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Old 02-11-2012, 09:46 AM   #1
FredLC
 
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What about animated comm mesages

Guys, one thing that - at least for me - seens somewhat minor, but would help me get in the mood, wold be to have animations of the caracthers during comm chatter.

The still faces are kinda off-putting, and I can't imagine that after making this polished a game, with such dynamic interactions, a few pieces of animation would be too taxiing for the development team. It's arguably easyer than implementing the cockpit (assuming the cockypit does not have much moving parts).

Maybe there is some design reason for this choice, but I can't figure out one that is convincing. It also would make a lot of sense to have "videophones" after you mastered the interstellar travel technology, wouldn't it, so it would go well with the story...

What does the development team say?

Regards .
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Old 02-11-2012, 10:11 AM   #2
SeamlessStocks
 
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Quote:
The still faces are kinda off-putting, and I can't imagine that after making this polished a game, with such dynamic interactions, a few pieces of animation would be too taxiing for the development team. It's arguably easyer than implementing the cockpit (assuming the cockypit does not have much moving parts).
Are you talking about 3D heads with effective lip-synching, facial animations, etc? Or are you talking about Wing Commander-style 2D heads with just static facial expressions?

If you're talking about the former than that is a substantial amount of work that is far more difficult and time consuming than a cockpit view. It's not easier in any way, shape, or form.
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Old 02-11-2012, 02:28 PM   #3
FredLC
 
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perhaps helmets that cover the mouth can solve the lip-sync issue?

I can imagine that a fully realistic head with perfect lip synching and a full range of emotions is a lot of work; And maybe, if not to go realistic, than perhaps a still frame makes more sense. Nonetheless, I personally would find some degree of movement would do more justice to the voice acting.

Nonetheless, I guess it's outta question for now, righ...?

Regards .

Edit: Correct me here if I'm wrong, but also,as these images are small, the image does not have to be ukltra-realistic to be convincing...

Edit 2.: what about traditional animation? Could it be cheaper, or viable?

Last edited by FredLC: 02-11-2012 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 02-11-2012, 08:16 PM   #4
|SEIPixelMonkey
 
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One that's in my wheelhouse. Alright!
Well, I'd love, love, love to add animated heads to the game. It's a lot of work though. If we're talking about animated 3d heads, we can get a lot of help from software like FaceFX, which is already supported by UDK (Yeah!), but we'd have to license the software which cost actual money (Boo.)
Software like this, actually drives animation procedurally, from the wav/mp3 file, so an animator doesn't have to actually key frame every line of dialogue. However, these characters still have to be built, setup, exported, imported, setup again and then tested. We'd have to build a 3d model and texture set for a character and then either rig them to be driven with bones, or (more likely) create morph targets (blend shapes) that emulate the mouth shapes for a set number of phonemes (mouth shapes we make during speech), specified by the software. This will get us a talking head, albeit a very wooden one. Layered on this flapping mouth, we'd then add various targets for eye shapes, (blinks, wide-open, closed, squints...), eyebrows and foreheads. These would then all work in conjunction to create some basic expressions like; fear, pain, anger, surprise, happiness, joy... and so on. This rigging and morph targets then get exported out (Max in our case) and imported into Unreal where the targets are setup there in the software. An animator then needs to start running through the dialogue lines and testing the results, fixing issues and re-export/import. They will also need to add the expression tags to the audio files (fear, anger, pain, look up, look left, sneer...) so the game will make the head look angry, scared or whatever, at the right time in the delivery. Animation to the actual head (tilts, turning left, right, up and down, head shakes and whatnot) still have to be keyframed and look at targets for the eyes should be added to prevent that 1000 yard stare.
Then we'd have to do all this again, for each character in the game. Some would be easier (basic pilots, or anybody wearing a mask/helmet) for sure, but we can't cover everybody up with a helmet and face mask.
The head shots are pretty small, but still rather detailed. We could certainly get away with a fair amount of 'sins' animation wise, but I don't think we want to pull back from the current level of representation. Ultra realistic is not one of our goals (whew), but convincing is and creating a believable human character animation is incredibly difficult, especially with only facial animation. As humans, we spend a massive amount of time looking at faces while communicating. This makes us exceedingly sensitive to anything 'off' or out of place.
Traditional animation (I'm assuming 2d here) would be really cool! Who does that anymore... We'd have to find the talent first off and then, like most talented people, they'd want to be paid for their efforts. This finished animation would be less flexible than the 3d methods described above but could be much cheaper at the end of the day. Perhaps there is a middle ground somewhere... 3d heads without lip-syncing (ala Civilization Leaders) that only express some emotion(?).
The final caveat that I see is that we're talking about a UI element which is not related to 3d at all. It's basically a Flash file driven by another licensed piece of technology called Scaleform. This would require canned animation files in the form of a video or image sequence streamed and whatnot. It's something to think about, for sure, but in the end I'd say highly unlikely in this games current iteration. Perhaps better for the sequel.
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Old 02-12-2012, 05:37 AM   #5
FredLC
 
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Well, it's clear that I have underestimated the work necessary; sorry for that but still, the questioning was valid.

Lemme just say that I'd rather a sequel than the face animations. If the project goes that far AND the sequel does sport such feature, even better.

Regards .
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Old 02-15-2012, 03:32 PM   #6
Twelvefield
 
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Well, I for one do traditional 2D animation. I've never understood how 3D animators could shackle themselves to software that goes obsolete in a couple of years (or during the work cycle of a major project), or trust a computer that if it gets busted, goes dark, is hacked, or fails in any of a thousand difficult ways, then it's all game over man, game over. Even if there is a total power failiure, a 2D animator still can go to work.

In any case, the rules are mostly the same for 2D and 3D animation. That's because most 3D animation was engineered for the 2D workflow, at least in the beginning. Things like keys and mouth charts are mostly the same. Most modern software like Flash or Flipbook supports automatic setting of facial expressions and mouth poses based on the .WAV file. Some poor benighted pixel monkey just has to draw them.

There lies the rub. A basic classical animator charges $40 an hour. It takes 8 hours to draw 2 seconds of film (as a rule of thumb). Figure out how much footage you need and do the math. 3D artists have higher targets to hit, anywhere from 30-60 seconds need to be animated in an 8 hour shift. On the other hand, the 3D guys get a lot more automation support. Typically, that means a larger team, as well: modellers, riggers, texturers, lighting specialists, and renderers, as well as technical services.

Something to think about next time you are watching the end cedits of a show that had a lot of animation in it, and the crawl goes on for ten minutes and the names are all in six point font. If the studio could get away with hiring fewer people, they would have. Animation is a massively work-intensive industry.
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Old 02-16-2012, 12:00 AM   #7
|SEIPixelMonkey
 
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"Some poor benighted pixel monkey just has to draw them."


"Most modern software like Flash or Flipbook supports automatic setting of facial expressions and mouth poses based on the .WAV file."
Something to research this weekend...
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Old 03-07-2012, 12:05 PM   #8
N-R, N-R
 
 
 
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What about comm messages like Freespace?
You get the 3D animated portrait but without the need for lip syncing.
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