Development Insight: From Sketches to Animations
How exactly do you animate a bunch of non-humanoid characters that are actually unicorn deer creatures which happen to be infused with the anatomy of other creatures found in the world? Well, you may not be asking this question. But we had to figure out such things when we began to create characters and their animations in Ethereal Metropolis.
In this development insight, we’re going to be sharing the process by which we brainstorm, implement, and create the animations for the characters that you see in Ethereal Metropolis and the build you will be able to play later this year!
We’re going to be specifically following the basic ranged enemy in the game, the Acolythus.
Creating The Acolythus
The Acolythus is the first basic ranged enemy that you are introduced to in Ethereal Metropolis. One of the biggest challenges we face when creating the Converted is giving them distinguishable forms. Since all Converted are black with some glowing white markings in their appearance, we first needed to “shadow-box” their designs.
This process specifically involves blacking out the whole entire design of the creature and doing a pass where we compare it to other Converted already made. If it passes, then we move on.
In the context of the Acolythus, we made the front legs raise higher up and tweaked the anatomy significantly. Which means that the normal locomotion for a deer can’t quite apply to this creature.
The New York Public Library. "Deer bounding, stride, 10 ft., 4 in" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1882. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-344b-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
With its raised up legs, we had to take several parts of applicable motion from deer and modify them such that it made sense according to the anatomy of the deformed Acolythus. During our “infusing process,” we infused various traits of a canine into the creature as you can see with the jawline, slightly hunched back, and the general stockiness of the creature.
With the anatomy figured out and how the locomotion of the Acolythus works, we then began to combine and refine a variety of passes into what you see here:
Part of the game development process is that you also need to create a whole of modular movements, especially one in a game like Ethereal Metropolis. So we then took apart these animations and divided them into a start movement, looping movement, and end movement. These correspond to when the Acolythus initiates movement, travels to the designated location in game, and then arrives at the designated location respectively.
With the anatomy figured out, we faced another challenge: how can we give this creature even more characterization that is line with the role of dealing ranged damage?
Well, its a mixture of sketching and doing the animations live. We first start out with drawings like these for the Converted:
Illustrations of the Acolythus’ attack
For its special abilities, the Acolythus wields itself as a gun. We thought of it just like it. You need a good stable firing platform, you want to be precise, and you do not want distractions for it. The Acolythus is a gun personified into a shadowy eldritch unicorn deer abomination. With these specific movements sketched out and the direction we took for its animation, we made the following animations.
This becomes especially apparent with the Concentrated beam attack where the Acolythus charges an attack. We thought of this attack as it lining up to land the best shot on a target which is reflected by its lack of movement on the battlefield seen here:
Yet when its focus is broken, it quickly becomes frustrated and screams at the target.
With it always focusing on lining up the perfect shot on the enemy, we decided to have its idle movements be somewhat uncanny. Its head barely moves while the rest of the body moves just fine.
All of this to reinforce the character and the role the Acolythus serves amidst the ranks of the Converted. We took a unicorn deer, canines, and a gun mentality all to create and infuse the characterization of making this creature come to life in its animations. We never quite expected such a thing, but that is how we approached it.
We take essentially the same approach towards animating ALL of the characters in the game, make the necessary anatomical changes, think about their character, and find references to support it. Its just that the Acolythus was the most interesting combination.
The animations of Ethereal Metropolis are varied and require a lot of trial and error to make sure various other creatures like the Nec Divinos and the Suffaeli:
Each of these Convertedhave their own characterization and animations for them which also reflect their role within the Converted.
But we wont quite share these with you in this insight, you’ll just see how our process is realized to fruition in a build of Ethereal Metropolis we will be releasing before our Kickstarter campaign happens!
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Thank you all for reading and have a wonderful one!