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A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
15,824 backers pledged $660,126 to help bring this project to life.

Developer Blog #3 - Animation

Posted by Little Orbit (Creator)

Hey Backers, 

This is Rowan Ryder from Torus Games, here today with Taliesan Arnold, who’s an animator on Unsung Story. He made the Disciple animation you saw in this month’s art update, and you all had so much positive feedback on it that we thought we’d focus on animation for this month. 

In this post, we’ll talk a little about our processes, games animation in general and where we’re headed in the near future.

An early “blocked out” version of the run animation on a placeholder model, used to test timing and functionality.
An early “blocked out” version of the run animation on a placeholder model, used to test timing and functionality.

Animation Pre-Production

The first thing an animator needs to begin animating is a fully “rigged” and “skinned” 3D model. Most of you are probably familiar with the idea of a 3D model, but the ideas of “skinning” and “rigging” are a bit more esoteric.

“Rigging” is essentially the process of creating a skeleton that sits inside the 3D model, which an animator can then use to control motion. Each skeleton is comprised of several controllers that the animator can use to quickly deform and move different parts of the model, which is obviously useful! 

“Skinning” refers to the act of assigning the amount of influence that each of these controllers have over the model and each other. In the real world, moving a part of yourself moves everything connected to it to some degree, which is what skinning emulates. For example, when moving the arm of a model, we want the shoulder to influence the whole arm, the elbow to influence the forearm and hand and the wrist to only influence the hand.

A second pass at the run animation on the same model, this time with a bo staff equipped.
A second pass at the run animation on the same model, this time with a bo staff equipped.

It is possible to start animating without a fully skinned and rigged model. Rigs can be shared among multiple models — all male humans could share a rig, for example — which means we can start animating before we receive a particular model.

However, a good animation needs to take the entire model into account. One animation will work well on one model but not another, despite sharing a rig. One model may have heavier armor, for example, which couldn’t be shared with a stealthy character’s lithe movements. So, it’s always best to start with a fully skinned and rigged model where possible.

Once we receive the model, the next step is to choreograph and plan out the actual animation. Especially complex animations may require the additional step of storyboarding, but typically it’s okay to jump straight into “blocking out” the animation — this is the process of creating just a few key frames to get a sense of the motion and timing. With a blocked out animation, the team can quickly spot any issues in timing or functionality, allowing the animator to make changes before too much time is spent on actual animation.

The run animation applied to the Disciple model.
The run animation applied to the Disciple model.

The Animation Phase

Keeping technical considerations in mind (length, timing, starting and ending poses, frames per second and so on), it’s time to start animating! Since we already have a blocked out animation, the next step is to take these key frames and start adjusting them along the timeline, looking for how long each key pose should be held to create a sense of weight and flow to the animation. Next, we create transitional frames between these key frames, which helps to flesh out the timing, weight, drag and so on.

Next, the scariest part of animation: Splining. This is where Maya (the software we use for animating) can take the existing key poses and automatically fill in the gaps! It’s never quite perfect (especially if you’ve over-rotated or forgotten a key somewhere), but it saves an enormous amount of time.

From here, it’s just a process of cleaning up the motion, weighting, timing, arcs and so on (if you’re unfamiliar with them, it’s worth reading about the 12 Principles of Animation). The animation is then tweaked and refined until the animator is happy (enough) with their work.

The first pass at a casting animation for the Disciple.
The first pass at a casting animation for the Disciple.

Animating for Unsung Story

Unsung Story leaves a lot more room for creative expression in animation than games with stricter timing requirements. We’re absolutely conscious of the risk of animations being too long, but by virtue of being a turn-based game, there’s a bit more time to play with for any given animation.

At its core, Unsung Story is fun to animate! Each class and weapon is distinct and interesting, and it’s great to be able to feel out and explore the styles of combat on display. The project has a lot of animation work left to do, but we’re at a point where the pipeline is steady and we can begin to produce and refine animations quite quickly. 

We look forward to sharing more of our work in the future. 

Until then, thanks again for your support, and for being a part of this journey!



Jrd Skinner, Nora, and 99 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      DragonForce on

      I'm happy about the updates and I appreciate how the team is keeping us involved in the game's development, but I also hope they are listening to the feedbacks regarding the art style they've shown us in the last posts, instead of simply doubling down on it.

      So far I feel like I'm suddenly not part of the target audience of a game I helped funding many years ago, but I hope things can still change and a compromise can be reached in order to avoid alienating many of the backers who started following Unsung Story because of its roots in Matsuno and Yoshida's old works.

    2. Hex on

      Thank you Rowan for an interesting and educational post!

    3. ekster

      Thanks for another interesting update!

    4. PK on

      Nice and good looking, thank you for the great update. This seems to have turned into an example of well updated project. :)

    5. Missing avatar

      Loyal on

      Thanks for the update. Hope progress continues apace!

    6. Mateus Drake on

      I think how much I like the animations counterbalance how much I dislike the Q-tip/foam toy staff.

      I'm still hopeful that the weapons might be customizable or change appearance based on equipment, and we get a basic option that isn't as exaggerated, but the animation really is top notch.

    7. James Kennedy on

      I get that the Final Fantasy Tactics inspiration is largely being abandoned. So, I have decided to just go with the flow and see where this game takes me. The animations look good, I was originally hoping for them to be more grounded, but I get that we are going for more of a Pixar style now. They will work for those purposes, I'm sure.

    8. Missing avatar

      danny betkowski on

      once again, this is a pretty bad ass animation (for casting). Keep up the good work!

      Also a fun read, as I want to be a rigger when I grew up :) (too bad i'm already 32)

    9. Zachariah B. Ward on

      Just don't make us wait for an animation to end to start moving our next unit, and I will be happy.

    10. Jeremy Collins on

      Mr. Ryder, Mr. Arnold, thank you both for bringing us into the process. In particular, your closing comments about animating Unsung Story, how it's both enjoyable and how the nature of the game lends itself to breathing room in the animations, made me so happy to read.

      I can't wait to see how the art (and consequent animation) continue to evolve in the wake of last month's dynamic conversation regarding the art direction. As each of these job classes comes to life in fully-rendered animation, we come to know them and (hopefully!) bond with them a little more.

      It matters so much to me, and I imagine all of us involved, that you are enjoying the labors of bringing this project to life. There is life and energy in creative projects undertaken with joy, and no doubt that will resonate when the game is in the player's hands.

      So...we're still onboard with scaling back the exaggerated character designs, right? Just to a point where things feel more in line with the majority of the backer community? I hope?

    11. MannyLaMancha on

      This was a super educational post for me. Thank you!

    12. Steve on

      Good on you guys for actually making progress and giving updates. However...

      I was hoping for a FFT successor when I backed. This just looks like mobile game art. The FFT vibe is completely gone and so is my interest in this game.

    13. Vladimir Chigrin on

      Looking good :) Keep it up :)

    14. Giga_Force on

      Loving the animations! I couldn’t help but laugh at the naked guy haha!

    15. Devonathan on

      The game is really starting to look awesome. I’m glad the new developers found a style that is going to work for them rather than trying to shoehorn in someone else’s style and vision. While I’m a bit bummed it’s not FFT 2.0 I’m still really happy to get a new srpg and can’t wait to see how this game turns out.