Animation is hard

So I finally got the live-action footage I shot on Thursday converted into sprites and integrated into my game. Here’s what it looks like at the moment.

What’s not done yet:

  • Holding the gun in five different alignments
  • Top-speed run animation. Right now it’s a jog, but I want to change the animation when the speed is high enough.
  • Ducking

I learned some things from this process.

First, long wind-up animations for things like jumping do increase realism, but at the cost of responsiveness. I played around with varying amounts of delay between initiating a jump and leaving the ground, during which time the wind-up animation would play: the character crouches, swings his arms, and launches himself in the air. But I found that a delay of any longer than 50 milliseconds really impacts the controls, and that only gives you time for three frames of wind-up. I chose three key frames, but they play too fast and the effect is kind of ruined. I’ll probably end up taking them out altogether.

Second, animation is hard, and the work scales with the number of frames you have. I’m relatively tied to my high frame count (I really like how smooth things look), which means I am contemplating pushing things in the other direction, to make the overall graphical feel more simplified and abstract. It worked for Geometry Wars.

Third, it’s pretty tough to film an orthographic projection in someone’s back yard. I’ll need to go back in and do some cleanup to make sure all the sprites look properly two-dimensional and are the same height.

Finally, being able to tweak animation parameters at run time is essential in getting the animations looking reasonable without spending an entire week on it. I discovered the proper ratio of speed / animation cycling when walking or running by using this technique.

Next I’ll be working on getting the gun integrated, and working on eight-way shooting complete with animations. Once I have a rough idea how those look and feel I’ll be able to move on to experimenting with other weaponry and tools.

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