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Art Style #3: First animation tests

In the first “Infamis: Legends of the Arena” post we have been going through the ideas and began the journey to find the art style in “Art Style #2: Sketching out Infamis”. Now that we have had some good ideas and have done some early versions of the characters, it might be a good time to test them in action.

We believe that to make a game look good, it needs good animations. For Infamis we are using Spine, which we have already used before. In this post I will go through some ideas on the animation side of the game.

Choosing the tools

We have been using Spine for a while and it seems to be doing good job as an animation tool. It’s quite simple to learn but has potential even for complex animations. The plan is to use as much as possible of Spine's built-in features, but we might have to add some features to be able to achieve all that we are planning.

We will be using Photoshop to produce the 2D art, since that is what I am most familiar with. 3D objects and environments will be done with Blender, since it's free and we are on a tight budget here! It also works well on Linux, which is what most of our developers are running.

So, all of the characters, items or other objects that have animations will be done in 2D and animated with Spine.

Preparations

The parts

I used the early black and white sketches to make parts for the first animation, to see what can be done with them and to see early on if there are any problems.

Since we are going with the idea of having the characters built from parts that could be easily switched, I decided to try that out too with different parts for the head.

Heads

As in the picture there could be a few different base heads that would be personalized by using different kinds of facial hair bits, eyebrows, beards, etc. The character's other parts then would be selected so that they would be suitable for the head.

Side note: I myself like customisation in games, so this would be great. You could mix and match armor pieces and have a lot of variation in the characters. Also this way we do not have to make several unique characters, just create a wide array of parts to choose from. This might also have an effect to the design and animation of the parts, since they should work with as many as possible combinations.

The plan is to make the characters somewhat correctly proportioned. They can look comical and some parts can be larger or smaller than normally, if it fits the character. In this case the character will have a slightly larger head, so that we can play around with facial expressions.

The animations

It’s alive! The first test

Alright! The first animation was made with the prepared black and white pieces. Just to test how well they work, if at all.

BlackWhite

I like the test animations, they are far from perfect but already have cartoony feel to them, which is what we are looking for. Testing the parts is important, since at this stage we can still go with a different kind of character design. Currently the legs are a bit short, which will affect the character's running and walking animations. On the other hand, it could bring that slight comical effect which could work really well.

Side note: It's funny how much eyebrows can affect a character's expression. With the larger heads, those expressions are easier to see even if the characters are smaller when the camera is further away.

The second test

The second one is made with different parts that have also color and shading, the lines are cleaned, but these are still for testing purposes!

On the larger characters the upper body is even larger compared to the legs, but the hands fit quite nicely to the size of the torso. The character is using a two handed weapon, which is something I wanted to test out.

It’s all about the small things

We are still in the process of figuring out what is the best way to do the animations, so that we can have both an easy way to animate and have the customisation. When we get this sorted out, I wish we can make the animations even more complex, by adding smaller trinkets and items on armors and characters.

I myself like all the small items and parts that move with the bigger, main animated parts. The secondary movement created by these extra elements is what makes any animation look way more interesting and better overall. They also give more customisation options and new ways to decorate your favorite characters.

Conclusion

These character parts do feel promising. They are quite simple to animate and seem to work well. We still have to figure out the way we will build the characters and how the animations will work in game.Testing out the animations was fun and I like to work with Spine, we got a few laughs out of these tests. There is also the possibility that the lights are done with dynamic 3D lighting but I guess that’s a topic for another post and that post can now be read here "Art Style #4: Dynamic light test on a 2D character".


 

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