Working as an animator on AAA titles and films, I’ve never been allowed to scale joints on a rig. I’ve always been told that the “engine won’t support joint scaling”. This meant, to me, that I’d blow up the game if I tried to scale joints on a rig… since scale is almost always locked, I never missed it.
Until now, that is.
Working on incredibly fast and agile mobile development is changing how I think about ‘pipeline’ and ‘rules’. If it works in-game, and it means we can make things faster and cheaper, then I’m all for it!
Our current game in production “The Phantom P.I.” is far more ambitious than the other games we’ve made thus far, with tons of custom art. We’re a core team of two, Tim and I, so we are always looking for shortcuts that don’t affect quality or concept. We needed a quick way to prototype a Raven flying around in the levels, so we bought this Crow from the Unity Asset Store. The crow worked great; it came with a texture, flight cycle animation and has a skeleton.
I re-painted the textures to make it look like it lived in our world, tweaked the animation to make it more to my liking, and hurrah! A ready-made Raven for our game!
Then Tim wanted it to hop around on the ground. “NO NO NO!” (I like to rant.) “Its wings are open! We can’t close them without a very sophisticated rig! Exporting animations into Unity is very tricky business – what exports? What does not? A complex rig is simply beyond my technical abilities right now!”. At least this is what I’ve always been told.
I had tried out joint scaling before, with our little friend Cecil. He gets knocked on the head – his head compresses as he goes into his ‘squash’ – and we get a nice exaggerated pop-up to animation.
Thinking outside my comfort zone is what makes my work here at Rocket 5 so exciting! Why not scale the wing tips and tuck them back out of site?
Mobile screens are very small, and even on the iPad this kind of detail is not really necessary. And since game-play trumps everything else, why not try it?
It worked! AND it was very easy to just animate on the Raven’s skeleton for additional animation details.
The more time I get to animate, the happier I am.