By Guest Blogger
Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member
Velazquez continues by explaining that flexibility and adaptability are crucial to the game design and development processes. For him, the core skills in animation and drawing that he nourished over time proved essential when ported to the 3D realm of animation and design. Velazquez explains that in order to pull some weight around the artistic zones of the game design and animation fields, artists should be knowledgeable about timing, sense of weight, strong poses, and interesting silhouettes, all of which are equally important concepts and techniques in 2 and 3D animation. Arnold asks if teamwork inside a development studio is truly essential or if departments can work separate from each other. If we can picture the game development studio as a puzzle, says Velazquez, we can envision certain departments as pieces to that puzzle. "Think of departments as teams. We work as teams and communicate through teams too." Teams work together to create the whole and bigger picture, often pairing up and working side by side. Velazquez says that animators and designers in Santa Monica Studio often work with one or two characters from beginning to end. In order to ensure consistency with each other and every character in their games, this is the method that works.
As Velazquez presents the presentation he has prepared for the event, I am blown away by the sheer devotion he has shown us so far. Bruno Velazquez has been noted as one of the most community friendly figures in the industry, and it is not hard to see why. By showing us the animation process, he is eager to point out key elements of animating characters. Velazquez presents his take on important processes of animating characters from the concept stage, creating exciting contact sensitive moves for in-game play, keeping main character Kratos consistent throughout the game, and understanding the balance between game play and animation.
As Velazquez gives us an overview of what that means, using the Chimera character as an example, he delights us by showing early concepts of the character. He explains which concepts work and which do not in order to see how simple or difficult it would be to animate the complex character. Velazquez demonstrates the scale image of the Chimera next to Kratos, identifying potential rigging issues in animations. For Velazquez, concept art serves as initial inspiration in momentum and creativity for continuing with projects.
As a general rule of thumb for Velazquez and the animation team at Santa Monica Studio, animators' main aim is to keep characters consistent throughout game play. Velazquez notes key points in keeping main avatar Kratos as consistent as possible. Animators had to follow simple trait elements when Kratos was being developed - he is always grim and angry, we never see him smile or joke, he never falls on his back until he dies, and he must always have forward movement. Velazquez claims that because Kratos is a very direct character, he must always have forward momentum. In order to make sure players experience the ultimate from Kratos, every animator at Santa Monica Studio had to learn how to animate the character, but these rules were well applied beyond the animation department. From scene to scene, Kratos had to remain consistent. The Santa Monica Team certainly had their work cut out for them, yet they triumphed in creating a memorable character we all were able to get swept away with.
As our facilitator, Arnold closes the fabulous event with a quick Q&A section, the response erupts from the group chat. The first question is one that is often on the minds of animation students pursuing the career goal of being on a game development team. Just how important are programming skills to an animator's position? Velazquez's response claims that programming is not something animators need to know, usually. "It's something that could be...beneficial, if you know how to do some light scripting...or if you're familiar with other aspsects of Maya, some light rigging or modeling. Especially early on when you're breaking into the industry, it might be important to know a bit about that." Yet he says rigging and modeling are more important to animators' skill sets than programming.
Arnold asks Velazquez how big the teams are that he works with."We have about one hundred people in the Studio," he says. "Of course, we're not limited to that amount and depending on the needs of the project we're working on, contract positions open up. On God of War III, I think we had about one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty people." Velazquez says that this is what he really likes about the game design industry - the chance for contracted positions to become permanent ones, one of the few careers to do so in this ever-changing world. "We were able to hang on to a few people after some projects ended, which really helped us out."
To be continued...
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