new stuff soon--that is if I'm not too busy playing Devil May Cry 4. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Few Good Mel's

Animation can be tricky, so anything that helps to facilitate workflow, I'm all for. Here's a few melscripts that I've found to be quite useful.

This is the first script you should have in your arsenal. It's a simple little script that allows you to save poses and selection sets to the shelf.

A very robust and versatile script that lets you create your own GUI (Picker) for your puppet.

Very helpful when animating to a specific camera. No more tearing off panels!

Key only what's highlighted in the channel box. Also use it to filter channels in the graph editor. Just don't forget to toggle it off when you don't need it.

Copy and paste translate and rotate values regardless of heirarchy. Comes in handy when you need to pick up objects, set'em down, etc.

Quick way to soften tangents and correct overshoot when time is not on your side (esp. for multiple curves).

Quick way to ease in and out of poses, again when you need to finish that animation by lunchtime. Sure you could just middle-mouse and key, but this is more fun.

Better way (in my opinion) to create motion-trails in Maya. I had a friend make a small mod to the script to include a delete (trails) button. E-mail me and I will share.

Good for breaking down long scenes into smaller, workable chunks.

A suite of some sweet tools.

Lastly, I want to make sure I give credit and thanks to all the mel guru's out there that created these scripts and were nice enough to share them with us.