Street Fighter IV Facial Controls

Still with Capcom’s fighter, the more I play it the more I realise the actual animation is merely “functional”, but I imagine that’s what is required to ship a reboot of a franchise where every animation is subject to timing changes for game balancing throughout the project. What appeals most about this visuals are the incredibly solid models and their accompanying rigging and facial poses, so it’s nice to see that the Japanese Softimage site has a page up regarding both these aspects, (with a link to another page demonstrating Resident Evil 5’s volume-retaining arm rig too). Check it out here.

Via the Google translation I see that the game has 25 characters of around 16,000 polygons each, comprising some 5000 animations. The rigging videos are of most interest however, highlighting both their facial & finger sliders and the unique controls for Dhalsim’s squash and stretch limbs. In a break from what I’m used to , the team take a less modular approach to facial expressions, with broad sliders for various facial expressions as opposed to sliders for each area of the face which can afford greater control for the animator but proves more time consuming and being prone to going off-model. This might be a viable approach with such stylised characters however, and they control the following variables:

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Street Fighter IV Animation Swap

An enterprising player has figured out how to swap out animation sets on the PC version of Streetfighter IV, to great comic effect. What’s most interesting about this is that it’s all handled very gracefully (doesn’t break the system, which could have happened so easily) revealing a little about how their animation is stored. That the animations remap so well displays a consistent skeleton hierarchy (or bone naming convention) across all characters shown, which one would expect given the humanoid shape of each character in the game.

All body animation appears to be rotation-only, given that the limb lengths do not warp and stretch to assume the positions of the bones in the animations. IK does however appear to be solved for each limb as the arms and legs of the shorter characters hyper-extend (stretch out) to meet the required feet and hand positions of the original animations. The only visual artifacts like this occur in the face, showing that position keys must be involved in creating the facial animations.

The camera animations for intros and special moves are bundled with the animation sets, highlighting that both the sound and visual effects of the chosen character remain intact on the character rather than the animation sets and play out on corresponding actions quite well. This illustrates that there must be identically organised sets of each for every character.

[via GiantBomb]

SNK Pixel Art Gallery

Still on my pixel art trip, I created this out of fridge magnets the other day. Coincidentally, one of the guys at work forwarded this page by SNK Playmore illustrating their methods for pixel art creation, (which they refer to as “Dot Art”.) While I’ve always been a fan of Capcom’s games, I do appreciate that SNK’s character art and animation are superior, with a personal preference for the realistic style of Shinkiro below.

There are instructions as to the various stages of the art creation but unfortunately the text is image-based so I can’t babel it. While there are 5 characters at the time of writing, it looks like it’s going to grow over time so certainly something to check back on.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jason Porath for swiftly providing a translation for the stages of production:

  1. Get the design of the character, usually from the art director, or sometimes Rough Design. One character usually takes about 3 days.
  2. Make a 3d model of the character. This usually takes 2 weeks per character. You also make the ranges of motion, which takes around 2 months/character.
  3. Render out the 3d character. To bake out all the animation for one character usually takes around 2 weeks.
  4. Touch up the render, according to art director’s wishes. This usually takes 1 week per character.
  5. Add in additional stuff like wrinkles, muscle creases, and the like, while maintaining the form. This takes each character around 6 and a half months (!). This is where all the character’s consistency in form is checked.
  6. Adding in gradients. This takes 2 and a half months per character.

Each character usually has around 500 frames of animation, but some are up to 4x that.