Long Live the Animator

You may have noticed (if you’ll allow me the fantasy that anyone is paying attention) that it has been a while since the last Vespers update. This is for many reasons, of course. It might just be easiest to say that it’s because there hasn’t been a whole lot to report. I wish that wasn’t the case, but so it goes.

Most of it, as usual, originates from the animation side of things. What began as a promising venture with three local animation students eventually fizzled out. One of them made a little bit of progress over a long period of time, but couldn’t get much further due to classes and other obligations. Another never really got off the ground. The third did actually get a lot of quality work done in the time we worked together, but life issues with women and career eventually derailed that train, and he faded into obscurity. It was, to be sure, a useful path to follow, as we now have all of our character models essentially working the way they should. But a game like this has a lot of animations to be done, and we’re only a fraction of the way there.

Animation is clearly the bottleneck that is keeping this project from making any serious advances. It’s frustrating, because I keep ending up in the same place and it’s hard to keep the wheels from spinning. As it turns out, in what is surely a surprise to nobody except perhaps me, a game with a lot of expressive character animations might not be the best project for a small indie group to tackle. Bad animation just won’t cut it, but good animation is hard to find if you’re not walking around wagging fistfuls of dollars in people’s faces. Apparently, the prospect of even some payment — granted, well below market value, but not exactly pocket change — isn’t itself enough incentive to maintain the interest of a decent animator for very long.

I remember joking years ago, as another animator drifted into the void, that if I had just sat down and taught myself animation over that same period of time, I’d at least be in position by then to be doing the animations myself. Funny thing is, if I really had done that, I’d have a few years of animation experience under my belt by now. Assuming, of course, that I hadn’t already left myself for another project.

Not to worry, though, as we do have a new animator joining the project, Daniel, who is luckily already well-versed in the mystical ways of Torque. That means he has been able to jump right into the project without a long period of adjustment, which is extremely nice. So hopefully we’ll have some new material coming through soon, and we can get this thing back on track and moving forward again.

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4 Comments

  1. Jason
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 3:46 PM | Permalink

    That’s rough – it’s hard to get artists of any quality to stay on for long, if you’re not offering them quite good wages and have them in house.

    Hopefully Daniel can take the project the rest of the way.

  2. RuberEaglenest
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 4:11 AM | Permalink

    It could be possible to finish an alpha state of the project with all the animations done quick like sketches, so later you could replace animations per animatios when the quality ones are ready?

    I know that could be done with textures and models, that kind of approach allow to multithread the development with progress in the game and progress in the art assets being separated. But I don’t know if that could be done with the animations.

    Anyway, good luck, we are all listening and waiting for your monthly article.

  3. Posted November 19, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

    Thanks both of you. I was late to approve the comments because, for some reason, WordPress failed to e-mail me to let me know about them. Not sure why.

    Ruber: probably not. It still takes some skill and effort to make even basic animations, and I’m not sure that’s worth the time. Plus, there aren’t too many people available to do even that. I’d still like to learn animation myself, but there is a pretty steep learning curve that requires a good deal of dedication and time. I’m not sure that’s the best use of my time, but then again, that might be better than no animations…

  4. Miles Milton
    Posted November 20, 2009 at 2:59 PM | Permalink

    Sounds like a cool project!! Are you looking for an animator? I graduated from Animation Mentor last year and have some experience in animating for games and movies. If you still need an animator let me know. I could send a link to my reel and we can talk further about what you are looking for in an animator.

    Sincerely,

    Miles Milton

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