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Video: An indie approach to procedural animation
May 5, 2014 | By Staff

May 5, 2014 | By Staff
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    2 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Art, Design, Production, Video, Vault



"We really need animation and code to work more closely together, so we can use the code to help offload repetitive tasks from the animators."
- Wolfire Games co-founder David Rosen speaking about the value of procedural animation systems during GDC 2014.

David Rosen gave a great talk earlier this year about how indie developers can use simple procedural techniques to achieve interactive and fluid animations using very few key frames, with examples drawn from Rosen's experience creating indie games like Overgrowth, Receiver and Black Shades. Rosen also answers common game animation questions, like "what exactly is the difference between a playable character and a vehicle?" in the 30-minute presentation, which was given during the GDC 2014 Animation Bootcamp.

We've taken the liberty of embedding the free video of "An Indie Approach to Procedural Animation" above, but you can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Comments


Wendelin Reich
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Very very interesting!

However, I did get the impression that David's approach requires that only key/extreme poses be keyed, so that all inbetweens can be generated with his simple (but effective) procedural heuristics. Is this impression correct?

Like many others who animate, I'd like my code to do procedural adjustments and tweaks (like IK, applying physics, blending etc.) BUT I'm not ready to take a 100% procedural approach where all inbetweens are dropped. How would one go about doing that? I'm gonna think out loud a bit, maybe others could chime in.

IMHO, blending should ideally be handled by the game engine (if you, like me, use one). Haven't checked out UE4 here, but Unity's blending (via Mecanim) is getting progressively better, even if there's still lots of stuff missing.

IK is also largely a solved problem. There are really good off-the-shelf solutions available for Unity (Final IK!) and apparently also UE4 (IKinema).

As to physics-based animation adjustments (following gravity by defining mass, joint constraints etc.), articulated rag-dolls, and all that advanced stuff, I'd love to hear more on the details of David's solution, but general solutions are probably complex. Wouldn't it be cool if someone developed a simplfied version of something like Naturalmotion's Euphoria engine (think 'Clumsy Ninja'!) at an Indie-friendly price?!

Christiaan Moleman
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Great talk.

It's good to see these sorts of ideas catching on. Kudos to Mike Jungbluth and co for organizing the Animation Bootcamp at GDC and getting devs both inside and outside of animation to think about this stuff. Haven't had the chance to attend myself but at least I get to enjoy the results via blogs and Vault! I'm glad this exists.

@Wendelin: I think the main point is not do away with hand-keyed breakdowns and inbetweens necessarily but that the larger, macro movement and momentum need to react more to both environment and player input. You can have really fancy animation pieces but if it doesn't feel like the character is physically reacting in a believable way to what is happening in the game, it feels wrong no matter how many cool transitions you put on top of it.

Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the best examples of combining heavy keyframe animation with procedural elements (balance, interaction with complex deforming collision objects and the pendulum thing shown in the video).

There's a good article on the making of Shadow the Colossus here:

http://selmiak.bplaced.net/games/ps2/index.php?lang=eng&game=sotc
&page=makingof


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