Episode 5 – Character and animation (Dev Diary: A Giant Mistake)
For the fifth part of this developer’s diary on our virtual reality experience A Giant Mistake, it’s time to double the dose! We’re going to have David Faugier and Josselin Authelet, respectively our 3D modeler and lead animator.
David Faugier: “I model the giant after the concept art Daniel gave me. The model I have is very detailed and I have a model sheet with three versions of the giant: a front view, a side view and a three-quarter view. Some details may change during the modeling. We add things, move them around, remove stuff. This is done with the approval of the art director. We added some rocks, some vegetation, changed the shape of vegetation or even the hands of the giant. The concept is different from the 3D model, and this is why we change things. But it the final result is still quite similar to the character sheet design.
We also edit the model to make the animator’s work easier. We remap some things, especially around joints, such as knees, elbows, fingers, mouth and eyes. We do what we can to help the rigger’s work.”
Josselin Authelet: “After I get the models from David, I animate them. In this short experience, I’ve got the giant, whales and a flock of wild geese to animate.
I also bind the camera to the scene. Rules are very specific in VR. This is weird, since camera is supposed to be free, but we need to put it just at the right spot, to limit movement or to have an anchor for the player’s gaze. We don’t want to make people motion-sick! In A Giant Mistake, this is a big challenge. I am not a director, but I still needed to animate the camera! VR and camera placement were a bit new to me, but the team really helped me there.
Animation-wise, VR and videogames are very much alike. We use the same processes in both media. We optimize the skeleton in the same way, and the animation constraints are going to be quite similar.
The bestiary is very diverse: the giant is a really big humanoid, and it does not behave like the whale in terms of weight and relationship to its environment. The birds are also very different from the rest. So the skeletons are going to reflect the way they move and in what element they move. The biggest difference is the size: the sheer height of the giant makes every move seem slow and sluggish. The geese are close to the player, almost to the point where the player can touch them. And they fly with two to three wing flaps per second. Scale is something that really differentiates the characters.
The geese’s wings have some lift to them; every time they flap their wings downwards, they push the air and lift their center of gravity upwards. It’s the same thing as getting up from a sitting position by pushing one’s body up from a table. The push makes the body rise. So there’s that cyclic rise and fall, but the support of the lift is much more subtle because you push through the air.”
A Giant Mistake is 100 % produced by the studio. Learn more about it here.