4 January 2011

Adding Weight to Your Game Design Part 2: Anticipation - by Michael Jungbluth


Weight is a physical and emotional sensation that people feel everyday.  And conveying that in a visual way can be incredibly challenging.  But it is something animators do all the time, and the principles they use can be applied to game design. 

In fact, it needs to be, as many of these principles are sacrificed by the animator for the good of playability.  Thankfully, since both animators and designers have to juggle multiple disciplines to bring their creations to life, they speak much of the same language.  They just use a slightly different alphabet.   

Each part will lay out the 12 principles of animation, and how they are not only used in animation but how they directly relate to game design.  Both animators and designers will realize quickly that many of these are unspoken truths, but the benefit comes in knowing that they can now speak to each other on a deeper level.  A level that takes animation and design past being purely functional, but now fully functioning towards creating an honest experience. 

It is how both can add an extra sense of weight and purpose to the game and the characters within it.  Many of these fundamentals are inter-connected, and it is through a combination of all of these working together that you will have characters that move with weight and emote with weight.  And that is what will stick with players.

 “It is important for the animator to be able to study sensation and to feel the force behind sensation, in order to project that sensation.” – Walt Disney


Applied to Animation

In every action, you have anticipation.  This may be the most important tool animators have when it comes to storytelling and action.  And at its core it is one principle that is most commonly used by game designers.  Not only is anticipation in every action we do, and needed to convey a sense of weight, but it is also used to draw the attention of the player before an action happens.  For a visual example of anticipation, think of a baseball pitcher.  First they will wind up before they even release the ball.  Without anticipation, actions become confusing and lose weight without anything to describe HOW they get to where they were going.  Anticipation is also the first step in getting the player invested in what is going to happen as they actively engage their mind in the possibilities for what is coming next.  And that is an incredibly powerful tool to have when trying to convey a story, movement or emotion with any sense of weight.

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