One Surprisingly Easy Way to Speed Up Development

For about a decade I’ve been seeing how much time animating characters can take. I’ve witnessed this in almost every game project I’ve been dealing with. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2D or 3D (or something between), animating characters takes time. And getting the animations to look better takes even more time.

I stopped for a moment to think of the scope of my own project and I realized that I not only could – but should – not do character animations. At least no big limp movements or fancy moves or stuff like that. So, I just decided not to animate my characters.

This also made me re-think how the game should look and I started concepting for simple pawns on a map. Maybe I’ll have 6-corner pawns like I originally tested with Edoiki project or perhaps I’ll just stick with avatar images that move around a map.

The Infected game is all about finding the traitor, so I think this thing will suit just fine the style.

Cutting this artistic thing away now feels good.

Would your project be simpler if:

  • You wouldn’t animate your characters?
  • You would use something else instead: could you have vehicles instead of characters? (Since those are easier to animate)

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. @Sargon: You have to set the target FPS to a realistic value depending on the platform. On the iPhone platform (including the older devices) 25 FPS for a full-3D game is an optimistic target because it’s very fill-limited, while on Google Nexus 20 FPS is ok, because it has a lot of pixels to paint. For example 4 full-screen quads are rendered at about 50 FPS. 1000 small triangles are rendered also at 50 FPS if they don’t use alpha. Go for an average of 9000-12500 triangles per frame (the values we had for Asphalt 5), start adding explosions, particles, small details and the performance goes down, down, down :)
    @Raymond Teo: I agree, a simpler character design is desirable when you don’t have time to animate. I totally forgot about Rayman, it’s a very good example.

  2. Instead of eliminating animation all together, perhaps what you can try is to have lots of extremely simple animation.

    I think part of what animation provides is the satisfaction, and it also helps the player to believe he’s in a real world, which give you something to relate to, or care about that princess you’re suppose to rescue.

    Another alternative is to have character designs that’s easier to animate. Rayman and Ristar are good example. Though their animation are both very well done, they’re anatomy makes it so much easier to animate.

  3. @Fili, your target FPS should be 60.

    @Christian, Sadly it seems the indie scene is leaning torward what it had condemned the gaming industry in the past. Looks matter, in the indie scene as well.
    In my opinion, anything that has an 8 bit era visuals, can pass as good enough charming visuals. Any thing more than that is either for rich indie developers willing to spend a lot of bucks for artwork, or people with a lot of free time and maybe a dedicated artist.
    For the rest of us who don’t have neither the time nor the resources, we can settle for much simpler visuals and less visually polished look, and focus on the gameplay.

  4. Cutting out something just because its a lot of work, doesnt sound good to me.
    Find a way to speed it up. In 3D animations can be transfered from one character to another (full or parts of it) and in 2D most artists create layers for their characters for each movable part (arms, legs, head,..). animating them is quite fast and if you use animation blueprints (backgrounds with the single animation steps you will need), then its a matter of a few minutes to have the little fellas run.

    I think you are making a huge mistake.
    Since its a game to find a traitor you should use any method of personalization you can think of.

    Not “a lot”! Everything you add should be full of details!
    “a lot” is made for EA or Blizzard. Details were invented for indies.

  5. Reducing animation is in my oppinion like flattening the game. First, it is all about the details and second it is all about counter reactions. When someone hits my character it is dull, clumsy and totally boring if my character is just moved some inches to the back. Or subtle animations like waving hair in the wind or different and interchanging idle animations are for codes maybe eye candy, but its sum adds even more depth to the game and makes the player fall in love for a game.

    Nevertheless, I agree that doing animations by yourself is a tedious task, but if you have no one who can do it, heck, someone has to do it! That’s why you call it “indie”…

  6. Character animation takes a lot of time. If you can avoid it, do so.
    In our upcoming game we have both vehicles and animated characters. Unfortunately 30 fully-animated 3D characters kill the FPS so we had to put more vehicles and less characters… Something like max 10 characters and 10 vehicles at one time to maintain the FPS above 15… The target is 25 FPS but I don’t think I can optimize that much…

  7. In my current project I designed it so that animations aren’t necessary. Floating artillery and tanks means that floating from one place to another and rotating turrets can all be done programatically without the need of any animators. It’s saved me a ton of time.

  8. @Alex: Dwarf Fortress is a perfect example here. It barely has graphics in the common sense (not to forget the intro ASCII video!) but very deep gameplay. I’ve tried it but its learning curve is rather steep and the controls are so pro-scoped. The lack of intuitive controls and the abstract visuals make it a geek-only experience.

  9. If you can pull it off, then that’s great!

    To me graphics is more of a burden than a joy. I know that I won’t be able to beat Blizzard over the head with the GPU. Design is where indies win.

    The question is whether your audience will be able to tolerate the art. Heck, I’d work in ASCII if I could (DF anyone?).

Comments are closed.