Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Animations in AIF

by BBBen

Kenji and Ami from Pervert Action: Future. I wish I'd
done better with the lighting in this shot, but never mind.
I'd like to briefly discuss 3D animations, as opposed to still pictures. I am (I believe) the only author to have released an "AIF game" containing animated shots; namely Pervert Action: Future. It's actually surprised me that nobody else has attempted this, although I suppose there aren't many active AIF authors making games with pictures in the first place.

It kind of feels to me like this article should be longer and more complex than it is, engaging with more of the topic, but as there hasn't been any real discussion of the topic in the community before I don't quite know what people want to talk about.

Therefore this is almost an 'open thread', but with some more of my random thoughts about the process running ahead of it.

As it happens I did not find animations all that much harder to create than still images. Oh, there are a few new tricks to learn and an animation takes a bit more time to make than a still shot, but I feel like it's worth it as characters actually moving around really helps the images live and acts as a great centrepiece to the scene. 

 Daz Studio (and I presume other similar stuff like Poser) actually comes with some nifty animating tools that make the process pretty easy. They'll "tween" the actions of the characters, so you just have to put them in one pose, select a frame later in the animation and then move the character a bit. The action in between will be automatically generated.
Posing the motion takes a little thought in advance, and if you want an action that cycles back to the starting pose (like my example above) then you will want to select all the pose-able parts and then lock them at the starting and ending keyframes before you do any work. I would recommend keeping it pretty simple at first - if you want to do really amazing stuff it will take some practice.

In this process I have to say Photoshop has been invaluable - I don't know if GIMP can do this but a program called Adobe Bridge (which comes with Photoshop, I believe, or is free, anyway) allows me to select a group of pictures and then "load into Photoshop layers". Then I can use Photoshop to reverse the sequence (as is necessary because they load in reverse), convert the image to a frame animation, and make frames from layers. Basically I can get it all laid out as an animation in seconds, but without those specific tools the process could take hours.

One more thing: I haven't done it in a project I've released yet (though I've using it in some unreleased stuff), but you can actually move the camera during your animations. This can create some awesome effects, like you're almost filming a movie, and the image frame in game window becomes your movie screen. You might be able to tell that I find it pretty exciting. It's no harder to move the camera (maybe in some cases easier) than posing characters, but when rendering it can make the shadows go a little nutty, so you may need to use raytraced shadows, which take an eternity to render.

I've not really heard a lot of discussion about animations in the community thus far, so I'd like to hear opinions on the topic. Do they make a difference for you? Are they significantly more interesting than still frame pictures, or do you not even care?


  1. Animations in PAF, for me, fall into a weird category. Some/most I barely even noticed (I recall a lot of still images from the game, but not animations). They were neat, didn't detract from the game,and maybe on some level made the characters feel more 'real' that I'm not aware of. But mostly they just seemed like just a minor improvement.

    On the other, there were a few, like the introduction of Ayane, were the animation made a monumental improvement. In that case the animation significantly improved the scene.

    The way I see it, the animations are usually hits (minor improvements) or home-runs (significant improvement) over still images. If they were a lot of work, I'd probably say there could be better uses of your time, but if they don't take too much time they add a neat feature.

    All of the above based on my reactions, of course, and that the extra file size brought by animations doesn't inconvenience me at all.

  2. For better results, I really recommend spending some time learning the fundamentals of animation. From what I've seen, most people seem to just dive right in and start moving stuff around without a basic understanding of what makes an animation look good. 30 minutes spent learning the basics of anticipation, timing, and arcs of motion will save you hours and hours of trial and error.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_basic_principles_of_animation is a start (focus on the sections on anticipation, follow-through, arcs, and timing), but there are tutorials and lessons out there if you google around. The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams is a fantastic resource if you're willing to get a bit more serious. Both of these focus on hand-drawn, traditional animation, but if you mentally replace "drawing" with "frame" you'll find almost everything applies.

  3. GIMP doesn't need a separate program to load a bunch of files as layers. "Open as Layers" is right there on the File menu. Open as Layers, re-arrange if necessary, Export to GIF and check the "As animation" button.

  4. If you consider RAGS games to be AIF, then I think the earliest game to use animation would be Dangerous Assets Part 1 by Cugel (released March 2012). If you count demos (and dating games), then Chaotic was even earlier with his brief flirtation with Flash (late 2011, I believe).

    I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of animation in AIF. The main problem is that players are very familiar with how humans move, so it takes a lot of effort to get the animation to look 'right'. It's even more difficult to believably portray two characters touching each other, which poses problems for the kind of scenes likely to be depicted in AIF. When you combine that with the way that animation balloons out the file size (Dangerous Assets was 250MB), I think the drawbacks outweigh any benefits.


  5. I'm a bit in the middle, I guess. I know images can help a game in some ways, giving something to look at and a more concrete image to go with the character. For some they can also be more erotic than just text.

    Animations just are the same thing. Having slight animations aren't a big deal for me and don't really add anything. As ExLibris mentioned, it is very hard to get such things to look realistic. Even the static images have this 'problem', but less so.

    Also, even though it may be relatively easy, it is still yet ANOTHER thing someone has to learn, and not everyone is good at even the most simple of posing, so though it may seem easy it may be quite an endeavor for a lot of us.

    That said, some sexual animations can be admittedly rather, well, sexy. Seeing a man thrusting into a woman might be more exciting than a static image of it. That said, if the animation isn't great it can be a lot worse and be a lot of (IMO) wasted time spent on such things. Sort of how some early 3d games are just awful to look at now and hurt the game vs. the more modern ones that may not look as realistic, but still good.

    As a player, it isn't really going to be a concern to me. If I wanted to go that route I would be less worried about playing a traditional text variant of these games and just jump onto some other websites or more graphical games.

    Now of course if you just WANT to add animations because you like creating them and enjoy the effect, I say absolutely go for it!

  6. Unless the author is a professional animator by day, I'd rather they didn't try to shoehorn animations into their game. Creating a simple, rather robotic animation is easy. Accurately replicating the complexity of human movement is not. Personally, I'd rather rely on my imagination.

    Pictures I kinda get. I can see the appeal of having them in a game. There's nothing novel about stories with pictures. But animations? I don't see it. Not within the scope of AIF. What's next? A fully interactive 3D environment? A PC we can move around the game world with a joystick? System requirements that include a high-end graphics card? Occulus Rift support?

  7. For many authors creating an AIF adventure is experimenting, so if one wants to add them in his game i think is a good thing.
    As the graphics is not an essential thing (and even less important than having image) one don't have to think to add animations, but i think that a good animation can be a good thing to see.
    I have already see than BBBen images have improved, so i'm curious to see the newer animations (but only if he wants to add them).
    Each author want that his newer game to be better than the older and only with training one can improve his skill.

  8. Probably it's difficult to discuss something so rare. Maybe if some games begin to use animation the community can begin to have an opinion.
    For me an image can help the visualization of a scene (together with a good description) but I'm not sure if an animation add something (probably if it's not too simple but i haven't many example).