Weekly Community Newsletter: Let’s Talk About Animation

Good day you fiery glowing pixie sticks! Welcome to this week’s community newsletter.

We’re still working on finishing up the Pets Update, specifically we’re working on fixing bugs, tweaking mechanics and sorting out the last couple of things we need to take care of before we feel comfortable with rolling it out to live.

The team working on the Pets Update have been playtesting the pets, the new weapon combos and the new dungeon to ensure it’s in working condition.

Once again, we want to give a huge shout out to the Testlive forums for helping us out with feedback and bug reports on the preliminary version of the Pets Update. Of course, it would be very remiss of us to not also thank everyone playing the regular, live version of Conan Exiles on PC, PS4 and Xbox, for continuously providing us with feedback and bug reports. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.

Speaking of Testlive, we’re going to be separating the Testlive branch into its own client on Steam. This means that everyone who owns Conan Exiles will be able to download Testlive builds separate from the main game and you won’t need to switch back and forth between branches in Steam. Due to some technical difficulties we haven’t done this earlier, but thanks to Steam we should now be ready to go very soon.

Other than that, there’s a bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes that we, unfortunately, can’t tell you about just yet.

Combat animations and the mocap process

As mentioned previously we’re rolling out some new weapon combos in the Pets Update. Throwing axes and shields are being better integrated into the combat system and followers of Jhebbal Sag will have access to a new weapon that gives the user the power of a ferocious beast.

We figured we could talk a bit about our animation process and what goes into creating combat animations for something like the Claws of Jhebbal Sag.

The first step of the animation process is figuring out what type of movement they need to make. In this case it’s an attack used in combat. Designers and animators work together to figure out what how many attacks in a combo, what they’re generally going to look like, and how the character using the attack should look when attacking. Once these details have been finalized, the animators prototype the idle poses, what the character will look like when not attacking, to get a general sense of how the character will move and look.

During this entire process they’re working closely with the game’s art director to make sure the animations and poses will fit the game’s overall theme and style. When the prototypes are approved by the art director, it’s time to head to the mocap room.

Motion capture is exactly what it sounds like: capturing and recording motions and movements. Actors wear a full body suit with white rubber balls (markers) attached to their joints. The markers reflect light which in turn is captured by cameras placed out at key points around the room. When several cameras see the same marker, they will map out its position in 3D space and we can see the movement as a 3D stick figure and record it.

When we do motion capture at Funcom we can record an entire set of movements in one go or record each “piece” separately and then stitch them together. It’s mostly a matter of preference of the animators. Recording the full set will let you more easily see how momentum carries from one motion to the other. The flow between each move will also be better. Sometimes constraints force you into doing one over the other. If you have a mocap room that’s too small to do record an entire set of movements in one go (say, a running dash and then a leap forward), you’re forced to record each movement separately.

So why do we use motion capture? It saves us a lot of time when creating new animations as the animators don’t have to build a full set of motions from scratch. They can just use the human body’s movement to make it for them. It also allows them to create secondary animations practically for free, I.e. how you shift your body weight from one foot to the other when doing an attack.

Post-motion capture session an animator will do whatever tweaking and cleanup necessary to finalize the animation. They will change the timing between each movement, speed up or slow down the animation, or create more exaggerated and dramatic poses. All mocap, no matter how amazing, always needs some extra changes.

The Javelin jump attack needed plenty of tweaking on the poses the character goes through during the jump. The feet’s positions were re-arranged to make it feel more heroic and confident, instead of looking like a regular person trying to perform several motions at once. The height of the jump was also increased.

Once the process is complete and the art director has given their approval we add in sound effects, particle effects and other details as final touches.

Friday afternoon stream

Rejoice, for it is once again stream week! This week we are opening the lines of communications to take your Q’s and turn them into A’s. That’s right, it’s a Q&A stream with lead designer Oscar and community manager Jens Erik.

We’re going to open a thread on the forums on Thursday where you can submit questions (please keep them polite, short, straight and to the point) and we will pick out a selection to answer during the stream. We will, of course, still take questions and comments from the chat as needed.

Time and place are the same as before: Twitch and Mixer at 5pm CEST/11am EDT/8am PDT on Friday, September 28th.

Sincerely,

Funcom

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