Infinity Ward animator talks FPS design, animations in Reddit AMA
It all started with mirrors. Spurred on by its insatiable hunger for the unknown, Reddit's gaming community flitted between poring brainpower over why reflections don't commonly appear in FPS games, the inevitable meme-orized destruction of the topic, non-Euclidean mind trips, and kittens. Eventually, the Jeopardy-like attention span shifted to first-person animation design. Discussion threads sprouted, recipes were shared, an expert was called in: Infinity Ward animator Chance Glasco who, in a weekend AMA thread, shared knowledge on the intricacies of constructing and positioning some of the most frequently glimpsed weapon animations of the genre from the Call of Duty series.
As an animation veteran of numerous multiplayer shooter mainstays such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Modern Warfare, Glasco tweezed tiny finger motion joints and figured out creative magazine ejections of such weapons as Modern Warfare 2's FAL and Allied Assault's Kar98K. We've pulled out a few of Glasco's more noteworthy responses below, but check out the rest of the thread for more info.
On jumping: "When the player hits the jump button, he/she expects an immediate response. In reality, if you were to jump, there would probably be a good half to full second of anticipation. Because the server you are playing on isn't psychic, it's going to end up playing the animation from the instant you actually leave the ground. Anticipation is a basic rule of animation, so if you get rid of it it looks awkward.
"You also have the issue of looping. If you're jumping off of something, there's going to be a point where you might have to loop an animation until it is told to play the landing portion of the animation. The more you see this loop, the more gamey it feels. Gamey, like a BBQ Duck at Sam Woo BBQ."
On invisible torsos/legs: "It's one of those things we technically could have done, but have always found features more important to add. Often, the difference between a good game or a bad game is someone putting the hammer down on cute and fun little features that take as much time as important features that might be seen or used often. That was also a huge run-on sentence."
On the FAL animation: "I personally thought my FAL animation was one of my weaker animations in the game, but it was literally saved by the concept behind the animation. People like it because you knock out the empty magazine with your new magazine, not because it was my best animation. There are some things I wish I could have changed/cleaned up in it. It really goes to show you how a good reload idea can really propel a gun into popularity."
On Battlefield having the AK-47's ejectors on the wrong side: "It keeps me up at night."
On the animation process: "Before I start animating, the gun will be modeled and textured by an artist and then given to a rigger to add bones and skinning (attaching model to bones) so that I can animate it. My animation file will have that particular gun in it with the first-person arms and hands to animate. From there, I basically just start animating every animation you would see in the game. Tactical reload, empty reload, pull out, put away, aiming down the site, etc. Once you've created all of the necessary animations, you need to setup exports so you can get them in game.
"After exporting, there are a bunch of technical hoops you need to jump through like converting the animation to the game's animation format, making entries for every animation, and setting up the weapon in an asset manager. I would say about 75 percent or more of the time is spent on doing the reload animations."
On balancing realism with flashiness: "This is actually one of the most difficult aspects of my job, especially as time goes on and I've worked with so many weapons. Before I start, I usually research how the weapon is operated if necessary. I do try to keep it realistic to a point. I don't go full realism because it's often boring and flat. If you want to be tactical, for example, you should always keep your rifle pointing forward when reloading, but frankly, that doesn't make for a very interesting animation.
"So, often I will meet a weapons expert and they'll tell me that I made a mistake here or I should have done this. Usually that 'mistake' is a creative choice to show off the weapon or make it feel unique or special. I do keep it balanced though, as I don't really add super flashy actions to my animations like twirling a pistol or flipping a magazine before inserting it."