Game Animation

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The game animation is one of the main parts of the game visuals. You can have beautifully detailed models and visual effects, but without proper animation your game will probably not succeed.

landscape

We can make all types of game animation from main menu buttons to cool moves in fighting game. In this article we’ll explain why animation in game design is so important and what our animators can do.

Developing the game animation concept

We can’t create good animations without clear plan and knowledge about game mechanics. Our animating team starts of concept-document creation. In this document they describe list of all animations needed: what is moving, why it’s moving, how this move must look and feel. Then we add some creativity to boring concept and come up with smart ideas.

The concept document also describes additional animations: loading indicators, game menu effects, cursors and other interface animations. This process helps to keep all animations in one style and make gameplay memorable.

Animated interface for games

2D game animation

2D animation is used in all games with no exceptions. The main case is for animating the interface, loading bars, blinking health bar and way more. 2D graphics needs less rendering power and is cheaper than 3D modelling.

2D character game animation for games are widely used by indie-developers and small studios. Even the simplest game needs animation, otherwise it will be boring to look at.

To create 2D game animation our we start from keyframes. Keyframes are simple sketches of the movement’s culmination point. Then we draw transition frames which drive character from idle pose to climax to idle.

running animation animation spreadsheet

We often use game animation software like Spine or Toon Boom to create wide variety of animations. Artists redraw game characters as separate layers: head, torso, hands, legs, etc.

Most of game frameworks allow to combine these layers into one whole. Then we can set up functions to correspond limbs movement with character states. By using this type of game animation we can do a great work without the need to redraw character 50 times just to make him jump. Also game animation software allow to stack different layers on top of character. This way we can make useful customization system so player can change hairstyle, clothes and color of the character.

Develop your game from scratch — create the game concept document!

If the game has animated characters we begin to work with surroundings. Our beloved trick is parallax effect: to draw the background as a few layers and make them move at different speed relative to each other and player.

landscape animation

And of course we draw eye catching effects like falling leafs, rain, clouds, animated textures and much more. This little effects make levels look more interesting and alive.

Animating the pixel art

Gamers love pixel art, but drawing and animating in this style is more difficult than animating 2D sprites. The most complicated parts is to save proportions and silhouette in every frame. To achieve this we use so called internal animation. We try to add and remove as little pixels as possible and only change the colors of existing pixels.

Pixel art game animations

2D game animation in Unity 3D and Unreal Engine

Many of modern 2D games use 3D models and surroundings. It is slightly different from simple 2D or 3D animation, because we must create spectacular and recognizable moves with limited camerawork.

2D game animation on unity

We know how to create 2D games in Unity 3D and Unreal Engine like fighting games, beat-em-ups and platformers.

3D game animation

2D game animation is mostly done by painters, but for 3D game animation we need different kind of specialists. Animation of 3D game is very responsible part of development. If it’s not done properly, the players will criticize the game even if it has decent story and good gameplay. Mass Effect: Andromeda has failed mostly because of poor animation quality and bugs.

That’s why we always try our best to make the animations look stylish and complete. Our experienced 3D animating team can achieve such a result.

Rigging and skinning of a 3D model

Rigging is the process of building and setting up the virtual skeleton inside of 3D model. Complexity of skeleton depends on which level of movement digitalization you want to achieve. For example, to animate cartoonish human for mobile 3D game we need to use 21 bones. And to realistically animate one hand with five fingers we need to use 54 bones.

Rigging and skinning process

After creating the skeleton the rigging specialist sets it up: adds joints, connects bones and joints into groups, upbuild hierarchical structure of bones, limits the tilt and rotation angles of joints. This is long and painstaking work but in the end of rigging he produces fully tuned skeleton which behave like real thing in hands of skilled animator.

The final step of preparations is skinning process. Skinning specialist connects parts of 3D model with corresponding bones and joints so there will be no teardowns and hands wouldn’t fall into the torso during animations.

Skeletal animation for games

The animators describe moves of model’s limbs as mathematical functions and connect these functions to character states. For example, if player commands the character to go forward the game engine will enable “run” function.

skeletal animation

Skeletal game animation allows us to use so called mixed states, when the model can perform different functions for different limbs at the same time. Because of this the reloading animation won’t stop legs from walking. Thanks to mixed states animators do not need to create separate animations for every possible combination of commands. They only have to properly describe functions for every group of bones and setup mixed state.

Also we use mixed state to achieve smooth transitions between the states. For example, running and stopping without mixed states will look very unnatural: the character rises his feet to make a step and in the next frame the feet stands on the ground. Mixed states will make him to lower his leg  smoothly and go over to idle state.

Palms, finger and facial animations

Hands and face are the most mobile parts of human body. Our palm consists of 27 bones, 9 tendons and 5 muscles. It is very hard to simulate real palm and finger movements by mathematical functions only because slightest move of one finger makes other fingers to move too. That’s why you rarely see close-up of game character’s hands. But sometimes we need to show hands, like for reloading in FPS games. In this case we animate hands manually with mockup, references and rotoscopy.

Facial animations for game

Our face consists of only two bones and 21 muscles which are connected to each other. Every emotion is a combination of different contraction of all muscles. To make things way harder when the muscle contracts in one direction it also expands in other one.

Facial animation is very expensive process because most of work is done manually and even expensive mockup devices doesn’t help too much. But if you want to show face of your character on the screen – we will help you to animate it, do a lip sync and emotions.

3D surroundings game animation

The videogames world must be alive and dynamic, otherwise the players won’t believe in it. Amount of work with surroundings depends on setting and visual style. There are not much to do to animate insides of spaceship, but enchanted forest may need more animation than some NPCs.

Surroundings animation for game

Surroundings animation also include secondary animations like the doors opening, valves turning and buttons pushing. Animating the interactive objects is a good way to make believable game world.

Hire us to animate your game

Feel like your game needs something better than generic character movement? We will try our best to make your game as alive as possible. Wobbly cartoonish animations, realistic hand movements and animations for abstract games like Tetris — we can do anything.

Contact us and tell what do you need.

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