Lessons on Animating from a Birds-eye View

The top down world of The UnEarth Initiative has been a new experience for us, from both a design and an animation perspective. Working comedy into our game has been a priority for us from the beginning, and coming up with visual jokes that read from a bird’s-eye view has presented its own unique set of challenges.

We have a lot of experience with making traditional platform games like Ratchet & Clank, where particular attention is paid to how animations look from a eye-level perspective. Eye-level (and slightly above) medium, long, and over-the-shoulder shots are all perspectives from which characters are typically viewed from in platform games.

Our Colonists’ “Eating” animation is one example of something we tried that worked when viewed from eye-level in Maya, but did not read particularly well once viewed from a bird’s-eye in our game.

In the original eating cycle, a Colonist would look furtively around before quickly and violently stuffing his or her face with food. And while it was funny to see them pigging out from up close:


The joke was not very apparent once it was viewed in the Unity build from a higher angle:


And while we may save this animation as an occasional “sneak a snack” asset, our Colonists’ regular eating animations have been replaced with a slower, more iconic action:


One gag that did wind up working for us is the Colonists’ “Yoga” goof-off animation. (Our pesky Colonists will occasionally take a breaks to do things other than what players have requested them to do.) Yoga seemed a natural fit, since these poses are broad and read well from almost any angle, be it in Maya:


…or through our game camera:


Going forward, we are continuing to take what we’ve been learning from our new vantage point in order to pack our game with ever more (readable!) goofiness into every aspect of The UnEarth Initiative.
Thank you for continuing to watch this space, and please remember to check us out on Facebook & Twitter!


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