The art team discusses the creation of the NPC rat...
Posted by realmsource on Jan 18th, 2013
Welcome back to our art blog!
As you may know we are currently working on the BIOME update which will introduce new terrain generation, trees and grass into your realms. From the art production side of things we are already working on the next NPC update to get all the art delivered by the time Matt, Charlie and Kyle will be ready to start another hard programming sprint.
All of the characters in our game are interchangeable and can be enemies you need to kill, quest givers, friendly NPCs or players. For example if you are hosting your own server you are able to set all players to be rats and cats fighting humans or even have sheep crafting swords at the blacksmith. We plan to provide the ability to completely customize your realms!
Such ideas force us to make a default animation set for each character. In other games a basic quest giver NPC has about 3-4 animations: standing still, talking and maybe an alternative standing or gesturing animation. This animation set covers all the regular game needs. This is not enough for our purpose! Our default animation set includes all basic moves (walks, runs, attacks and many more). From 7 to 10 animations total. Yes, we do more work, but the realms freedom grows exponentially with each new character.
Recently we finished a very small Rat character. It's main idea is to be easy to kill, fast and cute enough to give quests if required
During the rat production we had a "fur concern". Usually to make fur look more natural devs make a number of small planes with a transparent fur texture. The other way is to make fur via bumping material. We decided to proceed with the bumping material fur due to the character size in game. Transparent fur planes are great and we will use them on bigger animals, like deer or cat. Oops, looks like I've revealed more plans than I was allowed to...
The bind pose used for the rat was not a regular standing four leg animal, but standing on two feet with front legs in the air. It was also done intentionally to avoid bad deformations on straight legs poses. Skinning character in such a pose gives us the ability to make bent leg poses as well as any other natural pose possible.
This shot shows how the bumping material works in game.
With the model finished and textured we move to the skin and animation phases. Here the life is added into the character. Here is our final version of the rat animation set.
The animation process usually begins with only animation names. Then we discuss how each animation will look in general. Base moves, directions and speeds go to the animator. Our animators are able to change the animation if they have a better idea. Every team member has the ability to affect and improve the final game asset. It gives just wonderful results while simultaneously increasing the team happiness.
Making animations was very exciting. Basic runs and walks could be easily created with a ton of video references but the fun begins with attacks. As we basically play a human character in Realm Explorer and the rat is 8-10 times smaller, all the standard front leg hooks and hits wouldn't be seen by the player. In-place bites also didn't have the dangerous feeling we wanted. Our goal was to create a small cute looking rat but with fast and furious attacks. That is why we decided it to make quick and very long jumps during attacks, so the player won't have much time to react. He would probably will want to kill the rat before it attacks.
The current video covers the base walk and run animations. You will be able to see all of them in the upcoming Realm Explorer NPC patch which is planned for February.
A lot more details and new stuff is on the way. Next time I would like to show off some really cool humanoid NPC setups for Realm Explorer. We have a lot of ideas, including cutting off parts from mobs and adjusting their behavior accordingly. Our undead will do all they can and even more trying to kill your character...