Creature Animation in The Last Guardian
I’ve just headed back into games after almost a year working on creatures in film and I’ve been hunting around for inspiration which spoke to some of the concepts and ideas I was exposed to, but in a gameplay setting. This blew me away. I know this is old, but it got me really fired up.
Jaw Dropping. They’re pushing past the traditional role of creatures as enemies or inconsequential background characters and using the bond between beast and boy as their driving focus instead. The eagle/cat archetypes are there, but I see them drilling past that as well and trying to establish character in the creature. That’s something even most films don’t get a chance or are able to do.
There are so many technical and gameplay restraint challenges animating for games that this type breakthrough work is very important. It’s something I would be happy to even bring small element of to my own work.
Project Director Ueda’s key foci:
“….on achieving realistic-looking behavior with “animal-like expressions”
“Trico’s ears will react if they come into contact with ceilings or other tall features using the game’s mesh-based collection detection system, with Trico responding in a similar manner as a cat”
“The boy will naturally place a hand on a nearby wall if close, and will reach out to pet the creature without any player interaction.”
“Trico is also considered “adolescent” by Ueda, allowing the developers to inject humor through its actions at times.”
“…designed and programmed to give as much flexibility as possible to allow for creativity in level design and letting the creature’s function adapt to it”
What I’m taking away from ‘The Last Guardian’:
- Know your creature’s character and use it to influence all aspects of it’s animation.
- It’s very easy to animate archetype rather than character,which can lead to cliche.
- What relationship are you building? Adversarial? Cooperative? Is the relationship static or dynamic?
- Ask as many questions of the team as possible. What’s expected or required? Technical or Gameplay limitations?
- Push past the nuts and bolts.
Are there ways to achieve gameplay requirements in a way that will feel natural? What ‘extra’ animation do you think would work well to establish the character and how could you go about incorporating it in the least expensive way possible. Resources are always tight on a game, so pick your battles, but push to bring in the elements you think help define the character or relationship more clearly.
- Decide which animals, elements or people most closely make up your creature.
- Sketch up a quick backstory, and character analysis (this really is worth your time, and shold only take twenty minutes)
- Distill the base elements that make up each part of your creatures personality/physicality and gather reference.
- How will the internal characteristics affect the external physicality?
- How would you want to see this in the game given an unlimited budget and no technical limitations
- What is engaging about this creature to you? How will you express that to the player as quickly as possible?
- Build the relationships in your head the creature has with it’s environment, other creatures and the player and try to express them.
Stills of the ideas they’re trying to express