games design

Your Animator just broke your game design…

Here’s a great example of why so many Flash authors write crap games:

What the F happened?

Someone let an animator dictate the game-design.

This is one of the side-effects of Flash: it encourages people to base games off animations, instead of basing animations off game-design.

The game is actively unpleasant to play because the controls suck so badly. They suck so badly because:

  1. they won’t “allow” you to do a new action until the current anim finishes
  2. if the engine cannot visually playback the anim it’s trying to, it cancels your keypress (!!)
  3. your “position” in game terms is dicated by the current anim-frame

In case that last one is too subtle: the main character has a very camp “skip” walk-anim. But your character is physically “taller” during that anim, because they keyed CD off the anim, rather than off the game-logic.

So, when you’re doing fine movement, you have to wait-and-watch the individual frames of animation to decide when to jump. I find it hard to believe that this is what the authors intended. In practice, you end up spending most of the time watching anim frames, and/or counting frames, instead of playing the game.

I suspect – partly from the documentation from the authors – that they thought everyone would admire the “prettiness”. No. You made a game. People will judge it on the playability. In fact, they have (read the comments – endless complaints about the infernal control system).

Who cares?

For the record, I’ve seen this exact same problem on at least one 7-figure-budget game, and it contributed to the entire project getting cancelled. The studio making it had a background making animations for other people’s games. I shan’t name names because they were skilled and competent – just naive at the time – and my impression was they learned a *lot* from the experience. (I doubt they’d make the same mistake today).

I have seen very similar issues on a couple of other games – most of which got canned; at least one SHOULD have been canned, but instead cost an ungodly amount of money before putting the studio out of business.

It’s not a small issue. Any real game player will spot it. Any professional game developer will recognise the n00b mistake and scoff at it. The sad truth is that many artists – and most animators – won’t even notice it.

Until they get terrible reviews, and wonder why no-one is buying their games :(.

6 replies on “Your Animator just broke your game design…”

Someone needs to teach them about animation canceling systems.

Also, I’m not sure why they thought that walk cycle looked good – regardless of syncing the collision box to the anim. Even if they set the box to be attached to the floor, it’s still misleading to the player.

What they actually need to do is read Steve Swink’s book “Game Feel,” which is 100% about control-tuning issues like this. It’s the best book on dealing with practical day-to-day design issues I’ve ever read. Screw the intent of your game: should you have separate constants for jump gravity and fall gravity, and what should those be?

This sounds eerily like a description of Turbine’s Asheron’s Call and The Lord of the Rings Online game mechanics. Except for the “they learned a *lot* from the experience” part, unfortunately.

What I remember about animation systems bugs is Age of Conan’s issue with female characters attacking more slowly because their attack animations were longer.

I did a facepalm the first time I read about that.

Well, one man’s clever bit of sleight of hand to mask lag is another’s rubber-banding-feels-like-you’re-trying-to-fight-underwater-because-it-takes-so-long-before-it-actually-does-what-you-told-it-to-do lag fest. Obviously tastes vary, but my preference is for those systems that mask lag by having the client respond immediately and making corrections whenever the server gets around to updating it (ie almost every other MMO out there), rather than being left to smash my keyboard in frustration while waiting for a complete roundtrip through an underpowered server before my character bothers to do what I told it to do.

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