R: Gameplay Animation

  1. Background
    1. Game animation is unique: it stands apart from all other kinds of animation because of the fact that it encompasses all forms of animation. Every style of animation has been used in a game at some point. On top of this is the interactivity of the game platform: the animation, in many cases, is getting seen in ways the original creator never expected the art to be seen. This is because the one playing the game is in charge of moving the game forward, and by extension moving the animation forward.
    2. Another major factor setting gameplay animation apart from other kinds of animation, is are the development requirements. The desired end result and the degree that the player of the game has control over the camera can drastically change how the animation must be designed and implemented. Nothing can ever look perfect from every angle, and due to the development cycle and time pressures common in the game industry, there is little time to make every element of the animation perfect. Yet every year the quality of animation seen in all ranges of games, from superstar AAA development teams to single person indie projects, are becoming more and more impressive.
  2. Applications
    1. The main application of gameplay animation techniques are exactly where you would expect to find them, games, but because of some recent technological breakthroughs in real time rendering, some unachievable results due to time constraints can now be created using techniques usually reserved for games to accelerate content creation for digital media. A great example of this is the digital media company “Machinima” that produce video content created inside real time game environments.
    2. So looking back into the games industry itself, animation is fundamental to a huge portion of the games being created, as it is literally the designing creation management of all of the moving characters and a large portion of the movement of the props used in the games.
  3. In practice
    1. Gameplay animation usually consists of a set creation pipeline, every studio or team will have its own version of the pipeline. Here is an example of the pipeline that I use:
      1. Asset list: I’ll create a comprehensive list of all of the animations needed, listing details about what they are to achieve, number of frames, weather or not the animation is looped, and any dependencies.
      2. Pose Design: I’ll take an animation from the list, and go about designing a single pose that captures the desired look of the that animation asset.
      3. Pose Test: I’ll export the single pose from my animation software, and apply it to the character in the engine, to check consistency, and get feedback from the rest of the team.
      4. Stepped Keys: From here I will proceed to create the rest of the key poses around the original pose, using stepped keys. Stepped keys are important as the transitions are not important at this step and will detract from the timing of each pose.
      5. Stepped Test: I will export the stepped keys to be tested in engine, this is to check to make sure the timing and length function correctly in engine, this is another good opportunity to get feedback on your work.
      6. Breakdowns: While still in stepped keys, I will workout the correct breakdowns to accentuate the keys.
      7. Breakdowns Test: Keeping to form with the rest of the pipeline, testing the result of your work in engine at every stage, and getting feedback may seem over the top but it is one of the most important parts of any pipeline, the game engine is were the final work will reside, so it must be checked and rechecked.
      8. Curve setting: Finally we can transition from stepped keys to auto keys to get some movement between frames, but personally I find it best to work on a single transition at a time, keeping the rest of the animation in stepped keys until it has had its turn, also starting from the original pose, and working outward from there, from my experience produces the best result. Also it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, special care should be taken to the start and end of a looped animation, make sure you understand the export process, as to not end up with a hold at the start and end of the loop.
      9. Curve test: once again, export, test, feedback. You should know the drill by now.
      10. Iterate: The most important part of working with game animation is the ability to work in an iterative fashion, you may not work the entire pipeline on a single animation before you start the next, and things change over development, sometimes hours of work will be scraped, that’s why the ability to work iteratively is important: speed will come with practice and time.
  4. My Project
    1. Being my project is focused on gameplay animation, I will be utilizing all of the things that I have talked about so far.

References

Action: The Animator’s Process, Saturday, May 30th at Gnomon. (2016). Gnomon — School of Visual Effects, Games & Animation. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from https://www.gnomon.edu/community/events/action-the-animator-s-process

Game Specific Animation Techniques. (2015). polycount. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://polycount.com/discussion/97447/game-specific-animation-techniques

Procedural Characters and the Coming Animation Technology Revolution | AiGameDev.com. (2016).Aigamedev.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://aigamedev.com/open/editorial/animation-revolution/

timings?, G. (2016). Good techniques for syncing gameplay actions to specific animation timings?.Gamedev.stackexchange.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/108005/good-techniques-for-syncing-gameplay-actions-to-specific-animation-timings

What I Do At Work – Gameplay Animation. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js23ZWcs4z4

R: Additive Animation

  1. Background
    1. Additive Animation Is the processes of layering animation, much like my early blog it is a form of procedural animation, but it is much more focused refined and therefore much more widely used, across all forms of the animation industry.
    2. How it actually works: By using interpolation techniques refined for use as tweening based interpolation, it begun to be used to interpolate layers of animation, effectively have two or more sets of animation blended together to get a desired result, often to create transitional animation automatically increasing the flexibility of a set number of animations.
  2. Applications
    1. Commonly it is being used in both 2D and 3D animation software to increase productivity.
    2. There are also systems in place for this functionality in real time rendering systems, such as game engines.
  3. In practice
    1. The most basic way that additive animation, is used is to create additional animation cycles by combining two animations utilizing a series of tools depending on the used software.
    2. More complex forms of this can be seen in game engines in the form of blend trees, these are a collection of animation cycles that can flow from one to another using a predetermined set of rules, the rules determine the situations that the animations transition blend between each other, hopefully resulting in seamless transitions between characters animations, on top of this additional animations can be blended in to increase the variation of the animations.
  4. My Project
    1. In my project I am using the additive animation system to apply attack animations over the top of my locomotion animations, allowing me to use the same animations for attacking while moving, and attacking while standing, removing a bunch of unnecessary work.

References

Action: The Animator’s Process, Saturday, May 30th at Gnomon. (2016). Gnomon — School of Visual Effects, Games & Animation. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from https://www.gnomon.edu/community/events/action-the-animator-s-process

Procedural Characters and the Coming Animation Technology Revolution | AiGameDev.com. (2016).Aigamedev.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://aigamedev.com/open/editorial/animation-revolution/

Using Additive Animations. (2016). Docs.unrealengine.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest/INT/Engine/Animation/AnimHowTo/AdditiveAnimations/

R: Procedural Animation

  1. Background
    1. Procedural animation started out in early animation software in the form of automatic tweening systems to speed up the development of digital animation. In the beginning it was mostly used to do with things like digital graphics used for title sequences and digital advertisements, but as digital animation started to become a sought after animation technique, interpolating between frames in the software greatly increased the speed that digital animators could produce artwork.
  2. Applications
    1. At the currant time procedural animation is most commonly used in real time game engines. It can be used for simple tasks like adjusting animations to stop issues like foot slide, or to tilt the feet of a character to the slope of a surface. Some less common uses are in place of a full animation cycle, using the same procedural interpolation that is used in 3d animation software like 3ds max or maya, but in engine at run time, drastically reducing the volume of animation data that must be kept in computer memory, reducing the overhead, resulting in an increase in efficiency.
  3. In practice
    1. Most commonly use is Inverse kinematics(IK) the direct opposite of forward kinematics(FK), to explain the two systems I will use an example: First we start with a hierarchy of objects or bones that have a parent/child relationship, the hand is the child of the forearm, witch in turn is the child of the upper arm. Forward kinematics is the procedure of moving the arm to a new position and to do this you will start at the top, the upper arm, working your way down the hierarchy until the arm is in the desired pose. Now Inverse kinematics is the procedure of moving the lowest object in the hierarchy, in this case the hand, and a computer algorithm will update the entire hierarchy using the forward kinematics system, usually so fast that it appears hand is moving and the arm is following. This is one form of procedural animation, and the Inverse kinematic system can be used in game engines to produce a variety of result, like the situations described in the previous paragraph.
    2. When taking a variety of procedural animation techniques and combining them, you can get amassing results of animation that are responsive and looks great, from a minimal amount of animation data, a great example of this is the wolfire game Overgrowth, that produces its entire animation set from 13 frames or poses This is the the gdc 14 talk where the developer explains his system.
  4. My Project
    1. For my project I plan to use on of the most basic of the concepts I described, A two bone IK system to improve the quality of foot placement, and to Aline the angle of the foot to the angle of the surface it is being placed on.
    2. This kind of in at run time procedural animation can produce amazing result, while allowing the animation to be adjusted at run time increasing the usability and functionality of the entire system

References

GDC 2014 Procedural Animation Video – Wolfire Games Blog. (2016). Blog.wolfire.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://blog.wolfire.com/2014/05/GDC-2014-Procedural-Animation-Video

GDC Vault – Animation Bootcamp: An Indie Approach to Procedural Animation. (2016). Gdcvault.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020583/Animation-Bootcamp-An-Indie-Approach

procedural animation. (2016). Utdallas.edu. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://www.utdallas.edu/atec/midori/Handouts/procedural_animation.htm

Procedural Characters and the Coming Animation Technology Revolution | AiGameDev.com. (2016).Aigamedev.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://aigamedev.com/open/editorial/animation-revolution/

R: New Technology

In this blog I will be talking about some of the new technology that I have been researching and experimenting with.

VR

What is it?: The goal of VR is to remove the barrier between the virtual world, and the the user. To do this the system tries to stimulate as many of the user’s senses as possible. For a long time we have utilized audio to decrease the gap between the user and the virtual world utilizing things like 3d audio. Now using specialised lenses built in to a head worn device, combined with the amazing computing power now available to home computer systems, and advances in real time rendering, it is possible to immerse yourself in the virtual world with both visual and auditory senses.

Since the success of multiple VR headsets over the past years, additional sensory devices have been under development, to make the gap between the real and the virtual even smaller. These include haptic systems in the form of intuitive hand controls or entire electrostatic suits designed to recreate the feeling of temperature and pressure on the user’s skin, over their entire body.

 

Here is a picture of my World Builder project in VR on one of the Oculus devises(Oculus is one of the leading brands of VR headsets)

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Integration with Unreal: The company Epic, the developers of the Unreal Engine 4 and its predecessors, are working toward fully implemented VR features, with later versions of 4 coming with native VR support, and even more recently have been showing their experiments with including VR headsets within the development pipeline with a VR editor, allowing developers to utilize almost all of the editors features in a hands on VR work space.

Motion Capture

What is it?: Motion capture, as used in the creative industries, is the process of using one of many motion captures systems (that either include specialised cameras or suit based detection hardware coupled with specialised software) to produce an accurate recording or capture of a person or object from the real world into a digital format. Capture utilizing facial and voice capture is more commonly know as performance capture as it is taking every part of an actor’s performance and capturing it for use in a digital media platform. Some advancements, like those being used by teams like Official Ninja Theory and its collaborators, have recently showcased using performance capture to animate a digital character in engine and in real time, which is an amazing feat of technological progress.

Integration with animation: I have been integrating motion capture into my own personal animation. I have mainly been using motion capture to add subtlety to my animations that would have taken many, many hours to produce by hand. What would take me hours to complete is achieved in a fraction of recording time utilizing a motion capture system. Industry professionals, like Ubisoft Montreal’s animation director, Jonathan Cooper, and Dice LA’s animation director, Tobias Dahl, have both been known to refer to motion capture, or performance capture, as a reliable tool to accelerate the animation process, but not as a replacement. I myself have found that you still need to clean up the motion capture data, as it is only as good as the quality of the recording, and in many cases, if not all of them, pure motion capture data will not give you the desired result, but it is without a doubt a useful and time saving tool that I see becoming commonplace in many areas of animation.

 

References

(2016). Marxentlabs.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.marxentlabs.com/what-is-virtual-reality-definition-and-examples/

know, W. (2016). What is virtual reality? Everything you need to know. TrustedReviews. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/what-is-virtual-reality

Motion Capture. (2016). Web.mit.edu. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/papers/furniss.html

Motion capture – Xsens 3D motion tracking. (2016). Xsens 3D motion tracking. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from https://www.xsens.com/tags/motion-capture/

Motion Capture Software and Mocap Tracking Info. (2016). Organicmotion.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.organicmotion.com/motion-capture/

O'Boyle, B. (2016). What is VR? Virtual reality explained – Pocket-lint. Pocket-lint.com. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/136540-what-is-vr-virtual-reality-explained

What is Virtual Reality? – Virtual Reality. (2015). Virtual Reality. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/what-is-virtual-reality.html

What you need to know about 3D motion capture. (2016). Engadget. Retrieved 2 May 2016, from http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/14/motion-capture-explainer/

 

World builder Post Mortum

OverView

The word builder project was a seven week project were we were tasked with creating an environment piece as a personal interpretation of a place in a piece of well known literature. The catch: this piece must not have been turned into a film or series, as to not be able to use that as a starting point. For the project I chose William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”. For my environment I decided to create a street in the night city.

Here is my 2D concept:

Consept

After Testing in engine, I decided to remove the road, street lights, and narrow the scene significantly.

Street 1 Street 2

Then testing the post processing effects, and atmospheric effects.
Fog and Lighting Once I had settled on all of the effects I set out to do the leg work of creating the assets and setting up the scene, you can find more information on this here.

result

Here is the final video footage of the scene:

I feel the project was successful due to the positive reaction that I received from my facilitators and my peers. Along side this, the project accomplished most of the susses goals that i had planed the project to achieve.

DOCUMENTATION

A large portion of the success for this project was due to the volume and effectiveness of the documentation that I created to ground this project. Mainly the art bible and the work break down structure, as they were used to focus the visual narrative, and reinforce progress with the production of the project respectively.

Here are some screen shots.

Scene view 3 Scene view 4 Scene view 2 Scene view 1 Scene view 5

 

 

 

Engine

Using Unreal Engine 4 was great, as I already had quite a bit of experience with the engine from personal works in my past. The greatest learning curve over the course of this project came from using the material editor but with my now found knowledge using the material editor I can quickly and effective make complex materials that can be used in a variety of future projects.

Technical frame work

Creating a set technical frame work and and file structure was my main stratify to avoid issues that i have faced in the past with file corruption and data loss. Using a proper file structure saved time by keeping my files organised.

Here is an example of this system:

file management

This system was described to my class by Brett, one of our facilitators.

how it works:

You have one master folder, for ease of copying the entire library for backup purposes. Inside the master folder, you have folders named as the assets, these contains the asset master file, that is used as the source for all referenced files, as well as the textures, and a final folder containing the iterative versions of the asset.

Issues

Out of all of the projects that I have taken part in this project had the least issues, the largest problem that I encountered was purely time, being the sole contributor to the project. By the time that I had settled on a concept and had completed all of the documentation, it was already week four of seven. Production was hampered by getting sick, an inevitability in any solo project.

future considerations

The main considerations I will make in the future are to do with the way I approach the documentation and how I setup my asset references. The documentation that I developed over the course of the project was a huge learning curve that will positively impact the way I plan projects in the future.

Modularity: Production, and Practice.

The world builder project has been the first time that I designed assets to be modular from the beginning. The success of the project and the modular design has changed the way that I will approach projects in the future.

So what is modularity?

Modularity is the degree to which a system’s components may be separated and recombined. The meaning of the word, however, can vary somewhat by context:

 

  • In Industrial Design, modularity refers to an engineering technique that builds larger systems by combining smaller subsystems.
  • In Manufacturing, modularity refers to the use of exchangeable parts or options in the fabrication of an object.

Before I begun constructing my modular pieces I devised a set of simple rules that I would work by in order to ensure all my models would function in a modular fashion.

  • All parts must be built a one meter grid.
  • the origin point will always be in the bottom, left, forward corner.
  • The Center of mass should sit along the X axis.
  • All parts must have square edges.
  • All parts must be multi functional.

After devising these rules I begun to concept the kinds of pieces that I would be building. I took the research into the culture and style of the overall scene.

 

My pipeline:

  • Write up an asset list, naming and describing all of the assets I would be creating.
  • Setup my file structure.
  • Setup the game engine settings.
  • Creating all of the assets out of basic shapes, with no detail, in my chosen 3d package.
  • Import all of the assets into the game engine.
  • Test the assets modularity, through arranging and rearranging different structures in engine.
  • Fix issues with modularity.
  • Begin iterative workflow.
    • Define the shape of all of the asset.
    • Test In engine.
    • Quick unwrap.
    • Check engine materials.
    • Repeat.

Here are the finished assets without Materials in my chosen 3d package.

Steel Tower Center Steel Tower Bace small Sign Office Building Outcrop Office Building Wall Office Building whole Restarant Shopfrount Mid Sign MetalWall_long MetalWall_corner MetalWall Large Sign Concreat Tile Concreat Tile_m8

Thank You for Reading.

References

Creating Modular Game Art For Fast Level Design. (2016). Gamasutra.com. Retrieved 13 May 2016, from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130885/creating_modular_game_art_for_fast_.php

Jones, S. (2016). Investigation into modular design within computer games. (1st ed., pp. 7-12,30-65). Retrieved from http://www.scottjonescg.co.uk/FYPResearch/Investigation_into_modular_design_within_computer_games_v1.0.pdf

Modular design within games.. (2010). polycount. Retrieved 13 May 2016, from http://polycount.com/discussion/78444/modular-design-within-games

Modularity. (2016). Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 May 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modularity