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The Necessity Of Interactive Animation For Games


June 17, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

4. People change

Most characters are irrevocably altered by the journeys they undertake... whether it is in how they relate to others, or to themselves. These changes can be complex and difficult to convey, but they can also be very visible.

How a character carries themselves should change as they change.

Let's say you wanted to reflect the advancement of the player, have your avatar grow with you. Perhaps clumsy at first, the character would gradually become skilled and elegant in their movement as you master the controls.

A shy or nervous NPC or avatar might become confident, first treading carefully, then striding with purpose, looking their peers squarely in the eye.

Aforementioned "status" is by no means a constant; a character might be low-status relative to you, but high-status towards a fellow NPC. Depending on the context status may change hands even between the same two people.

Contrast, of course, is essential. You can have as many AI-states as you want but all that work will be wasted if the player can't tell them apart. It's important to show both gradual progression and isolated moments of significant change.


Was it something I said?

Some changes may be slow, only apparent looking back, but others could be triggered suddenly: a choice of words or actions, an external event.

Relationships too should be subject to visual change: from hostile to friendly, platonic to romantic, or trust to disappointment. As two characters become closer the space between them literally becomes smaller, their body language more relaxed, contact more frequent -- or as they grow apart, so does their visual connection.

Time away from a character can make changes more pronounced when again you meet and even if their transformation is not your doing it is more interesting to see characters progress than to be greeted again the same way by the same static NPC.

There's something rewarding about a world that seems alive...

Your move.

Animation can tell us about our characters, tell us who they are, tell us what they're thinking, delivering what may be crucial gameplay information. It can do these things without breaking the illusion of being in the game world.

With body language and facial expression as our tools we can explore the subtle side of character interaction and reach beyond familiar themes.

Time, perhaps, to make it a priority.

References & further reading:

DISNEY, W., 1935. Memo from Walt.

ISBISTER, K., 2006. Better Game Characters by design, a psychological approach.

JOHNSTONE, K., 1979. Impro, improvisation and the theatre.

MORRIS, D., 2002. Peoplewatching, the Desmond Morris guide to body language.

THOMAS, F. AND JOHNSTON, O., 1981. The Illusion of Life.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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