Thesis: Animation

After playtesting, I decided my game needed something at the beginning to motivate people to look around. It needed something that the players’ observations could build onto.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 12.43.43 AMI figured a good way to introduce the story might be an animated credit sequence. It was surprisingly intuitive to move from 3D animation to 2.5D animation in Blender. The process of putting together an animated sequence and figuring out how to move the camera has been challenging, but exciting.

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One of the challenges is managing a project with really small models and really large models.  I wanted the animated sequence to have a dramatic zoom-out effect, similar to one of the playable scenes in the game. Unfortunately, once models in Blender get large enough, there are navigation and clipping plane issues.

Managing a lot of parts in general is another challenge, which I have also had to deal with in Unity. If you have an animation or a game with cuts or levels, your objects are divided into more manageable chunks. (Chunks also make sense for limited processing, at least for games.) Now say you want to gradually transition between a kitchen and then a forest and then a beach. You need all of the kitchen furniture, all of the trees and all of the beach stuff in the same scene. This can get annoying.

Animation is exciting because I’m learning a set of techniques that are allowing me to express some of the imagery I’ve imagined more easily. There are fewer barriers between what I picture in my head and what I can materialize in animation, compared to what I can materialize in game form. In this way, it is more immediately gratifying. I sometimes feel like I’m translating my ideas more directly.

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Starting the game with an animated sequence feels fitting, because animated credit sequences were a significant point of inspiration for my project. I often wondered what it would be like if someone could explore a game version of these sequences.

I spend a lot of time looking at 2D art in general and wondering if it would be possible for it to exist in (simulated) 3D. There’s a book called “Dream Worlds” where animator Hans Bacher writes some interesting stuff about applying traditional art styles to computer generated animation. Describing his work on the project Fraidy Cat, he states:

“What I tried to do was a combination of 2-D and 3-D. Everything was supposed to be built 3-dimensionally, but would look flat in the end. Only a moving camera would reveal that there was an optical illusion.” (166) (see pictures)

It seems like the freedom of camera in most 3D exploratory games almost always gives away efforts to hide underlying geometric structures, the sharp edges, the planes. I do remember seeing some Tilt Brush worlds that really felt like convincing manifestations of paintings. I don’t know how feasible it would ever be for that kind of tech to be used in games, even if it is vector based.

Work Cited

Bacher, Hans P. Dream worlds: production design in animation. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2008. Print.