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General: Dana Massey: Why Not Well Animated MMOs?

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

A decade ago, MMOs made the transition to 3D. Dozens of games have followed, but for some reason, while the poly-counts have grown, animation has remained largely stagnate. In this week's column, Dana Massey wonders why MMOs don't make games move as good as they look.

Truth is, in most games, I see very little difference between the animation standards of EverQuest and any “next generation” game on the market.

Stabbed in chest? Your toon clutches his chest and falls over.

Eaten by dragon? You got it. He grabs that chest and falls over.

Shot in face by a gun totting penguin man? Grab chest and fall over.

Fall off a cliff to your fiery death in a pit of lava? Land feet first, hesitate a moment, then grab the chest and fall over.

Read it all here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

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Comments

  • John.A.ZoidJohn.A.Zoid jiiiiigPosts: 1,531Member

    Euphoria ftw!

    It makes you feel more in touch with the world.

  • KainisKainis Jacksonville, FLPosts: 436Member

    Having had to animate a number of my own models (cost cutting), I can definetly say that it takes time, even with a really good rig, to keyframe and build animation files for every little sequence. Keep in mind, a lot of times those coveted "emotes" and the concentration we place on them, is the reason why death animations, and the like, look the same. You can either spend the money on 60 different emotes, most of which won't be ever used to any justifiable extent, or a few good death situations. Depending on the salaries of the animation department though, sometimes you can save time/ money with motion capture. AoC is the latest notable mmo to try this, and I am actually suprised more haven't jumped onto using it. Well, other than the equipment for it is hugely expensive...

    Another option is the new Havoc engine starting to be deployed, which gives you rag doll physics. Only problem is that sometimes it's "too ragdoll". At least those are some of the most common complaints I am hearing. Requiem: Bloodymare uses this.

    Whether we go motion capture, or Havoc in the future, is anyone's guess. I do however agree that we really need to get away from the claymation-esque key framing that causes bland animations. 

    -----------------------
    Tried- L2, Ryzom, WAR, DDO, PWI, Tab Rasa, Requiem, Champs, AA, JD, PWI, SUN, Dawntide

    Played- SWG (pre-cu), AoC, VG, WoW, LoTRO,CoX, EQ2, DAOC, GW, PotBS, Aion, MO,APB, NASA, Fallen Earth, DCUO, Rift

    Playing- EVE, Black Prophecy, TOR

    Waiting for- Tera, Jumpgate Evo, WH40K, WWE, WOD, TSW
    --
    --
    "Hey, if Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it," Double Fine President Tim Schafer said. "Oh great, now Beyonce is going to sue me too."

  • hothnogghothnogg horncastlePosts: 38Member

    Only game in my ten years of MMO that i realy liked the animation/death bows was AOC, shame game didnt have the content at time to keep me going back for more.

  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,181Member Uncommon

    Guess these developers don't think it is a big priority for players.  I know as nice as Lotro looks the animations are very mediocre.  AoC has had the best I have seen so far, which of course did not help it any at all.

  • FerretboyFerretboy Springfield, OHPosts: 57Member

    Sounds like MMOs could really benefit from procedural animation.

  • OzovichOzovich KcePosts: 7Member

    The reason is quite simple, it's same one which also caused ( among others ) WoW popularity and which brought AoC down. MMOs adress shitload of players, most of which have relatively old rigs ( seriously, how often do you upgrade? ). You can't play the game = you don't pay the montly fee ( or ) you can't set graphic settings to the max because your rig can't handle it = you don't get everything what you pay for.

    All about economy, amount of players who want kickass graphic is way smaller than the number of these who just want to enjoy the game on their comp, even if it looks so 1999-ish.

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member
    Originally posted by Ozovich


    The reason is quite simple, it's same one which also caused ( among others ) WoW popularity and which brought AoC down. MMOs adress shitload of players, most of which have relatively old rigs ( seriously, how often do you upgrade? ). You can't play the game = you don't pay the montly fee ( or ) you can't set graphic settings to the max because your rig can't handle it = you don't get everything what you pay for.
    All about economy, amount of players who want kickass graphic is way smaller than the number of these who just want to enjoy the game on their comp, even if it looks so 1999-ish.

     

    I agree that games need to have sane system requirements, and that is a topic for another week.

    Good animation... I don't even mean insanely great animation, just some attention to it, doesn't require a super-PC to process.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of MMORPG.com
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • apellaapella De PintePosts: 8Member

    It is something that is lacking indeed.

    And about the 60+ emotes: they are a must, for they can add so much more depth to a otherwise flat and boring moment (I do not remember which game it was, but one had a /teapot command, which made the character act as if he/she was one. Totally useless, perhaps, but tons of fun!). Roleplaying is another good reason to keep them.

    (though Star Wars Galaxies really had a LOT of them, I once printed a manual of them. Next to tons of emotes, a lot of them with animations, there was also the difference between emoting someone else, yourself or just general. Damn I loved those things)

    Anyway, back on topic: Yes, we need better animations. That does not have to go at the expense of people with lesser hardware at all, there's this thing called scalability: make the content at different resolutions. The same for the animations: either let the animator (bigger data files) or the computer (bigger calculations, I don't know which one would be the best option in this case) remove keyframes that add little details. People with weak(er) computers will still see the animations at today's quality, those with better hardware see the characters come to life.

  • SothageSothage Mobile, ALPosts: 40Member

    Depending on your definition of "well animated," you are probably asking for something that rich people won't even be capable of rendering quickly. I don't think your performance would be up to par with realistic real-time animation rendering unless you dropped $10,000 on a machine. With today's technology, in order to make a game visually acceptable and performance optimized for the lowest common denominator, one has to limit animation. Either you'd need low polygon modeling, or very few models if they are to be high-polygon.

     

    Can't really have both currently with realistic animation as well. That's really the only reason that we don't have it. If it was reasoanbly possible, they'd have done itl; because that would instantly become a best seller (assuming decent plotline, reasonable playability and good design).

     

    I think if you believe it's a reasonable idea this day in age, you have a gross understimation of the calculating power required to animate textures onto high-polygon frames that animate quickly and smoothly, while keeping high performance. Then multiply that on the number of models animating currently in your view-field, on top of world textures/animations, pretty soon you are over-loaded on even a top of the line gaming rig today. If you think it's a simple as having a computer that can run two instances Crysis on maxed settings you're vastly mistaken.

  • openedge1openedge1 My City, ALPosts: 2,582Member

    I say play more games...Age of Conan really has the animation, and more recently the content to back it up.

    But, your asking for a game with 3-4 times as much content as a single player game (if not more) and then animations to match? That seems a litle out of hand.

    Time is what it will take, unless this genre dies first thanks to stale gameplay mechanics we keep getting, and not keeping up with graphics engines...

  • nate1980nate1980 Evans, GAPosts: 1,829Member

    Interesting and entertaining piece. I agree.

  • fansedefansede Raleigh, NCPosts: 960Member

    If this OnLive system thing pans out, it could help with some of the problems posed by devlopers creating games at demand high end systems.

     

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member
    Originally posted by Sothage


    Depending on your definition of "well animated," you are probably asking for something that rich people won't even be capable of rendering quickly. I don't think your performance would be up to par with realistic real-time animation rendering unless you dropped $10,000 on a machine. With today's technology, in order to make a game visually acceptable and performance optimized for the lowest common denominator, one has to limit animation. Either you'd need low polygon modeling, or very few models if they are to be high-polygon.
     
    Can't really have both currently with realistic animation as well. That's really the only reason that we don't have it. If it was reasoanbly possible, they'd have done itl; because that would instantly become a best seller (assuming decent plotline, reasonable playability and good design).
     
    I think if you believe it's a reasonable idea this day in age, you have a gross understimation of the calculating power required to animate textures onto high-polygon frames that animate quickly and smoothly, while keeping high performance. Then multiply that on the number of models animating currently in your view-field, on top of world textures/animations, pretty soon you are over-loaded on even a top of the line gaming rig today. If you think it's a simple as having a computer that can run two instances Crysis on maxed settings you're vastly mistaken.

    I'm not talking about insane animation. I'm talking about decent animation. There will always be some lag between AAA games and MMOs, visually speaking.

    However, a lot more could be done on MMOs than is being done and, honestly, I don't believe that a lot of it would overload an average PC. Most computers can handle rag doll death, for example, but few (or no?) MMOs use it.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of MMORPG.com
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • InktomiInktomi merrick, NYPosts: 663Member






    So next time someone is deciding where to spend my processing power on the next great MMO, please consider giving me rag doll death instead of 40,000 extra polygons in my left buttcheek. - Massey

    Dana, 

       Have you ever played Requiem:Bloodymare? It uses the same Havok Engine, designed by Valve that is used in the Half-life series. It has some of the almost realistic rag-doll affects you were looking for, so when I die I literally go flying like a used piece of meat. Blood splattering all over ever and send monsters flying too! Actually a different effect each death  becuase sometimes body parts roll down a hill,  than what I'm used to. I never realized that no matter what I did, I just did the old chest clutching, Black and white, Silent-movie death motion and keeled over. 

    It's a F2P and not too NEED TO USE CASH SHOPPY, but they do offer a subscription package that is worth my 15 bucks a month. And you guys know what a cheapo I am with game, you do don't you?

    Play safe,

    Ink

     

  • BrawlkingBrawlking Elkton, MDPosts: 57Member
    Originally posted by Dana


    Most computers can handle rag doll death, for example, but few (or no?) MMOs use it.



     

    I know of at least one MMO that uses it, and its handled fairly well, just needs some fine tuning.

  • redhands123redhands123 savannah, GAPosts: 179Member
    Originally posted by Brawlking

    Originally posted by Dana


    Most computers can handle rag doll death, for example, but few (or no?) MMOs use it.



     

    I know of at least one MMO that uses it, and its handled fairly well, just needs some fine tuning.

     

    Fury used ragdoll effects. Damn, I had fun in that game. Too bad it died.

    image

  • trancejeremytrancejeremy St. Louis, MOPosts: 1,222Member

    What I find odd is that LOTRO has some of the worst combat animations I've ever seen, yet it has dozens of animated emotes.

    R.I.P. City of Heroes and my 17 characters there

  • KilltaskKilltask Atlanta, GAPosts: 35Member Uncommon

    I'll cast a 3rd vote for Age of Conan.  Best animation in a MMORPG yet.

  • BlurrBlurr Thornhill, ONPosts: 2,155Member

    I think one of the other problems is it may not be practical. Aside from all the time and effort to develop the animations, I have to wonder how much space/processing it takes up on the individual user's system. Not only would it have to animate for you, it would have to animate for everyone else in the area.

    Also, you may be killed by the same attack that's been hitting you for a while now. Sure you could have a death animation where the Minotaur's axe lops your head right off, but what happens when he hits you with the same axe animation  20 times before you actually die? Or if you can stand in lava 20 seconds before dying and suddenly bursting into flame etc. It may look a little silly.

    I don't know honestly, it's a very good question, why not? I guess the problem is in order to get such an in depth and vast mmo through development, you have to pick your battles. Let's also not forget that nobody actually wants to get killed in the first place, lol.

    "Because it's easier to nitpick something than to be constructive." -roach5000

  • NildenNilden null, NBPosts: 1,284Member Uncommon

    City of heroes has ragdoll physics. Anyone who ever planted an enemy into a blue mission wall knows how fun it is.

     

    www.youtube.com/watch short super nova vid.

     

    And after watching that it's made in 2004 before they added the ragdoll physics and they all get up the same. Man I can't find a good video showing it.

    How to post links.

    "classification of games into MMOs is not by rational reasoning" - nariusseldon
    Love Minecraft. And check out my Youtube channel OhCanadaGamer

  • KhebelnKhebeln BelfastPosts: 727Member Uncommon

    Seriously just give me Ragdol or full psychics in new mmo and il be happy like a little kid  ;)

    Played game Called Requiem, as one of very very few games uses Ragdol system, and unpredictable body death etc animations.

    Its just so fun that i played the game for 2 months even if its total crap :P It was just fun to kill things! It was never the same and always felt right in a very wrong way.

    Small thing but how much fun you had out of it ;D

    Anyway about animation, Aion got realy good ones tho no ragdoll or full psychics still :(

    image
    (Retired)- Anarchy Online/Ultima Online/DAoC/Horizonsz/EQ2/SWG/AC1&2/L2/SoR/WoW/TMO/Requiem/Atlantica Online/Manibogi/Rift+(SL)/Lol/Hon/SWTOR/Wakfu/Champions Online/GW/Lotr/CO/TcoS/Tabula Rasa/Meridian 59/Vanguard/Shadowbane/Fury/SotW/Dreamlords/HGL/RoM/DDO/FFXI/Aoc/Eve/Warhammer Online/Gw2/TSW/Tera/Defiance/STO/AoW/DE/Firefall/Darkfall/Neverwinter/PS2

  • BrawlkingBrawlking Elkton, MDPosts: 57Member
    Originally posted by redhands123


    Fury used ragdoll effects. Damn, I had fun in that game. Too bad it died.



     

    Oh, I had forgotten about that one, was in the beta for that game, wasnt really my style. I do agree that AoC has good animations as well though. So my new count for Ragdoll physics games is 3. I'm sure there are at least a couple more.

  • FastTxFastTx PTBO, ONPosts: 756Member
    Originally posted by Khebeln

    Anyway about animation, Aion got realy good ones tho no ragdoll or full psychics still :(

     

    Aion does have some nice animation going for it. The way they do it, it increases immersion within the environment because the characters actually react to their environment, if it's raining, if it's hot or what. Too bad it's very noticeable what it's missing, they cover up the death animation, make it look cool in other ways. Also they cut animation costs by eliminating swimming, so while there are great benefits, there are also so negatives. "You can fly in Aion, but you can't swim!"

  • BlazzBlazz BrisbanePosts: 321Member

    I completely agree.

    I think my most notable time that I have been dissapointed with my character death (in WoW) was when I was lagging. I believe I had hit my cap for the month (because in Australia, our internet is about 10 years old, and we still have "internet caps" where it gets slowed to either Dial-up speeds, or adsl speeds (5kb/s, or 25kb/s))

    Anyway, my internet was lagging like nothing else, maybe 1500ms ping or something stupid, but I was addicted, so I played... I fell off a cliff face, hit the ground, far below. I'm standing there, going "huh. I'm not dead." So I jog forwards for a little bit, the game then registered the 7800 health or something (all of it) and I fall over, dead.

    Good times.

     

    I would much rather have the game register my fall-speed, and, in the moment before I hit the ground, send to the server that yes, I am going to die at this speed, and set my body (now turned corpse) to rag-doll physics, and crumple into the ground. That would have been excellent, and hilarious for me to watch.

    In fact, there is a game based entirely on falling with rag-doll physics (and sound effects) applied. I think my top score was something like 122k...

    Anyway, yes, there is definitely something to be said for death animations for MMOs. Rag-doll phyics effects are obviously going to be one of the best ways to show this on a good rig, and for other computers, hell, just give the same ol' clutching chest animation and give them the simple physics of "body is moving x,y,z at x,y,z speeds" so that the corpse is at least in the same place for everyone online (resurrect spells...)

    </rant>

    I am playing EVE and it's alright... level V skills are a bit much.

    You all need to learn to spell.

  • ZakaneZakane Midlothian, VAPosts: 68Member

    I've played from Ultima Online to Age of Conan - you name it I've probably played it.

    From what I've seen many games to feel similar - I would defently say as other people have pointed out that Age of Conan had some of the better "animations"

    I believe one core reason why some animation are just your character swings its sword and the guy gets hit and all he does is a small shuffle could be to keep combat quick. Most mmorpgs are you basicly target the person and hit a button to start swinging.

    I can see a game that is more first person shoot style to allow more room for more advance animation.

     

    Over all this just theory and I am not 100% certian why animation are still tather low on the lsit for looks.

    But I don't  think saying that ther ehas been any improvements is slightly false in my book.

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