When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

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numituwi
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When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#1 Post by numituwi » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:19 am

Good evening everyone!

A lot of people on Lemmasoft alot of experience with visual novels/dating sims, and that's really cool! You guys contribute some amazing games, and I respect that a whole bunch. :D

As a new game developer, I want to know you guy's opinions and thoughts on this following question:

When the majority of characters of a game have no faces, is animation an necessity for quality?

Let me give you guys some context! I am in the works of making a vn/ds hybrid about a human being brought into a world filled with monsters-- specifically object heads and shape people. Here are the major characters below ->

Image

Player immersion is important, and many people on here are important players! Many of you are also artists, and know that animation takes time and skill. What would you do in this scenario? Would you provide animated sprites to communicate more emotion, or keep things static but bulk on the bodily expressions?

Just wanna add that I do not know how to implement 2d animations into Ren'py yet. I do not plan on using live2d and the type of animation I want to use is similar to that of 999. Ideally I'd want to do animation like SkullGirls and Cuphead but that is expensive and time consuming. ;-;

Thank you for your time everyone, and please reply at your convenience! ^^

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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#2 Post by Fuseblower » Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:11 am

Hi,

I see twelve characters that are very difficult to animate (lots of complicated details).

Something as simple as the clock face will become a chore to animate if you have to draw those numbers a hundred times or more from all kinds of angles.

Or take those stars on the pants. Of course, you would first draw them as big dots to keep their positions and sizes the same under changing angles. Afterwards you'd "carve" out the stars from those dots, but it's still a lot work for just a detail. Keeping things the same size, the right orientation and the proper place is quite hard. The less details there are, the easier animation becomes. But these twelve characters have lots of details.

To me, the question is not whether to go with animation or whether to go with just lots of sprites.

To me, the question would be if animation is feasible at all...

It's easy to answer that question : just take one character and make a single animation run of one expression. Not just the pencil sketch but also the inking and painting (in my experience, the painting takes twice as long as the sketch and the inking).

Multiply the time it takes to make that single animation by the number of characters and the number of expressions. Of course, not all characters or expressions take the same amount of time to make but it gives you a ball park figure.

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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#3 Post by YonYonYon » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:47 am

First, I love your characters.

Second, animating these will be hard af, I'd use several expressive poses instead. Or animated only their heads. Like, the ClockHead's clock hands going faster when they're agitated, or stopping completely when they're stunned. And maybe add simple idle animation to the body, like, fidgeting fingers and hands. What I'm trying to say, you don't have to animate the whole body, just elements would be fine.
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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#4 Post by morinoir » Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:21 am

What is this '999' that you mentioned? Can you provide link to some video or something?

I agree with Fuseblower, the real question here is whether animation is feasible or not and to know the answer, you need to try animate one of your character. Frame per frame animation is A LOT of work and you have 12 characters here plus all their distinctive expressions and gestures... /shudder. Using tools like Live2D, After Effect, or Spine can definitely help you cut the production time, but the downside is you'll have to spend some time to learn how to operate the tool before you can actually animate your characters (or just hire someone who can use the program). So it really depends on your preference.

Expressing the character's feeling using static gesture can work nicely too. I see that your art is very expressive and I'm sure dynamic body gesture will not be a problem to you. Some people actually prefer static sprite because it won't distract them from the story, while other love animation because it makes the character more alive. There are many things to consider before you decide to animate or not animate your sprite, but one thing for sure is you can't please everybody, so I say just go with the thing that you love the most.

Also if you want to focus on immersion, don't neglect sound effect and sound design.
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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#5 Post by numituwi » Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:02 pm

Thank you for the responses and reading through my post! It means alot!
After reading and thinking over what everyone has suggested so far, I want to reply to specific parts.
Fuseblower wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:11 am
I see twelve characters that are very difficult to animate (lots of complicated details).
This is going to sound silly, but originally there was no intention of animation for these characters! A friend made a suggestion that I liked the idea of. That explains why their designs are overly detailed. You are incredibly right though, animation for detailed characters proved tasking.

Image

After taking your suggestion Fuse and simplifying this design way down, the end result still took 3 hours and it's still rather jerky at 7 frames. :oops:
YonYonYon wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:47 am
First, I love your characters.

Second, animating these will be hard af, I'd use several expressive poses instead. Or animated only their heads. Like, the ClockHead's clock hands going faster when they're agitated, or stopping completely when they're stunned. And maybe add simple idle animation to the body, like, fidgeting fingers and hands. What I'm trying to say, you don't have to animate the whole body, just elements would be fine.
Thank you so much Yon! I love your designs for Reach the Starlight too, especially the color schemes!
I do like the animated heads idea, and took your suggestion for a messy test run that took about 20 minutes to put altogether.

Image

It's absolutely more do-able than whole body movements ^v^;
morinoir wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:21 am
What is this '999' that you mentioned? Can you provide link to some video or something?
999 (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors) is a visual novel escape horror game! They use both static and animated poses, but the animated poses only occur when the character is doing a big expression. Here is a link to a video showing the action, and the frames: https://youtu.be/W4NxvgeSDNY?t=8m29s and https://www.spriters-resource.com/fullview/41983/!
morinoir wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:21 am
Expressing the character's feeling using static gesture can work nicely too. I see that your art is very expressive and I'm sure dynamic body gesture will not be a problem to you. Some people actually prefer static sprite because it won't distract them from the story, while other love animation because it makes the character more alive. There are many things to consider before you decide to animate or not animate your sprite, but one thing for sure is you can't please everybody, so I say just go with the thing that you love the most.

Also if you want to focus on immersion, don't neglect sound effect and sound design.
Thank you for the compliment! You are very sweet, Morinoir!
For myself, I like a bit of a 50/50, though I didn't actually factor people disliking animation either...

You are right, sounds are equally important to player immersion and I have forgotten that factor.

Thanks again to everyone who have replied to my post! If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. I know this is a bit of a huge block, so thank you for your patience and time.

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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#6 Post by KillerQueen » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:48 pm

Oh my god, objectheads ❤

That being said, what I did for my own faceless character was to give him an additional pose for every expression the other characters had - so, while the rest of the cast hast four/five expressions, he has four different poses. Body language goes a long way, specially with dynamic poses like the ones in your concept art.
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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#7 Post by Fuseblower » Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:24 am

numituwi wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:02 pm
After taking your suggestion Fuse and simplifying this design way down, the end result still took 3 hours and it's still rather jerky at 7 frames. :oops:
Yes, that's a design that's much easier to animate (by the way : it's 6 frames :) )

The "jerkiness" comes mostly from not using "easing in/easing out" (also known as "cushioning"). A real motion never starts or stops at full speed. If you start a motion on frame 1 then frame 2 will look almost the same with the moving part having travelled very little. At frame 3 the distance covered by the moving part will have increased, etc.

Say, you swing your arm back and forth. The distance covered by the hand from frame to frame will be something like 1, 2, 4, 4, 2, 1, -1, -2, -4, -4, -2, -1, 1, 2, 4, etc. Note also that the different body parts don't move in the same order. The body parts closest to the trunk start moving first (like the shoulders and hips), the ones furthest away start moving last (like hands and feet). An exception is the head which will often lead a movement.

Of course, you can deviate from this but the general idea is that it takes time to get body parts up to speed and once they're at full speed it will take time to stop them.

Also, the clothing doesn't drag. Actually, the bow of the waist ribbon does quite the opposite : it moves into the direction of the movement instead of dragging behind. And there is one frame where there's suddenly a distracting sharp corner in the waist ribbon.

Finally : there's an awful lot happening in those 6 frames which run at 10 frames per second. Old cartoons ran at 12 or 24 frames per second (called "on two's" and "on one's" respectively). Fast, broad motions were always done "on one's" (24 frames per second). It's important to keep things simple. The extremely rapid changes of the cloud head don't add anything to the movement, it only distracts.

And then the mandatory advice : if you haven't already then read Richard William's "The Animator's Survival Kit". If there's just one book you're ever going to read about animation then it should be this one. It contains thousands of drawings and lots of solid advice from someone who has learned from the best and made "Who framed Roger Rabbit?".

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Re: When a character design has no face, is animation needed?

#8 Post by numituwi » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:13 am

Thank you for the in depth reply, Fuse!

You never notice how many mistakes you make when it's just you and your friends looking at your animation! =v=

Your words will definitely improve my animation in the future. It seems that I'm not yet skilled enough to animate fluid body movement though. For now, after looking over yours and the other's advice, I will go with sometimes animated heads since that's where the focus will be and within my skill level! ^^

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