I can’t imagine working on a game without incorporating some sort of animation. Creating and imagining the world of the game and then seeing it come to life is one of the great pleasures of my work. It’s much more than the simple movements of characters – it is how they interact with each other and react to not only the player but also their environment. For me, it can make or break the experience and can really get a player emotionally invested in a world.
Much of my early game animation work was 2D animation done in hand drawn, traditional style, drawing out each frame. Big Fish (and its sequel, Piranha Peril), Soda Pup, and ViCTOR, were all done in this style. I’ve done a lot of animation work for games that didn’t make it out of development. Temple of Thumb is one such project.
I eventually moved into the realm of making 3D games for the mobile market. I was already using Maya as a modeling and animation environment, so it wasn’t a huge leap for me to start applying these skills to game development. Most of the work that I’d done previously was just as a hobbyist, so it meant making an adjustment to low poly models and other limitations of mobile devices at the time.
I’ve done a lot of animations for projects that will likely never see the light of day. One of the pitfalls of being a solo indie developer is that it can take a little while to feel out a game. Sometimes something works, other times it doesn’t.
But this is also a blessing in disguise. What has come out of all of this is that I’ve gotten a lot better at this aspect of the creation process. Plus, even when I have to make the decision to move on to a new project, I still wind up having a selection of little creatures that could always be used in some future project. Plus, I just really like them!
Another area where I’ve found these animation skills are particularly handy is when it comes to creating promotional materials. Slap Bingo is a multiplayer arena style combat bingo game that I’ve been building out. It is on the back burner for now as there are some logistical considerations that only became apparent as I got into the development process. However, I love the idea for this game and really want to see these crazy hand creatures duke it out in a good old fashioned bingo game. Check out the teaser video I put together for it. It was animated and rendered in Unity. All of the nice little touches, like costumes, sound effects, and particles are rendered in engine.
And now it seems that I’ve come full circle as I’ve returned to 2D animation. I’m using Spine and I can honestly say that it has been an absolutely pleasure. It’s interesting to see how concepts that were developed for the 3D world have made their way into the realm of 2D animation. Creating meshes from 2D images, laying out skeletons and rigging can combine seamlessly with techniques that were developed for the earliest animated films. I love what can be done and, once it gets pulled into Unity, it just feels great to give the player characters that feel like they are straight out of the cartoons I grew up watching. This is guy is for a game that I’m working on. He’s an odd little creature but is so much fun to play with.
I currently have a game in development called Yub Yub Special Delivery. This game stemmed out of Unity’s recent 2D challenge. You can view my entry for that game here.
Along with animation, I wanted to come up with a way of having some nice soft body physics in the 2D realm. You can see my solution in action (and some more of the game) in the videos below.
Here is an example of the baby bunny character. She controls a cannon that will send your jellies to different areas of the world.
Bunnies want jellies. Yub Yub delivers. The goal of the game is for Yub Yub the golden retriever to successfully deliver jellies to her waiting customers.
Plant traps will eat jellies and should be avoided. The eyes and flower use a tracking control to follow a jelly once it enters a trigger.
Gift boxes can be collected along the way, unlocking new jellies and more. These were created in Spine using the skinning system so that I only had to create and animate one set of meshes. I’m then able to separate the output in Unity so that I can put whatever I want inside the box.
I’ll have more updates for Yub Yub as the game progresses, probably moving much of this to its own dedicated blog post.
You can check out my Games page to see all of the games that I’ve released. Most have teaser videos with more cool animations. And check back here as I’ll be adding more stuff as I make it.