January 13, 2009

Attack Animations: Part 1

I know I'm late but the topic of attack animations was much more difficult to put into words than I had initially expected. Generally I speak about these kinds of topics using a white board and scribble notes so actually writing it all down is a bit foreign and so because of that I am going to tackle this topic in a couple posts. Stay tuned!

Attack animations begin with ideas that should take the "character" into account first and foremost, in other words "Form" before "Function". By doing this we should not have Yoda doing drops kicks, which would be totally out of "character" thus making the player scratch their head instead of enjoying attacking with Yoda. Once enough "Form" ideas have been generated its time to bring "Function" to the table. "Function" dictates when the hit frame is, the total length of the animation, how far the move travels, etc... Now that all the brain dump has taken place its time to combine all the elements of "Form" and "Function" and paper design an actual attack. Ok have fun and brainstorm the crap out of attacks before settling on one for creation!

Time to explain your creation to the animator. Do you know how to speak their language, I hope so or this is all going to end badly :(

The first rule in expressing an idea to an animator is to start with anything NON-TECHNICAL… they are artists after all. Walk them through the idea in words to begin with, hopefully you've already created an animation list with a small written description is available for them to read. Best case scenario is they get what you want because you are an amazing speaker whom can articulate complex ideas through words, ok I am lying this never happens. So here are my Top 3 techniques of getting them to understand the idea.

• Get out of your seat and act out what in the hell it is you want! This technique not only gives them a visual study of motion but it shows the designer is committed to the idea enough to get up and make a fool out of themselves. The acting also allows the animator to point out issues with motion, footwork, etc… thus creating a healthy creative dialogue!

• Ok this one is really just another form of acting but it uses puppets instead of people. Get some toys, stuffed animals, or whatever floats your boat and have some fun with motion and posing to get your idea across to the animator.

Capture Reference
• Video capture reference from other media sources such as sports, movies and other games is a quick and easy way to express complex ideas. The ability to find just about anything on YouTube these days has become a vital tool in my game design bag of tricks! The other nice thing about this is the animator can keep the reference to look at time and time again during the creation of the animation asset.

NOTE: Video taping either the acting or puppets greatly increases their effectiveness by turing them into video reference.

Now that we know how to express our ideas, what ideas should we be expressing for attack animations? Well, for me there are only three things to worry about when creating that great attack animation: Anticipation, Connection, and Follow Through!

• The Anticipation of an attack animation is the calm before the storm; there is something about it that sticks in your brain giving you a sense of destruction before it even happens. Seeing this destruction well beforehand focuses the eye so that the Connection is always seen in the best possible way. The Anticipation pose needs to be achieved quickly and then held for a bit so it reads well on screen, remember that motion is not needed once the pose has been reached. The Anticipation pose should also be very over the top and feel like the weight of the world is about to strike behind it to sell the attack.

• The Connection of an attack animation is usually a single pose that shows the very best pose of the animation to ensure excellent presentation. If the Connection pose is ever confused as something other than the Connection then it is wrong and should be fixed immediately. Imagine this pose being a freeze frame where all the blood, impact, and sounds are sold to their maximum potential, think of a K.O. blow in a boxing match. The face of the attacker should read power, strength, and dominance where the face of the enemy should read pain, Pain, and PAIN!

Follow Through
• The Follow Through of an attack animation can make or break the attack because it conveys the power after it happens. The Follow Through should have one key pose that is held before the animation begins to recover back to the base pose. Think of a baseball player after he hits a homerun, one could look at that pose in a picture and know what happened. The best way to achieve this is to use strong over the top poses and spend more frames savoring them and less frames returning to the base pose.

This concludes Attack Animations: Part 1, hope to see you back for the next part very soon.

January 8, 2009

EGM, a goodbye...


I was so sad to hear EGM was put down, not to mention 1Up being placed in limbo during a buyout :( Man look at that photo above it's glorious! It happens to be the very first issue of EGM I bought from Walden's Books at the Canton Center Mall which was the place were I learned to play Street Fighter... oh the memories! The issue was amazing with pictures for all of Ken's moves. So crazy to think that it was February 1992 and below is the final issue that will never happen for February 2009. Talk about full circle, with the world warriors on the cover.


The EGM/1Up staff have always been warm and welcoming and even invited us over during industry events in SF so it will be sad to know that will never happen again at that office. I can only hope they will regroup to start something even better with a new place to hang out in the not so distant future.

Best of luck to all of you and EGM will always be REMEMBERED!!!

January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all those who read this thing from time to time and I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season with family and friends!!!

Well, I figured what time is better than now to update the blog. Sorry for leaving this thing vacant for such a long time but I was giving "life" a bit more of my time over the last few months. I had the best year ever, I got married, I got to work on a lot of different games (contract designer), read more than any year ever (shameful but true), traveled a lot, and ran two marathons. Getting married was a whirlwind adventure, 6 days in Italy for the ceremony and first reception, then we had 3 receptions on three consecutive weekends starting in Portland for my wife's family, then to Ohio for my family and finally in LA for friends. Tons of smiles and memories with everyone important our lives, this alone made it the best year so far and probably ever!

Recently have I started to play games again, catching up on everything I missed this year. I manned up and actually played a bunch of shooters of late which is hard for me because I get motion sick from FPS so I have play in small doses. BioShock was really amazing, CoD4 was cool but I suck so multiplayer was just a bunch of dying and being sad. Plowing through The Orange Box right now, done with Half Life 2 which I liked a lot, especially the dune buggy sections, I love road movies and want to make a road game one day. Portal was tough with the motion sickness but I made it through and loved the atmosphere and mood. The humor was endearing and the voice was perfect. Playing all the demos on PSN Store, most are awful and kill any interest in buying the game, word to the do not throw together a demo, instead "kill it" or don't do one at all! Oh yeah I am finally getting an Xbox 360, so late to the party on that one but better late than never. Tons to catch up on that system, but its not like I am missing too much since most of the big games are shooters which are not my #1 genre as I am sure you gathered from the above. The DS was a life saver on the road this year, between the Castlevania series and Soul Bubbles it made a lot of boring hotel stays pretty fun. I love games but there is not enough time in the day like there was when I was a kid so shorter games with tighter story and lots of variety are the key to the future of games, in my opinion... old man gamer in effect!

I played a lot of Street Fighter this year, its my roots in gaming even though I am not very good so it was good to get back to basics. Derek is always the king of knowing when some little get together is happen, I get calls like James Chen's tonight or let's go to Sunland to play on Vic's super gun setup... god bless Derek for being so connected to the community.

I was fortunate to get a lot of matches in with the team members at the studios I have been working with this year. Why do they all love Third Strike thought (never played it until this year), it baffles me but I am old school and love my ST too much I suppose... shrug. Oh yeah Short Short Super is growing quite nicely and that is crazy because I thought it would fail, goes to show what I know. So thank you to all the studios willing to risk time and money on me. Breaking out the Street Fighter for a little after hours cool down or lunch time battles was the icing on the cake for most of the design sessions!

Also I have gotten a few emails and saw a comment asking me about God of War 3. I am no longer with the team which I thought was known and clear from a previous post. Certain members still keep in touch and they say it is going well and will carry on the tradition. I look forward to playing it just like everyone else!

Lately I have been trying to figure out how to post about game design because seem to want that but its hard to write without getting all dry and boring. Most of the stuff on Gamasutra bores me and I do not want to write like that, I wish the lunch conversations and IM Chats I have with industry people could be translated into the blog. I suppose podcast would work but I am too lazy to do that, sorry :( Also I struggle with this weird thing called internet famous, its not my style but no knock to those who are or search it out. Then again I want talented devs to get the respect they deserve and media attention of any kind may be the best avenue to get that respect... but heck I would not even appear on the GoW making of videos (media shy). When I think about writing something this little internal conversation occurs in my brain that goes like this "who are you to write about this" but when someone asks me to write about a topic that does not happen, don't ask me why because I have not put any metal effort into figuring out the difference. I guess that is why I have such an issue with the blog it sort of goes against me wanting to hide in the shadows, oh well it will sort itself out in time like all things.

Well that's it, I updated and said nothing but let's hope this will get me posting more this year. If not yell at me, I respond to pressure!!!