From August 2017 to May 2018 while at Mode Games, I had the chance to work on an project called ELSA which stands for Early Learning STEM Australia. ELSA is an ambitious digital learning program for children in preschool to grasp basic concepts of patterns, mathematics and science. My role in the development of this project was character animation, technical animation, 2D animation (Anima2D) and overseeing character finalisation.
The areas of the game that I focused more on were dance sequences and the playground. The development and pipeline method we went with was prioritising programmer control over animator control. Prioritising programmer control meant I had to create many animations for every possible scenario which were mostly cycles, poses and transitions.
With roughly 250 animation clips, the programmer can select and choose what motion fits what scenario better and with extra animations added if it’s not in the listing. The downside of this would probably be the quantity and the constant need for communication between animator and programmer. Alternatively, animator control would be require me to consider the finalised look on my own. I would have to animate an entire sequence then it would be simply activated in engine. While this usually looks cleaner and is faster, it lacks the flexibility of fine tuning for the programmer if they wanted to mix and match different animations.
One of the challenges I faced was probably diverting from my usual style as the animations had to be easy enough for preschool children to follow along to. The other challenge was learning which joints I could ignore as they ended up being driven through code. Examples include head and eyes as most of the time they had scripts run on them to look/follow specific directions in engine.
While the scope probably wasn’t as large as what a proper Character TD does such as cloth simulation and script setup, it did include a large amount of blendshapes. A bit over 200 to be exact. Each character had over 50 and there are 4 characters in total combined with smaller miscellaneous assets that needed some blendshapes. Other than blendshapes, it was the usual character rigging. For this project I used Maya’s HumanIK system.
This spot will be updated with Anima2D work soon.
For more information on ELSA please visit: https://elsa.edu.au/