Recently I gave a lecture at the GDC in San Jose and had several people tell me that it was very helpful for them. So I refined the notes I created for that particular lecture to share this information with the rest of the gaming community who may want to know more about the animation end of things.
Now, I don't claim to know it all, but I can tell you what I have learned over the years. Hopefully, some of my tricks and techniques will help to keep your producers loving your work and keep your projects on schedule.
Part 1 – Know Your Limits
There are many things to consider when you begin to take on the task of animating for a real-time 3D video game. The most important is to know your limitations defined by the game engine.
By limitations, I mean how many polygons can the character be, and how many frames can the animation be as well as other issues defined by the engine. Before beginning the animation you should sit down with the lead programmer and discuss what limitations you will have to deal with. This will help you plan your animation and what tools you will be using, give you some insight as to what you can and cannot do when animating, and it will save you time and energy if both you and the programmer are in sync.
Early on in the project it is important to determine what software you will be using as well as what tools can be utilized.
An example of some questions that should be addressed:
- Are feet sliding an issue or will the feet slide as in "Quake"?
- Can you make use of IK or bones and will the engine read this data?
- Will the characters be segmented or single-skin?
- How many frames do I have to animate this character?
- What is the final format that the game engine will read in?
- Are we going to make use of MOCAP?
Once you know your limitations and tools you can begin to animate the run given the parameters you have to work with.