Also, did you know even 2D games use three-dimensional space for scene-building purposes? It is needed for the programs to understand which sprites are closer and which are further. So it is like in good ol’ Doom and Wolfenstein games. Another cool technique to work with sprites is based on procedural generation. For example, in Rain World character movement is animated via a script that changes the position of the sprite’s key points and bones. It also simulates character interaction with all physical objects in the game world. This way animators don’t really need to redraw each unique animation.
With the transition to 3D, games are getting harder to animate because developers also need to work on specific animations outside the standard pool (running, crouching, jumping, etc.). In big projects, there must be animations for a variety of conditions and encounters – walking on a normal surface, walking in deep water, running through tall grass, or passing through a crowd. Remember how Ezio and Altair models behave while traversing different obstacles in early Assassin’s Creed games? All those animations we’re not drawn manually but with the help of software that creates realistic skeletons with physics attached to it. This allows developers to make the protagonist’s movements look fluid and natural. It is always nice noticing tiny details in animation like changing the swaying motion of a weapon while strafing.
Having one tuned and adjusted skeleton for a model makes the animator’s job so much easier. All those jumping, moving, and attacking animations can be copy-pasted and applied to other similar models in the game. This technique saves hours of time and reduces development costs. It is not a panacea, however, because in many games, especially in fantasy and sci-fi settings, the variety of unique races and models demands individual animations.
In such cases, the motion capture technique comes to the rescue. It had been in use in the movie industry for a long time and later was adapted for game development. The tech did not completely replace classic animation but made the process much simpler. Alas, even today it is still a rather expensive solution, and not every studio can afford it. Furthermore, even big game producers sometimes prefer traditional animation over motion capture. We don’t know the exact reasoning behind the decision but in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) the animators from Infinity Ward deliberately dumped motion capture and made reloading/firing animations manually.
BlenderIf you are looking for 3D animation software, there are only a few free comprehensive programs that can satisfy all your needs. One of them is called Blender. It has been brought to the light in 1994, and still stays true to its open-source nature and costs nothing. Blender is the choice of professionals who know what they are doing – it comes with a gigantic arsenal of tools and can be overwhelming for beginners. Although it has an extensive collection of manuals that make the learning curve less extreme.
Adobe AnimateAnimate by Adobe is the picklock that opens all doors in the world of animation. However, a picklock without skills and knowledge won’t help you much, so prepare for extensive training. A rookie designer will require dozens of hours to master all the features packed in AA. But an experienced animator that knows Adobe products will create his first animated clip in a matter of hours.
Autodesk MayaIt is a powerful tool for 3D animators working in the video game and movie industries. Maya is highly praised for the abysmal collection of features for creating animation, texturing, and working with VFX. This is professional-grade software, so we would not recommend it to novices. Specialists, on the other hand, will appreciate functionality such as model visualization backed up by four (!) integrated visualization tools that can be further enhanced with various plug-ins.
Daz StudioThis program impresses with its convenient user-friendly interface and variety of features to create/manipulate 3D content. Digital artists praise the extensive functionality of the program which is great for creating characters, animals, props, and vehicles. And you will be surprised to hear that it is free to use.
Toon Boom HarmonyToon Boom Harmony is one of the top picks for every animator that works in the 2D field. The software comes with all the tools you need to create animated clips in almost any art style. Would like to go paper drawing or maybe paperless style? Here you are. Need puppet animation or traditional skeleton rigging? Not a problem!