My name is Vitalii Halka, and I’m an Animation Artist at Plarium Kharkiv. In this article, I want to let you know what the workflow of game animation is like using my experience of animating the dragon from Raid: Shadow Legends.
From the outset, it is important to have a clearly defined objective for your task. If this is clear, it allows you to select your priorities, pick suitable reference art, and form a concept that takes into account all limitations and conditions.
My task was to create some of the animations for the dragon and meet the following requirements:
Here is the list of animations we decided to make for the dragon:
I began with the animation of Skill 1. The idea was clear: we needed deadly fire breath with a noticeable inhale phase (in preparation for the attack) and a sharp exhale phase. The dragon would lower its head as close to the ground as possible to make its attack more accurate and make sure all its enemies are engulfed by its noxious flames.
After outlining what the dragon would do and how, I made sure, as always, to talk with my team lead or art director to get approval before I proceeded to find reference art.
Because they have been featured in countless movies, cartoons, games, and TV shows, there is a plethora of dragon reference art. But what that means is that there are also countless variations to consider. So, taking other dragons into account, I had to make some decisions regarding the anatomy of the dragon we were going to create. This included its neck length, differences between its fore and hind limbs, the size of its wings and where they were placed. We decided to attach the wings to the forearms rather than placing them separately on the dragon’s back.
Artist: Javier Franco Santacreu https://www.artstation.com/javierfrancosantacreu
I used several reference sources when working on just a single animation. I would pick the parts I liked best such as shoulder or leg movements, or the shake of a head. Working on some other movements even required filming myself.
What’s great about recreating movements yourself is that you get a much deeper understanding of the nuances that are critical for a great animation.
To figure out the timing, I prepared a simple cube animation (see below). This allows me to assess quickly whether or not an idea will work. It is also simple to edit in this form, so introducing corrections and changes is easy too.
The next stage I moved onto was blocking. This is where I set key poses using our rig. I used the cube as a reference object to determine placement and timing. During the blocking stage, the most important thing was to focus on the high and low poses. To keep that focus at this time, I kept the wing geometry hidden until the splining stage.
Next I added the intermediate frames and adjusted the initial key poses before interpolating the keys to be splined. Then, to make our character easier to read, we checked our animation using the camera coordinates that are closest to the in-game view.
After the inbetweening stage, the next step is splining the keys. Remember that the dragon is colossal in size, so almost every part of its body has residual motion. We gave residual motion only to the dragon’s most basic, massive body parts. It is at this point that it is best to check your animation using elements of the in-game scene.
In this final stage, we added micro-movements, vibrations, and residual motion to almost every body part. Animation layers and auxiliary objects are quite handy in this process. There is an excellent tutorial here on using Layers. Layers is not only useful in addition to other tools, it is actually a powerful and self-sufficient tool that can be used to create animations from scratch.
In the animation below, only four key poses were used:
For the subtler, finer, and more realistic movements, I used the following tools:
The tools listed above can really boost the quality of your animation.
I was still working on the animation for Skill 1 when I got an idea on how to connect and transition between the animations from the initial list. I decided to cut the Skill 1 animation into two parts:
Cutting a single animation into two helped solve several tasks at once. We gained ideas for Skills 2 and 3, as well as Idle Pose 2, which became the starting point for Skill 3, Hit 1, Hit 2, and the Idle animations.
Creation of a top-quality in-game animation requires a solid foundation. The best way to get to a roaring final product is to thoroughly plan the animation pipeline, find suitable reference art, pick scripts to optimize and enhance your work, and (most importantly) have plenty of patience.
Original article: render.ru