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Wasteland 2 Animation

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Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby DragonBerg » November 19th, 2012, 2:23 pm

Hi Wastelanders,
My name is Josh Jertberg, and I have the incredible fortune to be your 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. 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/

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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Ronin73 » November 19th, 2012, 2:59 pm

Hi Josh,

I'm not sure if this topic will be of use, or if it is the type of conversation that you are looking for, but there are some suggestions for some different types of animations in this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2684
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby DragonBerg » November 19th, 2012, 3:13 pm

Ronin73 wrote:Hi Josh,

I'm not sure if this topic will be of use, or if it is the type of conversation that you are looking for, but there are some suggestions for some different types of animations in this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2684


Thank you for linking that!
yes all of those considerations are things I want to know about. Smacking a mosquito after an extended idle...ha! love it, and its not something I thought about.
Not saying everything will be possible but ideas like this keep me thinking and creatively inspired.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby BubbaBrown » November 19th, 2012, 3:19 pm

The Sage animation tools looks interesting.

One thing that has always bothered me about some games is the exact, repetitive animations that you see over time. It's not very noticeable in busier games, but can be quite obvious in turn based games where characters or RPGs where NPCs can stand idle for some time. So, given the state machine and the blend graph system, would it be feasible to introduce a bit of "animation noise" that could overlaid on to the animation movement vectors and timings to make it seem like the character on screen isn't repeating the exact same animation over and over again.

With "animation noise", you can have roughly the same animation setup but the resulting animations would have a number of variances. Instead of a 60 second trigger for "idle boredom animation 2", that trigger time could vary 60 - 240 seconds. And various aspects of "idle boredom animation 2" could be slightly altered, such as going a bit slower, an arm swinging out more during the stretch, and the butt scratch happening three instead of two times.

Animation noise might be a nice way to introduce a bit of variety without having to work every little bit out ahead of time. And it could help with other types of animation like high recoil guns, running across rough terrain, and object interactions.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby DragonBerg » November 19th, 2012, 4:11 pm

BubbaBrown wrote:The Sage animation tools looks interesting.

One thing that has always bothered me about some games is the exact, repetitive animations that you see over time. It's not very noticeable in busier games, but can be quite obvious in turn based games where characters or RPGs where NPCs can stand idle for some time. So, given the state machine and the blend graph system, would it be feasible to introduce a bit of "animation noise" that could overlaid on to the animation movement vectors and timings to make it seem like the character on screen isn't repeating the exact same animation over and over again.

With "animation noise", you can have roughly the same animation setup but the resulting animations would have a number of variances. Instead of a 60 second trigger for "idle boredom animation 2", that trigger time could vary 60 - 240 seconds. And various aspects of "idle boredom animation 2" could be slightly altered, such as going a bit slower, an arm swinging out more during the stretch, and the butt scratch happening three instead of two times.

Animation noise might be a nice way to introduce a bit of variety without having to work every little bit out ahead of time. And it could help with other types of animation like high recoil guns, running across rough terrain, and object interactions.


This is a concern of mine too. We already have multiple Idle animations that Sage will randomly assign based on a configurable weight. For example when you move your character, each time the animation system returns to "Idle" it selects from an array of animations. So Hopefully you wont keep seeing the same exact Idle every time.

The idea of timed triggers is interesting and something that I will explore. I want an "away from keyboard" action so timed triggers fall into that same category.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby BubbaBrown » November 19th, 2012, 5:17 pm

DragonBerg wrote:This is a concern of mine too. We already have multiple Idle animations that Sage will randomly assign based on a configurable weight. For example when you move your character, each time the animation system returns to "Idle" it selects from an array of animations. So Hopefully you wont keep seeing the same exact Idle every time.

The idea of timed triggers is interesting and something that I will explore. I want an "away from keyboard" action so timed triggers fall into that same category.


Is there any way to use the animation blend graph to mix together various idles? For example, have a very still idle, normal idle, fidgety idle, and an exaggerated idle with the blends set between them and tied together with a variable? This way a number stream from a function could be feed into the system to shift between different animations and mix between them? That way you could have shifts for a character calming down or getting worked up based on whether the variable is increasing or decreasing during the animation?
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby AlteredReality » November 19th, 2012, 6:06 pm

Hey all! This is Andy from Altered Reality, and I wanted to post on here to join the discussion of Wasteland 2 and Sage. More specifically though, I can answer any questions anyone has about Sage. Ask away!
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby AlteredReality » November 19th, 2012, 6:07 pm

BubbaBrown wrote:
DragonBerg wrote:This is a concern of mine too. We already have multiple Idle animations that Sage will randomly assign based on a configurable weight. For example when you move your character, each time the animation system returns to "Idle" it selects from an array of animations. So Hopefully you wont keep seeing the same exact Idle every time.

The idea of timed triggers is interesting and something that I will explore. I want an "away from keyboard" action so timed triggers fall into that same category.


Is there any way to use the animation blend graph to mix together various idles? For example, have a very still idle, normal idle, fidgety idle, and an exaggerated idle with the blends set between them and tied together with a variable? This way a number stream from a function could be feed into the system to shift between different animations and mix between them? That way you could have shifts for a character calming down or getting worked up based on whether the variable is increasing or decreasing during the animation?


Technically speaking, this is possible with Sage. You can create your Idle state as a blend graph, and blend between various idle animations based on a float input variable. However, I'm not sure how well that would look with a straight blend between animations, but I suppose that would be based on how the animations were authored.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby CaptainPatch » November 19th, 2012, 6:16 pm

I've got a vague idea that I _think_ would be workable.

Define Idle Animations as a variable X. X is derived from a population numbered from 1 to whatever.

When the program places a Call for an idle animation, then X = a random selection from the population pool. It gets used and then transfered from pool X to Pool Y.

As Calls occur the X pool population keeps on shrinking while the Y population keeps on growing.

When the last X idle animation is used, the program will then Call for Y instead of X. Used animations get placed into the Z population pool. When Y gets used up, switch to Z. And so on indefinitely.

Keep on using animations in the random, non-cyclical, unpredictable order. This should keep the idle animations from going stale too quickly.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby PlayRanger » November 19th, 2012, 9:01 pm

DragonBerg wrote:
BubbaBrown wrote:The Sage animation tools looks interesting.

One thing that has always bothered me about some games is the exact, repetitive animations that you see over time. It's not very noticeable in busier games, but can be quite obvious in turn based games where characters or RPGs where NPCs can stand idle for some time. So, given the state machine and the blend graph system, would it be feasible to introduce a bit of "animation noise" that could overlaid on to the animation movement vectors and timings to make it seem like the character on screen isn't repeating the exact same animation over and over again.

With "animation noise", you can have roughly the same animation setup but the resulting animations would have a number of variances. Instead of a 60 second trigger for "idle boredom animation 2", that trigger time could vary 60 - 240 seconds. And various aspects of "idle boredom animation 2" could be slightly altered, such as going a bit slower, an arm swinging out more during the stretch, and the butt scratch happening three instead of two times.

Animation noise might be a nice way to introduce a bit of variety without having to work every little bit out ahead of time. And it could help with other types of animation like high recoil guns, running across rough terrain, and object interactions.


This is a concern of mine too. We already have multiple Idle animations that Sage will randomly assign based on a configurable weight. For example when you move your character, each time the animation system returns to "Idle" it selects from an array of animations. So Hopefully you wont keep seeing the same exact Idle every time.

The idea of timed triggers is interesting and something that I will explore. I want an "away from keyboard" action so timed triggers fall into that same category.


I remember playing ''X-Men Legends'' years ago, and one of the nitpicks that started out as funny, but turned into a pet peeve, is that the idle animation for the characters was so mechanical. After a brief period left unattended, the character would decide it was a perfect time to do some head-rolling neck-stretches. This exaggerated ''hey I'm a mo-cap guy, what should I contribute to your library of stock moves?'' kind of animation not only stood out on its own (looking ridiculous in my opinion) but it was used for every character, and sometimes all of them in sync.

Now I see this stupid limbering-up animation all over the place, and it's really starting to bug me. :)

But it sounds like you're going to be giving the game a thoughtful and crunchy system, DragonBerg, and for that I thank you very much!
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Sxerks » November 19th, 2012, 9:10 pm

I assume there would be a different set of idle animations for general exploring vs combat.

Is it possible to do multi-character idles, depending on the proximity to other players or NPCs they may face each other and appear to have a conversation or appear to trade ammo or food. And if there are a couple special npc hires are in the party maybe they start juggling knives with each other.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Zombra » November 19th, 2012, 9:18 pm

Thanks for posting, DragonBerg!

I'm excited that you'll be using "hand-keyed" animations. It will lend to that old school feel, and more importantly it will make the game feel more "crafted" and less "filmed". Does that make sense?

Was that your work in the camera demo? Looks really good! I love that style.

I'll reiterate here what I said in the small details thread ... I hope to see idle animations that are very undramatic for the most part. Even seeing a guy shift his weight from one foot to the other looks totally spastic if he does it every 2 seconds. I hope that most of the characters spend most of their onscreen time executing the "standing still and breathing" animation. Not very exciting? Maybe - but very immersive.

I like the idea of the more "active" idle animations being on randomized timers. Stand and breathe for 30 cycles. Scratch nose. Stand and breathe for 42 cycles. Shift weight. Stand and breathe for 18 cycles. Check gun safety. That kind of thing.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby DethRaid » November 19th, 2012, 10:11 pm

The biggest thing I have to say is a petition for animations during conversations. One of the things i hate the most about Bethesda is that, during conversation, NPCs stand there completely idle. You might know from the conversation that you're handing things to one another, but there's no animation for that. Maybe you tell someone that their husband is dead, and they sound sad, but they're still standing there almost completely static. It's really immersion-breaking and just annoying.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution did a good job with having a set of 5 or so conversation animations which would play during a conversation. This worked really well, as many of the animations matched up somewhat to what the characters were saying. It just really helped to make conversations an actual game experience, not simply a way to pick up quests.

So, I ask you, I plead of you, have decent animations during conversation. I don't ask for a unique animation for every line or even for every character. I would just like for NPCs to not be static while the conversation goes on around them.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Zombra » November 19th, 2012, 11:06 pm

Great post DethRaid. That is all.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Woolfe » November 20th, 2012, 2:07 am

Hi DragonBerg, good to meet another of the Devs :D

Zombra wrote:I'll reiterate here what I said in the small details thread ... I hope to see idle animations that are very undramatic for the most part. Even seeing a guy shift his weight from one foot to the other looks totally spastic if he does it every 2 seconds. I hope that most of the characters spend most of their onscreen time executing the "standing still and breathing" animation. Not very exciting? Maybe - but very immersive.

Agreed
DethRaid wrote:So, I ask you, I plead of you, have decent animations during conversation. I don't ask for a unique animation for every line or even for every character. I would just like for NPCs to not be static while the conversation goes on around them.

And Agreed.

Ok disclaimer up front. A lot of what I may say now is probably completely unreasonable from a resourcing point of view. But for me it is a bit of an ideal, so I am going to throw it up anyway. If any of it sticks, then way cool. 8-)

I agree with the others about less being more as far as the frequency of the actions is concerned. But I'll throw in a caveat on that. Which I'll explain in a bit.

So I see 3 focuses for the animations.
1 - General - These are things that everyone does and are not specific to any one person. Scratching your head, swapping from foot to foot etc.
2 - Environmental - This the swatting a mosquito, or maybe coughing in the dust or wiping the rain from your face or a number of things like that.
3 - Character specific - This can be more complex, and should be based on the character creation elements.

For example
Attributes.
Things like, a high perception character spotting something on the ground picking it up and looking at it or moving it around with their boot or something.(Before anyone says perception is a skill it was mentioned that it would likely be an attribute now).
The only potential issue with is if they keep with the WL way of stat building, because it might result in all the characters performing the same basic actions.
But I also thought it might be nice to have the attributes modify an action in a way.
So as an example, a High Dexterity character rather than swatting a fly with their hand, might go still for a moment and then snatch it out of the air. Variations could be that they miss the fly, or that they get it, but aren't sure, so then they open their hand it gets away.

Skills
Pretty obvious stuff. If a character has a high pugilism skill for example, maybe they will throw a couple of 1 2 type shadow boxing, or crack their knuckles occasionally.
A gambler might flip a coin. etc

Other elements.
I don't know if they are intending to add "character" elements like Traits/Perks/or whatever. But assuming they do, you could add animations based on these.
So for example if you have a trait of "Smoker" maybe you light up a durrie in an idle moment.
Or if you have a trait of "nervous" maybe you do more idle animations.
Or a trait of athlete, results in a little bit of stretching movements.
That sort of thing.
I'd really like to see an "annoying habits" type traits.
Picking nose
Twitching
Constantly cracking knuckles
chewing nails
Scratching oneself inappropriately (this could also be environmental. Maybe you shouldn't have visited that brothel ;) )
So yeah things that causes the character to do something A LOT. So much so that it causes other characters/npcs to react in some way. Which leads me to my next bit.

Responsive animation.
This is the one area where I could see a bunch of animations happening at once.
2 characters standing next to each one spots something on the ground and pokes it with their toe. The character next to them peers over to look as well.
A smoker character lights up. Another character brushes their face as if the smoke is bothering them.
If 2 characters/NPCs had become familiar with each other in some way, perhaps one would lean into the other when they stand next to each other.
Or if a character is heavily wounded, maybe they lean on the other character for support.
Or a gambler character flips a coin and a high dexterity character snatches it out of the air, then gives it back.
An npc says something silly and another NPC/PC looks at them and then shakes their head.

Finally
Ideally I would love for all these elements to interact in some way. So a character with Pugilism skill, who is strong does the knuckle/neck cracking move. Whilst a character with Pugilism who is agile, does the shadow boxing.

So yeah, bunch of ideas. Most probably impractical based on resources etc, but you get the drift of what I am suggesting.(I hope)
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby McDougle » November 20th, 2012, 2:20 am

Welcome to the board, Josh and Andy!

Its great to read detailed posts about the animation system-its way better than just guessing or having to rely on a short q&a or something like that.

My question is in regards to modding:
How easy will it be for animation beginners to incorporate new animations into Wasteland2(totally new that get triggered by certain events; replacers & adding more "animation noise" for idles ec.)?

Skyrim has been a very bad example "recently", as it gave modding tools, but no animating tools and was build in such a way, that it was almost impossible to get new anims working ingame(iirc only replacers were possible).

For Wasteland2 we are supposed to get modding tools(which will be build after the release). Will we get a dedicated animation tool? Importer&Exporter for Blender & 3dsMax?

What can the modders of the community expect? :)
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby snakeoil » November 20th, 2012, 4:06 am

hi josh, excellent decision to hand-key the animations, i am sure wasteland 2 will greatly benefit from this. besides of cycle based animations, environmental context animation would add wonderfully to the overall feeling i think.

one very important idle animation would be laughing. it can be used in so many ways and be triggered in plenty situations. just imagine the toughest guy in the party tripping over his own feet or a rock in the desert and the rest of the party pointing at him and laughing. some minutes later someone laughing out, "remembering" this accident. this would be perfectly hilarious.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Kimotei » November 20th, 2012, 4:19 am

PlayRanger wrote:..but it was used for every character, and sometimes all of them in sync.

Hmm.. Could there be a few different idle animation presets for different personality types, to avoid this? Perhaps something like linking caracter traits or professions with animations, etc.

Eksample: Nervous technician. Calm sniper. Faulty robot. Sweaty, tired fat man. Hyperactive/ADD thief. Smoking tough man. Happy, or agressive or calm dog. A good looking carisma guy could comb his hair like Elvis. Likewise carismatic females would naturaly put some makeup on, using a pocket mirror in one hand.

Perhaps different % of behaviours could be distributed from caracter stats. To keep it managable, pick the top 5 or something? And then mix it with mosquito smacking, scratching and other general idle behaviors.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby snakeoil » November 20th, 2012, 4:27 am

Kimotei wrote:
PlayRanger wrote:..but it was used for every character, and sometimes all of them in sync.

Hmm.. Could there be a few different idle animation presets for different personality types, to avoid this? Perhaps something like linking caracter traits or professions with animations, etc.

Eksample: Nervous technician. Calm sniper. Faulty robot. Sweaty, tired fat man. Hyperactive/ADD thief. Smoking tough man. Happy, or agressive or calm dog. A good looking carisma guy could comb his hair like Elvis. Likewise carismatic females would naturaly put some makeup on, using a pocket mirror in one hand.

Perhaps different % of behaviours could be distributed from caracter stats. To keep it managable, pick the top 5 or something? And then mix it with mosquito smacking, scratching and other general idle behaviors.


yeah, i would too like skill specific animations they shouldnt be too stereotypical though.

opposite to zombra i could live very well with SOME not all animations being rather dramatical. an alcoholic or a parkinson pc that keeps on shaking all the time or someone with ptsd ticks and spasms, toothpain, headache, all sorts of sicknesses. i would really love to see that.
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Re: Wasteland 2 Animation

Postby Acid » November 20th, 2012, 5:09 am

DragonBerg wrote:
Ronin73 wrote:Hi Josh,

I'm not sure if this topic will be of use, or if it is the type of conversation that you are looking for, but there are some suggestions for some different types of animations in this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2684


Thank you for linking that!
yes all of those considerations are things I want to know about. Smacking a mosquito after an extended idle...ha! love it, and its not something I thought about.
Not saying everything will be possible but ideas like this keep me thinking and creatively inspired.



You might want to look at this aswell...

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2446&p=48629
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