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How to model/represent stick men

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I was thinking about a little game where the characters are stick-men, in 3D. To me, creating them in a 3D modelling tool seems a bit over the top... I could create a 3D skeletal rig but it seems like something you could do entirely through code, with a few config files, which would be cool. The problem then is that any pre-canned animations would be more difficult... I'd want a mix of animation and dynamic/physical modelling so I'm a little torn. Does anyone have any general thoughts? Would you ignore the fact the models are very simple and just model them in 3DS like you would any other game character?

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There's no reason you can't write a quick tool to do keyframed animations. This is pretty much what we did for Stick Soldiers 3, but we defined the stickman's skeleton using a hierarchy of nodes (similar to most IK systems) and then procedurally defined the motion of the nodes using a periodic function such as sine.

Lerping between keyframes, though, is extremely easy. You may want to provide physics data in the skeleton and then just 'turn off' the pre-built animations for an IK-like realtime response.

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Hey I didn't know you were involved in the SS series, the game idea I have is somewhat similar so your advice is particularly useful.

I am debating the game being done browser-based (Flex) in which case the stick-men would probably still be modelled in 3D but the game might actually be in 2D... in this case I might be forced to develop my own tools since I know of no good tool-chain supporting AS3/Flex.

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