They Do That?:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
In each installment of How'd They Do That?, readers send in their questions about a specific title, and we go to the developers to find out just what magic was performed. If you've got a question, send it to us at [email protected].
For this first installment of How'd They Do That? there weren't any reader-submitted questions (send those to the above address) so instead I'm happy to present the answer to a question of my own.
The Question: How'd they do those animations in Heretic II, and why do they look so different from other games out there?
For the answer, we contacted Raven Software's Brian Shubat, animator on Heretic II.
The animations in Heretic II are so different from any other game out there. I suppose the question is...what did you do to make them that way?
The use of Softimage|3D is a slight advantage. It is the premiere animation package that benefits us with exceptional control in animating and mesh deformation. We also developed a system of splicing different animations together so it made it feasible to do what you want whenever you wanted. For example you can run and shoot, jump and shoot, crouch and shoot. All I did was create one shooting animation and the program will use it in conjunction with whatever position you might be in. It saved a lot of time on animation and also provides a convincing look and feel because of what you do is what you get. All this aside, Corvus was well animated and with about 1800 frames of animation all of which was correctly implemented and you already have animation that is different than any other game out there.
I understand you didn't use any motion capture. Was this considered at any point, or was it completely out of the question?
No motion capture was used. Considered? Perhaps by some but not me. I enjoy creating the actions myself where as motion capture creates the action and takes the fun out of my job.
Did you find it difficult to recreate realistic character movements (which are so vital in a 3rd person game) without any motion capture?
Not really, although, there were a few that took me some time to do, namely rope climbing, ledge pull-up, pushing and pulling which didn't make the final cut. Ironically a couple of the simplest animations gave me the most trouble because it didn't feel or look quite right in the game. I'd have to go back and make some changes to them periodically.
What sort of reference did you use?
Most everything I animate comes from my imagination. I will think about the action for a while and visualize it in my head. Deciding what would look good from a third person view and what would be logical, I just start laying it out on the computer. Once in a while I will get up and act out an action. Visualize and study what is happening, what position I'm in and how it's balanced, what is required of the body to get into a particular action and what feels or seems natural. This exercise will help me to avoid making animations that look forced or unconvincing.
Thanks Brian! Here's the specifics on the Softimage|3D versions used in Heretic II for all you people who are nuts about that sort of thing:
3.7SP1 for NT
Credits: How'd They Do That? logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. How'd They Do That? is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it, or we'll make you disappear. Or just throw knives at you. It's your call, really.