Animation Bone Manipulation

February 22, 2016
Posted in 2016
February 22, 2016 Wouter

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(Figure 01: Mokh (left) and Tarh (right) moving their heads and following something in front of them)

The ideology of RITE of ILK is to create a co-operative experience focused on exploration. To convey that feeling properly, we have to give the players something to explore. The RITE of ILK world is vast and all of its empty space has to eventually be filled with many unique props, fresh environments, points-of-interest, vista’s, and other intriguing stuff the players can explore and discover.

In the middle of set-dressing and playtesting our environments, we felt that something was off with how the characters interpret and perceive said environments. Although the world is filled with interesting and explorable content, the characters and their response(s) felt somewhat static and inflexible. The players crave for lively interactions with the world and each other! This made us realize the absence of a layer, a layer we later identified as context awareness.

It felt as if the characters wandered through large landscapes without truly being aware of their surroundings. When the characters wander into unexplored territory or would find themselves discovering new creatures, you expect the characters to care. The lack of response makes the characters feel dull.

To tackle this problem, one solution that quickly came to mind was the use of animations. However, we don’t have the time to create a diverse amount of animations for all sorts of interactivities that are possible within our game. That would take ages!

During the development of the characters, we spent quite some time working with the animation pipeline, which allowed us to thoroughly experiment with many features to create some amazing results, for better or worse. Through experimentation, we built a little framework for ourselves which allowed us to manipulate skeletal mesh bones in certain ways on top of its regular animations. You could interpret this as some sort of animation-blending technique. This feature grants our characters and creatures the possibility to dynamically and accordingly change their behavior toward a certain object, creature, or situation once encountered.

For instance, Mokh and Tarh have completely different personalities. While the playful Mokh would be more keen to interact with a bunch of flying Kokata (our birdies), the cautious Tarh, in turn, will be more drawn to possible dangers occurring far into the horizon.

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(Figure 02: Example 1 of Mokh looking high up into the tree and spotting a Kokata (birdie))

There are many different character and creature behaviors that level designers and/or set dressers want to dynamically express. To enforce this, we gave them some control. Located below is an example (gif image) in which Mokh looks around and focuses on different objects and creatures in front of him. By using LookAtBeacons™ we intend to primarily focus on turning a character’s head and body toward a defined point-of-interest.

Unlike the name suggests, beacons also allow us to insert different behaviors that are similar to looking, such as, pointing, waving, and even playing custom animations (i.e. upper body dancing).

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(Figure 03: Example 2 of Mokh looking at different interest points)

This feature is not just limited to our two protagonists, but is also easily extendible into creatures!

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(Figure 04: Example 3 of a Kokata (birdie) being aware of Mokh)

What makes this system even cooler is that it’s really usable in gameplay mechanics as well!
Below is an example of Mokh using the Light Mask’s ability to shine onto platforms and making them appear. Please don’t mind the placeholder effects and meshes. 🙂

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(Figure 05: Example 4 of Mokh aiming the Light Mask’s ability of making objects appear)

More behavior and features will be added to this system as development continues, so stay tuned and be sure to “look around” for any upcoming updates!

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