In-Game Animations, Part Two

Here’s another little doodle that—well, no, it’s not really a doodle. I spent all week getting this together. However, it should save me a world of time down the line.

I was thinking about characters with visibly changing armor and outfits; as opposed to locked-in-place player sprites where you can use an item, or put on a hat, in function, but don’t see it in practice. I find that to be an atmosphere killer, but I understand it, too—re-rendering clothing is hard work, and even if it’s easy, you still need to pour time into the actual rendering process, and hope you’ve got everything right.

Then, I remembered a trick from video editing. Render each piece of clothing to a layer—with layers which might be in front of it set to something called hold out—and composite them over each other afterwards. I’m currently using Unity for this game, which should be able to do that as well as Blender can.

So, with this system, I can add a new character, given they have proper vertex groups, to the game simply by fitting it over this armature and rendering to disk. I can also add new clothing at any time. Mostly, I can hue shift the clothing to look like something new, even when I haven’t finished the art for it yet, which is good for the end users.

Obviously I’ve still got a few kinks to worry about. A few items of clothing need to be refitted to the armature—like belts. Additionally, there seem to be a few cases where Hansel—that’s the old bald guy—is protruding through his clothing, which is likely a modifier-order thing. Lastly, some of the animations need touch ups; like jumping, which should have much more leg extension. But, I can start working with this.

When I got up this morning, it occurred to me that this project is best released in chapters. The first one is going to be waking up on the ship, getting your bearings, figuring out what happened, and waking everyone else, too. It will work as a transparent tutorial, too, rather than having people do an extra, fun-less level. The next chapter will be planet side.

I think about five of them will give me a satisfactory epic. It’s working beautifully for The Long Dark.

Published by Michael Macha

I'm a game developer for both mobile and PC. My education is in physics, journalism, and neuroscience. Founder and CEO of Frontier Medicine Entertainment, located in the beautiful city of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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