The Five Fundamentals of Game Animation: An Introduction

Hello, welcome to video game animation study. This channel studies animation in video games,
and to kick off 2020, we’re gonna look at the five fundamentals
of video game animation in this new mini-series. This episode is sponsored by Squarespace,
the all-in-one platform to build your online presence. The actual medium of animation has been around
for well over a hundred years. The first use of CGI in animation could be
attributed to a number of pieces dating back to the 70s, 60s and even 50s. The first use of stop motion and hand drawn
animation stems to the early 1900s, and even the zoetrope and associated devices
date back to the 1800s. But video game animation is still relatively
new, and evolving all the time. Techniques and processes are always dictated
by the limitations of the host technology, which is why we had limited frame use during
the 8-bit era of video games, for example. And as techniques and processes are enhanced
and refined, so to are the outcomes. The 12 Principles of Animation are the animator’s
toolkit for creating convincing, coherent and appealing movement. My buddy Dan has begun this study within video
games over on his channel so you should check that out, and there’s
lots of information on the 12 Principles out there generally, and while all animation generally adheres
to most of these rules, video game animation is a little different. No longer is a story told in a linear fashion
beyond your control. Video games offer the opportunity to play
the story at your own pace in your own order, And so the visual identity of the medium must
adapt. Animated storytelling, for the most part of
the 20th century, followed the format of traditional film storytelling. Actions are planned ahead, your camera must
consider the clarity of your storytelling etc. But as the confines of linearity are expanded,
so are the principles that shape them. A camera in a 3D game no longer works how
it would in TV or film, it’s free roaming as opposed to fixed or planned. Since the popularity of the video game industry
has grown, animators and developers have always had in
their minds their own set of rules for animating in games. For instance, there’s an art to making a
character loop nicely in their idle pose, something you probably wouldn’t worry too
much about in a TV series or a film. You might rewatch your favourite animated
film over and over, but it’ll never match the amount of times
you might punch in Street Fighter over and over, so you have to think about how elegant and
efficient your animation is going to look, and from all angles, too! And now, for the first time, all these unspoken
rules and guides are coming together in the same way the 12 Principles did in The
Illusion of Life. Jonathan Cooper is the author of the book
Game Anim: Video Game Animation Explained, And from his experience animating and leading
on games such as Uncharted, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and The Last of Us, he has collated many modern techniques and
practices over the past 20 years into a single idea which compliments The 12 Principles, which
he has termed: The Five Fundamentals of Video Game Animation. This introductory episode will act as an overview
of these fundamentals, with following episodes going into more detail on each. Firstly, let’s look at Feel. The difference between a game and a film is
the interactivity. Jonathan Cooper posits that an animator should
relinquish authorship of an animation, lest it interfere with the interactivity. This means that no matter how good you want
an animation to look for a move, you should be prepared to scrap some or all
of it for the sake of better control. The fine balance you have to perfect is the
difference between a character feeling sluggish and a character feeling unrealistic. Some characters might take a while to turn
on the spot, while some might flip instantly with no inertia. This affects how the character feels to play. A big punch and a small punch will feel different,
turning a corner fast and slowly will feel different. This is Feel. Next, it’s Fluidity. Fluidity, which I’ve touched upon briefly
before, is how smoothly and coherently different actions blend together. It is the art of transition, removing and
reducing as best you can, as Jonathan puts it, any “unsightly movements” between different
actions that might “give away” the magic. It’s much easier to achieve this with programmable
maths in a 3D rig than it is with separate sprite animations in a 2D game. Going from idle to run, for example, could
look like this, or it could look like this. One of them is easier on the eye and likely
to immerse you more, but be careful you don’t ruin the feel. This is Fluidity. Let’s look at Readability. This is how your action reads on screen, and
is a close relative to the classic Staging Principle. While you may have control of your character,
the camera, in many cases, is independent and will fly around at all
sorts of angles, so a video game animator’s job, more so
in 3D games, is to ensure an action is identifiable and clear from any angle. You have to ensure your action is interesting
and doesn’t just move in one particular direction, but give it some texture by having varying
movements in different directions at once. This is readability. And now Context. This relates to where and how an animation
will be used in your game. Quite often, an animator won’t know when
an animation will be used by a character, or multiple characters, unless it’s a very
specific animation for a scene or character. For instance, all three characters in GTA5
generally have the exact same movement, as far as I can tell. There’s no real distinction between their
personalities, even though they’re all quite different. This is different to, say, Batman in the Arkham
games. You’re going to be controlling only Batman,
so you can have specific nuances and quirks that will apply only to Batman. Batman’s walk wouldn’t really work with
Catwoman, and vice versa. NPCs will often have animation that’s not
going to be seen as much by the player when compared to the player character, so
this is something to consider when designing an action for a character. And you have to consider how close to the
game camera that a character will be, with far away moves given a bit more exaggeration
to make them more readable, and more subtle movements restrained for cutscenes. And lastly Elegance. As the name suggests, this is how elegant
animations all look when working together. This is an idea that applies to design in
general, and not just to game animation. But in this case, it relates to the efficiency
of an action, and the animation systems in place that bring
different animations together. This can relate to the overall production
of the game and how this will affect workflow later in the project, especially when you need to change something
easily. Elegance can be about thinking smart. Jonathan gives an example where if your character
has to interact with a lot of objects in a game, then making the objects all a similar size
will allow you to make a more generic animation to save cost on lots of different animations. However, if your game is about interacting
with different objects, then it might be wise to invest a little more
into unique actions for varying objects. Or, if you have an action for opening a door,
can this be adapted for other things with a little tweaking to the animation? It’s all about being clever and efficient,
and avoiding having your workload being bloated. This will depend entirely on the content,
substance and budget of your game though. This is elegance. And these are the Five Fundamentals. They’re there to compliment the original
12 principles, to help shine a new light on animation techniques
that require a different line of thinking in video game production. The following five episodes will go into more
detail on each of these fundamentals, so do the thing if you wanna be in the loop. You can buy Jonathan Cooper’s book Game
Anim which is out now, you can check out his twitter or his website, it’s full of lots of different things to
do with animation in the video game industry, I thoroughly recommend it if you’re looking
to get into this career, and I also recommend this video by New Frame
Plus. Ooh, before I go: If you’re an animator or creative mind,
and you’re like me and your only experience of web development was editing CSS code on
MySpace back in 2005, then go on right ahead and click that link
in my description just there, and make the most of my Squarespace offer. I know you see it a lot of it around, but
having a Squarespace website is pretty neat. I mean, literally. You can organise everything so easily and
you’ve got a whole load of tools that enable you to share things to other platforms, take
donations, see your analytical data. And it looks professional. Which really helps
if you wanna impress potential employers and such, especially if you’re trying to get
into a big industry! So use my link in the description to start
a free trial to check Squarespace out for yourself, and when you’re ready to launch use my coupon
code for 10% off your first purchase for a website or domain. Okay thanks to my patrons and thanks to Squarespace. Random patron shout-out Silentbun. Thanks,
you quiet rabbit, you! Loveyoubye!

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About Author

  1. Ben Williams

    Me first!!!

  2. Demonic Skull


  3. Video Game Story Time

    Love you, Dan! I can see an extra scoop of research went into getting this footage, and the video is all the better for it!

  4. Hardcore Chewie

    0:55 garry?

  5. Jerrell Syriac

    4th i geuse

  6. Ben Williams

    I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. I'm now going to watch it on 'the telly'.

  7. Bloxed

    I think animation can sometimes ruin a game if animation makes moves and actions drag out which always makes it feel the game is style over substance. Personally, I think animation should look really great and smooth but without sacrificing gameplay.

    Great pilot for a sub-series and great video overall, Dan!

  8. Bård Baadstø Ildgruben

    This is perfect! I'm working on a NES game with NESmaker right now, and I was just polishing some of the character animations. This video helps s lot. Thank you!

  9. Donotaro Studios

    Nice to see another great video from you.

  10. Alan Tandelov

    Dan: creates only one part of a series.

    Video Game Animation Study: Fine, i'll do it myself

    he actually made another one, stupid me, i totally forgot =)

  11. meta jay 404

    Oh hey another underated channel.

  12. Ben Williams

    Ah man. So much content to mull over in such a small amount of time. Brilliant video, Dan. That GTA carjack transition was nice too!

  13. Aadit Doshi

    Hey! Great video!
    My only criticism would be that the resolution of games varies a lot, the Ps4 footage seemed really low resolution. It got a little distracting.

  14. Niredus

    Am I the only one who feels the sound quality of the talking is a little low? Sounds like a cheap mic. Too bad considering the high quality of everything else in the video.

  15. Alexandre Ferreira

    A crucial difference between traditional animation, movies and so on, of game animation is the use of anticipation. In fact, anticipation should be greatly reduced or even nonexistent in some cases, especially for intense action games such as fighting games. The delay that anticipation causes in game actions disrupts the player's experience.

  16. Eastyy

    I hope one day you cover the 2d fighting game Rumble fish and Rumble fish 2. Had very odd but cool animation

  17. Nick Lorenz

    Remember to SQUASH AND STRETCH that like button!

  18. Lucas Watts

    Lookin good!

  19. Judge Cal

    "Hello, welcome to VG Animation Study. This channel studies animation in VGs.” Ah, thanks for the clarification; I’ve been using it for guided transcendental meditation.

  20. Flutterdrive

    would you ever do a video on the animation of Ori and the blind forest?

  21. By The Campfire / 52K

    I look forward to this. This is awesome.

  22. Nicole Rivas


  23. Knack II

    great video, as always

  24. Gero

    Ahh yes, one of my favorite things. Someone named Dan talking about video games and/or Animation.

  25. Aaron Heaton

    The GTA V characters all have different walk and running animations though, even idol posses with weapons

  26. Grimsdottir

    You want a jarring example of game feel
    Play Death Stranding or RDR2 for a while until your brain is comfortable with it, maybe like an hour, and then jump to Assasins Creed Odyssey or Origins
    It's like your character has the weight of a feather, and if you want another crazy feel, jump to AC Unity or AC4 after playing Origins or Odyssey.
    God it's awful…

  27. Grimsdottir

    One thing I hate a lot about games with realistic animations, like Uncharted and new GoW, is when you slide or magnetize towards an enemy, like say punching someone or a platform when jumping to a ledge, it's ruins the whole thing and it happens way to often.

  28. PixzelBeast

    Really helpful for my development! Thankyou <3

  29. Red Alchemy

    Nicely done! Its an interesting set of questions that are valuable in determining how well animation is working in a video game.

    Feel: Does the animation compliment gameplay?
    Fluidity: How well does it balance between various animation states?
    Readability: Does the animation communicate what action is supposed to be taking place? (telegraphed attacks etc.)
    Context: Will this animation suit what actions need to be done in game?
    Elegance: Can the animation be used in a more efficient or convincing manner? (for production or otherwise)

    I also wonder how you feel about one more fundamental that seems hinted at but not explicitly stated?
    Control: Does the computer, player, AI, or animator control what is happening?
    Basically a question of what combination of procedural animation, animator driven animation, and user controlled input is being used to achieve the final result.

  30. Romaji

    1:57 … You sure that's PS3?

  31. Roy

    I did the thing. That is… Hit like, subscribe, the bell, comment, order chicken, and stalk Dan… very quietly until the next episode releases.

  32. Mario Khoury

    9:25 best part

  33. KoTu

    gameplay first… most important rule for game animator

  34. CaioComC

    Why no links to the book and video cited?

  35. Kürşad Bostan

    I love these. I get excited when a new video comes. You are doing a great job. Can't wait for the next one.

  36. Augustus Hinton

    Excited for the rest of the videos in this series!

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