Sunday, August 05, 2007

The feel of games part 4 – posing

This is a weird topic to talk about simply because it crosses over into animation. However as designers it is important to keep it in mind. A move can look more or less powerful based on the way it is executed. This is something you might argue with over the animators – but it is important that design drives the game and not animation. When animation drives the game you end up with something like Mark of Kri.

So what is posing? Posing is the way the character looks during a move – this could be as simple as where the arms are located or how far away the legs are spread or how the back is arched, etc. With good posing you can almost define the character in certain situations. Everyone in the world who plays videogames knows exactly what Ryu looks like when he throws a fireball or when he does a dragon punch.

I think it was Walt Disney (my google skills are lacking today) who said that people should be able to tell which character it is just by the shadow/silhouette. People seem to only remember shapes of characters, not necessarily what color they are or adornment, etc. In God of War 1 – the undead skeleton character, there were 3 different variations with huge differences – all gold armor, all red armor, etc and most people just didn’t pick up on those things. One of the things that might have helped is grouping them together in a fight (at least 2 – not all 3, that would have been overkill). So that people could see the differences instead of trying to remember what they looked like 30+ minutes ago (or even more if they haven’t played the game in a few days, weeks, etc).

So when you have characters that share the same shape – such as humanoids, it boils down to having really good posing to help sell the character and the motions. When working on the subweapons for Kratos (Sword, Hammer, etc) we had the concept artists just do silhouettes of Kratos standing with each one to help define the idle pose and the overall character of the subweapon.

Capcom used to have a really great pose with Zangief when he did his Spinning Piledriver from too far away:

Here is a good screenshot to convey what I’m talking about:

Zangief has his arms up and he is coming to chase yo’ ass down. Coupled with the fact that he ran really quickly – this move is damn scary still and it’s been over 10 years.

When Capcom decided to do the Alpha series they changed his pose which just doesn’t have as much of an impact:

Here is a good screenshot so you can see the pose I’m talking about:

His arms are by his side and it just doesn’t seem as scary. He is also moving a whole lot slower which basically made this move suck compared to how it used to be.

So while it is up to the animators to make a move look all badass don’t be afraid to offer up some advice on how to sell the overall ‘design’ of the character. It’s the little things that count and that go a long way.


Australian Ninja said...

An interesting post. I agree that's it the little details such as the Zangief example used that can make a difference.

I hadn't really noticed this arms high / low business myself in the Street Fighter games, but did notice the pathetic runnning speed Zangief moves at in Alpha/Zero series.

I nearly always notice missing frames of animation or subtle differences in how moves look on the screen.

FYI - I think people who are obsessive about fighters (escpecially 2D fighters) can't help but go on at lenth about the animations - I used to talk with a friend about this sort of thing with every 2D fighter sequel we would play together.

Also, I think you have confused Zangiefs Piledriver (360+Punch)with his running Suplex move /animation (360+Kick) in your example?

Maj said...

I think Derek needs to do an article about naming conventions (aka laziness) in the Street Fighter community.

Derek Daniels said...

HAHA! Maj called me out when I first posted the article about my laziness of calling it SPD but I didn't think anyone would care.

For the record Gief has 3 SPD's: SPD, close Kick SPD and Far Kick SPD.

I don't know why but all of us old school players who still play - we went out of our way to learn the buttons: Jab, Strong, Fierce, Short, Forward, Roundhouse and some of the special moves - fireball, dragon punch, flash kick, etc but thats about it.

We are hella lazy when it comes to the names of supers: fireball super, chun li has punch super, kick super and up kick super.

One of my favorite comments was in alpha 3 i think - they changed Dhalsim's Yoga Flame command, which used to be half circle toward to half circle away. At a tournament someone asked 'how do you do yoga flame now?' and someone responded with, 'backwards yoga flame and punch'.

Whenever a new command comes out - i think the name of that move just gets associated with that command. For instance - Sagat's Tiger Knee command (down, down/toward, toward, up/toward) gets whored out everywhere - from Cable doing AHVB X 3 to Akuma doing Air Fireballs, etc.

So you are correct that it probably has some official name but I would still suck and call it Kick SPD no matter what.

Robyrt said...

There were times in God of War 1 when the gold and gray undead soldiers would be in a battle together, and then you'd notice the difference - but honestly I didn't notice that the red ones existed in all the 8 times I've played through the game.

With the fighting game nomenclature I grew up with (OMF 2097), a fireball would be "down-forward punch" because the command was actually down+forward, forward, punch, not a full quarter circle. Same thing with strong and fierce: Many characters didn't have distinct animations for their normal moves, so you could legimately say "down kick" and mean low short.

Australian Ninja said...

I used to use that shorthand kind of thing myself when playing with a friend who was familiar with most SNK and Capcom Fighters.

We'd just say "oh that's reverse dragon punch"
"flash kick with punch" etc.
"akuma's raging demon" (used when describing the LP,LP,LK, F+HP for characters in other games, likes Morrigan Darkstalkers super).

tsenzen said...

Its a big plus if your a designer that can manage to actually illustrate out some of the moves or attacks, this is always a great help when trying to achieve the emphasis of power or style within a specific attack. Trying to sell the feeling of the attack is still very hard in my experience when there aren't many references to go by...

Wayne said...

a giant russian wrestly coming in for the kill?

hells yeah id be afraid XD

Jim Miles said...

Good post.

Perhaps the change in animation for Zangief's animation had something to do with telegraphing? I found that with the arms raised high, it was very easy to see the running throw move coming, whereas in the Alpha series the change of animation made it more difficult to react to. But anyway, I don't agree that the Alpha animation has less impact. Of course, it's subjective.

"I think it was Walt Disney (my google skills are lacking today) who said that people should be able to tell which character it is just by the shadow/silhouette."

Matt Groening I reckon.