ANTICIPATION – The 12 Principles of Animation in Games


Hello! My name is Dan,
and welcome to New Frame Plus. It’s time to talk about another one
of the 12 Principles of Animation. We’ve talked about Timing and we’ve
talked about Squash & Stretch. And today is a special day, because we’re going to look at
one of my favorite principles and one of the most important
for video games: Anticipation. If you’ve watched any of the other
videos on this channel before, you’ve probably heard me
use this term at least once. Anticipation is the preparation
for the main action. It’s the crouch that comes before the big
jump. It’s the wind-up before the pitch. It’s something that accompanies
almost every action you can think of, and it serves two important
functions in animation. First of all, it helps to sell the
physicality and power of an action. For an animated action to look right,
it has to have convincing body mechanics and a sense of weight, and those things are
often conveyed through the anticipating action. Like, try to imagine a free runner
jumping from one platform to another without first bending their knees
to maximize the power of the jump. Imagine a golfer trying to
drive the ball down the fairway without first taking
a nice big back swing. Or a pitcher throwing the
baseball without that windup. These actions would all look unrealistic (and
just bizarre) without their anticipating actions. The preparatory movements
are what convey the power. And the more powerful the action, the more
exaggerated that anticipation needs to be. But Anticipation also serves
another crucial purpose: it helps an action
to read better. Anticipation helps to
guide the audience’s eye, and prepare us for
what’s about to happen. When we see that pitcher wind up, we can
already tell what they’re about to do. When we see a Looney Tunes
character take a few steps back and coil up with
their foot raised, we can already predict that they’re
about to sprint off-screen at top speed. With a good anticipation, you should be able to
cut to black right before the action happens and still know exactly what
that character was about to do. Anticipation can also be a
great way to create contrast when you really want
to emphasize an action. Say you’re animating
a cartoony character and you want to make them react strongly to
something, like they’re suddenly surprised. Obviously you’d want to have them
do a big bug-eyed expression, but that reaction will feel even
bigger if you first have them scrunch their face up for a frame or
two, just to maximize the change. Anticipation is a great
tool in any animated medium, but it’s one of the MOST
important principles for games, because players aren’t just passively OBSERVING
the movement of characters onscreen, we often have to RESPOND to it. We need visual cues to react to,
and anticipation provides them. How do we know that the huge
monster is about to attack? Because we see the wind up,
which gives us the chance to predict what’s coming next and hopefully
allows us just enough time to get away. A lot of action games are BUILT around the
idea of reacting to your opponent’s tells, of recognizing the incoming attack just
quickly enough to dodge out of the way, and maybe even respond
with a counterattack. Some games, like Sekiro,
demand even more precision, requiring that you not only recognize
that the incoming attack is coming, but also deliver a specific,
precisely-timed response. This sort of game REQUIRES very
well-crafted anticipating actions. Sekiro’s animators and designers had
to do endless frame-by-frame tuning of all the attack animations for
every enemy in that game because they had to ensure that each attack was:
A. visually clear enough to see coming, and B. visually distinct enough to be individually
identified and appropriately responded to. If those animated
anticipations weren’t clear, the entire game’s combat
system simply would not work. But this can all get a little bit tricky when it
comes to animating the player character, because when the
player hits a button, they generally want the associated
action to happen quickly. Many of the best-feeling
games to control are the ones where it seems like actions
come out nearly instantaneously, where the player character responds
immediately to your inputs. Like, when you press the attack
button in a Smash Brothers game, your hit will often land like
1/10th of a second later. Now, that leaves almost no time
at all for an Anticipation, but – if you play Smash Brothers – you know
how responsive those characters feel. Of course, not every genre of game
demands that kind of instantaneous action. In slower-paced action games like
Dark Souls or Monster Hunter, your player character’s attacks will
often have much lengthier windups. And having to factor in that
anticipation time forces players to choose the timing of their attacks more strategically. Or in a turn-based RPG or an
RTS, or any other genre, where the player isn’t controlling
the characters directly, well, in those cases responsiveness
isn’t nearly so big a concern, which means there’s a lot more
wiggle room on animation length. But more often than not,
when it comes to player characters, responsive controls
take priority, so the game animator just
isn’t going to have the luxury of giving each action quite as
much anticipation as we’d like. Which means we gotta look for other ways to sell
the power of the player character’s actions. One common strategy is to extend an action’s
recovery time rather than its windup. This can help to visually convey
the exertion and power of an action without costing additional
time in the anticipation phase. Now, in terms of realistic physicality, it’s
no replacement for a good anticipation, but in terms of game feel,
it does get the job done. And as a bonus, it gives the designers
a handy method of building risk and reward into your move-set,
with more powerful actions leaving you vulnerable for
a longer time afterward. Another approach that
animators often take is to try to sneak an anticipation pose
into the earliest frames of an action, just enough time to reap some of the benefits
without having to lose too much responsiveness. Like, when you press the Jump button in
Anthem, it may only last a few frames, but your javelin will sneak in
a quick crouch before jumping, which adds some nice
springy-ness to the launch. When Mario throws his cap, he instantly snaps
to this windup pose and begins his twirl, which ITSELF actually functions as a kind of visual
anticipation before the actual throw. But sometimes that
window is so tight that the animators can only sneak in
the FEELING of an anticipation pose. Like, the jumping animation in Celeste
has ZERO time for an anticipation. Literally zero. When that jump input gets
received, Madeline is up in the air next frame. So, since an anticipating
crouch is out of the question, the animator instead has her sprite do
an exaggerated stretch as she lifts off, which sort of subconsciously IMPLIES the
existence of a crouched-down squash beforehand? There ISN’T one, but is sort FEELS like there was, which is very cool! Anticipation may not be a tool that game animators
can use quite as often as we’d usually like, but it is still one of the most important
animation principles for this medium. It creates opportunities for
players to react to opponents. It defines how our player characters’
actions feel in our hands. It can even be a game design tool for
creating risk-and-reward opportunities in combat and shaping a
game’s difficulty curve. So much interesting game-play variety,
all built upon one animation principle! But I think that will do
it for Anticipation. Three down, nine to go. Be sure to subscribe so you
don’t miss the rest of them, and consider supporting the
show like all of these good folks. Thanks for watching,
and I’ll see you next time! [music]

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62 Comments
  1. callow Guru

    Ooh that ending animation from Sayonara Wild Hearts demonstrates it so well. It makes you want to see it happen.

  2. natthawut boonsan

    Omg I clicked so fast 😂

  3. Nyapyon -_-

    really cool video 🙂

  4. LRGamer

    Me: Sees Video with Sekiro Thumbnail
    *clicks

  5. Samuel Turner

    Heck yeah, love me some dan doing some animation explanation.

  6. Everyday Stories Animated

    *Top Quality Content *You Definitely Deserve More Subs.. 📈

  7. NightFore

    I was anticipating this video so much that I clicked instantly the moment I saw it.

  8. Prophet Roll

    I always look forward to your next video, they're really informative and fun, could you do a video on ragdoll and physics such as with clothes?

  9. TheGamerASD

    *Sees Comments made 1 day ago*
    Video: *2 minutes old*

    Me: *confused screaming*

  10. Rabid Moose

    Thank you Dan! I think these are the most interesting videos you make, and really want to know about all the principles, and a large reason to my interest is probably your supreme telling of these facts!

  11. Dalai Ankhbayar

    Finally Monster Hunter is featured on this channel, even if only for a bit and not as much as in your first Anticipation video. Great video regardless, and keep up the good work!

  12. Lethiwe Mwendwa

    Your videos are so damn amazing!

  13. Tey_

    If you play smash brothers, you know how responsive those characters feel
    Uses Byleth

  14. undercoverduck

    God, I have no aspiration to get into animation but these videos make me appreciate the work and thought behind it so much more. Thank you!

  15. 2hu

    anticipating the next one

  16. Forrest Henry

    I remember a GDC talk by a League of Legends animator where they showed how they had their default pose be an anticipation pose, like having a bow character keep an arrow nocked at all times. Pretty cool trick to have both good anticipation and responsive characters!

  17. Gilbot9000

    Excellent video as always, Dan. I was just explaining the other day how the anticipation poses of Cuphead bosses make the difficulty of fighting them fair, because it puts the pressure on you as a player to respond appropriately to my wife just the other day.

  18. 20XSteveX08

    This might be the a reason why Red Dead Redemption 2 feels so sluggish at times. They went for more realistic animations and so the anitcipation time is much longer.

  19. Russell

    I anticipated this video for more than 2 frames, believe me.

  20. Wait2Late

    "3 down and 9 to go". So it means I have to anticipate for your next video to be equally learning.

  21. Maju Piju

    yeah finally a new principle video! cant wait for the next one ;D

  22. AverageUnknown

    Did Pichu have to die?

  23. AdalRoderick

    I highly anticipated this new episode.

  24. Sun Tzu

    Yass, finally. Been waiting for this for so long

  25. comical sans

    Finally ,after all this time this masterpiece has been brought upon us

  26. Rain Hard

    Every single one of your videos is a masterpiece.

  27. Tom Rivlin

    I see you shiver with antici…











  28. BaSr

    Excited for the rest! rly good video 🙂

  29. John Couchman

    Shout to my boi Sekiro!!!

  30. Ze Great Pumpkinani

    3:41 and this is why Dark Souls 2 and many souls likes feel so clunky and wrong. People often drastically underestimate the importance of animation.

  31. EruditeW0lf

    I like that in a lot of games with combos, the sequence of actions is shaped so that the recovery pose of the previous action often serves as a sort of anticipation for the next. It's less visible in the Smash example at 4:21, but more so at 6:56, and is pretty clear in other examples like at 5:05 and 5:31.

  32. That Time Stamp Guy

    Anticipation
    • “The Wind Up”
    • Creates Contrast
    • A Cue for incoming motion

  33. Фёдор Гаврилов

    Sekiro's authors had to, but did not.

  34. Sanket Varia

    You are nailing down the easier one first lol. I want staging and appeal next as a video.

  35. artistafrustrado

    seeing a new New Frame Plus episode fills me with antici…

  36. ivanaviNiebla

    In smash bros. ultimate; the smash attacks, when charging up, look like the anticipation of a cartoon, you know what's going to happen, and how hard it's going to hit.

  37. Mr. G

    It's usually difficult to see in the heat of battle all those details.
    But, without them games would feel very empty. Thanks for reminding us of the work that goes into our entertainment.

  38. Heemin Gamin' Station

    a little surprised you didn't mention any charge attacks.
    but seriously I love these Principles videos.

  39. KC-Lucky

    Please do a video on the animation of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. One of the best animations I have seen in a game so far

  40. trobert t

    My favorite use of anticipation is definitely in the first Jojo opening
    https://youtu.be/caM2hEV69ac at 0:46 that movement before Dio strikes with the mask makes it so satisfying to watch.

  41. Gizensha Fox

    Not quite anticipation but I played a 2d game where it gave the turn animation the time it needed to animate recently, and… Wow that had bad game feel (Bizarely it also snapped between the end of a conversation animation and idle poses? I might be able to deal – in part – one without the other but the two combined was just weird and exaggerated the issues with both)

  42. Bedinsis

    Makes me think of The Darkest Dungeon where all the player characters have a default pose and a battle pose, the latter of which makes them look more alert and look like the action that they perform has had their wind-up already done.

  43. Chokes

    I like how anticipation is used in horror games, especially in older Silent Hill and Resident Evil titles.
    In Silent Hill 2, for example, James takes much longer to prepare for a swing (and to recover from one) than characters in other genres do. It gives off the feeling that James is afraid, uncertain, shaky, and that he has barely any idea how to wield a weapon or even fight at all.
    By contrast, in Resident Evil, the characters are hardened operators who've gone through specialized combat training, yet they still take a long time to aim and fire a handgun. Here, the anticipation serves to sell the notion that combat is dangerous, risky, and that it's often better to avoid it. It makes the player feel scared to open a door and encounter an enemy in close quarters.
    Games like these, where the player has to deal with long anticipation before they can attack, can and will come across as unresponsive to some people. However, they're far from being "objectively" bad — it's a purposeful stylistic choice.

  44. Kief Andrews

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for including links to the Music used.
    I can drive myself crazy catching a few seconds of a song and spending too much brain power piecing the whole song together from those few notes,
    or I just wanna listen to it myself. <3

  45. LiL Frailecillo

    Yaaaaaaaay! Love it EVERY time you upload Dan. You’re the best!

  46. Icarus

    The game at 4:59 looks interesting, can someone tell me what game that is?

  47. gladiumcaeli

    Either this video is a reupload or I'm just having deja vu

  48. Iron Pineapple

    every video on this channel is such a treat

  49. strongrudder

    charge blade salute

    I've definitely noticed a lot of this stuff myself. Seems to boil down to how the game is designed, whether a lack or abundance of anticipation in PC animations works or not. For Monster Hunter in particular, I think a lot of action game people bounce off the game because they're used to instant translation of their input. I did, initially. But when I came back to it, I learned the dance and have been having a blast.

  50. Simeon Novkov

    I love the series

  51. Luke Mileto

    I find the impression of an anticipation really mindblowing – which is why I find animation really fascinating. There's always tricks I haven't noticed

    and speaking of which, Aaron Blaise (who was the animation supervisor of Nala in Lion King and director of Brother Bear) made his course about 12 principles of animation available for free for a limited time https://creatureartteacher.com/product/fundamentals-of-animation/

  52. Finn Swan

    Tip for fellow animators/hobbyists/comic artists: you can look for slow motion videos on YT. And if you want to practice, I've found drawing a bean with just hands and feet can help – hands and feet are the second thing audiences look at and are most important in actions and posing. Same for comic artists! You'd be surprised how much animation principals overlap with clarity in comics.
    Much love! (◍•ᴗ•◍)✧*。

  53. The Mad Tinkerer

    Player characters need fewer anticipation frames because when a player presses a button, they have already physically started the action. By the time a finger is applying physical force to a button, the signal has been travelling from the brain for a few milliseconds (Or is it microseconds? Something like that. I'm not a doctor.). So whether the player is conscious of it or not, the game's response to their physical inputs is already being anticipated by the player by the time they have performed those inputs.

  54. Jonathan Seamon

    I was a bit distracted by the 'they don't wear pants in the southern part of France' lick at around 2:10. You could afford to tone down the music a few notches in the mix in my opinion. Otherwise Great info and discussion!

  55. sjames551

    I missed these videos. So much interesting stuff to learn about game design just in the visual conveyance of information.

  56. Ansible100

    Really interesting stuff here!

    Dan, two things: This channel got name-dropped on the Overly Sarcastic Production Hollow Knight Stream yesterday.

    2: You need to check out the anime “Keep your Hands off Eizoken”. It’s an anime about animation, they discuss a lot of the principles you showcase here, and it’s really really cute besides.

  57. Josh Foreman

    Been anticipating this one for a long time!

  58. Dragon's Swarm

    Does anyone remember their original anticipation video?

  59. VVen0m

    5:00 Huh? Is that a game? I've never seen it before, how's it called?

  60. Nillioz

    I have dyslexia and read: Anticonception, The 12 principles

  61. Destoria

    Yaaaaaaas! Finally new episode

  62. Skulltoast Studios [NanoElite666]

    If I start dying while watching this video, it's because the anticipation is killing me.

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