Dragonball FighterZ: More than Meets the Eye

So E3 wasn’t too bad but the focus of this post will be the newly announced Dragonball game. Why I decided to do this is because I wanted to bring to light the real magic at work and I feel it might go under appreciated. Yes, it looks good. Yes, the cell shading or whatever rendering technology Arc System Works is using looks pretty damn close to the anime. What I wanted to touch on though is the animation.

Everything below will mainly be for people who aren’t animators or game developers but your average video game consumer. You might look at games like Dragonball FigherZ, Guilty Gear Xrd and Blazblue Series and think “Wow, is it 2D? is it 3D? what’s going on?” so hopefully this gives you an idea.

The animation here is actually… well… genius. I’ll put some examples that I’ve done to clarify why.

splined_idle
This here is your average fighter idle animation. You may find this in games like Tekken and the newer Street Fighter games.

stepped_idle
Here you have the same animation, but modified in various ways to make the 3D appear as 2D as possible. Using combination of material and engine rendering the 2D concept is pushed even further by animating it in such a way that supports that concept.

You may be thinking “it looks choppy, this wouldn’t work”. But it does. It works because there’s actually no impact on the gameplay itself. Gameplay in this case refers to position and user input which from what the trailer shows, is pretty smooth.

splined_combo
Example 1.

stepped_combo
Example 2.

All animators are aware of the principles of animation. It’s most likely the first thing you would get taught when going down this career path. Even if it’s not right down to the exact principles, we have an idea of them. Game animation sacrifices some of those principles for the sake of gameplay such as cutting down on “anticipation” for faster input for the user. What’s happening here though is disposing of nearly every animation principle in the book except for a select few in order to achieve the desired aesthetic. Who on earth would do that?

Not only does this save some time, it allows flexibility while also matching the art style. Things like delicate footwork can be ignored to an extent and characters can now rotate their bodies in a single frame such as during combos. This method allows faster and more exaggerated poses since there’s less work on the inbetween frames thus achieving faster gameplay.

spline_timeline
This is the animation graph editor for Example 1. You don’t have to make heads or tails of this but understand it’s curvy. The curvy-ness represents the smooth animation as that is Maya doing it’s own calculations to connect the frames together.

stepped_timeline
This is the graph for Example 2. The straight nature of this represents the held poses throughout the animation. The sharp shifts are poses darting to another pose within a single frame. In fact the whole animation process is essentially held poses non-stop.

The game industry as a whole is slowly blurring the lines between 2D and 3D. Games like the Naruto Ninja Storm and One Piece series are looking more and more like their anime counterparts. However, changing not only the art but also the animation itself to mimic some sort of sprite style even though it’s not sprites and also getting it to work? I consider that something pretty amazing. Something that a lot of people will overlook.

Rig is from Body Mechanics Rigs

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