When you see a defender submerge underwater, leap from building to building, or even just do a taunt, that’s all the work of animators.
Stanion Studio’s Lead Animator Mahdi Darvishani has been making defenders come to life with these in-game animations, from subtle in-place poses to the actions they take when activating their ability. Each defender has their own unique personality, backstory, and moveset, which Darvishani works to bring to life one movement at a time.
What got you into video game animation?
Since I was a kid, I tried to create animations for games. I used to play a lot of video games and I got inspired by them. There were not many game studios then, so I started with TV and movies animation, but sometimes I worked with game studios to keep myself up-to-date in games as well. I started animation back in 2005.
What are the types of animation you had to create for TideTurn’s gameplay so far?
In most games, there are some common actions and cycles, like running and walking. TideTurn also has a lot of unique actions, like submerging into the water and them turning into a puddle of water when they are eliminated in battle.
What has been the most challenging part of the animation process for you?
Some animations are technically challenging and others are more artistic. For those technical ones, animators need to know the software very well to solve it. For example, when a defender is jumping and turning, followed by another movement, the challenge is picking what looks best. If your initial animation is not approved, you need to change it to get approval but also make sure it’s something you like yourself.
So what is the process for creating an in-game animation?
I usually find a reference or shoot a video by myself to achieve the golden poses and some timings. Then I start creating the poses and then timing. After I have the rough animation, I can show it to art director to get it approved. Then I polish the animation.
In-game animations are mostly cycles. Character starts with pose “A,” then they do an action before returning to pose “A.” So it needs to be smooth at the start and end of the cycle. Another major thing is the in-place animations. This means your animation should happen in-place and can not move forward or walk cycle for instance. Another one is blending animations in the game engine so you need to take care of some offset poses or adjustments.
Does working with UE4 make creating animations easier or harder than other tools?
Comparing UE4 and other game engines, you might find other game engines easier to work with. But having a lot of features in UE4 makes it more powerful and easier to move on to bigger games.
How long does it take to create a complex character animation?
This might take from two days to one week depending on the length of the animation, working with a high-poly model, the control rig, having a real-time or laggy viewport, and so on.
What is the process for imparting personality and sometimes comedy into a defender’s movements?
The very first step is to know the character’s personality, abilities, and limitations to give me an overall idea of how to make a specific defender move. You have to see how to transfer the data onto their body.
How do you integrate the player experience into your character animations?
Gameplay animations need to be played to find out what’s missing. Our goal is to create an interactive game, therefore we need players’ feedback to make it better. We want to make sure it’s not only a smooth experience, but the players feel excited at the movements and actions.
Are there a lot of varied movements in TideTurn and are there other movements and animations you’d like to see incorporated?
There are sufficient movement variations in the game for the first release. We will add some more combo actions and some new ability animations after launch. Every defender has multiple abilities, all of which need specific animations. For example, Athidena crouches down before turning invisible and Crato must look like he is leading and directing his sea creatures into battle.
Will there be in-game taunts and dances? What’s the importance of creating these types of movements that aren’t so action-oriented?
Yes, definitely. We are creating some of these animations to keep players motivated and reward them for challenges. Showing each defender’s personality is a major part of the animation at TideTurn. We want players to understand defenders’ characteristics and motivations through their actions. It’s like a sneak peek at their backstory and lore in-game.
Okay, and most importantly: Are you fighting for Humans or Atlantians?
I’m an Atlantian right now!
Olivia “y05h1eggz” Richman //
Stanion Studios Marketing Copyeditor