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Darkness Revealed Update 41 - The Different Roles of Animation!

Hello, everyone! How's it going?
Before we start, remember we mentioned that "Last Dive" was a temporary project name? Well, we are really close to announcing the final name! We've been using the final name internally for a long time now, and all in all, it suits the game better for a bunch of reasons. We're wrapping up the game logo and we'll be showing everything in our site over the next couple weeks, so make sure to pay a visit!

Ok, on to today's topic: character animation! Instead of the technical bit-byte, which we may show in the future, today we'll focus on the things we like to consider when designing animation.

Animation Types
Animations play a huge part in Last Dive. Of course, if Dave is jumping, his animation must be that of someone jumping - obvious stuff apart, animation must always have a clear design goal (just like everything in game development). So besides making sure Dave looks like he's jumping, what else must an animation do?
For starters, let's talk about two very different sources of design points: Action and Personality.

Conveying Action

Besides illustrating what is going on, action animations have the very important role of conveying to the player the rules he is subject to at any given moment. In the case of Last Dive, however, the gameplay is so radically different from what one would expect from a platformer that some extra context is required to make the game action more intuitive. In one sentence, what makes the gameplay unique is the fact that Dave is moving underwater while wearing a very heavy diving suit. Imagine what it would be like to try to run in a swimming pool - while wearing iron boots!

Most of the gameplay is determined by the amount of effort needed to move underwater while being pulled down by an iron diving suit and held back by water resistance. To make that feel intuitive, one of the very first interactions that the player has with the game is controlling Dave with his armor on, while outside of the water. Can you tell in the animation below which details help with conveying this weight? :)


Notice that these are not generic 'walking' or 'lifting object' animations. They were made to set expectations about how it feels to move underwater.

Now this is the funny part: once Dave is underwater, the water pressure brings with it buoyancy, which actually make things lighter! So once he's in, the main problem is not weight anymore, but water resistance. Starting a movement or moving at low speed is really difficult (think again on the 'trying to run in the swimming pool' parallel), but once objects receive enough impulse to start moving, they actually move much further away than they would outside of the water. Which also applies to jumps:

Buoyancy makes Dave's physics a lot like that of astronauts on the moon. In that regard, we can see how animation is essential to make the game rules intuitive to the player!

Still on that, a lot of game design is about understanding the underlying state machine that determines rule changes and the transitions from one state to the other (walking = moving slowly, jumping = moving faster, falling from a high place = short delay before being able to move again, etc). Animation makes these movement changes not feel unexplained or cheap, but rather a natural consequence of the game's physics.

Conveying Personality

Personality animations, on the other hand, serve a distinct purpose. They focus on displaying character. When playing games, you usually don't have a character's full background laid out for you, and animation helps telling this untold story in a subtle way. In Last Dive we've been careful when creating Dave's animations. Most of them convey something about the character: what he thinks, how he feels, and how it would feel to be on his shoes.


That's it for today guys! Next week we will have more to share regarding animation and a deep look into Dave's personality! If you liked the design decisions behind our animation process or have any ideas on how we can improve it, please let us know! We are always hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to say hello. Or, if you want to receive these updates complete and before everyone else, sign up for our Golden Chest

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