Blood will be Spilled is a spaghetti-western-themed 2D action platformer taking place in a world inhabited by insects. You follow the story of Jack, a mosquito gunslinger, on his quest for revenge. But revenge is like a chilli - to make it good, Jack needs the right ingredients. A bit of money - from all the collected bounties; few friends, that could help him in the time of need; his own skills and abilities; and most of all shallow graves for all those who would stand in his way. The only question is: Are you going to be the good, the bad, or the ugly? Development began in May 2014 and we call ourselves Doublequote Studio.
Every time I have the opportunity, I say (as a sort of apology) that I am a self-taught 2D animator with very little experience. There are a lot of firsts for me, working on Blood will be Spilled and trying out 2D rigging of characters was one of them. During the last two years I have done quite a few animations for the game and then redone them again and again until I finally found a process and a personal set of rules that seems to work for me. I would like to tell you about them using one of our characters as an example.
When doing a character animation we always start out (well, obviously) with designing the character. Every character serves some purpose in the game, whether it’s an enemy, a major NPC or some insignificant character in the background. So during the design process, we ask ourselves questions like: ‘Will this character stand on two or four legs? Are we planning on changing his clothes and accessories in the future? Do we need him to walk, run, fly or fight?’ etc. Then, my brother does some sketches and then move on to drawing up the final design. For more important characters we usually have some ‘mood’ pictures as well, that tells us more about the character (and they also serve us as marketing materials).
I’ll admit that this sounds a lot more sophisticated than it actually is. What I mean by “rules” are some personal principles I try to follow every time I do an animation:
First thing I do with a character model is cutting it into pieces. With insects, this is a little easier to do than it would be with human characters (because who would want to cut humans into pieces? What are we, mafia?) as their bodies are naturally divided into parts (Insects, from Latin insectum -"cut into sections"). Then I put the character back together and export all the parts as individual images.
For 2D animation I use Spine by Esoteric Software. It is a 2D rigging software in which each image is applied to an appropriate bone of a skeleton. This is the first step on the journey of breathing life into our characters.
After putting the skeleton together I add inverse kinematics (IK) to certain bones, such as feet and arms. IK, as the name suggests is the opposite of forward kinematics (FK). In forward kinematics, each bone follows the properties of the parent bone. In inverse kinematics you move for example the ankle and the knee bends accordingly. I use this to make sure that character feet always stay on the ground.
Once everything has been set up I start animating. With characters like Ace, for example, I always have a checklist of sorts of all the animation we need him to have. Usually this includes idle (calm), idle (aggressive), walk, run, shoot, crouch/cover and sometimes flying.
As i mentioned before, I always like for my animations to have some secondary motion (which is one of the 12 principles I mentioned before). While an animation without it pretty much serves it’s purpose well enough, animations with secondary motion looks more juicy and alive. In my opinion, this is an important part of creating a pleasant game feel in 2D games.
Some of our characters also have some funny idle animations which adds a bit more flavor to the character. Usually, if I wasn’t able to put some humor into other animations, I try to supplement it in these special ones. For example, in the animation below, our character Ace (inspired by heavy metal icon Lemmy) takes a sip from his bottle of bourbon.
Entomology (from Greek "entomon" meaning "divided into segments") is the scientific study of insects. Let's take a look at insects of Blood will be Spilled...
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