One of the best things about making a game about Rocky is that it gives me the excuse to think about how we create the different dances.Lets face it what would a dancing game be without the ability to animate your character.
This is no easy feat however, there are two basic approaches to animating dances:
Rag Doll: This is where you literally control the direction of the limbs as if they were puppets and allow the player to move them around at a whim. Which is funny and quite fun; but the dances aren’t usually convincing and it unfortunately stops being rewarding in the longer term as a game. However, the real problem is that the dances don’t look particularly convincing.
Animation Blending: Where we have a number of predefined animations and your interactions affect the way the character blends between those states. This looks really good, but can becomes quite limited in terms of the sense of personal involvement.
We decided a long time ago that the game would have to be based on the idea of Animation Blends; not least because of my experience watching what people playing Playstation Home managed to pull off with the combination of set dances and individual gestures; something which worked out a lot better than we had expected. However, this leaves us with a problem – how do we make the dances feel individual to the player. This was one of the problems that came to light when we showed off our initial prototype to people. There was some degree of interpretation but this needed more.
So talking to Nick the animator we cam up with a plan to increase the emergent experience. First we will have two idle states, rather than one. This is the basic movement that say Riff Raff or Janet does between your moves. Its how we hope to help you keep in mind the beat as well. So now there will be a low energy movement and a high-energy movement. That means that the more rapidly you make moves the more active the dancer will be and this will slow down during the dance. The other thing we want to experiment with is allowing players to change their mind to get different movements out of the character. So lets say you start moving top left this kicks off an initial movement to take the say Brad’s right arm up to his right; but then you switch curving the line you draw down. We want this to then blend between those animation states to show something unique. We don’t know if this will work – that’s why we will experiment ;0)
That still means we have to spend a lot of time thinking about each of the potential dance moves so that we can we sure that we can recreate all the great songs, not least The Timewarp! Thats harder than you might think – give the way that our control system works to enable the game to still work on smaller phones screens. Last week I spent time with Nick and Ruby to work that out and make sure we had everything planned out for using existing canned animations where we can; and what we will have to capture using MoCap in a couple of weeks time.
Until next time here are some still from our time in Ruby’s dance studio…