Wasteland 2 Animation

Hi Wastelanders,

My name is Josh Jertberg, and I have the incredible fortune to be your lead animator for Wasteland 2. I want to open the channel of communication for anybody that is interested in discussing the application of animation in our project:

http://wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=2829

This will be a spot I can check frequently so we can discuss the animation. If you have an interest in the inner workings of game development, maybe I can give you insight from an Animator’s perspective.

Animation in Wasteland 2 was an unknown for me, never having worked with the Unity engine before. I did know one thing in my mind though when we started: I wanted to hand-key the animations. It’s an ambitious goal of mine and one I hope fans appreciate in the end. It’s my feeling that I can bring more personality and flexibility to the animation, as opposed to using motion capture. Plus, let’s face it; as an Animator I will be more artistically invested in my hand-keyed animations. Even with the best motion capture actors you are many times stuck using what you have recorded. The unique aspects and camera of this game do present some good opportunity and challenge for me as an Animator.

One of the struggles as an animator in games is the animation system. A good system can make or break the look of the animations. The animation is broken into so many different pieces that if you don’t have some decent way of controlling that, the entire flow of the animation can feel off. Animation systems have evolved a LOT in the past few years. Wasteland 2 is not a controller driven game and many of these systems are designed for analogue input. I needed a simpler solution and I think I’ve found one.

Browsing the Unity store for animation solutions I found exactly what I needed. I am familiar with the use of an animation tree to drive in game animation states. Sage: Anim Graph Editor is a tool that allows me to intuitively build animation trees that drive the different states of the characters. This is all accomplished without me writing a single line of script. I have no talent for that, but Sage helps me overcome my inability to write script in Unity. I have built up one heck of an animation tree for our rangers so far, and I love the level of control I have over the flow of the animation. The Rangers have a lot of “states” they can be in, so being able to manage and build those states myself is liberating.

Going forward I want to dig deeper and highlight more of this tool and my process. Hopefully this can be a starting point for deeper conversations as development progresses. This project and the opportunity given to us by our backers is unique and refreshing. Reaching out to the fans during production is not something I’ve done in the past, so this is new to me. If anyone wants to ask questions or discuss Animation and game development, I am hoping this will be the place. The more discussion I have with fans that take an interest in the animation, the better it will be.  At least that’s my hope. Let’s see what happens. Thanks again for all of your support.

Special thanks to Andy at Altered Reality Entertainment.  http://www.alteredr.com/sage/

Josh Jertberg

So what next?

Things are sure looking good to hit our next milestone of $2.1 million dollars, which makes the game deeper of course, but it also brings the design talents of Chris Avellone of Obsidian. We look forward to having Chris bring his style and prose to the game. When you include the PayPal money on top of the Kickstarter funds we are over $1.980 million with 12 days left to go. One of the questions I constantly get is an understanding of what happens when donations continue to grow. The question is especially important as I think there are more RPG gamers out there than almost any other category.

I would like to give a little visibility on what we would expect to add to the game if we hit $2.5 million and $3.0 million. And do keep in mind that ALL money raised goes into development.

Scope and scale is the number one request, and it is what we are focusing our monies on primarily. So at 2.5 million dollars we would bring in another couple of designers help create more areas. This will not only increase the overall size and depth of the world, but it translates to more storylines and more player options as well. At this funding level we would also bring more level scripters in to allow us to get levels in faster. When we get levels in faster it allows more iteration time to really hone things in. I believe that iteration time is the single most important factor towards shipping a polished and deep game.

In addition, we will add more NPC portraits and equipment artwork as per what the fans have requested in the forums. We would also increase the music budget to allow Mark Morgan to layer in even more atmosphere. The bottom line is that this kind of budget ensures that Wasteland 2 is BIGGER than Wasteland 1. And for the people that remember little Bobby from WL1… well he was left for dead and he is pissed.

The third most asked about feature is for us to provide a mod kit to allow players to create their own scenarios. I have always loved those kinds of tool-sets to set players loose to keep the world expanding. To create these kinds of tools is time consuming and requires a separate team of guys to do it. While we are not ready to commit to that feature yet, we can say that if we were to hit 3 million dollars, it would be possible to do a mod kit without cutting into the plan for the main game. In fact, IF we ended up making the mod kit we would not release it until after Wasteland 2 shipped as our hands will be quite full to ensure things are done well. The game will also increase in scope as well so this is not a binary equation. As always, we will be posting polls in the forums to help with these sorts of decisions. Yes we are reading the forums!

On the production front we have already started our pre-production process. We have our art team starting work on setting the look of the game. Once we have the look established, we will run tests across several different technologies we are evaluating to settle in on our tech for the project.

And Andrée Wallin is wrapping up his first concept piece for the Desert Rangers and they look bad ass. It’s a beautiful a mixture of the military with touches of old west rangers. I hope he will allow me to post it tomorrow.

And lastly I wanted to include a description of the Desert Rangers background, as many players are not familiar with them:

On the same day that the U.S. and Soviet Union were attempting to extinguish each other, a company of U.S. Army Engineers were in the southwestern deserts building transportation bridges over dry riverbeds. They worked deep in the inhospitable desert valleys, surrounded by a number of survivalist communities. Located directly south of their position on that day was a newly-constructed federal prison. In addition to housing the nation’s criminals condemned to death, the prison contained light industrial manufacturing facilities.

Shortly after the nuclear attack began, the Engineers, seeking shelter, took over the federal prison and expelled the prisoners into the desolate desert to complete their sentences. As the weeks passed, they invited the nearby survivalist communities to join them and to help them build a new society. Because of each community’s suspicions towards one another, times were difficult at first. But as time nurtured trust, this settlement — which came to be known as Ranger Center — grew to be one of the strongest outposts. Ranger Center even proved powerful enough to repel the hands of rancorous criminals who repeatedly attacked in attempts to reclaim what was once “rightfully theirs.”

The citizens of Ranger Center, after first believing that they were the only ones who survived the nuclear maelstrom, soon realized that communities beyond the desert’s grip had also survived, Because they had such success in constructing a new community, they felt compelled to help other survivors rebuild and live in peace.

Toward this end, the Desert Rangers, in the great tradition of the Texas and Arizona Rangers a century before, were born.

inXile and Obsidian/Avellone to collaborate on Wasteland 2

We have announced a major piece of good news today that inXile has reached an agreement with Obsidian for potential design assistance for Wasteland 2. What that means is that Obsidian’s Chief Creative Officer, Chris Avellone, is going to work with our team on the design and writing of the game! It is important to note that we say “potential” as they will come aboard assuming we hit $2.1 million in funding. The good news is that we have already seen a spike in just the few hours since this was announced in a press release this morning.

For those of you who don’t know who Obsidian or Chris Avellone are, they are the bulk of the brains who worked on Fallout 1&2, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment when I was back at Interplay. More of the band is back together to make sure we bring you a fantastic RPG. Chris is going to help push the density and literary content of the game.

The original Wasteland was an important game to Chris as he recently stated, “Wasteland is one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and when Brian asked if I wanted to work on the sequel, I jumped at the chance. While I’ve worked on Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, getting the chance to work on the spiritual predecessor to the Fallout franchise is a honor.”
While the programming work will remain with us here at inXile, we are looking to use a host of tools that Obsidian has created which will help us get assets into the game faster. The faster we can implement and iterate on content, the deeper the game and the more varied choices the gamers can make.

That’s more good news for all of you that put your faith in us.