# Fellow game devs and artists,How do you animate your games?

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I can't wrap my hand around how game assets are animated and which programs are mostly used.Can you please tell what approach you guys take and which programs you use?

I mainly want to be able to animate in 2D and right now i am trying to work on a game that has a 2D isometric view.

Some things that I do not understand when it comes to 2D animation:

1)Are you supposed to draw each and every frame or are you supposed to copy paste and edit the original one?An lousy artist like me can't perfectly redraw the same exact frame but when i do the copy paste thing,i can't figure out which parts to edit and which to keep and it makes my animation stiff,weird and unnatural.

2)Are there any authentic references i can use to figure out how to draw basic animations like run,jump etc. and also more advanced ones like sword combat,collision effects etc.

3)Is there any way of animating for 2D games in 3D animation softwares like maya?and if i take this approach rather than animating directly for 2D in a 2D animation software,would it be easier for me?Is it easier to animate in 3D than in 2D?

4)And what would be the best method of learning 2D game animation and art for a high school student like me who has a deep interest in game development and wants to develop a simple but good game?

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I consider myself a hobbyist and I would say that my art skills are... well it's pretty obvious that it's programmer art.

1) Just about everything I do is in MS Paint because the basic stuff I do I keep it pretty simple. Sometimes I work in a version of Paint Shop Pro that I have which last I checked is less powerful than the latest version of Gimp. The version of PSP I have came with animator software which had an "onion skin" feature where the previous frame appears translucent on the current frame that you're editing so you can get some idea of what kind of edits you want to make.

2) I just googled for "walking animation" to get images for inspiration for what my animation ended up having. I didn't follow every frame but I considered the various details that seemed like might be relevant for what I wanted and applied to my work best I could.

3&4) I'm not sure about what software or tools you should look into to develop towards a professional career but artist & programmer are two different specializations requiring time to practice and develop your skills.

As a programmer, the art that I've done that I've been the happiest with has generally been the stuff that I've kept very simple. The majority of the time I slowly build sprites using copy & paste with transparency functions and use gradient flood fills & alpha blending to whatever advantage I can. I often try to build sprites with some kind of paper doll technique, building and keeping small parts and trying to fit them together to make one larger sprite. In theory, you can use these smaller parts (maybe modulate their colour) to build sprites at run time in your game and it might reduce some of numbers of frames you need to do by hand, but there can be a lot more programming involved.

Other than that, it's going to come down either to practice or getting someone else (probably by paying them) to do the work for you.

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1. either way you want.

2. you mean like this?

that's the second result for a google image search for: walk motion study

server was down on the first result.

3. well,,, you can create a 3D scene or character in a pose, then render it, and use the render as a frame of animation or an animation sprite.  a bit of work. but you could do arbitrarily complex characters that way. down side is that all the rest of the game would have to look as good or they would seem out of place. which means you're more or less rendering all your sprites, tiles, backgrounds, etc. - a fair bit of work. more than just drawing 2D stuff.

4. there was a series of two books on character animation - can't recall the name. came out in 1995-2005 time period. not specifically for games.  really good stuff. see if you can track it down. "principles of character animation" or something like that.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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3. well,,, you can create a 3D scene or character in a pose, then render it, and use the render as a frame of animation or an animation sprite.  a bit of work. but you could do arbitrarily complex characters that way. down side is that all the rest of the game would have to look as good or they would seem out of place. which means you're more or less rendering all your sprites, tiles, backgrounds, etc. a far bit of work.

I just wanted to add that there is a lot of free motion capture data on the internet, that you can use on a character, it's mostly raw data however it is easy to make animations from it.

So say you used a Makehuman model and posed it with motion capture data, you can make easy animations; then render from a side view and draw over it.

Because its's raw data you will have to clean and stylize it, however this will be what gives your animation that unique touch.

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>> I just wanted to add that there is a lot of free motion capture data on the internet

a very good point!

don't underestimate what you can do with PD tools and assets!

my personal solution for skinned meshes was to use microsoft sample code for the drawing, and pubic domain skinned meshes. i used the built-in skeleton in blender to rig the mesh, and used blender to do the animations. you might think of animation keyframes as a series of poses. all you do is set each pose, then click the "add keyframe" button, like taking a picture.

As Scouting Ninja says, there are also many PD mocap files out there that you can use instead of hand animating things yourself. In my case, "posing dolls" seemed easier than trying to import, convert and use mocap files.   another thing you can do is:  say you find a good mocap fie, but the file does not match your skeleton. you can import the mocap file into blender and play it to see how it moves, then simply reproduce those poses.

also note that its common for mocap to place multiple animations back to back in the same file, as opposed to placing each ani in a separate file.

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As far as copy/paste/edit frames vs redrawing, I'd say people probably do more of the copy/paste than redrawing, as many times(content dependent) the frames have some consistent content that can be reused.  In fact, some programs include a feature called "onion skinning" that let's you see the previous/next frames in the animation to make it easier to get right.  I don't know what kind of budget you have, but my favorite program for pixel art is Cosmigo Pro Motion, which is currently on sale for $59(shows regularly$78).  I own the previous version, but this new version has some nice features.  I especially like the tiling feature, that has multiple parts.  One lets you easily make seamless tiles by repeating the tile several times, letting you draw on any one of the duplicates, and this way makes seams obvious.  And you can easily draw over seams this way.  The other part let's you make a map with your tiles(similar to mappy and other tilemap editors), and then you can export a tilemap for a game engine based off of the tiles you made.  So it is like you can draw a map out, and it makes tiles automatically for you, though of course it works best if you are attempting to re-use tiles in the old school pixel art format.

But........I never got good at pixel art, despite using the awesome tool I discussed.  So when I was making 2d games, I pre-rendered my sprites from 3d models(as you the OP mention in one of the questions.)  It isn't a perfect workflow, and you would have trouble getting the retro pixel art low-rez look(if that is what you want), but it has advantages.  The starting investment is much higher, as generally it takes more time to get a worthy model than to get a single pixel art frame of something...but the process begins to shine when you start animating, and when you need to make changes later.  I can have the single animated model, and if I want 8 directions of walking(like you mentioned Isometric style), I can just change my camera angle, or if I have specific lighting, rotate the model 45-90 degrees, and the animation is already done.  If I need to change the colors, shirt/pants, whatever, I can just make the change, and re-render the animation, so I don't have to go and modify by hand a bunch of animation frames.  I would always make a single Blender file, with one scene that has the camera and lighting that I want, and then I would put all the objects in other sections where they won't be rendered, and when I want to render something, just move it to the first scene.  This way, I am able to guarantee I get to keep consistent lighting on everything.

Another advantage of using 3d software this way is that you get to take advantage of all the little tricks these programs can do.  In fact, if you are making models for an actual 3d engine you can't take advantage of all the things like you can if you are just rendering to sprites.  Blender has fluid and smoke simulators, along with a particle system you can use.  You can take full advantage of IK for animation, you can use modifiers to get tricks working too, like easily deforming geometry in the middle of an animation, without having actually bake those changed, making it easier to make changes to those modifiers.  You can use things like meta-balls without having to convert then to geometry.  You can take advantage off all the things available to offline renders, many of which have no good methods of achieving even in high end 3d engines like CryEngine and Unreal Engine 4.

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Urgh 2D animation.  I love seeing it but when I tried to do it myself I found it mind-bendingly difficult.  These are the two best animations I made, and they're not particularly good:

goldfish swimming - if the animation isn't running, click it.

[attachment=32306:purpletelescopeorandav2.gif]

Jogging cycle, please pardon the bouncy boobs

[attachment=32307:TFAV3pencil.gif]

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I don't do 2D, and so I can't say a whole lot on it. I've done a fair amount of 3D animation, but you asked about 2D. I doubt Max or Maya has anything for 2D animation.

Besides the obvious use of sprite sheets, Unity has a 2D animation system. I actually made a very simple 2D "game" with it in an afternoon. Look for "unity 2d skeletal animation" on YouTube.

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