22 January 2011

Adding Weight to Your Game Design Part 7: Arcs - by Michael Jungbluth

      Posted 01/17/11 02:05:00 pm   Part One - Squash and Stretch : Part Two - Anticipation : Part 3 - Staging

Part Four - Straight Ahead & Pose to Pose : Part 5 - Follow Through & Overlapping Action

Part 6 - Slow In, Slow Out


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

This is the principle that probably everyone has some knowledge of.  One of the quickest ways to rob something of feeling fluid, organic or alive is to move it in a straight line.  Sure, straight lines may be the fastest way to get from point A to point B, but they are also the most boring.  They are all about the destination, and care nothing for the journey.  And that journey is where you find growth and meaning in a character.

In animation, think again of the pendulum.  It doesn’t move from apex to apex in a straight linear fashion.  It drops in the middle, creating a beautiful arc that gives it weight, and fluid motion.  Arcs are what animators love more than just about anything else.  It is pure beauty in motion and what makes the movement between key poses fun to watch.  The extreme of the arc conveys so much, be it big and grandiose, or small and contained that is impossible not to enjoy the path that gets you there.  It shows the personality of the character and leads the eye through a smooth ballet of motion.  Likewise, lack of arcs is how you can make something feel cold, weightless and mechanical, which is useful when animating a robot... or Spock.


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