Friday, May 30, 2008



Check out the power of AUDIO! Include some PFX (these are faked with geometry btw) and a bit of camera shake, and an attack that was ok now feels much more powerful. Because I play a healthy (or maybe not so healthy) amount of combat games, I need my attack moves to be super-charged.

First, here's one with no sound effects or any other trimmings other than a simple "woosh". It's ok, but it could be much more.'s that same attack in full effect!

As animators, we do your best to make our attack anims look as powerful as we can with exaggerated poses and timing, but without the right sound effects and particles to go along with it, those attacks will never max out. I know this is obvious, but I just wanted to point out that personally, I like my games’ SFX and PFX to be cranked up beyond what would be appropriate for a film.


Pay particular attention to the last attack. The animation isn’t very exaggerated, it’s basically the “One-inch Punch”—2 poses, and no overlap. But because you get a huge explosion effect with it, along with a quick camera blur and an over-the-top hit-react, boy does that move feel good to pull off in the game. (Not sure why the compression on this one is so bad when I uploaded it)

This game is God Hand btw. Although it recieved mixed reviews, I actually think it’s a good game if you’re into fighting games. It’s quite quirky and humorous, but it actually has some pretty good combat mechanics.

And of course, I always have to come back to good ol’ DMC.


-----They’re exaggerated—some draw more attention than the actual poses.
-----They’re graphic—bold shapes and hard edges—not just “soft” pixie dust.
-----Each of the special ones are hand crafted—they aren’t just trails that automatically flow off the sword.


-----They’re cranked up—sword swings for special moves aren't just “wooshes”. They sound as if they’re already slicing through metal, even though it’s just air.
-----Dante’s sliding stab sounds like his sword just slammed into a stone wall—again, even when nothing’s there.
-----Characters exert powerful attack "shouts"
-----Finally, notice that weird squeaky sound when Vergil does the spinning vertical kick. It doesn’t make sense when you think about it, but it’s a very nice touch.

So why am I posting all of this? Because I want to make sure those anims we sweat to create for our games get support before that final review months down the line—before we have to change it or try something else because it “doesn’t feel powerful enough.” Also, when I’m slicin’ through demons with my trusty sword, I want to feel like the ultimate badass!

Oh...and don’t forget controller rumble!


- Tim - said...

Great post, TJ, and so true. Unfortunately, we as animators don't usually have much say in how our sequences are enhanced by other departments like audio and FX. Don't always get to control the camera either, but when we can it's good to remember to get the most impact we can out of it.

BTW what did you use to fake the "sword"-swipe PFX? I have seen a MEL script on Highend that appears to be similar but I haven't tested it.

TJ Phan said...

How's it going Tim! The trick is to become friends with the audio and particle guys! Nah, I hear ya--ultimately, it's really up to each discipline to make their calls. However, this doesn't mean you can still suggest things. I've been lucky to have worked with people who are very collaborative and open to suggestions. I usually try to bring up examples. Sometimes, I'll go as far as throwing in a game and getting the controller in their hands to make my case. Of course not every suggestion will go through, but it never hurts to try.

Hehe, I'm picky when it comes to the little things like quick camera shakes, controller rumble and animation blend points. I usually offer to put in those notetracks myself if everyone seems to be too busy. I guess that's the gamer in me:)

About the sword swipe effect, it's just a torus with animated start and end sweeps. There's a simple texture and some transparency keys too. To make it simple I throw all of this onto a custom attribute on a controller object, using SDK. Then, I just animate the placement of the disk to follow along with the weapon. Yeah, it's not even connected to the weapon. I haven't seen the one on Highend. I'll have to check it out.

If you're interested, shoot me an email, and I'll send you the rig. It's pretty hacky, but it'll do until I learn how to create real PFX.

Saul Ruiz said...

This is an awesome post TJ... i liked how much more power you got out of the same strikes just by adding the details! Super impressive plussing!

Hagemi said...

Good post!I've worked on a few games with sword combat as well as hand to hand combat and the things you bring up are exactly what we use as well.

To make combat "feel" credible it's a combination of fast (snappy) animations, sound effects, FX, camera shakes, hit stops, and of course a good hit reaction.

I haven't gotten around to playing Ninja Gaiden but often times we would study games like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, God of War, and even go old school and check out Rival Schools and Power Stone.

TJ Phan said...

Yeah, it's pretty amazing how much those extra bells and whistles add to our animation. Whatever fools the viewer into thinking our animation is more powerful--I'm all for!

Thanks for chiming in! Good call on the hit-stops, or hit-pauses as we call them over here. They definitely add to the sense of "physical connection". And yes, having hit-reacts that at least match the direction of the attacks help as well. We, too, look to old-school for inspiration, and what's more classic than good 'ol Street Fighter!

Ratul Sarna said...

Whooshh! Hey TJ!
What a great difference the SFX and VFX make. I never really appreciated these 2 elemts while playing the games. I'm sure to give more attention to how the animation would feel without them (when I'm not killing a badass! :))
Thanx for sharing this....!

TJ Phan said...

What's up RD--yeah it's definitely noticeable everytime I come across an anim in a game that has those elements missing for some reason or another(maybe someone just forgot). Hey, how are you liking Jason Ryan's workflow btw?

Ratul Sarna said...

Jason Tyan's workflow makes you really work on every frame by eye. He brings his first 2D pass on 2's or 1's in the Beginner section so that really makes us aware of the slow ins and outs and favors in especially, in the in-betweens. And then in Maya, he barely uses the graph editor. He works on each n every frame and does the slow ins and outs and overlap etc. by eye. Obviously, his eyes are trained and experienced to see everything minutely and mine are not :). So I use a dry erase marker. I'm finding it really cool to work this way,,,,it's almost like hand drawn animation where they didn't have curves to manipulate. :)
PS. I do go into the graph editor a bit to tweak somethings, can't help it! :D

TJ Phan said...

Great! Thanks for the insight! Yeah, I've been contemplating this for a while now--"The tutorials (and Flipbook) or a new 50 inch plasma!"

Seriously though, I think I might have to do both!