Animation for Games

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  01 January 2013
Animation for Games

Hi, I am a final year student studying Computer Games Design in university and I am in the process of doing my final year project which focuses on rigging games characters with different types of rigs and finding out which rigs are best compatible over multiple games engines.

This project isn't focusing on rigging although it feels as if it is going that way :P but I am mostly going to focus on animation techniques for character game play animations.

I am looking to be using 3DS Max to test a biped rig and a CAT rig. Maya is going to be used to create a new custom bone skeleton. The skinning is going to be done according to what 3DS Max and Maya have to offer and I am going to be trying autoweight also (

When it comes to the animation I am looking to make a range of anim sets that will work in UDK and Unity on each of the skeletons. I will be looking to see if the animations can be transfered between each skeleton instead of making a whole new set of animations for each one. Also depending on what time I have when it gets to making the animations work in the games engines I will hopefully have a character working in a game environment with all the animations.

Right now I have experience using all three of the different rigs mentioned, but not allot of experience really so I am hoping for some feedback and tips to help me with the rigs if anyone has any useful information. I am also going to be making a full facial rig for the first time which I have some tutorials for.

I have also got a little bit of experience with game animations also but I still think I am very amateur at it and this project is going to be were I improve on my techniques the most (hopefully).

I am going to be actively posting my progress on this thread to potentially help any other people looking to expand their knowledge in these areas. I also welcome any feedback anybody can give me on anything I post on here to better my knowledge as by the end of this I hope to have all the skills needed to produce a show reel to help me get a job as an animator in the games industry.

Here are also a list of books I have been using that I have found great so far incase anybody else was looking for something similar :
3D Animation Essentials by Andy Beane
3D Modeling and Animation Synthesis and Analysis Techniques for the Human Body by Nikos Sarris and Michael G. Strintzis
Digital Animation Bible Creating Professional Animation with 3DS Max, Light Wave and Maya by George Avgerakis
Disney Animation The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Stop Staring Facial Modelling Done Right by Jason Osipa (May 2007 and 2010 editions)
The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams
Animation From Pencils to Pixels by Tony White

If anybody else knows of any more books that would be useful I would me more than happy to add them to the list.
  02 February 2013
Just thought I'd update my progress so far and mention some changes made to my project.

First off I was fortunate enough to receive permission from HiRez studios to use some of their character models from the Global Agenda game for this project. I decided to take four of the models so I could try different bone systems in each of them and finally make one into a playable character in either the Unreal Development Kit, Unity engine or Cry engine.

Just to note I am not making any super complicated bone systems because I just wont have enough time to do so since I have about 2 months left to complete this project.

So far I have found the CAT bone system in 3DS Max is a really great and efficient system for games characters in particular. It is very easy to set up a CAT system and the range of pre-made rigs that 3DS Max gives you can make rigging a model much easier. CAT also has allot of easy to use values that let you add as many bones as you want for more complex models.

The biggest problem with CAT is that there is no options to set up control objects for the bones outside of the models. I might still be wrong about not being able to use control objects on the bones, but so far I have tried using link constraints and it won't let me so I will have to investigate into this some more.

Biped is very basic but still good if you are rigging a basic model. Similar to CAT it comes with IK's already built into the arms and legs, but has more simple and not as useful properties for adding bones. The Biped system is probably best suited to characters for handheld games just because they aren't complex enough for most current generation console characters.

Unfortunately there seem to be more downsides to the Biped as it shares the same problems with CAT but has more of its own problems on top of that. As the name states the Biped system is only really best suited for a humanoid/bipedal character, even though it can be manipulated into quadrupeds.

Although there is an option to add additional bones through the biped properties, they are a bit annoying to set up. I tried adding more bones through biped so I cold make an advanced facial rig, but to do so the bones needed creating from the pelvis and were too big. You can change the scale of the bones but a facial rig consists of allot of bones and to add the bones you have to repeat the same process of rescaling and repositioning each bone from the pelvis. When you duplicate the new bones also it doesn't create a duplicate the same size, but it creates a duplicate in the previous larger side which is just more annoying really.

Custom Bone System (Maya)
I can't say too much about this system yet but so far it is the most adaptable rig to use. I have started a custom bone system already but only got as far as the legs and the feet so far. As it stands it just feels like its unecceraly long and complicated to set-up, but at the same time I understand why this is used more in the industry.

My main problem with a custom bone system like this one so far is the time it takes to set up, since it has taken me as long to set up the legs using this method as it did for me to create a whole Biped or CAT system.

Side note: I also noticed you can add additional bones in bone edit mode in 3DS Max to both the Biped and CAT and it does make setting up additional bones on these systems a little bit easier compared to the options already provided for each of them.

The final character I am planning to rig with the most efficient bone system is of a Recon from Global Agenda, and I am going to give him around about 10 playable animations just to get him through a level. The other 3 models will also be given a walk, run and jump animations just so I can test which skeletons are best for animating too.

  02 February 2013
That sounds like a very interesting project. Post your results when you are done, I would love to read it.
  02 February 2013
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