Cinematics, love ‘em, use ‘em and have fun!
Today we continue with our look at the cinematic making process in Boss 101. I’m going to outline some of the initial principles we followed and point out where I think we went right and were we probably will adjust the process for Boss 102. It should be noted everything and anything added is only to serve one purpose – giving YOU the BEST experience.
I don’t want to classify anything we are doing as “right” or “wrong”. My hope is to give you insight if you are making a game and an “A-HA!” moment.
1. Cinematics in Boss 101 are mostly handled with game animation idles – good or bad this is the template we started with. What this meant is for the most part all animations for characters and backgrounds were basically looping idles which don’t change much over the course of the cinematic. The thinking initially was we were having short-ish cinematics and it simply wasn’t worth the programming horsepower to create a complicated animation delivery system. These kinds of decisions happen daily on small (and big) teams and a lot of times you really have to invest in stuff that pays the biggest dividends. In the end it is serving us well for Boss 101 so we are happy with the currently situation.
Initial setup prepping
2. Speaking of that – our scripting system for animation is completely built from scratch. We use our dialog script to trigger various things inside our cinematics. If we want to have an effect play or a song change we can do that from inside the dialog script. It sounds a little weird but it works just fine.
3. All our animations and cinematics use the same engine used for playing the game. This is to say – we use what we already have. This allowed us to setup backgrounds and sprites the same way we do for gameplay. Some games use a different engine for cinematics and gameplay or build some sort of video playback engine for pre-rendered movies. All that works but we playback our cinematics in real time with our engine. Saves time in setup and polishing.
Below are things which are tougher to do and will probably have some sort of revamped procedure for Boss 102 (HAAAAAAAAAAA!!! We have this conversation all the time)
1. Ability to trigger various animations states during dialog. Talked about this one above but it’s a nice feature and clearly adds a lot to a cinematic.
2. Ability to have animations fire off game effects or trigger events. This is something we would love to see happen. Here we are talking about something like an animation playing, say a gun shooting, and then during the actual muzzle flash animation we call a script or trigger FROM the animation frame and place an effect on the tip of the barrel. Mind you, we can do a version of this now but it is coordinated in a different way. I’m talking about a very procedural and organic way to have one thing trigger another.
3. Create new characters on the fly. Have characters enter the scene and leave. This is all very basic and we can do this in a roundabout way but a more robust system would make a difference.
4. More camera controls – this is strictly the animator in me speaking
5. More choices and/or interaction during the cinematics – I love well done cinematics and it was so revolutionary to me when games really took them to the next level and allowed the player to move and interact during them. Being able to do things like move or look around while someone talks (ala the oldie and goodie Half Life 2 among many others).
Here’s the deal – what we have in Boss 101 currently is awesome and fills our specific needs well. I think when we return to the well for round 2 we will have an even more focused list of things we would like to create.
Thank you for reading and remember to live your dreams!