GP Xmas Calendar 2009 – Door 5 (One of The Most Expensive Thing In Game Dev)

Animations. Custom made animations are expensive.

Earlier I was thinking that 2D versus 3D means cheaper expenses (Which probably is true) but after re-thinking this I believe that animated versus non-animated has much more dramatic expense increase.

If you have a 3D game without animations, it will (quite likely) be much less expensive to produce than a 3D game with animations. Doing a 3D game that relies on physics for example cuts expenses pretty nicely in the art department. Same thing with 2D games: a physics based non-animated game (or with little animations) will require much less work than a 2D game that requires animations.

This might sounds obvious thing (or “not a big deal”) to some people, but I really think that game developers – especially beginners – should think of this when starting their new game projects or when adding new features. The more animations it needs, the more work it means.

I’ve done Dead Wake for couple of years, and I’ve done my best trying to avoid creating animations (or art) for the game… and even then it has required a pretty good amount of hours to get all the pieces together. I tried having animations and even hired couple of guys at some point but it took quite a bit of time (and money) to get things moving. That approach wasn’t a good (to make things from scratch) so I focused on getting ready made art packs (and then customizing some animations). I’m not complaining – this has been a long dream (like since when I was 15 years old or something) to create a 3D game and I I’m really close to the release.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about costs, it’s the thing that animations can be expensive and take loads of time & effort to get done.

Are they worth the effort?

That’s for you developers to decide when you are working on your games. I’m doing the same.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Sargon: quite likely. Good point about space ships and cars. They indeed require much less animation.

  2. Procedural animation would probably be extremly difficult for a new developer. But there are other ways to get away with animation in a 3D game. Making a game with space ships and cars for instance, requires a lot less rigging and animations.

  3. Well, check for example Penumbra game. That game doesn’t use much animation.

    I don’t have experience on this, but perhaps try googling for “procedural animation” for some tips.

  4. Hey,
    Can you give some more details on how animations can be replaced using physics, and other techniques on how animations can be substituted? I’m a new game developer and would like to learn this, since until now I always thought that making a game required tons of art and animations.

    Please give some details about this, may be make a blog post on this topic?

  5. Yes, but then the fear is that you forget your initial passion of making games, and just turn into a business man. ;)
    I don’t know the answer to how much is bad or good of any of those. And does it really matter? I am not sure this fear is actually justified.
    But, something to think about.

  6. Awesomeness rate is good of course :)

    So is “will this thing (as itself or as part of a bigger picture) help sell more copies”.

  7. Yea, decisions you make regarding the graphics and game design, will affect how much art work you will need to create. Using normal maps? More work. Specular map? More work. Characters close ups? More work.
    It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do these decisions, it just mean that you need to be aware to the cost of every decision you make. Theorethically.
    Of course sometimes decisions are made simpley by their awesomeness rate. ;)

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