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Skip Navigation LinksPlayHard > In English > Making a Game: Animation (Part II). Interview with Gabriel García

Название: Zeno Clash
Разработчик: ACE Team
Зарубежный издатель: ACE Team
Издатель в России: Новый Диск
Официальный сайт игры: перейти
Системные требования:
P4-3.0, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB 3D Card
P4-3.0, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB 3D Card
MultiPlayer: нет
Жанр: Action, First Person Shooter
Игра вышла: 21.04.2009
Рейтинг: 7.5

If you've always wondered how animation is made for games, then probably you're a future animator or just a very curious person. PlayHard is offering you both an unique opportunity to see this sphere of game development from inside. Now just meet Gabriel García, Lead Animator from ACE Team, who tells us so many interesting things about himself and the world of animation in this intriguing interview!

A good view of Gabriel, a not so good view of Santiago (lots of pollution) - you can barely see anything! 

- Please, introduce yourself to the Russian gamers.

- Hi, my name is Gabriel García Roig, I’m the Lead Animator of ACE Team.

- Where did you study?

- I went to the University and I finished my Graphic Designer career after 5 years. I graduated making a 3D 15’’ short film, and from that moment I started to use 3D-tools as a Professional. Everything that I learned about 3D-animation was on my own (Internet, Forums and books). I think it is very helpful when you learn 3D from a Design career. It helps you to see the global point of view in the work you encounter no matter what tool or program you use.

- What was the first game you played and your impressions about it?

- I think it was on my first Atari where I played the game Missile Command. I played many hours trying to catch all the missiles. It was really fun.

- Tell us about your first job.

- I started to work on my own making my Thesis several years ago and I consider that to be my first job (there was no salary, of course). I used to spend 10 to 15 hours a day working on it. I learned so many things: about lighting, cameras, textures, models, and, of course, animation. With this new acquired experience I went out to get a job, a REAL job.

- How have your skills evolved over time?

- The most important factor in my skills' evolution has been the time I’ve spent in production. You can become better just animating every day. Another important thing has been the flexibility to work with different 3D-tools. My main software was always Maya, but now, I use both Maya and Max with no problems [smiles].

- How has your career developed further?

- I joined ACE Team one year ago. A lot of my current team members used to work with me at another game company. The main difference now is that we are working in our own company, not for somebody else.

- What awards or nominations have you obtained?

- None yet (we’re still making the studio's debut title), but it would be great to be awarded something if the game receives a lot of attention. I don’t know if there are nominations as an “animator” in the game industry, but anyways, some day I would like that our team was awarded with a “Game of the Year” nomination [smiles].

- What do you like the most in your current job?

- The thing that I like most is the number of different characters that we have that are so weird and unique. Animating them is very rewarding. You need a lot of imagination to imitate the walk of a drunken monster, a regular human, or this very tall & weird bird-like father-mother creature. Also, I feel comfortable working in ACE Team. It is very important to be able to work comfortable. You constantly need inspiration and motivation. Every day is different, and that’s nice.

Gabriel seen eating a very tasty fish (according to him). That’s not a typical lunch break dish here in Chile. Looks more like what a Zeno Clash character would like to eat!

- Tell us about your usual work day.

- Some days I start at 8 AM, so I can finish early. And the latest time I finish is around 7.30 PM. I have no batteries after that time. At the morning I usually visit CGTalk to search something interesting, check my e-mail and say "hi" to Gollum and Max Steel (I have a Gollum figure on my desk and for some unknown reason there is a Max Steel action figure hanging from the tree right outside the office window in front of me - he’s been there for over a year). Then I start to work. Every morning I also drink an earth-tea called “mate” (pronunciation in English would be "mat'e") to stay tuned and to get some extra energy. It also helps me to take some breath. Some days I stay to play Mario Kart Wii with the team. That’s fun.

- Do you have a personal principle you always follow in your life?

- Yes, I have: “Keep moving, earn time”.

- Do you drive?

- Yes, I like driving, but not every day. I prefer to use my bike to go to work. I drive only when I really need, (when it’s raining or too cold). I got my license when I was 18 years old. I do have a car: a "Suzuki Swift".

- What recent movie has impressed you the most?

- "Batman: The Dark Knight" - an unusual hero movie. I enjoyed it very much.

- What’re your favorite game genres and projects?

- I like games that you can share with friends. Casual games can be a lot of fun some times. I enjoy Mario Kart Wii very much.

- Is there a title you're looking forward to play?

- I would like to play Zeno Clash when it’s 100% finished [smiles].

- Have you ever been to Russia or would you like to visit it some day?

- No, I haven’t. Yes, I'd like to! Why not?

- Name 4 things you associate with Russia.

- Zangief
(a character from the Street Fighter series - ed. note), Vodka, Blonde girls, Snow [smiles].

- What do you like to do in your free time?

- A lot of things: mainly sports & music (biking, swimming, soccer, hiking, jogging, singing, playing the guitar/violin), spending time with my family and friends.

As an animator Gabriel must study the movement of everything: even falling in first-person like a ragdoll.

- Give some advice to the people who would like to be professional animators.

- Go to the theater, see movies, go to Live music, any public art related with “body language”. Try to do a lot of different sports too. I have one book next to me all the time: Preston Blair’s “Cartoon Animation”. Oh, by the way, YouTube can be very helpful!

Start with “non-organic” animations: if you want to animate something, start from the very basic. People usually have crazy ideas when they start to animate. You can’t start with something like a three-head monster in the rain with long hair and old wet cloth hanging from its body. You have to start realistic. Use your tools and be aware of your limitations. Maybe one day you will animate that monster, but not at the beginning. This is a common mistake.

Animate every day: of course, use whatever tool you want to use, but if you don’t have a tool, you can try in real time to animate a puppet with your hands (could be a pen, a toy, anything). Improvise some lines, and move it, act, yell, cry and be funny. Imagine. That’s something you want to do before an animation. That’s the essential part (magic?) that any good animator must evolve.

- Is animation an art or a science?

- My limited opinion is that it is a form of art indeed, and I think you must have some talent from birth. The most important skill you need to develop is definitely learning body language. You can generally understand a conversation between two people just by watching their body gestures. I think you have to know how to move yourself, how to fall, to run fast and slow, and also pretend you are someone else or even ‘something’ else. You need a lot of imagination. You don’t need to be an animator to say “Hey, that animation is weird!”. It has to be within your common sense. Don’t lose it.

- Is it necessary for an animator to be a superb artist?

- I’ll just say I don’t think you have to be a great painter or sculptor to be a great animator.

- Name 3 rules any animator has to follow.

- Watch all you can watch, and do all you can do. Practice, practice, practice. Be Patient.

- How has the animation in games evolved in its history?

- Well, I remember some PC games just for their really good animations (Alone in the Dark, Flashback, Prince of Persia), and in those games the animation was an important part of the experience, so that’s always going to be true with other games. Animation in games has evolved with technology. You can now capture different motions, save them, re-use, etc. Software is more sophisticated and there appear better tools every year.

- What animation techniques are the most popular nowadays?

- I think you can see 2 main techniques for animation: 1) By hand; 2) Mocap (Motion-Capture). Personally, I don’t like motion capture. Maybe you want to use it when you need three-hundred different runs in some middle-earth battle, but when you use Mocap, you lose something, you are not "doing" something, you are just "copy-pasting" and handling tons of keys. Hand-Made animation will never die. You can mix techniques, but you can’t just depend on one of them. 

- What’re the main modern challenges for animators?

- It could be to try to learn new tools & new techniques every day. Technology is evolving very fast and to try to be original will always be a challenge.

- What software do you use the most often?

I use "3ds Max". It was not too hard to emigrate from "Maya" to "3ds Max" with normal bones and curve keys, opposed to the biped technique. I used to animate with curves, but with the biped structure it’s not as straightforward. It’s very different, but it’s animation after all. Sometimes it’s very helpful, and sometimes not. Working with poses that can be saved, and layers in animation is something I like very much. I would like to see more flexibility in the biped system. And for "Maya" I would like to see a really good trax-editor some day.

- How does an animator interact with other team members?

- The main task is to animate in context. Ask where the level-designer or programmer is going to put your animation, how long the player is going to watch it, how far (close) the camera will be, or if you are going to interact as well. You have to make things look well within a specific context, and not for the looks of the animation "per se"Study everything before doing something and you will be really productive.

- What should be done for making an animated character?

The center of mass is all you need to imagine first. Then, the legs, body, arms and head. Once you have something decent, you tweak some in-out curves to get the desired flow. Talking about characters, I start with his (her) main pose following with the idle animation. Then the walk cycle and run, if needed. Then the fun part goes with the punches, kicks, eludes, etc.

- What’s the most difficult in animating objects?

- Well, the organic factor, of course. If you animate a building or a ship you need to imagine how it is going to move that thing in real time, study if it is heavy, big, etc. Once you can animate two or three, you will get it forever. But, talking about characters, there are so many different details to animate them. You will never stop to learn different ways to animate a character.

- What is usually changed in the latter animation versions?

Like every work, you start with the general motion, and reach the level of polish where the programmer can integrate. After that, you can watch where you are going to fine-tune the animation.

- How to make animation look realistic?

Realism is important and trying to make something unreal look real is the hardest part. I don’t like too "realistic" art; I think it’s very limited. I prefer expressive art where you can experiment many more solutions based on reality. We need realism, but to a certain extent.

- How do different animations work together in a game?

- Well, with a lot of cycle animations, so you can blend them with several solutions. The more animations you have, the more natural your character is going to look like. Integration of animations and how they work is a big part of the equation and this is done by programmers.

- What are the common mistakes of animators?

- To not ask
other people how your animation is looking. Most of the time we spend hours animating a couple of seconds and your eye gets really tired. If something is not looking good, many times it’s better to start all again (use a different approach) than to try to fix it.

- In your opinion, which game has great animation?

I like God of War. It has excellent animations and very good implementations as well.

- What would your ideal game be like?

Mmm... Zeno Clash 2!? [Laughs].

On a windy day Gabriel is jumping to seem as if the wind is taking him away. 

- What was the first thing you paid attention to when making first animations for the game?

- I remember I started with some game play animations. I asked often: How are all of these animations going to look like in the game?”.

- What problems have you encountered in the creative process?

Changing the creative process from animating a pretty girl to a big heavy cannibal creature is still something really challenging. Plus, add tons of several different characters with walking, fighting, jumping, running - there is a lot of variation in the game. Zeno Clash has a lot of fighting animations. I used to practice Kung-Fu some years ago starting as a beginner and I finished with several national and international titles. It is actually very helpful to put in “practice" what I learned there in my present job as an animator. I know how to kick a really good kick, so, bad guys, stay away from me! [smiles].

- What kinds of motion will we see?

- There are a lot of intriguing characters in the game. You will see some really strange people in the woods levels - really scary! I still get shocked with some of them running almost naked doing unnatural movements. Until now the heavy interaction animations have been the most complicated to get right. For instance, the gameplay grabs.

- If there is anything else, you’d like to add, please, do it here.

- Just thanks for this opportunity to share our job with Russian gamers, and I hope you like this awesome game. And if you don’t like it, I can use my old kung-fu persuasion, so, it’s up to you [smiles].

- Gabriel, we can't wait to see the results of your work integrated in the upcoming game. Thank you for this interesting interview and may the Inspiration always be with you!

21.08.2008 21:21, Unicorn


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