I suppose I should introduce myself! My name is Ray and I’m an animator here at Mutiny Bros.
A good animation starts off with finding the “key” poses that the character hits within their movement. These poses can define the attitude, power, and readability of an animation, so it’s important to find the right pose for the job. Let’s take a look at how just a couple strong poses can shape an animation!
Here we have the lovely Wizard Gnome from the upcoming Gnome Invaders. This is the default state of our character rigs – from here, we pose and animate the characters and bring them to life in a believable, fun, and functional manner. In this case, we need to create a basic attack animation for the Wizard. Let’s brainstorm what that could look like!
The Wizard being a magical gnome, I wanted her to have a unique attack that would highlight her powers. So how do I make it stand out? Most of the gnomes in Gnome Invaders use their primary weapon to attack with, and most are right handed. Since the Wizard already has an ability cast animation that makes use of her magic staff, I decided that her basic attack should be a simple spell cast with her off hand. This has a surprising number of benefits! Firstly, it allows her to attack from a farther range than most other gnomes in the game, who primarily use melee weapons, so it reduces clutter around the objective. Secondly, since the other gnomes are typically right handed, it helps set her apart visually from the rest of the cast of characters. Last but not least, it allows a quicker, smoother animation without the swinging arcs and windup of a staff attack, and feels like a more simplistic attack while being noticeably different from her other animations. So we have our idea, we now need to find the right pose to fit the action!
I often like to start with an anticipatory pose, getting both the character and myself ready for the main event. For me, it allows me to feel the power being built up in the character, and I can then focus that power into the following pose. We’ve decided on throwing some sort of magic spell with her off hand, so we want her to wind up and really prepare for that throw. We also want to make sure that the action would be clear from the game’s top-down perspective. An important factor in visual clarity is ensuring that the character’s silhouette is readable from any direction, and conveys the feeling you are looking for. In this case, I wanted to twist the torso back, bring the staff forwards, and bring the most active part, the left hand, back and out so it will be the most stand-out aspect of the pose.
Now that we’ve built up some anticipation, let’s make use of it!
So here’s the followup to all that buildup! The torso has twisted, the staff has swung back, and the arm has fully extended forwards, all while the head remains locked onto the target. So how does the silhouette hold up?
I’d say the silhouette works well! Now let’s add in some secondary poses and see what it looks like in motion.
Our poses in motion!
Pretty good, if I don’t say so myself! With just three extra poses we have a very snappy and clear motion that conveys the power we want. So what are these extra poses? Well, after the first pose we have a slight jerk backwards that helps add some sudden power to her push forwards, we have an intermediate pose (AKA Breakdown pose) just to keep things going on track between the two key poses, and we have a short overshoot pose as the power we built up in the anticipation just barely overshoots the target and snaps back to where we wanted it. Pretty straightforward! However, while this looks good in stepped format, we’re going to need another pose for the return from the second pose back to the first when we cycle.
This one’s pretty simple; we just need a pose to tie things back together in a somewhat interesting way so we have a clean animation cycle. This is essentially what a Breakdown pose is – an in-between pose during the movement between two main poses. For the return pose, I nodded the head down slightly, and started to bring the torso back. However, I let the staff arm hang back a bit, so it can drag behind the torso and follow-through, as it’s not driving the movement but simply reacting to the movement of the torso. Of special note is the left hand, which I have coming in and down slightly. This is to add some texture to the animation and add some force to the swing backwards into the anticipation pose, much like how a baseball pitcher will swing their arm back before a throw. Now let’s see how these all come together in the final animation!
There we have it! A nice, clear animation that meets all of the goals we set earlier. It’s a quick and simple movement, readable from above, conveys the magical power of the Wizard, and feels snappy and distinct! I hope this has provided some interesting insight into the creative process behind our animations here at Mutiny Bros!
Well met, and until next time!